‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.’ – Karl Marx1
I – In Theory
Marx and Engels viewed history as a series of societal-economical-structures moving in dialectical form (structure two overtakes structure one, structure three overtakes structure two). Each structure correlates with the form of property of each era. The three below are introduced in The German Ideology.
- This is a proto-communist ‘tribal property’2 (stammeigentum) found in the period prior to the Greek empire. The “social structure is, therefore, limited to an extension of the family: patriarchal chieftains, below them the members of the tribe, finally slaves.”
- Ancient communal/state property in which: “The citizens hold power over their labouring slaves only in their community” with the slaved being “bound to the form of communal property.” Both “the division of labour” and “class relations between citizens” are “fully developed.” 3 This form originates from the convergence of many towns into a city, a process that, as we shall see, continues to occur.
- Feudal/estate property. As territory expanded, and production increased, the form of property adjusted to meet new needs. With this change came a new labour structure, property “during the feudal epoch primarily consisted on the one hand of landed property with serf labour chained to it, and on the other of the personal labour of the individual.” 4
The dialectical shift always coincides with increase in population, when a population increases new needs, but also increase in supply of what already exists. Territories must expand to accommodate the increasing demand in resources. By this I do not just mean necessary resources (food and water) but also luxury items due to a society riddled with hedonistic and material desires.
Each stage of property was negated by a new form of societal-economical-structure to meet the needs of a changing population, technological development (particularly the industrialization of production – the birth of mass production). The current stage, capitalism, which Marx endeavored to explain in multiple texts like Das Kapital and other posthumous manuscripts, must be overthrown by the proletariat who outnumbers the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoise not only control the means of material production, but also mental production. This was later termed ‘false consciousness.’
“The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it.” 5
I believe Marx arrived at this conclusion due to the censorship he experienced in Prussia following the installment of censorship laws in 1842. The laws were enacted, and 25-year-old Karl Marx reacted with an essay called Remarks on the Latest Prussian Censorship Instruction. 6 It is easy to understand why Marx believed that violent revolution was required, if the means of material and mental production are controlled then there is no alternative for overthrowing the bourgeoise.
‘“Liberation” is a historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical condition.”7
As more and more of the earth’s territory becomes inhabited, as technology changes from simply making aspects of our lives much easier into (in dialectical fashion) negating the human race itself, (the uploading of human consciousness into a machine is becoming eerily realistic. A consequence of us no longer asking the question: why?), a change must indeed occur. The problem is, when? For Marx, it is now, this is the historical moment. The acceleration of global capitalism, the concentration of material wealth within a small group of the population is at the same time increasing the size of the proletariat. However, the Marxist revolution has occurred multiple times now, and we all know how it occurs: violence, (discussed below. For now, we will highlight some other errors I see in Marx’s idea of revolution).
With each negation the working-class gain (what appears to be) more freedom, for Marx, this freedom comes from emancipation and the creation of a classless society. The problems is what actually occurs during Marxist revolution.
Taking the entire world into account, slavery still exists in true-slavery form in the East (as we are all well aware), especially in China where the Marxist project has reverted back into capitalism and oppression. Though we can here draw ties to China manufacturing most of the Wests products, thus it is the Wests fault for playing part, this line of reasoning is again negated by the fact that the attempt at Marxist communism has lead to the further exploitation of workers, just as it did in the USSR.
The process from socialism to communism presupposes that those who obtain power during the seizure of ‘the means of production’ will lead society towards a classless, communist utopia. The problem here is that those who want power chase after powerful positions, Marxist neglect to take into account that the people who seize power are people who desire power, why would they cede the power obtained? They are now in control of the means of production, the government and now the workers.
A second major critique is believing that communism, if actually obtained, is believing that nothing will then negate that negation (capitalism – socialism – communism -?). Primitive society was communistic originally (the primitive form of property), it then moved forward to capitalism. Marxists cannot assume that a classless society would not stay classless: it would also not remain atheistic, free of ideology and so forth. Marx’s and Heidegger both believe that history is a process of becoming, thus Marxism contradicts itself in believing that there is an end state of society; communism. Levelling society would, quite hilariously, reveal that there is no such thing as equality. The natural hierarchies that existed, before money allowed the weakest among us to attain power, would reform. New in-groups and out-groups would form with their ideology based upon old ideologies, old ideas would re-emerge.
This is if communism did occur, which it never would because no dictatorship will abandon power.
II – In Practice
In an interview for the Chicago Tribune, dated January 5th, 1879,8 Karl Marx states that “No socialist […] need predict that there will be a bloody revolution in Russia, Germany, Austria, and possibly Italy […] The deeds of the French Revolution may be enacted again in those countries.” He was partially correct here, there was a bloody revolution in Russia that was inspired by his ideas, but in the other countries they were driven against the 1917 Russian revolution. That being said, there is a common theme present in both Nazism and Communism. I will add here that he did state that a ‘peaceful workers revolution’ would be possible in some countries – he specifies the United States and Britain 9 – he doesn’t discount the idea entirely. And given the changes in those conditions in which he thought peaceful revolution would be possible after his death, most notably the rise of neoliberalism (David Harvey provides the best analysis of this in A Brief History of Neoliberalism)10, Marx would certainly have ‘changed his tune.’
One would think that Marx would have known better than to think peaceful revolution being possible while his enemies still had the upper hand. While working conditions slowly improved (and I mean slowly), it has only been certain aspects that received improvement. These changes are only ever implemented to keep those below docile, a little here and a little there keeps the masses ‘in line.’
With both Marxism and Nazism, we have the belief that one group of society is the problem, they must be removed from the face of the earth through violence:
‘Courtois characterizes “racial genocide” and “class genocide” as two subcategories of “crimes against humanity.” In both cases, the end is the same. Both the utopia of a classless society and of a pure race required the elimination of those presumed to be obstacles to the realization of a “grandiose” project, impediments to the realization of a radically better society. In both cases, the ideology (racial or class struggle) led to a bad principle: the exclusion of whole categories (“inferior” races or “harmful” classes) composed of people whose only crime was to belong to one of these categories, i.e., to exist.’11
And in the USSR, they did indeed seek to exterminate those of the “evil” class, and I must repeat again, regardless of how they accumulated their wealth.
‘On November 1, 1918, one of the first leaders of the Cheka, Martyn Latsis declared: “We do not make war against people in particular. We exterminate the bourgeoisie as a class.”’ 12
The idea that Lenin was a good guy and Stalin was the one who brought terror does not hold water either. The publishing of The Black Book revealed that: “After only five months in power Lenin had killed 18,00 people, compared to 6,321 by the Tsarist regime between 1825-1917. By 1921 the Soviets had several concentration camps filled “mostly with women and old people.” 13 Those at the top of the movement openly called for blood to flow:
‘The regime [Trotsky] sought to establish would be dictatorial and violent: “I tell you heads must roll, blood must flow … The strength of the French Revolution was in the machine that made the enemies shorter by a head.”’ 14
The French Revolution is continuously invoked, both Marx and his followers praise the French Revolutions violence, and violence in general. Marx goes so far to quote from George Sand at the end of The Poverty of Philosophy (quote originally in French),
“Combat or Death: bloody struggle or extinction. [sic] It is thus that the question is irresistibly posed.” 15
A Marxist may rebuttal that the inspiration of the French Revolution does not mean that another Marxist revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat and so forth, must be done with violence. This is clearly not the case. The basis of Marx’s work is the overthrowing of one class by another, the generalization of one class as inherently evil. As we have seen from Alain de Benoist’s remarks above, this is no different to the Nazis labeling all Jews the problem.
A Marxist may counter that as Marx said above, the workers may work within the framework to change the system. This has been attempted for a long time now, should we not be in a communist utopia by this point? I must concur here with countless philosophers across the Left and Right in saying: it is useless to try and make change within our current framework.
In the current liberal democratic system there are many internal and external forces that prevent any major changes. As noted above, the system itself is designed in such a way to give the public a little bit of what they want here and there to prevent any actual uproar. Obviously in France with the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vest) movement, there is a revolt against the existing order, which has been occurring for the last six months. But what has it accomplished thus far other than destruction, vandalism and 15 deaths? 16
We need a revolution, it is true. We need to remove capitalism as well, however, communism is not the answer. A Marxist revolution only attacks the symptom, it ignores the root cause: our own hedonistic desires. Both the ability for exploitation by capitalism, and the overpopulation which causes territorial expansion and the need for mass production stem from our unhealthy obsession with pleasure, jouissance, a collective death-drive fueled by the ‘ids’ unrestrained ‘pleasure principle’.
Post-enlightenment individualism destroyed collective responsibility and put the primacy of individual desires at the forefront; the Marxist elimination of culture and the neoconservative commodification of culture destroyed what binds a community together – it is these roots which we must regain. Seizing the means of production continues the process, the machinery is already there for a re-emergence of the capitalist system; the primacy of the individual and the non-existence of ideologies that hold a community together leaves them with no connection to one and other. If nothing connects a large group of people they will create a variety of ideological in-groups, all will oppose each other.
Communism will never work.
- ‘The Communist Manifesto’, Marxist.org Archive.
< https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm> Accessed 5th of June, 2019.
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works Volume 5 1845-1847, These on Feuerbach, The German Ideology, Related Manuscripts (NY: International Publishers, 1976), 33.
- ibid. pg. 34
- ibid. pg. 59
- Saul K. Padover (ed), The Essential Marx (USA: Signet Classics, 1978), 262
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works Volume 5 1845-1847, These on Feuerbach, The German Ideology, Related Manuscripts (NY: International Publishers, 1976), 38.
- Saul K. Padover (ed), The Essential Marx (USA: Signet Classics, 1978), 96.
- David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press, 2007).
- Alain de Benoist, Democracy and Populism: The Telos Essays (USA: Telos Publishing Press, 2018), 92-3.
- ibid. 91.
- Robert Service, Trotsky: A Biography (UK: Macmillan, 2009),
- Saul K. Padover (ed), The Essential Marx (USA: Signet Classics, 1978), 74.
- ‘Driver killed in accident at Yellow Vest roadblock in southern France’,
< https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/22/driver-killed-accident-yellow-vest-roadblock-southern-france/ > Accessed 5th June, 2019. The Telegraph UK, 22 Dec. 2018.
Ten deaths have occurred in France “The car driver, aged 36, died in the accident near Perpignan, a police source told Reuters on Saturday, bringing to 10 the death toll linked to the anti-government protests.” The remaining five have occurred at Yellow Vest inspired protests in Europe.