Socialism Hates You
Let the following serve as an introduction to the development of socialism by Karl Marx. While not many people would consider themselves a socialist today, at least not in the traditional Russian-style sense, the sentiment is strikingly popular. The large support presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, received is a testament to that point. Which is why you will read many of my posts regarding the theoretical framework that Marx constructed and detailed historical studies of its failures. It is not that socialist-inclined people refuse to admit the continued failure of the Marxist system; no! Their relentless attempts to slightly adjust their idealistic model and reintroduce it to economic systems is why we have to continue to remind them that they still have it wrong. It would probably be more comical if each social experiment the socialists introduced didn’t end up in oppressing, starving, and impoverishing its people. Ironically, some of the biggest contributions to Marxism, as an economic system, has come from economic thinkers remarking the shortcomings of the theory, that which were later amended to reintroduce further constructions. If you are socialist-inclined, or what we will call a democratic socialist from now on, then this post was inspired by you. This will serve a just a philosophical framework to later construct the theoretical framework of socialism as an economic system. Rather than dismissing policies by our government because of party affiliation or perceived goals championed by the proponents, I get to the nucleus of the subject.
Karl Marx saw capitalism as the root of a number of social, economic, and political deficiencies that produced conflicts representing stages advancing toward a predetermined destiny of socialism. Marx believed that it is the goal of society to reach this destiny as quickly as possible since he believed the present conditions are not just. Marx believed in a philosophy of history known as Materialism. Marx derived much of his philosophy from the work of G.W.F Hegel; adjusting it to construct, “Dialectical Materialism.” The thesis requires an observation of the present conditions, the mechanism for change, and thus a synthesis which represents progress. For Karl Marx, this is a never-ending process that occurs in stages that propels society another step closer to where society is ultimately headed. In order for society to “progress” to this next stage, there needs to be an opposition to the present conditions which would be the antithesis or mechanism to prompt this change. That describes the “Dialectical” aspect of Marx and it may seem to make logical sense to you. However, the more obscure aspect is of the Materialistic perspective.
Of Materialism, the two schools of thought viewed man as either a “machine” or a “tool” of sorts; Marx viewed man as a tool. Marx believed thoughts and ideas of a man simply as physiological chemical reactions in the brain and that each man in similar circumstances as another would react and think the same way. In other words, the individual lacked any special or unique ability in and of himself. He argued that the technological advancements of industry occurred inevitably and separate from the knowledge of individuals. For instance, Albert Einstein’s work was a result of his brain’s response to a particular set of circumstances that triggered his work. A famous example would be the apple falling from the tree above Sir Isaac Newton leading to the theory of gravity, Marx would argue that the same event would produce the same advancement had it happened to anyone. (I suppose that was the first moment anything had fallen from a higher location in all of history?) Moreover, if two individuals in the same circumstances experienced the same event, Marx argued each would produce the same thoughts in reaction. This perverse philosophy demonstrates Marx’s evaluation (devaluation) of the individual in order to later introduce “egalitarianism” and collective interest. Marx thought of individuals so passionately as mere pawns and believed that the working man is inherently unskilled and the development of technology would eventually render the working man obsolete. This is what contributed to the building block of socialism, The Labor Theory of Value, which takes a different post to deconstruct.
As a result of Marx’s philosophy, he viewed each technological advancement as one step closer to the “higher consciousness” of the working man and thus one more advancement toward socialism. Marx argued that because all working men were confined in the same circumstances, that they shared a common “interest” to revolt against the owners of production. According to Marx, the individual is meaningless and that what really matters is society’s goals or the “superstructure.” This revolt of the working class against the capitalists is a stage of the social progress that Marx viewed as inevitable. Marx reasoned that socialism, or “scientific socialism”, was superior to prior forms of totalitarianism in that it did not require political canvassing and campaigning, rather his theory was that socialism was inevitable. What a grand contradiction it is that he also thought that there must be a revolution to force the capitalists out of power. Additionally, Marx spent a large amount of life campaigning for this revolution. If socialism was inevitable, why would it require a revolutionary overthrow? In an economic sense, because the political system would need to seize private property unjustifiably.
He argued that the working class will continue to be progressively impoverished by the owners of the factors of production and that the only possible way for the working class to improve their condition was to start a revolution against the capitalist system. It is worth noting that Marx was not a member of the working class and never was. Based on his philosophy of man as a “tool” or a placeholder, confined to the ideas and thoughts produced by his given circumstances, he never could explain rationally how he was an exception. Marx not only saw himself as an exception to his own philosophy but also saw the individual as irrelevant.
Let this post serve as an introduction to the devaluation of the individual as a human. Marx would only be able to conceive the greedy and ruthless totalitarianism if only by first eliminating the creative, emotional, and intelligent aspects of the human being. Which, in the next post discussing socialism as an economic and political system, it will become clear how this belief unravels in practice.
Just a few Things That Matter