Throughout the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx talks about how the "spectre of Communism" is spreading across Europe and the World. Yet, on the whole, he never really discusses much what Communism is as much as he derides Capitalism and the many faults that he has with other Socialist systems. It would have been more appropriate for his work to be called "Anti-Capitalist and Other Socialism Ideas Manifesto." Marx does not, however, go into much detail about how Communists would run the economy. Due to the many misconceptions of what the Communist Manifesto is about, the following is a short summary and critique of this important piece of literature that had influenced many in this world.
The introduction of the manifesto starts off with the popular quote "A spectre is haunting Europe-the spectre of Communism."(p.54) This provides much imagery to the reader and draws his or her into the body of work. Marx tries to make a clear understanding of what Communism is and how people would go about creating Communism. In a way, it was a platform for what Communism was to Marx. The organization Marx was in, the Second Congress of the Communist League, wanted him to write this manifesto so that it could be spread around. It was a way of promoting Communism, thus spreading throughout Europe much like the introduction wanted it to be thought of as.
Marx then goes into the first part of the body of his manifesto, which is the section entitled "Bourgeois and Proletarians." In this part, he goes into how society started communal but then became more unequal as time went on. Systems such as Feudalism, Mercantilism, and finally Capitalism benefited from the use of exploitation. He first introduces the idea that economic concerns of a nation drive history, and that the struggle between the rich bourgeoisie and the hard working proletariat would eventually lead to Communism. He goes on and on how the bourgeois have always got what they wanted. Marx does site positives that were done by this group, but he certainly seemed more reflective on the negatives committed by the bourgeois. Marx states the bourgeoisie "has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands." (Marx, p.59) He then describes the proletarians, or the labor class, and how they were formed, how they have suffered, and how they must overcome their struggles. Marx declares that this "`dangerous class,' the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution." (Marx, p.65) A revolution where the proletariats take over and dethrone the bourgeoisie.
The second section entitled "Proletarians and Communists" distinguishes how these two groups are one and the same. Marx first goes into detail about what Communists believe in, tries to show similarities between the two, and recommends that Communism be the best choice instead of the other forms of socialism. This is implied when Marx states "The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the prletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat." (Marx, p.67) He tries to give concrete details of what Communism is, such as his idea that "in Communist society, the present dominates the past." (Marx, p.69) This section, however is still doing a lot of bashing on the bourgeoisie. For example, Marx wrote that in "bourgeois society, capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality." (Marx, p.69) He goes on and on about capital, bourgeois and communism. However, he really does not state any concrete ideas on how communists would run the economy.
"Socialist and Communist Literature" is the heading for the third section, and it is itself divided into many smaller sections. Reactionary Socialism has a)feudal socialism, b)petty bourgeois socialism, and c)German, or "True" Socialism as subsections. Conservative, or Bourgeois, Socialism and Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism do not have any subsections under them. Here, Marx goes into great detail trying to explain very briefly what each of these earlier, popular theories of socialism are all about, as well as his opinion on each of them. He states "Since the development of class antagonism keeps even pace with the development of industry, the economic situation, as they find it, does not as yet offer to them the material conditions, for the emancipation of the proletariat. They therefore search after a new social science, after new social laws, that are to create these conditions." (Marx, p.83) However, Communism does not need to do this and justifies itself by the movement of the proletariat. Once again, however, Marx does not offer any differing economic theories from these other Socialist ideologies. He still does not give a sample of Communist economic theory either.
Finally, Marx's last section of his Communist Manifesto is entitled "Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties" where he goes on giving the view of the Second Congress of the Coummunist League for which he was asked to write the manifesto for. He reiterates that "the Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement." (Marx, p.85) Yet again, no economic theory for Communism is stated. Thus, the Communist Manifesto is a very brief political rather than economic summary of what Communism is about. If one wishes to find capitalist bashing, other socialist ideas rebuked, and an opinion of bourgeoisie and proletariat life, the Communist Manifesto has all of this. But if one wants to find concise, specific information on what Communist ideologies and economic theories propose, the Communist manifesto will be too general.
Karl Marx - Marxism
I have chosen to write about Karl Marx for this essay because of the fact that his underlying theories and ideas were the basis for communist thought and the creation of the Soviet Union. Marx's theories and ideas about the economy or society are known as Marxism which consist of several outlooks that pertain to the development of a society or community as whole which I will briefly attempt to summerize.
Karl Marx was born in 1818 in the town of Trier, in west Germany. He attended both the University of Bonn, and the University of Berlin. He had strong intellectual interests in law, philology and theology. He was married in 1843, and later moved to Paris where he met Friedrich Engels who shared and helped develop some of Marx's ideas. In 1848 Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto. Marx played a significant role in organizing the revolution of 1848 in western Europe. Because of this, he was let out of Belgium and France, which forced him to seek political asylum in London. There, he spent the rest of his life researching, writing, and indulging in political journalism. His great works were Das Kapita, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Theses of Feuerbach, The Holy Family, Critique of the Gotha Program, and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
To understand his works we have to know that Marx began as a Hegelian. This simply meant that he adopted a philosophy which interpreted the world as a kind of dynamic and spiritual process in that things which occur later in time are better then the initial occurrences. Marx was a Left-wing Hegelian and took these left-wing ideas and expanded on them. Marx believed that the politics of his time were based on a clash of interests which were the results of the material and social conditions of the society. The most important condition of society was how people earned their living or the mode of economic production. For Marx, the mode of economic production determined the form in which wealth was created and distributed in a society. Marx believed that people should be able to control their economic life just as they should their political life.
Marx also believed in socialism, which is a structure in society in which the chief elements of production, distribution and exchange are the common property of all, or in other words, a society where there is democratic and common ownership of the means of production. Marx emphasized that this kind of democracy would be of equal interest and benefit to both the individual person and the community as a whole, and that the equal rights and powers that would be given in a society to individuals would determine who should govern the community.
Historical materialism is the idea that the mode of production or economic system would in effect determine the characteristics of a society. Marx believed that changes in the modes of production determine the changes made in law, politics and philosophy etc in a society. He emphasized the major periods he perceived in history to begin with primitive communism then slavery, feudalism and capitalism. He thought that eventually, these various stages in history would end in the stage of socialism.
Marx believed that change is inevitable and that societies follow a continuous pattern of changing from being simple to complex. He thought that in every society a point is reached where most people are suffering from a lack of things which enable them to live adequately as a result of ineffectiveness in the forces of production. So that the classes in the population that have the most to gain from a change in the society, being the lower class, would become revolutionary which would result in a new social structure after a period of struggle. Marx thought that these conflicts and struggles between classes occur over such things as the division of end results of production, in trying to determine who would have more right over the goods produced, being either the workers or the owners. Marx believed that class conflicts were most prominent in politics and that economics and politics were related. He thought that groups with conflicting economic interests would clash, being the workers and the owners of industry.
So in order to solve this, Marx stated that the individuals in a society would be both the workers and the owners, this is because the key decisions would be made democratically and that in the end, no group would be exploiting the other. Marx believed that this new structure of society would be characterized as having a higher and better standard of living with greater political and cultural freedom. He expected that this level would be achieved with the eventual demise of the state and that the society with a government would be able to continue on and operate by itself without any kind of exploitation.
Some of Marx=s other theories are that he describes capitalism as a system of society in which the instruments of production are used for the gain of the owners with the use of workers, in other words, he believes that capitalism is the search for profit by the wealthy and the owners of industry. Marx is against this in implying that the value of a product is determined by the amount of labor time it takes to produce the product. In this case, if the owner was to sell the good for what it cost to make or produce it, then there would be no profit, implying that profit comes from the workers because they are being paid less then the value of the product and that the workers should receive the difference between there earnings and the actual price of the product to be sold. So Marx thought the workers were being under payed and that capitalism was exploitative in that more importance or emphasis was given by capitalists towards such things as machinery and other inputs rather then higher wages for the workers. Under capitalism, Marx believed that more people would become poor and unemployed as a result of the capitalists want for profit and taking up all the wealth. He thought that in the end, capitalism would not be able to balance and support itself, and that the workers would rise up and take power. In this case Marx is implying that in the end, capitalism would in effect destroy itself.
Marx's Labor Theory Of Value
One of the commonly debated topics of Marxism is the concept of 'the law of value'. Marx developed many different theories and various aspects of those theories are controversial. This paper will focus, however, only on the most basic of his theories, namely that of 'the labor theory of value'. This theory took several alternative forms over the course of Marx's different volumes of publications. It was very often in the center of criticism, but because of the short length of this paper not much can be said about the critics of Marx's theory.
Marx's central theme is the importance of the 'commodity production'. Marx defines a commodity as anything which possesses both use and exchange value, and price as its monetary expression. Marx tried to say that trees, unmined metals, or barren land were not commodities but were merely gifts of nature. An exchange value had to come into play for something to be considered a commodity.
The most easily recognized aspect of commodity production is the use of labor. For a commodity to be produced a certain amount of labor must be involved in the production process. Marx put labor at such an important position that unless labor was used commodity had no value. By doing this he made it clear how important everyone's labor contribution is to the economy. " If he could establish the fact that human labor-and labor alone-was value creating, it could be made to follow that only those who worked were entitled to share in the resulting output."(Balinky,60). Marx believed that if he could maintain the importance of labor then his plan would succeed.
This is why Marx considered labor as the essential part of any production process. The value of a product is directly related to the amount of labor that is needed to produce that product. The more productive the labor is the more value it adds to the commodity. Marx believed that if two products needed the same amount of labor to produce them, then they contained the same value. " Commodities... that can be produced in the same labour time...have the same values, and that, on the other hand, differences in value find their measure in the quantitative difference in the labour time required for the production of commodities" (Kuhne,70). Labor is directly related to the price of the commodity. Some of Marx's ideas about the value were changed in his later writings.
One would probably ask how could Marx account for the importance of capital. He knew that critics would jump at the opportunity to discredit his theory by claiming that he downplayed other vital inputs to production. Marx claimed that machinery and other means of production had needed labor for their production. "He began with the simple proposition that a commodity is produced by utilization of some combination of labor and physical instruments, i.e., machinery, tools, equipment, etc. He referred to this combination as the means of production necessary to the creation of any commodity".(Balinky, 61). Marx distinguished between two different types of capital, variable and constant. Variable capital was the capital used to pay for the wages of labor. This was the only type of capital Marx considered relevant for creation of value. According to his reasoning constant capital needed labor before it could produce anything. Machines without the necessary labor to run them could not contribute to value in Marx's theory. They would sit there unused and useless. So although he downplayed its importance of the capital, Marx attempted to explain why he did so.
Marx needed a unit of measurement to consistently and accurately measure the value of labor. He came up with the most simple explanation: the time. He would use hours, days and weeks as the "pure and simple" way to measure the amount of labor that was used to produce a commodity. However, a specialized labor in producing a product was worth more than a 'simple' unskilled labor. Marx did not really explain how he came to this conclusion, he left it to the faith of his follower to believe in his theory.
Marx knew that there were many questions about his labor theory of value. He made two revisions to it after his original exposition. In his first model, exchange values were relative to the quantities of labor needed to produce commodities in question. This assumed that every firm in that industry had the same 'composition of capital', i.e. the same capital-labor ratio. In his revision of the labor-value theory "he was forced to admit that even in the long run--for technical as well as value reasons--the organic composition of capital did vary significantly from one industry or sphere of production to another" (Balinky, 82). The effect of this was different rates of profit in different industries. This fact was not acknowledged in the original model. In his third model he changed his stance about a link between supply and demand. This shows that Marx did see faults in his original theory and tried to fix some of its problems.
The labor theory of value's main premise is that the common way to measure value of commodities is through the amount of labor used. Marx acknowledged value for only something that used labor and could be exchanged. The idea of commodity production was a very central and important part of his theory. He emphasized the importance of value that comes from these commodities and how all these can be measured by the common element of labor.
Ernest Mandel's:Marx's Theory of Wages
Marx's theory of wages evolved considerably since his writing of the Communist Manifesto, but, let me start by explaining what he believed at this point. In 1848, the year of publication of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels both held firmly that the natural tendency of wages under capitalism was to fall absolutely and to sink to the physiological subsistence minimum.
This drastic diminution of wages was believed to be the result of two factors. First, the replacement of workers by machines. As an industry becomes more capital intensive, it eliminates more jobs (generally) then it creates. Second, the growing unemployment caused by capital intensity produces a highly competitive atmosphere among workers. They must literally fight for their survival.
So, initially Marx's theory of wages was that the natural price of labor is the minimum wage. All wages should converge to this natural price and it is determined by physiological, not economical means. As we know today, based on the theory of human capital for example, there is no natural price that all wages eventually converge to. So, what made Marx re-evaluate his theory?
About ten years after the first publication of the Communist Manifesto, Marx published the Grundrisse. In this work, it was obvious that his theory of wages had undergone considerable changes. He reported that the worker can take part in higher forms of enjoyment during periods of economic prosperity. That the worker will actually increase his needs to match historically created needs. This implies that wages are actually determined by two factors: physiological and variable based on the workers increased needs.
Eight years later, in 1865, during his address to the General Council of the First International, Marx presented his fully developed theory of wages. There is still a minimum limit on wages that is basically a physiological minimum but there is no maximum. The determination of where a given wage will lie between the minimum and maximum (infinity) is based on the respective powers of the combatants. This seems very similar to the class struggle Marx details in the Communist Manifesto.
Marx attributes the long-term imbalance in favor of capitalists to the conversion from labor- to capital-intensity. The resultant differences in labor supply and demand worsen the condition of the proletariat while improving that of the capitalist.
I find it ironic though, that heavy industrialization is used by Marx in his theory on reproduction as a means of providing improvements for workers. When capital is controlled and expanded by capitalists, the capitalists benefit most. Likewise, under a communist system, where capital is controlled and expanded by the government, the government benefits most. So, for the worker to really benefit from communism, there must be a direct link between government benefits and proletariat benefits.
But, as government officials are generally self-interested, profit-maximizing individuals, the benefits of controlling capital were not shared with the proletariat. Instead, the workers were essentially provided with a physiological subsistence minimum. So, from the workers point of view, what was the difference between capitalism and communism? Essentially, very little; it was still a struggle to survive, the worker just had a different party to struggle with.
In conclusion, there are certainly equity problems that arise from control of the means of production by one group, be it capitalists or party officials. And both groups, being utility-maximizing, will be inclined to pay workers the natural minimum. Just as Marx's theory on wages can be applied to capitalism, it can also be applied to communism (in the realistic, not perfect sense). So, what does his theory demonstrate? That both systems are imperfect when it comes to wages.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. A Norton Critical Edition edited by Frederic L. Bender. W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.
A Brief Critique of Marxist Labour Theory
One of the most important aspects of Marxist economic theory is based around labor and its inherent value. The so-called Marxist Labor Theory of Value attempts to explain the relationship between the two. According to this theory, value of an object is solely the result of the labor used to produce it; the more labor that goes into an object, the more its worth (Ernsberger). All profits are the rightful earnings of the workers, and all goods “...cost nothing except for labor.”
Being that this theory is formed around the idea of homogeneous labor, it works out on paper. The problem arises because labor is not homogeneous; all workers are not identical in skill and ability. This fact points out some major shortcomings in Marxist Theory.
Ernsberger points out that the assertion that only labor gives value is false based on the fact that it doesn’t take into account certain natural objects. While his argument is a bit immature, he does have the right idea. He is saying that certain nature-made objects can hold value to a person.
Another point that Ernsberger makes is that the theory fails to take into account the changing consumer desires and the contextual nature of value. A horse-and-buggy analogy was given that says that horseshoes would hold a much higher value in regions were horse-and-buggy transportation was still used, as opposed to more modern areas. Although, Marxist believed that the labor to produce other products in the more modern area would equalize with the horseshoes, the point is a valid one.
These do tend to be valid points given that under Lenin, the New Economic Policy was instated because theoretic Marxism was still subject to market forces. This brings up the final point that Ernsberger makes; the time preference. On the surface, the theory ignores the fact that there is a strong preference for the here and now. This in turn makes present consumption more valuable (Ernsberger).
Under the surface, concerning the basic theory, the most important criticism involves heterogeneous labor. In Marxist theory, once workers do different jobs, it becomes necessary to ‘reduce’ each type of labor to a common standard (Howard, 123). This ‘simplification’ was much harder to implement, than the theory had predicted.
But Marx claimed that different concrete labors could be treated as identical abstract labor. Howard and King give the example: An hour of tailoring creates as much value as an hour of shoemaking, period. Sure, this sounds great, in theory, but reality is different. Here is were the basis of the labor problem surfaces. Various forms of labor involve different amounts of skill, and an hour of ‘skilled’ labor should be worth more than an hour of ‘unskilled.’
Two major problems arise as a result. The first, what weight do you apply to the higher skill in order to reduce them to a common unit; and second, in certain instances, competition may be insufficient to bring wages into equality with the value of labor power. Another thing to examine would be the question of whether someone would accept a lower wage to work in a clean, as opposed to dirty environment. Since, there is no profit in Marxist economics, this proves to be another short-coming of the labor theory.
All-in-all, so long as system weights are used, Marx’s theory of homogeneous labor holds true. The fact remains that these weights did not cover all wage differentials and that is where the theory fails.
Marx's Theory of Socialism according to Erlich
Marx had a very strong point of view when it came to making socialism work. When talking about socialism, he mentions issues such as wasting labor for the production of goods as well his thoughts on the market mechanism. Erlich writes about Marx's opinion of the economy in addition to Marx's major non-economic goal. It seems as though after reading Erlich's publication he is, for the most part in disagreement with Marx's notions.
Marx believed that socialism would surpass capitalism if it had sufficient time for its economic development. Marx saw the market economy as a failure because it wasted a lot of productive resources. He believed that under a central planning such a "waste" could be eliminated and growth could be accelerated. As a result, more important issues, such as public ownership and equal distribution of income, could be addressed.
According to Marx public ownership would increase efficiency of production. Also, it will change people's attitudes toward work since an equal distribution of income would eliminate "poverty and restricted consumption of the masses" (Erlich, p. 303). These propositions may not be easy to attain, however. Professor Joan Robinson thinks that they may not be as difficult as they seem. She says that if capitalists reinvest their savings then the "restricted consumption" need not occur. On the contrary, she says, it will lead to faster growth.
According to Marx, "socialism is defined by predominantly public ownership of means of production and centrally planned allocation of resources" (Erlich, p. 301). As mentioned earlier, Marx felt that under socialism "waste of social labor" in the production of certain goods can be eliminated. However, Marx admitted to the fact that market mechanism can also lead to extremely fast growth. He asserted that competition in the production for profit can result in fast growth of the economy.
Marx believed that the centrally planned economy would operate in terms of what is best for the people. He saw the government as more than a just mediator between various groups of people. The government was to be much more involved in everything that goes on among individuals. In addition to all the economic goals, Marx also had one major non-economic goal in mind. This goal was to eliminate a person's frustration with his own work. People should be in control of their own work instead of letting the work take control over them. Marx said that the future communist society would be "a community of free individuals carrying on their work with the means of production in common... an association in which a free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" (Erlich, p. 305). Marx felt that communist society was based upon the "all-around development of the individual" (Erlich, p. 306).
Erlich distinctively disagrees with Marx's concept of "free" individuals under communism. Erlich agrees with some of Marx's orthodox and unorthodox followers that public ownership and central planning are not sufficient for calling an economy socialist.
Erlich, Alexander. "Eastern Approaches to a Comparative Evaluation of Economic Systems." In Alexander Eckstein "Comparisons of Economic Systems", University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1971.
Alienation of Labor
How do the ways and conditions in which people earn their living affect their bodies, minds, and daily lives? In the theory of alienation that Karl Marx eagerly adopted from the German philosopher, George Hegel, he gives his answer. The workers who give their labor in society own none of the means (for example, the machines or raw materials) which they use in their work. They are owned by the capitalists, to whom, the employees must sell their labor in return for a wage. This system displays four interpretations that lie at the core of Marx's theory of alienation.
The severing of these relationships leaves on one side, a seriously diminished individual - physically weakened, mentally confused and mystified, isolated and virtually powerless. On the other side of this separation are products and ties with other people by the capitalists, outside the control and lost to the understanding of the worker.
As the Western leftist intellectual, T.B. Bottomore points out, the more the worker expends himself in work, the more powerful becomes the world of products in which he creates, while the more poorer he becomes in his inner self, and the less he belongs to himself. He becomes "a slave of the object" (Bottomore, 123), that is, he receives work, and receives a wage for his work done. However, alienation also exists not solely in the result, but also in the process of production. The work becomes external to the employee, outside of his world, it is not a part of him, and he does not feel as himself, and begins to feel remote. He does not develop freely his mental and physical well being, but is physically exhausted and mentally distressed. The external characteristics of work are finally shown by the fact that it is not his own work, but work for someone else. It is another's activity, and "a loss of his own spontaneity" (Bottomore, 125).
Since alienated labor alienated nature from man, and alienated man from himself, so it alienates him from the human species. It takes away his individualism, and makes his productive life his means to maintain his physical existence. He no longer produces universally for all he sees in and of himself and his surroundings, he no longer constructs in accordance with the laws of beauty, everything becomes objective, and a means of existence.
A final consequence is that man becomes alienated from other man. He no longer has relationships with friends or brothers. As the worker becomes alienated, he again bestows upon another man, that labor which then becomes alienated to him, and the cycle continues.
Also in response to Marx's theory, the social philosopher, Erich Fromm, believed, by applying psychoanalytic principles to the remedy of cultural ills, mankind could develop a psychologically balanced "sane society". In his book The Sane Society (1955), Fromm presented his argument that modern man has become alienated and estranged from himself within the consumer-oriented industrial society. He called for a rebirth of enlightenment in a new and perfect society which would allow each person to fulfill his individual needs while maintaining his sense of belonging through bonds of social brotherhood.
Derived from these interpretations of alienated labor theory, comes the inception of private property. It is a consequence, "a realization of this alienation" (Bottomore, 131). Thus, Marx believed here that Communism becomes the cure-all for these acts of de-humanization of the worker. Communism is, stated, "the positive abolition of private property, of human self-alienation, and thus the real appropriation of human nature through and for man. It is therefore, the return of man himself as a social, i.e. really human, being... (Fromm, 127). Also, money, in the form of wages, adds to this alienation of the worker from his labor. People labor for the sake of the wage and not for the sake of labor (Fromm, 106). These same wages also show that the worker is a slave to the object he produces. It also demonstrates that the work belongs to someone else - the person paying the wages (Fromm, 97,99).
Whether it is a better way of life for the worker or not, I believe that Marx's adopted theory was cruel and degenerating to man. Ultimately, the Soviet economy he encompassed evolved into decentralized chaos. Beneath the illusion of central planning lies a polycentric system of irrational spirits. Soviet planners simply ask the factory managers and other heads of enterprises what they intend to do, and then order them to do it.
For Karl Marx, the fundamental "evil" that socialism would eradicate was neither capitalism, nor private property, but commodity exchange itself. Marx felt that trading in the market in and of itself, alienated workers from their labor. Paul Craig Roberts, in his book Alienation and the Soviet Economy, writes, "the separation between producer and user is the source of all the specific economic ills...attributed by Marx to capitalism." Marx looked forward to the abolition of all monetary exchange, indeed all markets, in consumption as well as production - and their replacement with a central plan that would turn the entire economy into one big, happy household.