Karl Marx (1818–1883), Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) , Epicurus (341–271 BC), and Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
Why Marx and who is he? Marx is a product of the forces of the Romantic and the Enlightenment movements. How? And why is he considered timeless and relevant to the analyses of various liberation movements of today? Why has Marx had in the history of his ideas the least appeal in this country?
A. The English political economists
1. John Locke's labor theory of value
2. Thomas Malthus and population pressures
3. Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand
4. David Ricardo and class struggle between landlords and the bourgeoisie over rents, interest, and wages. He said landlords create no values, while the bourgeoisie do.
B. The German philosophers
1. Immanuel Kant (The Critique of Pure Reason) and the contradictions of pure reason: he said problems of a practical nature cannot be resolved by thinking about them in ideas. Hegel said yes: ideas are in opposition in a dialectic in which through struggle the best ideas triumph in cultures and civilizations. Marx said no to both Hegel and Kant and said that human and social consciousness can overcome contradictory ideologies by locating them in the historical context of the conflict of classes in a particular mode of production. Marx called this the theory of historical materialism; Engels later conceived it as the theory of dialectical materialism because he believed there was such a struggle in physical nature and a one to one correspondence between human and physical reality, and that one set of laws applied to both domains.
2. Georg Wolfgang Friedrich Hegel (Phenomenology of Mind) said the contradictions of reason are immersed in conflicts between national cultures and their resolution in the Prussian state and freedoms as codified in its laws. Marx said "No." Such a freedom is abstract and one-sided and does not address the issue of the masses and their sufferings.
C. The French Socialists
1. Gracchus Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals
2. Charles Fourier and his utopian communes in countryside
3. Louis Blanc and parliamentary reformism though social democratic parties
4. Louis-Auguste Blanqui and the violent overthrow of government by a conspiratorial group
5. Henri Saint-Simon, utopian socialist who saw labor as the prime issue to be resolved by the organization of production by "associations."
I. Marx's Theory of Alienation (Paris Manuscripts): humanist phase of writings, more philosophical than practical/political
1. Alienation from self: hate your dehumanizing work.
2. Alienation from fellow man: competition ruthless
3. Alienation from the product of labor: you do only part of a task; so you do not have a sense of contributing to a meaningful product or service.
4. Alienation from the activity of labor: no pride in work. There is a lack of team effort and solidarity.
5. Alienation from his species being, his nature, and his human nature. In a sense, Marx is an ecologist who talks about the devastating effect that capitalism, with its rape of nature and suppression of human potential, has in effecting war and upsetting the ecosystem.
II. Marx's Theory of Revolution and Class Struggle (The Communist Manifesto): praxis phase of his development when he combines theory and practice of politics by going to the workers to organize them into international unions and a world movement politics of liberation. What are Marx's contributions in this manifesto?
1. The emergence of the communist movement to educate the workers as to their right to seize violently the fruits of their labor through revolution, in which there is a transformation in the political relationships between the classes. Marx and Engels believed in a combination of evolution and revolution. But communism is the universal language of the oppressed and hence very anti-nationalist in perspective, though Lenin exploited nationalism to attain power in Russia.
2. Your material means of reproducing your existence create your consciousness. Yet Marx rose above his class interests to join the proletariat. Why? The intellectuals are an elect because they have a science of society; it is their historically designated duty to lead the proletariat to the promised land. The vanguard of the old class joins the progressive forces of the emerging new class as it overcomes its alienation and domination to fashion a communist society based on collectively arriving at freedom. History comes to a conclusion after going through several epochs: primitive community (primitive communism—small bands of hunters, fishers, and warriors, like Indians—in harmony with nature by taking only what you can consume); slave state (patricians, plebeians, and slaves taken in war—create surpluses); feudal state (kings, nobility, clergy, vassals, serfs, and merchants, with resident aliens like the Jews); capitalist system (bourgeoisie, that is, the capitalists, and the workers); then socialism and communism (classless) in a two-step progression.
3. Trained industrial workers are the elite force of change in the coming struggle with the capitalist class.
4. Bourgeois intellectuals form a vanguard to lead the workers: a messianic concept of an elect. In his critique of Feuerbach, Marx said in one of his theses that philosophers hitherto have only talked about the world in their special language; the task to be done is to transform that world.
5. The existence of classes is bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production.
6. Class struggle necessarily leads to the "dictatorship" of the proletariat
7. This dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.
8. Under communism, there will not be a state because it is only the ruling political executive committee for the bourgeoisie.
III. Marx's Theory of Surplus Value (Das Kapital): scientific socialist phase of development where there is a level of analysis change from issues of human freedom and equality to the nature of the capitalist system and mode of production itself.
1. He developed the laws of scientific socialism. The theory delineated the social laws of class conflict working through history in order to make it into a political weapon.
Then he combined scientific socialism with dialectical materialism. The latter theory is how to transform concretely in political practice the power relationship between owners and workers. This connection between scientific socialism and dialectical materialism explains how fetish-commodities are generated socially by the sum of all workers yet privately appropriated by the owners of capital. Communism presents a worldview of the production of commodities and exploitation of labor power as a commodity, where everything in capitalist society has a price.
What results is profits and super-profits, as less productive capitalists can no longer compete. With the forces of production developing, there are recurrent crises in capitalism until there is a breakdown, and possible revolution, that transforms the relations and mode of production. Hence, political praxis brings about the change in the mode of production and we have socialism as a new stage in human progress.
2. Mode of production: c + d = epoch (capitalism) In capitalism, the relationship between things replaces the relationship between socially friendly people in the marketplace in mass commodity production, exchange, and distribution of goods and services. All human values are transformed into a reducible form of money and the bottom line of profits. Individuals as cogs in the machine are dispensable, except the owners of capital.
3. Means of production: factory system + technical division of labor + specialization of tasks of workers and functions of a hierarchical command system of rules at the work site.
4. Forces of production: technology and labor + management skills in organizing labor.
In the eleventh of his Theses on Feuerbach Marx wrote: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it." In the end, he was more a product of the Enlightenment than of romanticism. Truly, though, he was a visionary and revolutionary who combined idealism and empiricism.
Furthermore, we have to be aware that Marx in the Communist Manifesto period was talking about political revolution, not a labor theory of value or theory of human nature. The main points can be delineated as follows.
1. Your labor power is only a commodity. You are totally exploited in the capitalist system impersonally. The name of the game is profits, profits, profits. Marx called it wage slavery; that is, the worker will only be paid enough to get a subsistence wage to reproduce the very means of his existence.
2. The forces of production in science and technology undermine the relations of production and create the contradiction that the greater the advances and progress of science and technology the more people are thrown out of work. The international division of labor is destroying the American labor market. Too, there is the threat that in the dog-eat-dog competition within capitalism as a mode of production only the fittest and most ruthlessly efficient monopolies and oligopolies survive, which leads us to the dilemma of overproduction because there are not enough buyers with purchasing power to absorb inventory internationally. This leads to the destruction of the middle class and democracy itself, and eventually to the worldwide breakdown of the system itself. That is called Depression: The Great Depression of 1929 is the archetype of how capitalism can catastrophically fail. It creates a politically revolutionary situation in a country when you do not have a stable middle class to buffer conflicts and tensions between the extremes of class and caste structure. Anomie and violence overpower streets and society; either a fascist police state or a socialist emancipation results.
3. Capitalism is revolutionary. National sovereignty is outmoded, where you have multinational corporations no longer accountable to the laws of the land. They write their own rules.
4. Marx is about political power. He said that in certain historical circumstances where capitalism breaks down the workers have the right to seize the means of production and the state. It is their duty to do so. That means unions, organizations, and the communal associations of production. He was concerned about the quality of life, which he believed should be social and not individualistic. Greed creates a Hobbesian war.
5. Marx treated the notions of class consciousness that people entertain. Why do people kiss the hand that slaps them across the face and then turn the other cheek in adulation? He said that if you understand the laws of historical development, dialectical materialism, you will raise yourself above ignorance and behave in a more enlightened fashion where you will find it unacceptable for the boss/owner class, the high bourgeoisie, to steal the wealth socially produced by the workers but privately appropriated. Property is theft in the sense that he was talking about the means of production, that is, the banks, insurance companies, horsedrawn carriages, and iron and steel corporations, in short, the Fortune 500 type companies of 1848.
6. Marx distinguished between private and personal property. Private property belongs to the socialist mode of production that mass produces goods and services. That is run collectively. What you own is personal. You can keep it because what you earnand needyou should enjoy fully. Yes, you can have a house and another at the shore, live in help, boats, and so forth, with the sole dictum that you earn the right through your labor power to created or earn that object. It cannot be something you inherited or stole from the collective fruits of labor of other people. Marx was concerned about the equitable distribution of wealth.
7. The "dictatorship" is a temporary one in which the people occupy the state until the transition can be made from socialism to communism, wherein the state disappears because it is only the executive committee of the high bourgeoisie.When there is no longer have class conflict, there is no longer the historical necessity for a state to exercise a monopoly of the means of violence to enforce society's property norms: people will do so voluntarily because they have been educated to a higher stage of consciousness. Then, we can move beyond the monetarization of the political and civic ethics of the late stage of capitalism where the glue of morality is greed—the so-called American Dream. And it is that, a mere dream for the vast majority.
Introduction to Philosophy. Essay written 5 January 2009 by Dr. Ronald Schindler
Epicurus (341–271 BCE) and Karl Marx (1818–1883)
X. If the things that produce the pleasure of the dissolute were able to drive away from their minds their fears about what is above them and about death and pain, and to teach them the limits of desires, we would have no reason to find fault with the dissolute; for they would fill themselves with pleasure from every source and would be free from pain and sorrow, which are evil.
XXVII. Of the things that wisdom prepares us for insuring lifelong happiness, by far the greatest is the possession of friends.
XXXIII. There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men in their relations with each other, in whatever circumstances they may be, that they neither injure nor be injured.
(From Principal Doctrines)
Epicurus had an academy in Athens for living and studying, called the Garden. Students had to swear loyalty to Epicurus. He taught all aspects of philosophy from a nondeterministic atomist theory of knowledge. In particular, he conjectured about the nature of the "swerve" to account for the collision of atoms in space. From this hypothesis, he imagined that there must be free will. He was mechanistic in his understanding of how the universe works. In other words, he thought that the world could be explained in terms of ordinary phenomena, hence there was no need for gods. Marx was to incorporate this line of reasoning into his doctoral thesis. Too, Epicurus thought that because of the suffering of individuals there could be no benevolent god. Marx developed that idea into a radical atheism early in his philosophical assumptions. Epicurus probably was the first great thinker in the West who thought of the problem of evil as an essential dimension of the human condition.
He was an advocate of psychological and ethical hedonism. The idea was to avoid pain (evil) and enjoy pleasure (good). An individual had to be trained to curb his appetites for power, wealth, and sex to achieve ataraxia, a state of not desiring worldly things. By living prudently, that would be the nature of the just man. The just man also honored social contracts and his word would be his bond; however, if conditions changed, then the just man could be absolved of binding agreements.
Epicurus exalted pleasure, Plato the Forms, and Aristotle the virtues. Epicurus wanted to simplify life, so he eschewed the Forms, for that meant there would be gods (which were artificial conventions of man to induce him to behave for fear of punishment in the afterlife) and the pursuit of the virtues, which would would mean involving oneself unnecessarily in politics, which would stir the passions and cause mental distress. Plato was not empirical in his studies, while Aristotle's teleological system t deterministic in design, although systematic and empirical in scope.
The justice theory of Epicurus is instrumental, to suit the utility of the members of society. Laws must be useful to be just; hence, they were not written in stone or in the heavens. Life in society brought he major benefit of friendship. Good friends guarantee our security and peace of mind, leading us to the ideal of ataraxia.
Little of Epicurus survives because rival schools of thinking probably systematically destroyed his works, considered to be irreverent toward authority. Church authorities found his work corruptive enough to place it on the Index of proscribed texts. The political quality of being "forbidden" appealed to Marx, as did the underlying empiricism, atheism, and mechanistic epistemology. Marx’s thesis, completed in March 1841, was titled "The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, with an Appendix." Most of it has not survived time.
In sum, personally, I find appealing Epicurus’s doctrine to do no harm, which certainly brought a utilitarian resonance to his philosophy of life, a life that was a very private one, but a repartee to be taken with the enjoyment of loyal friends in conversation.
I find that the nuclear idea of philosophy is good conversation with friends, privately entertained. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom by a community in conversation where all equally partake of discussions. So, Epicurus was not so authoritarian, after all, despite the loyalty oath that probably was contractarian, but in a consensual sense.
Marx Reconstructed; Engels the Loyal Junior Colleague
I have finished Karl Marx: A Life by Francis Wheen. Basically, he recreates, I think largely by projection, Marx’s life through gossip as revealed by obscure letters, hitherto unpublished in English. A key theme threads together these often hilarious vignettes: loyalty and friendship. Put simply, Marx was a difficult individual to like because he was very combative in written and oral presentation. Jenny von Westphalen, who actually had aristocratic blood, married a man who wanted to destroy her social world, and a “converted” Jew, though a very self-hating one as emerged in On the Jewish Question. Their marriage lasted a lifetime with indefeasible loyalty and love to the end, with Mrs. Marx predeceasing her spouse by fifteen months. I had always thought of Marx as a woman hater, despite his advocacy of suffrage, to which I had thought he only paid lip service. That is not the case at all. Mrs. Marx was one of the founding members of the Communist League, that notorious organization that commissioned The Communist Manifesto. Marx admired women of courage and intellect, provided their political agendas coincided with his. In fact, the Communist movement had several women in its ranks, several from the United States. In general, the men accepted them as full partners. More surprisingly, I learned that Marx really did not have that much respect for the working-class man, whom he suspected of a lack of intellect (a historical materialist consciousness) and a mere penchant for political meliorism. Rather, he wanted them to embody the revolutionary praxis necessary to storm the citadels of capitalism when its contradictions climaxed in a Great Depression and general global collapse. Class prejudice replaced theoretical consistency; he substituted the “vanguard of the proletariat” (theoreticians), of whom, naturally, Marx would be its leader. That struggle took place in the International Working Men’s Association. His only serious rival was Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who believed in assassination and the putsch; these were political methods repugnant to the much more cerebral Marx and Engels. In the end, Marx dominated the movement and Bakunin removed himself from the scene.
The Marx that has issued forth hitherto is the poor wretch who lived with the workers to demonstrate his solidarity. Save your pity for dean’s appointments whose contracts have not been renewed. Engels and others supplied him with substantial funds to live a solid, middle-class existence; he simply misspent the moneys on his idiosyncrasies. The most amusing aberration was that he gave his three daughters private lessons in Latin and Greek. Marx’s thesis had been on the “Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy.” He loved wine, but only the best. In his lifetime, Engels gave unstintingly; I calculate the sum to be one hundred thousand pounds. That was not “immiseration” by any standard of the nineteenth century. Engels worked his whole lifetime to feed Marx and his family, while the “Moor” basically wrote books at home. He had recurrent boils, but he did not bathe as he thought it was bourgeois. So, if the readers of this forum will allow me a reductio ad absurdum, Marx was responsible for Lenin and Stalin. A bar of soap could have changed history itself. Now, that is a true historical materialist insight. Engels spent his last thirteen years putting together Marx's magnum opus Capital in its second and third volumes. At his death, Marx rose in a last heroic gesture from his bed and died, pen in hand, over his desk, and a pocket watch in the other. Inside the watch was a picture of his father; when his father had died in 1848, Marx ignored going to his funeral to write The Communist Manifesto. Such behavior is pathological, however melodramatically romantic. Dr. Freud, please make your commentary.
Engels lived quite well. High society considered him t one of the “beautiful people.” His love and loyalty to Marx never failed, whatever Marx’s considerable provocations. Engels is the enigma. Often, during the day, he would chase foxes with his aristocratic friends, and at night plot their destruction. Engels hated his father and loved his mother. Might a psychoanalysis have “cured” him of his “displaced” Oedipal rage that took the form of truly revolutionary deeds and his own "peculiar" writings? Or is a cigar, at times, just a cigar? That is to say, he hated his class because they merited such contempt. When Engels died, he left his considerable fortune to Marx’s surviving children, charities, and his several mistresses. He communized his business associates’ wives; in a sense, he liberated them from Victorian constraints with its polite but hypocritical social institutions and norms. His one true love was a working-class worker in his factory, Mary Burns. She predeceased him by dying suddenly of a stroke. He blamed English society for her premature death because Irish were to English as African Americans to white Americans, pariahs.
Fredrich Engels (1820–1895)
“I am enough of an authoritarian to regard the existence of such aborigines in the heart of Europe as an anachronism,…they and their right of cattle stealing will have to be mercilessly sacrificed to the interest of the European proletariat….The next war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary causes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples….and that, too, is a step forward."
Engels is writing about the "nonhistoric" Slavs, in particular the Russians. Engels gave a dogmatic, terroristic twist to Hegel's Dialectic, of a racist and genocidal nature. Ironically, Stalin adulated the "tough" Engels and preferred his dialectical materialism over the more humanistic, historical materialism of Marx. Stalin had no patience, when industrializing the Soviet Union, for awaiting the natural emergence of a bourgeois phase of evolution between the feudalism of the agrarian Russia of 1917 and the communistic future for the Soviet Union. In a negation of the negation, Stalin's will to power overlooked the retrograde state of the forces of production to telescope class conflict by a voluntarily willed political praxis. Engels provided a model for state monopoly capitalism of the bourgeoisie, which consequently could be violently seized by a revolutionary vanguard, like the Bolsheviks, that could then advance toward socialism and communism. The bourgeois state, after its seizure, would be transiently democratic with a temporary dictatorship of the proletariat, such as workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ soviet councils.
Unfortunately, this model would inspire third world countries to misuse the doctrines of Engels as an authority for the forced acceleration of the transformation of their nations and institutions, lacking the material infrastructure and belief value systems to support a democratic political economy. Terror was to become the Unhappy Consciousness of those states following the "Engels"/Stalin model of political modernization. Permanent Revolution became the norm, and that has the seeds of its own destruction as such revolutions tend to swallow their own children.
This junior colleague of Marx, with respect to the Third World and globalization, stated in The Communist Manifesto, that the devastating processes of creative destruction of capitalism "compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves.” Hence, third world nations had a twofold task in emancipating themselves from colonial status and developing bourgeois democratic institutions for achieving viable statehood. Their proletarian brothers and sisters in the homeland countries usually evidenced a virulent fascism that often climaxed in extermininationist wars of conquest. At times, Engels believed these wars could be advantageous to the conquered, who would be compelled to modernize or die. Marx, contrarily, saw such empire building by force as an undesirable forerunner of a general European conflagration. Marx really proved himself to be the senior partner of this world historical relationship in being more sensitive to the nuances of historical situations, which varied greatly and hence could not be put into the cookie cutter predictions of an dialectical slaughter bench. Such is the power of the subjectivist factor in decisive human events, even though the larger picture has a necessitarian complexity not knowable to historical actors. How could Lenin foresee a Stalin? Or how could Marx and Engels predict a Lenin, making a "Marxist" revolution under most inauspicious circumstances?
Methodologically, Engels was the more radical thinker of the partnership. He believed, like a true positivist, that the laws that applied to nature likewise applied to human nature and its economic, social, and political manifestations—with the economic factor decisive in the final analysis—and he said so with an eschatological certainty. Marx was more modest s, as he affirmed that the laws of historical human development were probabilistic, in a process whose end could not be flatly predicted and could change course and evolve or devolve in directions not anticipated by the historical actors. Most historical possibilities and hopes do die out and are thrust into the dustbin of history. This difference between the two was one of dialectical materialism versus historical materialism. The historical materialism of Marx won out in the Social Democratic parties of Europe. Engels proved fallible, being taken as the theoretician of Soviet Russia, Communist China, and Castro’s Cuba—all dictatorships.
American Prejudices Against the Reading of Marx
1. The American Revolution itself was successful. Class differences were mitigated by the expulsion or emigration of Loyalists, who would have been the basis of an ancien régime with hereditary caste privileges. This would have blocked upward class mobility, to which Americans, with their achievement orientation, are committed to as part of the American ethos. Other revolutions, as in Haiti, France, and the Soviet Union, were bloodbaths, so there is a disparagement of foreign political models—for good reason.
2. Americans initially came to the colonies to escape religious and political persecution. Hence, there was a prejudice against anything European because of their corrupt and privileged lifestyles left no room for dissenters and independent, economic activity. Americans believed they were an elect people chosen by God to do good works in the economic sphere. We call this the Protestant ethic,a psychological driving force in building a capitalist democracy. Wealth equaled salvation. You were only a steward of property.
3. Americans confuse Marx’s concept of property. He was referring to the means of production, which he called private property. What was socially created by the producers should be privately appropriated. Marx admired capitalism because it smashed old feudal institutions that trammeled the forces of production in terms of science and technology. For Marx, the ultimate issue was that the goods and services of capitalism were not justly distributed.
4. The Frederick Jackson Turner thesis stated that because of the possibility for down and out Americans to move west a safety valve to escape debt was allowed. There was no need consequently for revolutionary parties to form.
5. The main enemy of the United States during the twentieth century was the Soviet Union. Lenin and Stalin appropriated Marxist terminology to the detriment of a true reading of Marx, who believed that a backward agrarian power like Russia had to go through the long phase of capitalism before there could even be a socialist movement.
6. Americans have entertained historically the idea of pragmatism. Pragmatists believe solely in empirical experience, in which social problems are addressed issue by issue. Americans, in general, do not believe in using the state for social engineering to recreate human nature. Human nature is fixed and corrupt, as we saw in The Federalist Papers.
7. American national character upholds the sovereignty of the individual in its democratic political philosophy. Marx’s argument is for sovereignty in the association of producers (workers). Individualism versus communitarianism, as a political ethos, is one of the two poles of political organization in the century’s attempt to redefine democracy for the third millennium.
8. Americans believe they are a chosen and elect people. The marketplace, through its Invisible Hand, will ensure that people in their selfish egoism in rationally pursuing naked self-interest will find that all conflict will be transcended into the public good. Of course, this is part of American mythology. The Soviets failed with their command economy. The prices of goods and services were determined in Moscow. Hence, you could not rationally allocate scarce goods and services since there was no free market where the supply and demand curves intersect to determine the most fair price. Of course, there are situations where a sector of the market can be hampered by a person enjoying a monopoly position; witness Bill Gates and Microsoft. The Sherman anti-trust laws regulate such rogue corporations at the federal level. But judgments are seldom rendered by the Justice Department because its resources cannot meet Gates’s.
9. Americans are selfish. They adhere to a Social Darwinism strongly influenced by Thomas Malthus. If you are not competitive, you are unfit. You should perish with no mercy shown by either the state or private charities. The unfit breed; hence, you will put further population pressures on relatively scarce resources to the detriment of the development of capitalism. There is no room for ethical concerns in the marketplace. This doctrine of Malthusianism is anti-humane in its fundamental character.
10. In the tewntieth century, there has been conflict between John Maynard Keynes (demand side economics—deficit spending) and Milton Friedman (supply side economics—balanced budgets). These competing philosophies are between welfare state and laissez-faire economics.
11. The Horatio Alger myth, which has held in American history since the Age of the Robber Barons, has the belief that any poor person can go from rags to riches. It boils down to a work ethic. If you are poor, you are lazy and deserve your fate. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and stop complaining, goes the argument. Environmental factors are totally excluded, including racist and sexist institutions that frustrate people of color (and women) from reaching their potential. Marx looked at systemic and structural problems of capitalism to account for social injustice. Hence, he would never reduce it to faulting the individual. Marx was against the great man theory of history. His theory, based on class conflict, can be defined as historical materialism.
12. Religion. Americans have the appearance of being religious. Their enemy was communist atheists who embodied attributes of the devil. Of course, if we look at the ancients, these pagans in Athens and Rome had very ethical values and lived the good life.
13. Paranoid style of American politics. Americans need enemies: you are either for me or against me. Because Americans have incorporated religion into politics, if opposition ensues, then a self-righteous attitude prevails in which Americans condemn the others as not human.
14. The virtuous are the fittest who survive in the marketplace. Poverty becomes divine punishment for leading an immoral lifestyle. There is no room for pity.
15. Marxism is an alien philosophy from the Old World; hence, it never had a chance even to obtain an audience. Anything Old World is tainted.
16. The language is so highly technical that it cannot appeal to the masses, and middle class. let alone workers. Intellectuals (college professors) are the priesthood of the Marxist cause. The contentiousness of this inherently antidemocratic elite is such that the average person will mistrust and even hate them.
17. The United States repressed the “Red Terror” and the “Communist bogeyman,” respectively, after the two world wars, intimidating leftists. In the former instance, fears were by and large unfounded if you measure the real threat against the actual historical circumstances. Eugene Debs is a good example of a non-Marxist Socialist persecuted for his unpopular antiwar views. In the latter instance, the CPUS (Communist Party of the United States) was a tool of the Kremlin. Gus Hall was a paid agent of Stalin. Sabotage by American communists aided the Soviet Union in “getting the bomb” earlier than otherwise would have been the case. Strategically, however, no long-term balance of power alteration ensued.
18. With the demise of the Soviet Union, Marxist studies underwent a radical decline. This guilt by posthumous association is not fair to Marx. The rise and fall of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with Marx's theories of revolutionary advocacy; he eschewed violence and permanent revolution for its own sake.
19. The Communist Manifesto had a platform of ten major points of “revolutionary” reform. All ten points have been sublimated into the national consciousness and enacted into statutory laws, particularly with the New Deal response to the world depression.
20. There is a hint of Marx in President Obama’s stimulus package, especially the nationalization of toxic assets of commercial banks, hedge funds, and so forth. In effect, a revolution from above has been effected. Treasury Secretary Geithner was given emergency, executive powers unequaled since the two world wars. These powers were necessary to fill the void left by the regulatory agencies whose personnel reflect the interests of Big Business. Tim Geithner’s role was to offset the inordinate influence of lobbies in Washington, D.C., basically subverting representative democracy let alone a participatory one with social democratic content.
In assessment, Marx proved very wrong on issues of nationalism, religion, and unionism as primary forms of political identification.
Marx was profoundly right on his ethical stance that systemic flaws in capitalism are not fixable, noting particularly that between the production and consumption cycles distribution fails too many working people. He understood that capitalism was the driving force in creating globalization. He realized that capitalism could not prove stable over time to sustain a democratic lifestyle worth living for the masses. Our representative form of government really is rule by the rich and oligarchic interest groups.
Too, what Marx could not have foreseen was American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, since the founding of this nation. Americans have an imperialistic impulse built into their collective political philosophy. There is the delusion that God has made us so special that Americans are divinely obliged to export democracy to third world peoples. Marx was right in describing religion as the opiate of the masses. These doctrines work very well when that country has oil. The powers that be brand the targeted nation as a terrorist state, a threat to our national security and hence an enemy to be vanquished in our own version of holy war. The Christian Right has been a force in its own right, mixing self-righteous missionary Christianity with national politics, of course making for a very paranoid politics. President Obama seems aware of these aberrations in this historically embedded American thinking and to date has not been susceptible to ideologically driven solutions. He is definitely in the FDR mold, but he will redo our constitutional makeup in the political economy with the government a partner of Big Business. That directly involves taxpaying Americans as stakeholders in the new world order and the toxic assets of hedge funds and commercial and investment banks.
Einstein Encounters Marx: "Why Socialism?" (1949)
"This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career."
Einstein was a cultural Jew by his own self-definition. He did not think of his Jewish identity in racist, nationalist terms. He was a lifelong socialist by conviction of the Viktor Adler stripe, not Marxist, because of a deep aversion to violence as instrumental in achieving class victory. He argued for a planned economy, although he was wary of the dangers of bureaucracy. Einstein was not ever a communist, enthralled by the state socialist dictatorship of Stalin with its bureaucracy woven into the very consciousness of the collectivity. Democracy in no way could characterize Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Einstein knew that. Nonetheless, he loathed capitalism and thought of democratic socialism as the third way. He never developed his social ideas beyond a programmatic stage
"Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future."
The parallel to Marx’s Paris Manuscripts of 1844 is striking where the theory of alienation was discussed in an attempt to develop a viable concept of human nature for the communist movement. Both Marx and Einstein ran up against their own methodological straitjacket of Machian materialism. Man could not be more than an appendage of the machine and hence a variable of capital.
Hidden in Einstein is an indeterminism to allow for free will in allowing working man to rise above the status of a laboring beast. Hence, from an ethical standpoint, humankind had the capacity to say no to tyranny no matter what its political face. Einstein fought for the civil rights of African Americans at a time when it was dangerous to do so and entailed a true risk to have one's citizenship revoked or at least incur the pariah status of being on Hoover’s "hit list" of "communists" to be detained. Does this all sound familiar in light of the Patriot Act with its suspensions of constitutional rights?
"Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."
As a university professor, I find it my moral duty to raise the consciousness of students to an awareness that their training in the mode of production (even at the university level, if not more so) conditions how they think, namely to avert becoming a greedy money and power mongering tool of the establishment at the expense of the public good. Am I advocating civil disobedience or guerrilla warfare? Hardly. I am an advocate of social reform first by changing the self to become the exemplar teacher. Liberation starts with self-critique.