Of all XIX century great ideas there was no other idea more loved and more hated, more followed and more abandoned, more studied and more misunderstood, more used and more abused than an idea of Karl Marx Materialistic Historiosophy that disrupted feudal political system in Europe and profoundly impacted history of entire XX century and beyond. Without Marx today’s political processes and their consequences as well as those a century ago, cannot be understood at all. Truism the state-infused corporate propaganda is desperately seeking to deny.
What was the idea that shook the world of money and political power back then? Unfortunately, we can get it only directly from Marx and his own writings. The Marx works demand some learning curve but those who climb it are rewarded with surprisingly soaring writing prowess equal to authors of literary XIX century classics.
The ideas of Marx are still perceived by current rulers regardless of their political persuasions as extremely contentious while in fact they are not. As a result there is practically no shred of truth or objectivity in most published studies on Marx including those with scientific aspirations dealing with fictional entities like Marxism that never existed in Marx vocabulary. Lies, misconceptions, half-truths, half-baked theories, misinterpretations, deliberate manipulations, down right fabrications are being still proliferated in “Marx Readers” over 130 years after his death from all directions of political spectrum including from the so-called communists and remains of wider political left. The political Right never really read Marx while the Left never really understood him. Both used him to wipe out their bloody shoes of oppression.
Since collapse of the Soviet Union, majority of leftist academics and philosophers who built their entire careers on fictitious Marxism-Leninism roost switched hats and began proving new revelations of holy capitalism, diligently rebuking all what they swore by just few years before, and proudly wrote in their fat books of nonsense.
After that, they loudly denounced ideas that brought them academic degrees, distinctions, fame and good living. It was embarrassing to watch what those old learned men were capable of if threaten with a poorhouse. One thing is clear now. Neither then nor now had they any idea what Marx actually wrote and were hopelessly clueless about what he meant. They were nothing but stylish opportunists, courtiers of power, riders of political wind.
Any remaining Marxist scholars, attempting to preserve their dignity by not succumbing to medieval witch-hunts and Nazi-like book burning hysteria were promptly eradicated from academia and political life or sent straight to the poorhouse to nurse their PTSD.
Over 170 years after its publication, ideas of communist manifesto and other Works of Marx, Engels and collaborators are being hard-pressed into convenient oblivion in an attempt to kill the last and only ideas relevant to the current social economic tribulations designed by financial oligarchs, ideas enabling us to see inner workings of the power and propaganda in its glorious brutality that slowly pushing us to the extermination.
After all said and done, Marx’s only offense was to demand an honest answer to Rousseau’s Social Contract’s central question: “why people are born free but they are everywhere in chains”. His answer changed the world.
Karl Marx was a student of G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy and belonged to so-called Materialistic Hegelian School (Young or Left Hegelians), which he co-founded with Feuerbach, Engels and others. Other group of students Goschel, Gabler, Rosenkrantz and others founded Idealistic Hegelian School (Old or Right Hegelians).
A major contribution of Hegel to philosophy at large was formulation of a concept of modern historiosophy. Hegel’s work titled “Philosophy of History”, dealing with the issue, was compiled from his lecture notes after his death by his students and other scholars and published in book form. The main point of Hegel’s historiosophy was emphasizing decisive role of individuals or individual nations, chosen by “creator” to shape history of the world.
These chosen individuals (supermen) or exceptional nations are to be capable of achieving certain, altered state of conscientiousness, enabling them to realize the will of creator. The ultimate test of truth was an outcome of perpetual dialectic struggle between “good” and “evil” leading to a total war where victors were set in the battle by creator and were given privilege to establish moral law on earth upon their triumph. This theme is common in poetry of H. Heine, in prose of Goethe and in operas and R. Wagner, where mythical winged Valkyrie help those chosen by the creator to win existential battle.
This curious Hegelian philosophy of exceptionalism that led Nazi Germany to its demise continues to form mystic, irrational foundation of American international relations based on threats and brutality justified by “superior”morality of goodness.
Ideology of Right Hegelians, inspired by Hegel’s theory of the state formulated in his book entitled “Elements of Philosophy of Right”, were more strictly aligned with Hegel idealistic teachings supporting view that the historiosophy is driven by strong individuals and chosen nations that can read into the will of creator. Adolph Hitler hundred years later, fully subscribing to Right Hegelian view, saw himself and the German nation as chosen one and hence he sought total war aimed for approval of his leadership directly from the creator. Now we know, he was not the one, because Valkyrie did not show up on battlefields of WWII and hence he lost. He made few early attempts for peace though, by consulting leading German occultists, spiritualists to tell him the result of total war he planned to wage. Unfortunately those sessions were inconclusive and hence we had to have WWII and 50 million dead to find out.
Young Hegelians held view of historiosophy not that distant from Hegel himself but gave it completely different interpretation. First, they entirely removed all religious undertones of Hegel’s historiosophy and theory of the state, which they considered as Hegel’s political ploy not to anger government connected clerics. Any trouble of this sort could have cost him his academic position in Berlin.
Secondly Young Hegelians were all fascinated by French Revolution and following Napoleonic revolutionary wars waged not by hired mercenaries but by new army of ordinary self-motivated, unpaid citizens bringing to feudal Europe message of equality, liberty and brotherhood on their bayonets.
Inspired by those historic events and witnessing process of awakening previously politically invisible masses of humanity, Young Hegelians eventually turned Hegelian dialectic struggle between good and evil into struggle between oppressed masses and power elites whoever they might be.
The strive to attain heightened state of national conscientiousness was turned into strive to attain heightened state of ordinary people’s conscientiousness of their important role in the society and economy through education programs similar to those postulated during French Revolution. They saw historiosophy driven by a dialectic class struggle between class of privileged aristocrats and class of politically marginalized emerging bourgeoisie. In other words they supported change, growing progress in the economical and political realm without mystic overtones of zeitgeist.
The so-called Manifesto of Communist Party, meaning “political expose of [group or] party of people who share [knowledge about society they live in, and demand change]”, a short severely reductionist political pamphlet, was published as an inspiration to 1848 all Europe multi-national uprising, resulted from collapsed British imperial “free trade” policies which depressed economies throughout continent.
The etymology of the word “communists” have been purposefully overlooked and forgotten by political Left as well as by the Right. The atheistic left chose not to advertise the word’s obvious religious connotations to “communists as people sharing communion of love, not with God but with fellow human beings in unity with their humanity”. The Right chose not to advertise the word’s obvious religious connotations to the Holy Communion, which had potential to confuse the fateful about who is actually following teachings of God. Then and now, calling ”communist party” as commune of love and unity in public would amount to blasphemy for corporate congregation of extra-biblical worshipers of Greed.
The fact is that no formal political party called “Communist Party” was called for or was ever created by Marx. However, he belonged to few organizations liken to social clubs promoting freedom of speech and unrestricted education, virtues lacking in Europe and elsewhere then and now.
Marx and Engels and other contributors, in their communist manifesto and related publications, stood firmly against continental European feudal aristocratic ruling class desperately struggling to stay in power despite wave of commercial and technological innovations developed by the bourgeoisie excluded from leadership positions in the political process of that time.
In this document authors, praise achievements of emerged bourgeoisie class of merchants, bankers, industrialists, artisans etc., but also warns against bourgeoisie extreme radicalism and unquenched revolutionary drive to power and domination that inevitably leads to the destruction of society if unchecked.
The multitude of contributors to the communist manifesto pamphlet and necessary simplicity of this form of communication unfortunately slanted many presented assertions to such a degree that Marx did not consider them as his own even if they were eventually attributed to him.
In other writings Marx called for a political platform supporting new democratic egalitarian system in which working class would provide checks and balances that would allow to unleash productive and organizational potential of society without devastating social side effects while avoiding endangerment of democratic system by a concentrated economic capital and financial power.
In contrast to many leftist political parties of his time, Marx perceived organized working class itself not as revolutionary or even radical but as a conservative, judicious force that would moderate otherwise untamed, psychotic urges of greed, erratic irrational behavior and impaired decision-making capabilities of the bourgeoisie in capitalistic system, in maddening rush for profits in the process of relentless capital accumulation. In some of his writings communist revolution was referred to as aimed to slow rupture of feudal as well as capitalistic social relations based on subjugation and exploitation allowing for moderating of class antagonisms.
Class struggle envisioned by Marx had sole purpose to moderate destructive results of extreme radical bourgeoisie ideology through democratic process of control and oversight conducted from inside as well as from outside of a structure of power and government. Nowhere in his writings Marx promoted taking over power of the State by force but rather promoted trade union type activities and social club organizations of workers and intelligentsia as an organized permanent political opposition to the ruling class tasked with the implementation of strong and enforceable checks and balances of power.
He was vigorously promoting ideas of true freedom and genuine democracy based on universal suffrage, practically non-existent in Europe in mid XIX century and blamed suffering of masses in part on the fact of severe deficiency of democracy in the western world which allowed for extreme exploitation. The perceived references to overthrowing “supremacy” of the bourgeoisie and ruling class was not conceived as to aim toward imposing totalitarian rule but related to a numerical fact of overwhelming democratic majority of, then voiceless, society of working people, and their right to shape the political power to their benefit. It was revolutionary idea back then as well as now.
Another serious misinterpretation of Marx’s idea of supposedly advocating of abolishing private property, which actually refers to abolition of capital, invested in the real property, acquired through excessive exploitation of working class. Similarly, marx calls for the internationalization of workers movement was misconstrued as advocating stateless society while in fact it is a direct and logical response to the push for globalization of the capital. And many other countless misconceptions about the ideas of Marx were spread throughout political literature over a century.
Karl Marx’s epic work “The Capital” originally four volume expose of the materialistic historiosophy, was dedicated not only to provide qualitative and quantitative economic models of a modern capitalistic mode of production but more importantly to educate millions of citizen including wage workers, peasants, servants as well as young bourgeoisie about the reality of their particular material contribution to society and economy in the context of social responsibility and sense of fairness. This was Marx’s contribution to the Hegelian idea of heightened conscientiousness of masses required to affect historical changes but not through war or violence but through peaceful democratic processes responding to the vital needs and interests of 99% of the population.
Acute deficiency of democracy in the XIX century continental Europe ran by emperors and kings and resulting repressions and persecutions of activists engaged in the worker education and building up political support, forced Marx’s to the exile to France, Belgium and England where he and his family lived in extreme poverty while he researched material for his masterpiece. He even refused to take any corporate job since it could possibly impair his scientific judgment about capitalists and capitalistic system.
Nevertheless, he continued his political and educational work in a true Young Hegelian School tradition. He was, for example in England, instrumental in passing laws limiting workday to 8 hours, not arguing for revolutionary justice but by repudiating widely accepted at that time economic theories that justified 16 or more hour working day as economic necessity for profitable industries. He was also instrumental in significantly improving working condition, work safety, reducing child factory labor as well as advocated equal pay for women by promoting his economic theories which render any justifications of such exploitation baseless.
It’s hard to believe now but Marx revised his “Capital, Critique of Political Economy” Vol. 1 titled “The Process of Production of Capital” for common reader (it became current official version, read by professional philosophers). Such revised form of “Capital” was published in English in a daily worker newspapers as a long series of educational essays so simple uneducated workers could afford to read it. Today even a college graduate would likely find the first 120 pages of introduction to over 1000 page volume insurmountable.
Unfortunately some political activists, including Trotsky and V.I.Ulianov a.k.a. Lenin were unhappy seeing only political brutality of the ruling elites, and no progress of closing democratic deficiency in the western or eastern Europe, as well as slow pace of improvement in the working condition and wages of suffering working class.
Those activists wrongly called Marxists since they were not following but actually refuting Marx’s organic democratic approach to alleviate working class exploitation opted instead for a violent class struggle, a social revolution aligned more with the Right Hegelian School of thought later adopted by Hitler. All those early wannabe revolutionaries with their pomposity, fiery rhetoric and mumbling about leading role of working class in the historical process, while soliciting funds from disgruntled bourgeoisie, did little do alleviate rampant exploitation of humanity.
As a consequence, revolutionary splinter groups put forward political programs describing a kind of post-capitalistic government and “democratic” system they intended to establish upon successful violent revolution. Hence first arose need for definition of a worker party run system – so called dictatorship of the working class that Marx himself never supported in any form proposed. None of these ideas did or would prove meritorious for Marx perhaps because those supposed working class parties were loaded with righteous intelligentsia and well to do individuals from the privilege classes in positions of leadership supposedly knowing the best how people should live in a future workers paradise.
Marx was contemplating writing a theory of government but never did. In such work he would have for sure spelled out a structure of possible organizations of the post-capitalistic governments but he never did it either. Any suggestions that he formulated any of the governing principles of practical “socialism”, or “communism” are flat wrong and probably based on some loose speculations Marx offered to journalists during one of his numerous interviews or some of his tangential writings. This is not to say that some revolutionary groups did not pick up upon it and incorrectly presented as Marxists ideas.
By imposing his socio-economic dialectics based of his philosophy of the historical materialism over Smith/Ricardo political economy, Marx had in mind establishing political economy as a modern science based on observation and experiment and not on false intuitions, and unintelligible sympathetic forces of destiny. Therefore, he furthered ideas of political economy as a system of infused government and ruling class, impossible to separate and study individually. This finding combined with his socio-economic dualism made for powerful tool of analyzing reality of national organisms as units.
These scientific theories and empirical methods cannot be called Marxism just like theory of relativity cannot be called Ensteinism. The term Marxism is a blatant misnomer of its true meaning and has been prostituted over century now as anything to anyone. Unfortunately, such misleading usage of the word is widely spread throughout US academia and media for political and propaganda purposes of shutting down any discussion about vicious class war waged by the ruling elites on population daily.
In a quest for willful ignorance, media often call “Marxist”, a liberal who after learning from Marx about oppressed people want to use their suffering and anger for furthering his/her own selfish agenda of greed and/or lust for power. All that effort in an attempt to obfuscate important ideas of Marx in the eyes of a viewer. The same mislabeling applies to Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Kim Il Sung or Enver Hoxha, none of them were ever Marxist but simply power-hungry dictators, more affined to the Right Hegelian ideology of a chosen leader in a chosen nation that should keep dying until test is completed and illustrious leader immaculate. What even worse is that none of the political systems they established resembled in any way socialism or communism as defined by the XIX century theoreticians of Worker’s Revolution such as Rosa Luxemburg, those leaders pretended to worship.
Another way to assault ideas of Marx is criticism of his economic processes and laws as outdated or erroneous. Nothing’s further for the truth. Even coarse reading of the Capital alone shockingly reveals striking relevance and applicability of Marx’s observations about economic crises in Europe over 150 years ago to the crises of today. The analysis of processes of production and accumulation as described by Marx, are as much applicable to today’s commodity producing economies as to those in the XIX century.
Marx never considered any general, abstract rules or laws of the economy since there are none. Instead he considered, for example that socio-economic system in England was a subject to the rules and laws of economy and society uniquely established and applied as decreed by specific policies of the state. So there are no general laws of supply and demand but there is a law of supply and demand in English society under the rule of King George and as such could be studied. Perhaps Marx acute awareness of the total fusion of economy, society and government made separate theory of government a moot point. Hence the Capital is an expose of not only about capitalistic means of production but about English society and political class that supported the capitalistic system of power in England.
These were just few examples of how Marx ideas were spun hopelessly beyond recognition, casualty of a propaganda war. Ideas of Marx were largely misinterpreted, misconstrued to be something else, vilified or simply silenced for some immediate propaganda purposes by all sides of ideological divide.
It is important to note that I am not attempting to judge viability of Marx political ideas or whether these are reasonable or not. That is not a point. The point is to separate Marx’s ideas from myths, fears and emotional bias instilled in us via educational systems that continue to negatively affect young minds. One thing is sure. Karl Marx was a first philosopher and scientist who via methods of empiricism was exclusively dedicated to study 99% of previously invisible human society, which he put in the spotlight of political landscape for the first time in the history of human civilization. And that crime of his will never be forgiven.