Marxism is a method of analysing society around us that focuses on class and societal conflict that uses a materialist interpretation of history and a dialectical view of social transformation. Marxism uses economic and socio-political inquiry and applies that to the analysis of the development of capitalism and the role of class struggle in systemic economic change. Now, in today’s increasingly consumeristic and capital-centric world, where does Marxism fit in? Emerging in the 1880s, how can the movement of an age where rights dominated political movements, fit into a world where politics is governed by economics?
Marxism proposed that, as we develop through history, feudalism gives rise to capitalism, then socialism then the idea of a classless society becomes a reality. Whilst that development through systems may seem a little off, the central Marxist ideal of an egalitarian society is one that, surely, we should all strive for. A fair and totally equal world is more beneficial to human community as a whole than petty competition and crippling class war.
Whilst a class-less society is a far off dream; an ideal that we may not fully realise for a long time, we can currently appreciate the idea of a class struggle. We’ve often heard about the 1% versus the 99% dominates society, so the idea of a working class uprising against the capitalists, demanding a redistribution of wealth amongst those who’ve been denied it. It’s logical to agree that our own wealth is a result our dependence on society, so there is no real individual property, only the property collectively owned and supported by the wider community. Redistribution in an egalitarian society is not an unfair reality. For instance, someone who has had a job for many years and paid their taxes (which paid for roads, schools, hospitals etc.) can currently be left with nothing if they lose their job and forced into poverty. Someone who has made huge contributions to their local community and wider society could be forced to queue outside a food bank, whilst a multi-millionaire CEO who channels all his enormous profits in an offshore tax avoidance scheme can still live lavishly. It’s not outrageous to suggest that the wealth accumulated at the top belongs to those at the bottom just as rightfully to those who currently hold it.
The big part of Marxism, often seen a drawback, is in fact a strong political solution. To guide through this redistribution, a strong government is required. A state which focuses on the planned economy working on technology, science and industry, whilst working for the benefit of society as a whole egalitarian sphere is the perfect tool for the enlightened classless society. Indeed, perhaps such an ‘enlightened dictatorship” could even benefit political systems besides Marxism.
Now, this can be dismissed as too ‘idealist’ but I question whether there can be such a thing. Relying on principal when it comes to deciding legislation is something that can only benefit the people as a whole. Morality comprises of principles that have evolved over time as the best way to order society. Principles such as murder and theft are wrong are examples of this evolution. In forming these principles we must apply them to society as a whole. By the rational application of these ideal principles, society’s laws become coherent and defensible. To be solely pragmatic would lose this coherence; only consistency dominates pragmatism.
For us to decide what is the greatest good for the greatest number, we must appeal to certain principles to help us understand the perfect solution. A pragmatist’s refusal to make principles explicit reveals the shaky foundation of pragmatic decision making. For example, the principle the autonomy of the individual overrides the moral authority of religion or the principle of condemning violence overrides the right to protect oneself. Idealism allows the free-flow of specific ideals to be coherently recognised and realised. No ideal is subject to culture or specific time.
Ideology, such as Marxism, gives lead to society and let it clearly be known what is right and wrong. Upholding idealist moral principles over the pragmatic responses to certain situations gives society moral certainty and grounding to develop those ideals further. Ideologists stand by what is right.
If we realise the idealism of a class-less society, fully egalitarian and free from the consumerist bonds of conformity that capitalist society has evolved to, then we can strive to implement this change. With the idealist foundations of any movement, Marxism, Feminism etc, we cannot even begin to realise the potential of political society. A rejection of an ideal based on association with that ideal is currently holding Marxism back. Stalin, Lenin and Mao cannot be used as examples of failed socialism because of the corruption of power, and their failure to hold on to recognised ideals. Implementing socialism at all levels, from the commune to the government is the next viable step in human development and the only step forward we can take in realising a fair and equal society where no one is left behind or thrown on the scrap heap to protect profits or fall foul of unfair competition. Competition never drove people together; community willed people together to co-operate for the benefit of fellow man. If, at government level this ideal can be fully realised, then society will grow in compassion and acknowledgement of all peoples of all religions of all walks of life, to come together as one.
Marxism is not despotism or human rights abuses; it is the will of the people at the bottom, shaking the foundations of the unbalanced pyramid of society for the fairness of the wider human community.