Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Radical Departure... Marx, Part II

Ok, setting aside the whole "Which party is more proletariat/bourgeois" thing, let's get into the bolts of what Marxism was really pursuing.

Marx wasn't opposed to capitalism, per se, but rather a state of economic affairs such that classism is supported or arises.  In -particular- he was pissed about the "rentier" class.

While most of what he actually wrote about wasn't communism - the end goal - but rather the -mechanism- by which he thought to get there, let's evaluate the list of "common elements" of a Marxist society that was trying to evolve into communism, forwarded first by a quote:

"Of course, in the beginning, [the revolution] cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable"

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production

And let's analyze each of these:

1.) I'll respond to this with Marx himself: "We by no means intend to abolish... personal appropriation of the products of labour, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labour of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the labourer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it."

Keep in mind the social conditions in the society Marx lived in; half-feudal, with remnants of the old noble classes still hanging around; in many places, the old nobility were the only ones able to afford factories in the first place, initially cementing their power structures further.

Compare this to modern nations, and ask yourself: Do free-market capitalists -really- disagree with the notion that Europe defends its old elite against competition?  Isn't that what protectionism, which we oppose, -is-?  Do we really disagree with the complaint Marx predicated this upon?

His implementation is shit.  We'll see this repeatedly.  I'll get to the -why- in the next post, but for now, let's just acknowledge he was addressing a real problem in a clumsy way.

 2.) This is probably the dumbest item on the list.  Marx chose income tax over wealth tax... why?  Why did he choose to tax -production- rather than -rent-?  In actual implementation, income tax has advantaged old wealth over new wealth, by depleting new wealth's influx of said wealth.  (Hint: Marx thought he could eliminate rent, and rentier classes, thereby preventing this problem in the first place.)

3.) What Marx would not foresee is the proletariat acquiring sufficient wealth that these laws would disadvantage them even worse than it would the bourgeois, who could rely upon social connections and trust-funds-through-charities to avoid this.  The bourgeois don't -need- inheritance, they have -much- subtler ways of sending their wealth through generations.

4.) Well this couldn't go badly at all.

5.) Remember how much Marx hated the rentier classes.  Again, we'll get back to this item in the next post, and why it is a complete and total failure.

6.) Ditto.

7.) Like farming in Nevada deserts?  Well, we've been there, we've done that, we're having water supply issues.  It really wasn't that good an idea.

8.) This is a nice way of saying "Mass slavery."  Marx thought the proletariat were already slaves, so in his mind, he was just extending this status to the bourgeois.  This is one of those "despotic inroad" things.

9.) Well, capitalism already beat him to the first thing.  As for the second... well, honestly I don't understand why he thinks it matters.  Perhaps, in an era without instantaneous communication, it did.

10.) "Combination of education with industrial production."  Heh.

So, that's kind of a loose roadmap of what Marx thought the revolution would look like.

So... why did this roadmap fail?  Changing technology may have been part of it, a misunderstanding of free-market capitalism another, and the fact that Marx's vision for the proletariat was never the proletariat vision for the proletariat; indeed, Marx is favored primarily by the bourgeois, who see Marxism as an escape from their own inevitable decline into the proletariat.  They're terrified of the uncertainty of free-market capitalism, in which they can succeed - or fail.

The proletariat, on the other hand, look at what Marx proposed as a roadmap to communism, and recognized it for what it was: Not a change in their own living conditions (Mass slavery, anyone?), because they're a pipe welder, and pipes need to be welded in any society - all of that work is still there, waiting to be done, but under Marxism, there's never an escape.

Next, I'll consider what Marx actually wanted, as opposed to how he proposed we get there.  In this, we'll be able to see precisely why Marx's roadmap failed as miserably as it did.

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