Karl Marx (1818-1883) Communism

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1.    This proposition ... in my opinion, is destined to do for history what  Darwin's theory has done for biology. (Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Preface to the 1888 English Edition)

2.   In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries. (Marx & Engels, The Communist  Manifesto, Preface to the 1872 German Edition)

3.   The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.  Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. (Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Preface to the 1872 German Edition)



  Compare & Contrast: Comte and Bentham & Mill, "the Reformers" 

o        advocate the project of developing social sciences and a secular scientific morality or system of values.

         Utilitarianism: Bentham's moral calculus

         Comte: proposed a secular scientific religion

o        Whence Capitalism evolves

         by sociological tinkering, e.g., educating the masses

         originally held no need for economic tinkering with Capitalism since Capitalism maximizes utility "as if by an invisible hand"

         everyone pursuing their own selfish advantage is the policy that best "promotes the general welfare" or  "the greatest happiness for the greatest number."

         laissez faire is the scientific policy: ironically science proves there's no need for technological tinkering with     the economy

         The Great Depression forcefully suggested otherwise

         Now we manage the economy -- a "mixed economy" -- on the Alan Greenspan plan: trying to bring natural market forces under scientific-technological control

         So far, so good: no new depression & the crisis

         cycle has been tamed (we hope)

o        Marx agrees: there must be a scientific "political-economics" that must actively engage history for the sake of progress.1

o        Marx disagrees about reform2: calls for revolution instead3

         science predicts Capitalism will fall

         progress demands that it be violently overthrown as history shows is required prerequisite for the next stage of political-economic development to be achieved.

   Compare & Contrast Hegel

o        Hegel: Dialectical Idealism

         history is the unfolding of the Absolute Spirit in time

         evolutionary impulse of consciousness is the driving force of history

         the final stage = a totalitarian state into which individuals gladly assimilate5

o        Marx: rejects Hegelian idealism for Dialectical Materialism6

         "History is economics in action."

         History of class struggles for control of the means of economic production:

         punctuated by violent revolutions

         currently capitalists v. workers

         Historical progress calls for yet another revolution

         Capitalism fails due to its own internal contradiction: private appropriation of products of socialized production 

         which alienates & emmiserates the workers

         which leads to deepening cycles of economic crises: recessions & depressions

         Calling forth violent revolution4 wherein the workers seize control of the means of production: "The knell of capitalist private property then sounds. The expropriators are expropriated."

         Overthrowing capitalism & consolidating worker control7

         first under "the dictatorship of the proletariat"

         leading to the final stage of  Communism wherein the state withers away

         and we live in comity ... as the name suggests.

o        Agrees with Hegel: History is dialectical, progressive, and has an end

         dialectical progression

         thesis: Capitalist system (compare Idea)

         antithesis: Alienated Workers (compare Nature)

         synthesis: Communism (compare Spirit )

         alienation driven: incomplete syntheses leave things out

         these alienated factors engender "contradictions" (antitheses) 

         leading to more comprehensive syntheses

4.   Working men of all countries, unite!  (Marx & Engels, The Communist  Manifesto, Preface to the 1872 German Edition)

5.   It must ... be understood that all the worth which the human being possesses -- all spiritual reality -- he possesses only through the State. ... Thus only is he fully conscious; thus only is he a partaker of morality -- of a just and moral social and political life. For Truth is the unity of the universal ... and the Universal is to be found in the State, in its laws, its universal and rational arrangements. The state is the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth. (G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History)

6.   Thereby the dialectic of concepts itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world and thus the dialectic of Hegel was turned on its head; or rather, turned off its head. on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet. {Engels, Ludwig Feurerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Part IV)

7.   The basic thought running through the Manifesto -- that economic production, and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently (ever since the dissolution of the primaeval communal ownership of land) all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of social evolution; that this struggle, however, has now reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) can no longer emancipate itself from the class which exploits and oppresses it (the bourgeoisie), without at the same time forever freeing the whole of society from exploitation, oppression, class struggles -- this basic thought belongs solely and exclusively to Marx. (Engels, The Communist  Manifesto, Preface to the 1883 German Edition)


1.        From political economy itself we have shown that the worker sinks to the level of a commodity, and to a most miserable commodity; that the misery of the worker increases with the power and volume of his production; that the necessary result of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands; and thus a restoration of monopoly in its most terrible form; and finally that the distinction between capitalist and landlord, and between agricultural and factory worker, must disappear, and the whole of society divide into the two classes of property owners and propertyless workers. (180)



    In Hegel the notion "appears . . . as the negative phase of the dialectic -- the phase of  'otherness', of opposition, of conflict, of mediation. 

o        By uncovering a discrepancy, it is the driving force of progress and advance to a higher level" associated with the antithesis, e.g.

         "the Nothing that negates Being at the very start of the Hegelian system," 

         "Civil Society, which replaces the ' immediacy' of the family" 

o        The surface psychological symptoms: a kind of malaise 

         urbanization and the anonymity it entails

         mass production, the drudgery of labor, dearth of gratifying work

         the rootlessness of modern life:

         "increasingly secularistic attitude leaving   no place for God" and a consequent moral vacuum

         filling the vacuum

         materialism & consumerism: "who dies with the most toys wins"

         escapism & addiction: TV, booze, sport, drugs, etc.

     Marxian Diagnosis: alienation is at bottom economic1

o        alienated labor: the Capitalist worker is dispossessed 

         of the product of his/her labor which belongs to the capitalist who owns the means of production2

         of control of the process of labor itself which is dictated by the capitalist owner who controls the processes of3

         the bottom line: workers are used and exploited

         undercompensated in that only part of the value they add to   the product by their labor is returned to them as a wage

         oppressed in the workplace: "wage slaves" under the     bosses command doing unfulfilling fractionated labor (e.g., assembly line work) under oppressive & often unsafe     conditions

o        being unfulfilled at work they seek escape4

         distractions & religious stupidities

         consumerism: trying to "buy happiness"

         stupid (e.g., racist, nationalist, & religious) causes and useless (e.g., charitable) causes

2.        What is embodied in the product of his labor is no longer his own. The greater this product is, therefore, the more he is diminished. The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that it becomes an object, assumes an external existence, but that [it] ... stands opposed to him as an autonomous power.  The life which he has given to the object sets itself against him as an alien and hostile force. (181)

3.        Finally the external character of the work for the worker is shown by the fact that it is not his own work but work for someone else, that in work he does not belong to himself but to another person. (181)

4.        The devaluation of the human world increases in direct relation with the increase in value of the world of things.  Labour does not only create goods; it also produces itself and the worker as a commodity, and indeed in the same proportion as it produces goods. (180)


Surplus Value &   

1.[T]he appropriation of unpaid labor is the basis of the capitalist mode of production, and of the exploitation of the worker that occurs under it: even if the capitalist buys the labor power of  his laborer at its full value as a commodity on the market he extracts more value from it than he paid for it, and in the ultimate analysis this surplus value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up the constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes. (181-182)

2.The contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation manifested itself as the antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie. (182)


         Locke's defense of property: tracing the first origins of property & property rights to labor

o        what exists naturally (e.g.. trees) to which no one holds natural title

o        one gains a natural right to possess by "mixing labor with it" (e.g., to logs cut from the trees)

         Marx's adaptation: the labor theory of value applied to criticize existing conditions of Capitalist distribution1

o        the labor of the laborers contributes value (L) to the raw materials (having some some antecedent value R)

o        resulting in a product worth worth L+R which belongs entirely to the owner of the means production, the Capitalist

         who pays the laborer a wage W <  L.

         and keeps the surplus value (L - W) as profit.

o        contradiction between2

         social production: the production process is a collective effort

         private appropriation: the product is privately owned

o        symptoms of this contradiction

         social discontents: ennui, poverty, apathy, escapism

         economic malfunction: periodic depressions (the business cycle): palpable contradictions (e.g., food production is cut while people go hungry).

o        The solution: socialize "the modes of ... appropriation, and exchange" to match the already "socialized character of the means of production"3

         The final synthesis: classless society & publicly owned means of production

o        Utopian hopes: back to Eden

         the division of labor itself is overcome.4

         the end of alienation as we know it

o        The end of history as we know it

         in place of political compulsion and class struggle there will be individual freedom & voluntary cooperation

         fully rational application of science and technology leading to the diminution of natural necessity5

         "beating our swords into plowshares" for starters

3. [The solution) can only consist in the practical recognition of the social nature of the modern force of production, and therefore in the harmonizing of the modes of production, appropriation and exchange with the socialized  character of the means of production. (182)

4.In communist society . . . society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow .... (183)

5.The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself: more and more consciously make his own history -- only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the end in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. (183)

Theory of
Social Causation

1.History is economics in action.

2.[T]he prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; [and] consequently the whole history of mankind has been a history of class struggles. (184)

3.What else does the history of ideas prove than that intellectual production changes in character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age are the ideas of its ruling class. (184)


          Objection: there's a contraction in Marxist theory

o        Between economic determinism1 (Jones' "scientific point of view")

         according to this economic forces ("the horse") cause

         thought & its associated arts, sciences, & institutions2

         the (epiphenomenal?) cart

         ideological "superstructure"3

o        and political activism: "Workers unite!" (Jones' "propagandistic point of view")

         wherein it seems "the cart is expected to pull the horse"

         Marxist ideology is supposed to effect history.

         Reply: History as economically driven class struggle

o        the driving forces are economic, the mechanisms ("the harness & reins") through which they drive history are not just natural or material forces of production

o        these mechanisms include socio-political & ideological forces and institutions as well: socio-political institutions subserving production and the ideological adjuncts and amenities suiting those institutions6

         religion to bless them: Protestant removal of the prohibition on "usury" & to be "the opium of the people"5

         philosophy to "justify" them as with Adam Smith's Economic Theories

         government: social democratic forms lend the appearance of legitimacy -- "consent of the      governed" -- to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie4

         art to decorate them, etc.

o        emergence of proletarian counter culture: workers recognize the ideological nature of bourgeoisie culture thus liberating themselves from its oppressive sway7

         emergence of revolutionary proletarian   ideology -- i. e., Marxism -- urging the workers to rise up to "expropriate the expropriators"

         other manifestations of a working-class culture which will be truly radical including, e.g.,

         the abolition of property

         the abolition of religion

         the abolition of the family as we know it?

         in the meantime, enjoy the music

4.The executive of the modern state is nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie. (Marx & Engels)

5.Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. (188)

6.[Established law, morality, religion, and culture are] merely so many bourgeois prejudices behind which lurk just as many bourgeois interests. (186)

7.The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas. (187)

8.Material force can only be overthrown by material force; but theory itself becomes a material force when it has seized the masses.

9.The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of man, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their conditions is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. (188)


Friedrich Engels


    Jones' criticism: "Marx alternated between two quite different epistemological positions" ( 190)

o   "One is a kind of scientific realism"

  in which "truth is defined in terms of correspondence between ideas (or theories) and facts"

  "and the empirical method of the natural sciences is the . . . method for discovering and checking these correspondences"

o   "The other position is radically pragmatic: truth is what works2

    Pragmatic Criticism: "Nah, nah, nah, nah. Hey, hey, hey. Good-bye!"3

o   Communism didn't work & Capitalism is working

o   So Communism is confuted & Capitalism confirmed.

    Not so fast?

o   the business cycle the most brute economic contradiction

o   Have the business cycle and other "contradictions" been overcome?

  Is Fed. just buying time -- putting bigger & bigger bottlecaps on the volcano?

  Can the earth's ecology bear the continuing need to "grow the economy?"

  Will automation make laborers useless appendages: what will happen to those  for whom the global economy has no jobs?4

       feed them?

       let them die (as from AIDS in  Africa)

o   Further issues

  "The ends don't justify the means" -- or, rather the means subvert the ends

       violent, authoritarian -- even totalitarian -- means

o        armed struggle

o        followed by the dictatorship of the proletariat

       conduce ill to libertarian communitarian outcomes: Communism

  Is Communist achievable by democratic means?A2

1.The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism ... is that the object, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. (191)

2.The philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however is to change it . (191)

3.The proof of the pudding is in the eating. From the moment we turn to our own use of these objects, according to the qualities we perceive in them, we put to an infallible test the correctness or otherwise of our sense perceptions.  If these perceptions have been wrong then our estimate of the use to which an object can be turned must also be wrong, and our attempt must fail. (19l )

4. The bourgeoisie is unfit ... to rule because it is incompetent to assure the existence of its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help but let him sink into such a state that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him.  Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society. (185)