Political approaches and theories to politics are embodied in the way different political parties or groups claim and provide with distinctive visions of a ‘better future’ and to attempt and convince that the world should be remade in the line with most popular vision.
Issues of the present often reflect ideas that carry centuries of tradition and meaning. It refers to the structure, efficiency, and social consequences of different sorts of political systems. Democracy, justice, ethics, law, equality, authority and other concepts encounters in daily life have deep roots in the past. Karl Heinrich Marx was born of a well-to-do Jewish family in Germany in 1818.
His parents were Herschel and Henrietta Marx. He became fascinated with revolution and the nature of change within civilization. The purpose of these changes would be the ultimate creation of an ideal society.
The political theory of socialism, which gave rise to communism, had been around for hundreds of years. Marx, also known as the father of communism, spent most of his life in exile in Great Britain and France. He wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, which later served as the inspiration for the formation of the Communist Party. With the regard to the characterizations of present society which appear most frequently in the criticisms of communism, it appears that such characterizations are presented in the doctrines of Karl Marx and that, since he attempts to give them a reasoned foundation, an examination of Marx’s argument gives some basis for evaluating a number of assumptions. To millions, the name of Karl Marx inspires the hope of a new and better society. To others, the name only conjures up the image of a mad prophet who in his fanaticism to rid the world of its social evils would destroy the world in the process.The success or failure of communist regimes in transforming the attitudes and behavior of populations may constitute a test of the explanatory power of political culture theory. This approach may view communist regimes as “natural experiments” in attitude change.
Such regimes seek and usually succeed in establishing organizations and communication medial monopolies, as well as penetrative police and internal intelligence systems. Communities and neighborhoods come under the surveillance of party activists. In addition to this powerful array of institutional and communication controls, the communist movement has a clear-cut, explicit set of attitudes, beliefs, values, and feelings that it seeks to inculcate.
Karl Marx constructed his vision of communism out of the human and technological possibilities already visible in his time, given the priorities that would be adopted by a new socialist society. The programs introduced by a victorious working class to deal with the problems left by the old society and the revolution would unleash a social dynamic whose general results, Marx believed, could be charted beforehand. Projecting the communist future from existing patterns and trends is an integral part of Marx’s analysis of capitalism, and analysis which links social and economic problems with the objective interests that incline each class to deal with them in distinctive ways; what unfolds are the real possibilities inherent in a socialist transformation of the capitalist mode of production.
It is in this sense that Marx declares, “we do not anticipate the world dogmatically, but rather wish to find the new world through the criticism of the old.” Like the projections Marx made of the future of capitalism itself, however, what he foresaw for communism is no more than highly probable. Marx, whose excessive optimism is often mistaken for crude determinism, would not deny that some for of barbarism is another alternative, but a socialist victory—either through revolution or at the polls—is considered far more likely.Marx’s communist society is in the anomalous position of being, at one and the same time, the most famous of utopias and among the least known. And, while no one disputes the importance of Marx’s vision of communism to Marxism, the vision itself remains clouded and unclear. Responsibility for this state of affairs lies, in the first instance, with Marx himself who never offers a systematic account of the communist society. Furthermore, he frequently criticizes those socialist writers who do as foolish, ineffective, and even reactionary. There are also remarks which suggest that one cannot describe communism because it is forever in the process of becoming: “Communism is for us not a stable state which reality will have to adjust itself.
We can call Communism the real movement which abolished the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from premises now in existence.”Yet, as even casual readers of Marx know, descriptions of the future society are scattered throughout Marx’s writings. Moreover, judging from an 1851 outline of what was to become Capital, Marx intended to present his views on communism in a systematic manner in the final volume. The plan changed, in part because Marx never concluded his work on political economy proper, and what Engels in a letter to Marx refers to as “the famous ‘positive,’ what you ‘really’ want” was never written. This incident does point up, however, that Marx’s objection to discussing communist society was more of a strategic than of a principled sort. More specifically, and particularly in his earliest works, Marx was concerned to distinguish himself from other socialist for whom prescriptions of the future were the main stock-in-trade. He was also very aware that when people change their ways and views it is generally in reaction to an intolerable situation in the present and only to a small degree because of the attraction of a better life in the future.
Consequently, emphasizing communism could not be an effective means to promote proletarian class consciousness, his immediate political objective. Finally, with only the outline of the future visible from the present, Marx hesitated to burden his analysis of capitalism with material that could not be brought into focus without undermining in the minds of many the scientific character of his entire enterprise.An individual could only engage successfully in so many activities if he cooperates with his fellows at every turn, treats all material objects as belonging to the group, enjoys the requisite power over natures, etc. In the same way, he can only exercise communist sociality if he is able to do a variety of tasks with the ease of an expert, treat objects as “ours,” and the rest. Just as no aspect of communist life can arise independently, none of the qualities ascribed to communist people can emerge alone.
As internally related parts of an organic whole, each assumes and is based on the presence of all. Marx’s best-known description of communism—that is a classless society, a time when the division of labor has disappeared, and when private property has been abolished, are all to be viewed in this light. Rather than partial, one-sided alternatives, these descriptions of communism are equally complete, the only difference being one of focus and emphasis within the totality.The qualities and life Marx ascribes to the people of communism represent a complete victory over the alienation that has characterized humanity’s existence throughout class society, reaching its culmination in the relations between workers and capitalists in modern capitalism. At the core of alienation is the separation of the individual from the conditions of human existence, chiefly his activities, their real and potential products, and other people. As a result of class divisions and accompanying antagonisms, people have lost control over all social expressions of their humanity, grossly misunderstanding them in the process, coming eventually to service the “needs” of their own creations. Viewing whatever people do and use to satisfy their needs and realize their powers as elements of human nature, the progressive dismemberment of human nature becomes identical with the stunting and distortion of potential in each real individual.
The bringing together or reunification on a higher technological plane of the elements of human nature that earlier societies had torn asunder begins with the revolution, gains momentum in the dictatorship of the proletariat, and is only completed in full communism. To the extent that social life remains split up and misunderstood in the first stage of communism, the people of this period can still be spoken of as alienated. Another major characteristic of communist society is the high degree of cooperation and mutual concern which is discernable in most human activities.
One indication of this development is simply the increase in the number of things people do in common. Reference has already been made to the “industrial armies” which to the work formerly done by peasants on their own plots. Beyond this, Marx claims, “communal activity and communal consumption—that is activity and consumption which are manifested and directly confirmed in real association with other men—will occur wherever such a direct expression of sociality stems from the true character of the activity’s content and is adequate to the nature of consumption.” In communism, interdependence becomes the recognized means to transform the limitations set by what was until now unrecognized interdependence. Because people at this time are “brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world,” interdependence is world-wide and grasped as such. These relations lead each individual to become conscious of humanity as part of him/herself, which is to say of him/herself as a “social being.” This is not only a matter of considering social interdependence as a facet of one’s own existence, but of thinking the needs of others as one’s own, experiencing happiness when they are happy and sadness when they are sad, and believing that what one controls or does is equally theirs and their doing and vice-versa. Perhaps nothing in the communist society helps explain the extraordinary cooperation which characterizes this period as much as the individual’s new conception of self, which, in turn, could only emerge full-blown as a product of such cooperation.
In discussing the first stage of communism, we saw that the satisfaction of social needs had become the accepted goal of material production. By full communism, this goal has sunk into the consciousness of each individual, determining how he or she views all the products of his or her work. Besides the sense of devotedness which comes from feeling oneself a part of a productive unit, each person gives his best because he is aware of the needs of those who use his products. He realizes that the better he does the more satisfaction he gives. Communist peoples’ concern for their fellows as co-producers is matched by their concern for them as consumers of what they have helped to produce.This desire to please is not associated with any sense of duty, but with the satisfaction one gets at this time in helping others. Assuming the role of communist, Marx proclaims, “in your joy or in your use of my product, I would have the direct joy from my good conscience of having, by my work, satisfied a human need.
.. and consequently, of having procured to the need of another human being his corresponding object.
” We can approximate what takes place here if we view each person as loving all others such that he or she can get pleasure from the pleasure they derive from his or her efforts. This should not be so hard to conceive when we think of how close friends and relatives often get pleasure from the happiness they give each other. Marx is universalizing this emotion, much enriched, to the point where each person is able to feel it for everyone whom his/her actions affect, which in communism is the whole of society. Everywhere the individual recognizes and experiences the other as the “complement” of his/her own “nature” and as a “necessary part” of his/her own “being.”Aside from considerations of getting something done, people at this time also engage in communal activities for the sheer pleasure of being with others. Human togetherness has become its own justification.
Another characteristic distinctive of the communist society is the replacement of private property by social ownership in personal as well as public effects. Communism is spoken of in one place as the “positive transcendence of private property.” We have already seen the role social ownership of the means of production plays in the first stage of communism in enabling wide-scale planning, promoting equality and securing better working conditions. Small businesses, however, still existed at least at the beginning of the first stage, and articles subject to direct consumption were still owned as private property.
Most people attached great value to the particular objects they used for these were not easy to replace, and, in any case, cost money which could be spent on something else. Under such conditions, cooperation did not extend to sharing all that one had with others, and the grasping attitude so prevalent today still had to be reckoned with, though probably less among the proletariat who had fewer material possessions to begin with, than among the small-holding peasants and the remnants of the bourgeoisie.We have just seen how aware each communist person is of the effect his actions have on others and how concerned he is with their obtaining satisfaction, both because his own personal needs require it and because he has conceptualized himself as a social being of which they are integral parts. It is this which allows him to say, “The sense and enjoyment of other men have become my own appropriation.” Consequently, if one person has something another wants his first reaction is to give it to her. Of private property in land, Marx says, “From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another.” In full communism, with human relationships as I have depicted them, private ownership of anything will appear equally ridiculous.
It should be clear that it is never a matter of people depriving themselves for the sake of others. Consumption for all citizens is that which “the full development of the individual requires.” The community stores are complete with everything a communist person could possibly want. “To each according to his need” is the promise communist society makes to all its members.
The question that remains is how to evaluate Marx’s vision of communism. Experience is not a relevant criterion, though the history of the species should make us sensitive to the enormous flexibility of human needs and powers. It is no use to say that such a society has never existed and that the people Marx depicts have never lived. The communist society is the ultimate achievement of a long series of developments which begin with the socialist appropriation of the capitalist mode of production. Its distinctive characteristics evolve gradually out of the programs adopted in the dictatorship of the proletariat and the new relationships and possibilities established. These characteristics cannot exist—and one should not expect to find them—before this context itself has developed in ways that the world has yet to experience. Likewise, the extraordinary qualities Marx ascribes to the people of communism could never exist outside of the unique conditions which give rise to them, and given these conditions the development of other qualities, certainly of opposing qualities, simply makes no sense.
One can only state the unproven assumptions on which this expected flowering of human nature rests. These are that the individual’s potential is so varied and great; that people possess an inner drive to realize all this potential; that the whole range of powers in each person can be fully realized together; and that the overall fulfillment of each individual is compatible with that of all others. Given how often and drastically the development and discovery of new social forms has extended the accepted view of what is human, I think it would be unwise at this time to foreclose on the possibility that Marx’s assumptions are correct.There is really only one way to evaluate Marx’s vision of communism and that is to examine his analysis of capitalism to see if the communist society is indeed present within it as an unrealized potential.
If Marx sought, as he tells us, “to find the new world through the criticism of the old,” then any judgment of his views on communism rests in the last analysis on the validity of his critique of capitalism. After all, communism is hardly ever opposed because one holds other values, but because it is said to be an unrealizable ideal. In these circumstances, making a case for communism as a possible successor to capitalism is generally enough to convince people that they must help to bring it about.