How Realistic or Desirable Was Marx’s Idea of Communism? Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

Introduction

Karl Marx is a well known individual in the field of history. Marx was a philosopher, a historian, and a social scientist who engaged himself with a variety of issues that affected the community. For this reason, Karl Marx is considered to be among the most influential socialist thinkers of the 19th century.

The socialist movement utilized Marx’s political, social as well as economic ideas to achieve success in its processes and practices. Among the many things that Marx is associated with is the idea of communism and socialism. This entails collective ownership of property and organization of labor in such a manner that all members benefit (Polan 1984).

This piece of paper looks at the concept of communism and all that surrounds it. Much emphasis will however be given to Karl Marx’s point of view or ideology in regard to communism and how realist or desirable it was.

Communism

Communism can be defined as an economic system that is characterized by aspects such as collective ownership of property and an organization of labor that is meant for the common advantage of all the involved members.

It could also be said to be a system of government whereby the state is involved in the planning and control of the economy and an authoritarian party holds power and works towards establishing a higher social order where all goods and property are shared equally among the communities.

It is a doctrine that seeks to overthrow capitalism form of governance. Communism ideology aims at establishing a revolutionary, stateless, and classless socialist society that is based upon commonality particularly with regard to ownership and means of production or division of labor (Ashley and Orenstein 2004).

Marx and the Idea of Communism

Marx is well known and remembered up to today for his idea of communism and his desire to do away with the capitalist form of governance. Communism and Marxist-Leninist interpretations played a critical role in influencing history of the 20th century.

This was seen in the intense of rivalry that was built up between the western world that was characterized by liberal democratic form of government and market economies and the socialist world that entailed social states that were governed by communist parties. This was serious enough that it culminated the Cold War that existed between the Free World and the Eastern bloc (Gaus and Kukathas 2004).

In the communist manifesto, it is evident that Marx distinguished between socialism and communism. To him, socialism was a term that was more comprehensive while communism was an advanced stage of socialism. Socialism was a process that was deemed to be in a position of preparing the way for communism.

This was to be made possible through nationalization of the means of production and putting them under the control of the workers; the individuals who he viewed to be the major producers of wealth. To Marx, economic equality was an extremely significant aspect that was capable of making political equality and freedom complete.

This made Marx to consider the redistribution of economic power as a key process in allowing for success in all economic and political activities. He therefore advocated for its implementation with the main aim being the extension of democracy to a greater level than that which was achieved by the democratic revolutions that prevailed earlier.

One observation that Marx linked with socialism and communism is the provision of services such as housing, education as well as health to the people for free. In addition to this, people were to be paid wages that was equivalent to the work they were involved with. This sound pretty good and everyone would appreciate the system (Berki 1975).

According to Marx, an international communist society would come to pass once all the nations would develop and implement successful socialist economies. As mentioned earlier, the main vision of communism was simple; to have a classless and stateless society in which the central government had no powers and democracy was a key issue in the place of work (Levin 1989).

The system also advocated for the abolition of the market system. This means that there would be neither money nor the processes of buying and selling but instead, an establishment of a system where people would work on a voluntary basis for the common good (Ollman 2004). This was supposed to be led by the believe and understanding that they would receive whatever they needed in their day to day lives for free according to the combined efforts of all and the needs of everyone involved.

Through this, it was believed that there would be no conflicts and that national boundary and governments would be eliminated. Although Marx had a strong believe that this system would succeed, he knew that it would not come to pass immediately but rather, it would take a relatively long period of time to be established and flourish (Ashley and Orenstein 2004).

One stumbling block towards the success of socialism was considered to be ignorance or lack of knowledge of what the system of communism really entails. This therefore necessitated that the people be educated to get them out of the selfish orientation that was associated with capitalism but instead bring into their understanding the benefits associated with communism.

Although many people who worked with Marx insisted that it was not possible to realize communism by having to go through a period of governance that retained and reinforced the centralized state government, Marx was certain that that was the only way out since it could not in any way be possible to directly shift from capitalism to communism. It required some gradual change.

Giving a critical analysis of the two arguments, it seems that achievement of socialism or rather communism is not an easy thing especially due to the fact that it involves changing the attitudes of people who have been used to another form of governance. Dealing with human nature is also tricky.

This is more so because human nature is subject to change depending on the environment people live in for instance the economic system. Marx believed that the people who lived under capitalism were to a grater extent motivated by motives associated with capitalism and needed some form of education to enable them to change their minds and embrace communism.

Economic transformation is deemed to play a great role in changing people’s mind and perceptions towards various things and this is the idea that Marx clings on and hopes to achieve success. The fact that people’s values have changed in the past gave Marx hope that people would certainly change in the future and that they only needed some conditioning.

Although communal ownership of property such as factories is a principal element when it came to the system of socialism, it was not expected to be an easy and natural process (Momoh 1991). Under normal circumstances, human beings will always present some form of resistance to change and hence the need to introduce any form of change in a rather gradual mode as opposed to bringing up issues in a rapid way (Perry 1974).

Mark had a number of theories that were all aimed at advocating for the ideology of communism. The theories were all about the society, politics and economics. The theories also known as Marxism hold that all societies are constantly in a progressive move. They do so through means of class struggle.

Marx was critically against capitalism as a socio-economic form of society. He associated it with dictatorship. This is because it was run by people in the wealth and upper class who were basically led by their own desires and therefore sought ways of benefiting themselves at the expense of the societies.

Marx believed that just as the social-economic systems that ruled before the capitalist system, capitalism would not rule for a long period of time before its self-destruction as a result of internal tension. For this reason, there would be a need for a replacement of the system by another system known as socialism (Polan 1984).

According to Marx, socialism was still not the best option although better than capitalism. Under the system of socialism, the society would be run by the working class which would therefore still have some elements of dictatorship. Due to its inefficiencies, Marx believed that socialism would be replaced by communism which he described as a classless and stateless society.

Marx was involved in advocating for the implementation of both socialism as well as communism systems of governance. This made him to state that both the underprivileged individuals and the social theorists ought to come together and carry out appropriate revolutionary actions directed towards tumbling the capitalism system and bringing about socio-economic change that is beneficial to the majority of the society members.

Marx’s idea of communism was accepted and implemented by various governments in different countries in the 20th century since some benefits were associated with it. This led to of socialist states such as the People’s Republic of china (PRC) and the Soviet Union in 1949 and 1922 respectively.

Other aspects that are linked to the Marxist ideologies include Maoism, Trotskyism, Leninism as well as Stalinism. All this achievements and contributions made Karl Marx to be recognized as an influential figure in human history and the field of social science as a whole (Zakharov 1985).

Although Marx‘s ideology of communism sounds very encouraging and desirable, its practicability is somehow questionable. The fact that individuals irrespective of their location in the world should all own farms, tools and factories that are used in the production of food and goods does not for example seem practical and it is difficult to translate it into reality. This is a form of social process that is known of common ownership which stipulates that there is no private or individual property.

The main goal of communism is to allow workers to take full control of factories and businesses as a way of managing the economy in a democratic manner.

This was to be achieved through establishment of a government, by the workers, in the interest of all those involved after which they would gradually bring all tools of production under their control with the main aim being the creation of a stateless and classless society. Although it was an outdated idea, its popularity heightened after the French revolution and other common movements that took place in Europe in the early 19th century.

It is evident that all that is contained in Marx’s idea of communism sound positive and it could greatly enhance the lives of the society members if it were implemented successfully. However, it sound difficult especially due to the fact that the situation was to be established afresh thus necessitating active revolutionary actions to be put in place in order to achieve success. Marxist concepts have been greatly criticized.

Most of his prediction did not come to pass. For instance, Marx major presumption was that there could be a wave of socialist revolutions that would originate from the most industrialized nations, aimed at overturning capitalism. A specific example is his predictions that there would be an ultimate fall of capitalism that would be replaced by socialism for better governance and achievement of success. This did not happen because even the state socialism is in retreat since the late 19th century.

This has been attributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the shift of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) towards a market economy. This is enough justification that even though Marxist ideology of communism was deemed to be capable of bearing some positive results, the results were short-lived.

This therefore dictates that Marx’s idea of communist is not much of a reality but linked with over-emphasis of some concepts. Marx also asserted that profits are solely generated through surplus labor. However research indicates that profits could also be generated from investments in human capital as well as technology. These are some of the criticism that has been put forth with respect to communism as discussed or argued by Karl Marx (Zakharov 1985).

There are various reasons that can be put forth in regard to why Karl Marx’s ideas in the communist of manifesto may not happen or work out as expected. For instance, Marx does not seem to truly understand human nature and all that surround it. He seems to be too positive about human nature to appoint of overlooking some aspects that are key to human nature.

In the communist manifesto for instance, Marx seem to believe that people ought to work simply because they are supposed to work. This is not the case because people need some form of incentives or motivational elements in order to work to the best of their ability. This is human nature. Individuals require some form of appreciation and motivation to carry on and produce desired results (Graham 1986).

Under normal circumstances, most people may not be willing to work hard if they do not expect to get something in return. This is because human nature is characterized by competition and the need to succeed and move on to the next level. Human nature is also incentive-based. People usually work hard driven by the belief that they will get some personal benefits. Very few people could be in a position to work expecting nothing in return.

This is linked to the fact that individuals have various needs that ought to be catered for instance food, shelter, education, health services and clothing. It is however clear that despite there being a lot of negative criticism on the issue of Marxist communism, the Marxist concepts are still considered to be significant in modern social science. The concepts have found some applications even in modern times.

To have a clear understanding of Marx’s perception of communism, it is good to look at the issue with respect to Marx’s major critiques of capitalism. This will help in having a good picture of why he was in favor of communism and against capitalism and hence have a critical evaluation of how realistic communism was as form of governance. Marx claimed that capitalism would immoderate workers, that labor would be exploited in both ethical as well as economic senses.

According to Marx, there would be a fall in wages and working conditions were subject to deterioration. True to this argument, wages in advanced economies that practice capitalism are far below the productivity level. This does not however mean that communism would mean a complete opposite of this since some factors ought to remain constant (Marx and Engels 1999).

Crisis related to overproduction was also an issue of concern that Marx thought with respect to capitalism. Marx believed that as the workers continued to get less and less in terms of payment; capitalism would definitely suffer continuous crises as a result of overproduction. This was attributed to the fact that the workers would not be in a position to purchase or even invest well to keep the economy growing.

Looking at this argument in a critical manner, it sounds real. Over the recent past, global crises that are associated with the effect of overproduction have been experienced (Fanon 1968). Marx also argued against capitalism on the issue of alienation. Marx believed that as a result of separation between the workers and the output of their labor they would tend to be alienated.

The workers were subject to lack a sense of satisfaction, purpose and meaning, an aspect that is very crucial if success in the workplace and the economy at large is to be achieved. This is a concept that is real in modern work places and economies. Although communism would help in solving the issue of alienation among the workers, the need for motivation that lacks in it would make it to be no better.

Another issue that bothered Marx in regard to capitalism is stagnation. This is considered to be among the controversial predictions of Marx. He predicted that as economies would stagnate, the real rates of profit would without doubt fall. Marx also associated capitalism with false consciousness where people would not even realize that they were being exploited. These could be seen in the distribution of power among the existing classes where people would tend to accept the prevailing situation (Marx n.d).

Marx played two major roles in his life and in the world’s history. One, he was an advocate of socialism and communism and secondly, he was a critic of capitalism. However, it is worth noting that despite the fact that Marx was so much into socialism and communism, he wrote very little about it.

Most of his writings involve critiques that are laid against capitalism. This is considered ironic since he was a strong believer in the significance of enhancing socialism but used up most of his time and energy in criticizing the capitalist system. He used this as a tactic to support socialism. His critique has found a lot of application among historians, sociologists and people in other disciplines. Neo- Marxism has also been based on the original ideas that Marx put forth in regard to communism (Hook 1975).

From the above criticism that was raised by Marx against capitalism, it is clear that he had a reason fro fighting against capitalism and advocating for communism. All in all, communism does not seem to be a form of governance that would deal with or solve the problems of capitalism at all.

This is because it is also linked with a lot of limitation due to its simplification of human nature. Further more, it has also failed in areas where it has been implemented. Most of the communist world has crumpled. Although capitalism seems to have some limitation it is with no doubt that it is better and more realistic than communism form of governance (Marx 2008).

The communist theory asserts that there is only one way that can help in the abolishment of the inequalities that are associated with the capitalist form of governance. This is having the working class people who are generally involved in the production or generation of wealth in the society but consequently exploited by the wealthy class, overthrowing the capitalist system through a form of social revolution.

The communist revolution entailed some aspects of armed rebellion in most cases although it was experienced different in different parts of the world depending on the environment of origin of a particular communism theory (Engels 1978).

Marxism has been a significant concept even in today’s world. This is however not because it has succeeded but rather because there is much that can be learnt from it especially through the nations that applied it. Some of the countries that have given a try of communism include Vietnam, Korea, China and Cuba. Among these, none has been very successful. For instance, China and Vietnam are involved in practices that are aimed at building market economies.

This is considered to be a step towards defying the concepts that Marx brought up about communism. This shows that the form of governance have not bore positive results and hence the urge to go back to capitalism. With respect to Korea and Cuba, they are not doing any better. The economies seem to be barely surviving under communism form of governance and they are not to be desires (Burawoy 2000).

The communist theory asserts that there is only one way that can help in the abolishment of the inequalities that are associated with the capitalist form of governance. This is having the working class people who are generally involved in the production or generation of wealth in the society but consequently exploited by the wealthy class, overthrowing the capitalist system through a form of social revolution.

The communist revolution entailed some aspects of armed rebellion in most cases although it was experienced different in different parts of the world depending on the environment of origin of a particular communism theory (Engels 1978).

According to Oseni (2009), the understanding of human nature is of great importance in the development of any ideology that is deemed to excel. The drawbacks of both Marxist- Leninist African socialism and scientific socialism are mainly as a result of lack of a deeper understanding of the nature of human beings and what surrounds human nature in general.

Some of the aspects of human nature that Marx failed to recognize include; the desire to have a meaningful life, self-consciousness, the desire to have a life free from pain through its avoidance, the desire to acquire property, the zeal for distinction, the desire for freedom from any external interference and many more.

Most of these elements are absent in socialism system. The desire to acquire and own property is however the most elaborate. Another major observation is that both African and scientific socialism do not in any way enhance personal ambition, an aspect that is extremely crucial in allowing for self satisfaction and fulfillment.

This dictates that socialism and communism are not realistic enough as they overlook most attributes that define human nature. This is the number one cause of failure in the implementation of both forms of socialism (African socialism and Marxist-Leninist socialism) in different nations (Martell 2010).

For any form of governance to succeed in its operations, it should consider all the aspects that surround human nature in an effort to incorporate the needs in the system of governance to avoid any form of conflicts. The understanding of human nature and the elements that constitute it will help in coming up with a well organized society. This will be through understanding that there is much to human beings than just being historic or socio-economic beings (Held 2006).

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it is evident that Karl Marx was determined to do anything to see to it that communism came to pass. However he faced a lot of opposition and it was only after his death that his economic, social and political ideas were accepted and utilized in the socialist movement. There has been a lot of criticism laid against Marx’s idea of communism with most critics claiming that it was not realistic or practical but could only apply in a theoretical setting.

Communism is a good form of governance and the concepts that are presented in its favor are pretty desirable. However socialism and communism do not sound realistic and even though they were applied in different parts of the world, their success were short lived. Most of the governments failed for instance the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). The major problem however comes on the issue of how Marx perceives human nature.

For instance, in regard to labor or work people are not expected to work just for the sake of working and achieving good results without getting some returns or benefits accrued to their hard work as Marx asserts. In reality, people tend to work through motivation for example where they gain some incentives and rewards in return, for their hard work. Human nature is shaped by human needs for instance food, shelter clothing, education and proper health.

This therefore follows that people are on the move towards fulfilling these needs. The needs can only be satisfied through the returns they get from their hard work for instance money. Communal ownership is also tricky. People are driven by the desire to achieve more and gain some personal property.

Working hard to have one’s efforts shared equally among all people could not be appreciated by many. This therefore dictates that although there are many desirable concepts in communism form of governance, it is not realistic and practical. The major controversy is however on the issues of human nature and its constituents.

Reference List

Ashley, D. and Orenstein, D. M., 2004. Sociological Theory: Classical Statements. 6th ed. Pennsylvania, Allyn and Bacon.

Berki, R.N., 1975. Socialism. Michigan, Dent.

Burawoy, M., 2000. Marxism after communism. Theory and Society 29: 151-174.

Engels, F., 1978. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. New York, International Publishers.

Fanon, F., 1968. A Dying Colonialism. New York, Grove Press.

Gaus, G. F. and Kukathas, C., 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. New York, SAGE.

Graham, K., 1986. The Battle of Democracy: Conflict, Consensus And The Individual. California, Wheatsheaf.

Held, D., 2006. Models of Democracy. 3rd Ed. New York, Polity.

Hook, S., 1975. Revolution, Reform and Social Justice. New York, New York University Press.

Levin, M.,1989. Marx, Engels and Liberal Democracy. Michigan, Macmillan.

Martell, L. 2010. The Death of Socialism? Web.

Marx, K., n.d. Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Web.

Marx, K., 2008. Critique of the Gotha Program. London, Wildside Press LLC.

Marx, K. and Engels, F., 1999. The Civil War in France. Chicago, Charles H. Kerr & Company.

Momoh, C. S., 1991. Philosophy of A New Past And An Old Future. Auchi, African Philosophy Projects Publication.

Ollman, B., 2004. Marx’s Vision of Communism: The First Stage. Web.

Oseni, T.A., 2009. Human Nature in Marxism-Leninism and African Socialism. Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya (PAK) New Series, Vol.1 No.2, December 2009, pp.25-40.

Perry, M., 1974. Man’s Unfinished Journey: A World History. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Polan, A.J., 1984. Lenin and the End of Politics. New York, Taylor & Francis

Zakharov, F.I., 1985. Philosophical Foundations of Scientific Socialism. Moscow, Progress Publishers.

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