Karl Marx, whose bicentennial birthday remembrance is this month, is historically linked by capitalist society as the evil genius behind the ills and fails of Communism in the 20th century. When he and his German contemporary, Friedrich Engels, co-wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, at the young ages 30 and 28 respectively, they were functioning as philosophers, not politicians.
Their treatise, along with Marx’s Das Kapital, written in 1867, indeed did lay the foundation for Communism to take hold nearly 80 years after the Manifesto’s publication, and 35 years after Marx’s death. Communist theory, as conceived by Marx and Engels, led to Communism being put into practice, but the philosophy of the pair cannot be blamed for how their theory was folded into the terrorist, oppressive rule Vladimir Lenin imposed on Russia in 1917 (Lenin was 13 when Marx died), followed by Stalin, and continuing with the still oppressive regime of Vladimir Putin today.
The cornerstone of the Marx theory is the “withering away” of the state leading to an Eden-like evolution of non-government bliss with production by ability and compensation by need. I don’t think anyone really believed that could happen, including the authors, anywhere outside ivory towers and fantasy novels. Communist theory was likely meant to inspire thinkers and writers to ponder a left-wing, unattainable ideal like laissez faire capitalism inspired author/philosopher Ayn Rand on the right.
On a linear continuum, Marx and Engels are at one polar end, with their economic theory citing achievement, service, and contribution as most valued by society, facing off with 18th century, Scottish economist Adam Smith and the likes of Rand, who claim monetary success within laissez fair capitalism as the measure of social respectability.
Communism crashed and burned in an epic fail with the downfall of the Soviet Union at the end of the twentieth century and the economic distress of Cuba and other Communist nations continues today. Communist leaders took advantage of the theory’s timeline for implementation that suggested, what was supposed to be a short middle stage before the state withered away, complete government control of goods and services forcing the people to wait for their blissful reward. It is my guess that Lenin, Stalin, Putin and all between never intended for any withering away to occur. They were just fine with the oligarchy turned plutocracy they sat atop.
Laissez faire capitalism has also proven to be best relegated to the ivory tower of philosophical pure thought and not a functioning economic theory. Pure capitalism without regulation has proven to foster industrial misuse of everything from the ravaging of natural resources (think burning rivers, strip-mined mountains left in ruins, and toxic clouds in the air) to dehumanizing workers to the extent of being an expendable commodity–regardless of age. Yet, no one trembles at the name of proponent Smith, and most consider Rand no more than a harmless author of adolescent literature. Yet, the mere mention of Marx and Engels sends Western thinking citizens to bed with nightmares. It shouldn’t.
Today, Marx would be fighting with the poor and middle class in their plight to find some relief from one percent of citizens gleaning 83% of global wealth. The Manifesto offers this as rational for busting the use of money as a societal standard: “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science into its paid wage laborers.” To fit modern vernacular, “the bourgeoisie” should be edited to read “the one percent.”
Of course, I’d add teachers to that list, but the message is clear. The moneyed class has relegated even skilled practitioners to a subservient class whose services and labors are used to glean greater wealth for themselves. Marx loathed society using money as a measure of achievement rather than service and humanity. Ancient Greeks valued their teachers and philosophers above all. That said, the first, famous philosopher, Socrates, never rose above middle class wealth.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would be marching for “Black Lives Matter”, “#MeToo”, and “Wear Red for Teachers.”
Marx has become the philosopher for the middle class and the poor while the less controversial, at least less controversial in the Western Hemisphere, Adam Smith (“The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.”) is the philosopher of the rich.
Jason Baker, columnist from The New York Times writes of Marx’s belief: “The ideas that rule every society are those of its ruling class and that overturning those ideas is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.” There certainly is room to interpret that statement as fodder for aggression but falls far short of truly advocating the violence that Lenin used in the name of embracing the social structure and economic theory Marx and Engels laid out.
Marx and Engels never saw the havoc and reign of terror that Communism wrought in the name of transitioning to, but never achieving, a classless society by continually keeping all resources in the hands of government. They both would have been appalled. But then we should understand that unexpected consequences can come from innocence in any form. The Crusades, after all, were fought in the name of Christianity.[amazon_link asins=’B00KRHVYR4′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nevadatoday-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a43483d1-2659-11e8-9720-a3c0c4fa12c1′] [amazon_link asins=’B011PN20TO’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nevadatoday-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a31f0f34-2590-11e8-8eb6-d3eed07b906a’] [amazon_link asins=’1484898036′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nevadatoday-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’695796fd-265a-11e8-9a63-196f8e12e131′]