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Karl Marx or Santa, Should we Believe in Either

Marxism for Du.... A Really Brief and Easy Introduction to Marxism.

If you find yourself wanting to slag off people you think are Marxists, but you've never actually studied Marx, other than knowing it's sort of about communism and stuff, this is for you.

Let Me Quickly Set the Scene

Karl Marx was writing his theories following a time the poor were being pulled form their farms and being forced to work in horrendous industrialised factories. When we discuss "market forces" today, consider that the people in these factories, had no option but to work in those factories, or they would starve.

They worked ludicrously long hours, with no safety precautions and they were paid a pittance. Because they had no other options other than to starve. Market forces might have their place, but that's the really nasty side of "market forces".

Marx's Basic Arguments

He argued that the 'Capitalism' which prevailed at the time was doomed to failure, because eventually the poor would rebel, and take over the "Means of Production".

He called that 'Socialism'. When the working class took over the means of production, and ran everything for the benefit of society as a whole, and not just the richest.

He went further and defined what he called 'Communism'. He said that eventually we would get over our class system where we thought people were better just because they were born rich, and we would develop a classless society where we would all simply treat each other with respect.

He said that in time, people would work "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs". To put that really simply, we'd all just do what we were good at and help each other out.

He thought that eventually we'd just understand that we'd be happier working as a coherent society, surrounded by other happy and fulfilled people, and not as selfish individuals. You could say that basic biology makes us more selfish than that, but basic biology can make parents put their children's best interests before their own, and we have numerous examples of 'selfless' actions people perform for other's benefit.

Only time will tell if Marx was right on how humanity will progress, and the extent to which humanity will actually become humane.

He never said that we should force people to be Socialist or Communist.

He simply said that he believed eventually people would come to be that way.

What happened in Russia, and the USSR was not Marxist. Marx himself said of such people "If they're Marxist, then I'm not."

Well That's the Theory, but it's Not Quite How Things Happened

In Russia and the USSR

They had a revolution and forced ideas onto people who really weren't ready for it, and we all know how that turned out. So rule one... we don't force this stuff on society. If you have to force people to be nice to each other... that's not entirely Marxist, and it doesn't work. Even Marx said that wasn't Marxist. Don't do it ...unless your population are ready for it.

What happened in the West

Rather than one massive revolution where "the workers" took over the "means of production" people unionised, and slowly improved their lives that way. They won weekends, and holidays, and shorter working hours, and health and safety regulations and better wages and a whole bunch of other things.

Be clear, the richest would never have given up those things had the unions not been strong enough to force them. Some might argue that around the 1970's some unions became too powerful, or overplayed their hands, but the fact is, without unions, we'd still be working in horrendous conditions, with no safety, or holidays, for just enough pay to keep us just about healthy enough to keep working. Maybe we'd have had a revolution, and ended up like Russia?

It's arguable that without unions we wouldn't even have the right to vote, although it's probably more likely, that the right to vote was given to the ordinary working people in 1918, because very large numbers of military trained men had just returned from World War I, and if they hadn't been given the right to vote, they knew how to use guns, and they'd have bloody well taken it, and Marx's predictions would have come true rather abruptly.

In Summation

Marxism, is the basic appreciation that people will over time move from a capitalist society where the richest benefit from the labours of the poor, through a middle process called "Socialism" where ordinary people take over the "means of production" for the benefit of society, and that eventually society will progress towards "Communism" where we all treat each other with respect and help each other out as we are best able.

Marx never said we should force that on people, and he said that people who did were not Marxists, or more accurately, if they were Marxists, he wasn't.

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs"

And to throw a complete little paradox in there, he never said anything about people who have the kind of ego problems which mean they "need" to be millionaires, or billionaires. We just need to work that one out for ourselves. Levels in all things.

And one final little point, if we're being really specific, the current UK Labour Party manifesto is neither, Socialist, or Communist; It is currently Social Democrat, which means they suggest that we should have a mixed, essentially capitalist economy, but that some things should be run on socialist principles, not for profit but for the benefit of everyone, in the way that the NHS is. The vast majority of the UK economy, would still be run on basic capitalist principles under the current Labour manifesto.