Was Marx Right? By Andrew Schatkin
First, let me state that as a system Marxism has not been particularly successful. Two countries come to mind where the Marxist system has brought about great human suffering and economic distress: Cuba and North Korea. As a Christian, I cannot endorse or agree with Marxism, which takes materialism as its philosophical basis and also supports atheism as part of its system. In Marxism, men and women are seen as pure economic commodities and nothing more. Hence the system in communist Russia and of mass killings with no regard for the individual life.
Communism and fascism, in excluding the spiritual dimension, can and will result in these actions. I now say here and suggest that Marx in his thinking was correct or certainly had a point to make. For some time now, many countries and societies have adopted the capitalist model of system. Communism has collapsed in most societies and countries with the exceptions I have just mentioned. Unfortunately, the capitalist system has evolved to a somewhat deficient end.
Capitalism is based on greed and competition and a free market system. The idea behind it is that if people are given some sort of equal starting point, the society will benefit by job creation and wealth creation and all will benefit ultimately.
Capitalism, however, has developed in a somewhat negative direction than originally envisioned. There are many reasons for this development; for example: Jobs have been outsourced to South America and Asia; unions in the United States have largely been eliminated; there has been an influx of cheap labor from South America and Asia to the United States; and, in the name of supply side economics, there has been a vast transfer of wealth to an extremely small segment of the population. Manufacturing has largely left the United States for places where the labor pool is inexpensive such as South American and Asia.
The result of these developments has been threefold. It has been very difficult for the American worker to get employment. The jobs that do exist are without benefits such as pensions or health benefits. Older workers are easily and constantly dispensed with for younger workers. The end outcome of all these developments is to make it extremely difficult for any American worker to get some sort of quality employment to support his family for as long as needed. The end result in another way is to create a plutocratic and oligarchic society where the economic and political structures are controlled by a few wealthy individuals and corporations. In short, the capitalist system has become extremely unfair and functions now to exclude people from opportunities to advance themselves or even to enter the economic and political system. It would appear that the capitalist system is in crisis and has become dysfunctional.
This essay proposes that Marx in some sense may have been right. Marx and Engels in their writings and activities responded to the abuses of the working class in industrial European countries at that time. These abuses included child labor and the use of sweatshop labor. Marxism proposes a number of ideas and concepts which I think are fairly good:
1. Marxism seeks to eliminate class divisions which capitalism encourages. These class divisions are falsely based on some persons having greater wealth than others. It is faintly ridiculous to refer to a person who has greater wealth than others as upper class since the having and possession of wealth has no significance in itself.
2. Marxism seeks to provide some of employment for all and provides free healthcare and free education for the entire population. Eliminating income inequality allows people of talent and merit the possibility of obtaining positions that the capitalist system might bar them from based on their lack of wealth. The ultimate aim of Marx in his writings was to bring about a society not controlled by the wealthy or aristocracy but by the workers. Unfortunately, in various countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and North Korea, attempts to bring about these potentially good things resulted in the use of force and a police state dictatorship.
3. Marx sought to have a government run directly by the people. This may not have actually happened in the aforementioned countries; however, it is still an admirable goal.
In sum, Marx had some ideas and concepts that still have value and should be considered by thinking people: the elimination of classes; elimination of income inequality and the redistribution of wealth; and a society governed by the people. I cannot say where Marx or Marxism went wrong, but, at the present time, the capitalist system as it has developed and evolved is problematic and wanting. The capitalist system has evolved in a sort of dictatorial state in which the wealthy rule and in which he vast majority of the population toil to survive. I cannot give a solution to the present difficulties in our system but I can say this much that this system should be reexamined in the light of the ideas behind Marxism and Socialism. This is not to say that I wish to impose a dictatorship which Marxism developed into, but I do suggest that the present state of the capitalist system be reexamined in light of other concepts, thoughts, and ideas, wherever they may be found.