Saturday, 27 December 2014

Summary of Marxism

1.     History advances in a series of dialectical stages, each one being an advance on the previous one, like a staircase leading upwards.
2.     Economic forces determine all other changes. The ownership of economic power determines the shape of society. Thus, mediaeval society was determined by the fact that the economy was dominated by agriculture, and so the dominant class was the feudal nobility, who owned agricultural production. The growth of trade and manufacturing then put increasing economic power into the hands of the rising class; the bourgeoisie: the people who own the factories, mines and banks.
3.     All history is the history of class struggles. This is because in all societies up to the present there has always been a possessing class, who control the means of production, and the rest, who are exploited. The interests of the two are fundamentally irreconcilable. Thus in the mediaeval period the interests of the nobility and the peasantry were directly opposite to each other; and the same applies nowadays to the interests of the bourgeoisie and the workers, because the capitalist system by its very nature involves exploitation of the workers, and cannot be otherwise. Anyone who argues otherwise is either stupid or deliberately dishonest.
4.     The state is not, and cannot be, neutral in the class struggle, but exists to serve the interests of the dominant class: the ruling class. In the past this was the feudal nobility, now it is the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie. In the future, after the revolution, it will be the working class: the proletariat.
5.     Revolutions and major political changes occur because the structure of the state has been left behind by economic and social developments. Thus at the end of the mediaeval period the growth of trade and industry put wealth into the hands of a new middle class, who increasingly found that the feudal state, run in the interests of the landowning nobility, no longer served their interests, but tended to hinder further economic growth. It was therefore overthrown and replaced by a government structure more suited to bourgeois needs. This is what lay behind the French Revolutions of 1789-93, 1830 and 1848. In England the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 and the Great Reform Act of 1832 left a façade of political power in the hands of the aristocracy, though in fact the government was now run in the interests of the bourgeoisie.
6.     Human consciousness and thinking are determined by the nature of society and the individual’s role in it. Thus, the notion that man is by nature a competitive and possessive individualist (which John Stuart Mill believed was the case) is incorrect. If man behaves like that now, it is because competitive individualism is the way to succeed in capitalist society, and people who behave otherwise are treated with scorn. In the Middle Ages consciousness was different: people were concerned about the salvation of their souls, and possessive individualism was regarded as sinful. After the communist revolution, human consciousness will change again, and possessive individualism will no longer be appropriate. Already concepts like nationalism and religious faith are becoming irrelevant. (Marx also appeared to believe that the working classes had a different consciousness to the bourgeoisie: less individualistic, more tending towards class solidarity)
7.     Although capitalism is vastly superior to what went before, it contains within it contradictions which are seeds of its own destruction. Unprecedented wealth is produced, but virtually none of this comes into the hands of the working classes, the proletarians, who constitute the great majority of the population. They are thus alienated from capitalist society, gaining little from it.
8.     As time goes on, the situation can only get worse. Cut-throat competition between capitalists will compel them to reduce costs by cutting wages, but this will mean that the ability of the proletariat to buy the goods produced will be reduced even further. Alienation will increase and slumps and bankruptcies caused by overproduction of unsaleable goods will become more frequent. It will become increasingly apparent that the capitalist system is a bar to further economic progress. Eventually a flash-point will be reached: the revolution.
9.     The Communist Party is the vanguard of the proletariat: its most class-conscious section; that is, the most aware of the inevitability of class-conflict and of the historical role of the proletariat. The Party leads the proletariat towards the coming revolution, and guards against erroneous ideas and tactics.
10.        When the proletariat seizes power in the revolution the property of the bourgeoisie will be expropriated. Henceforth all economic power will be held in common rather than being privately owned. There will henceforth be no competing classes, but only one class. This means that the state, which is only an instrument of class oppression, will “wither away”. Human consciousness will change, since competitive possessive individualism will no longer be appropriate. The classless, non-competitive society which will ensue is “communist society”.
11.        The abolition of competing classes means that this revolution will be the final one. Without any more class struggles, human history will stop – or, in a sense, this is where human history will start, because man will at last be in control of his own destiny instead of being pushed around by blind socio-economic forces.

12.    Footnotes      Marxism is an ideology that in some ways resembles a religion, because in the eyes of its believers it explains everything that happens in human history and society, and provides a vision of the future. The USSR and Maoist China never claimed to be fully communist societies as described by Marx: instead they claimed to be moving towards communism. In the end the project was simply abandoned.

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