There is also Marxism as it has been understood and practiced by the various socialist movements, particularly before Then there is Soviet Marxism as worked out by Vladimir Ilich Lenin and modified by Joseph Stalin , which under the name of Marxism-Leninism see Leninism became the doctrine of the communist parties set up after the Russian Revolution The written work of Marx cannot be reduced to a philosophy , much less to a philosophical system. The whole of his work is a radical critique of philosophy, especially of G.
It is not, however, a mere denial of those philosophies. Marx declared that philosophy must become reality. One could no longer be content with interpreting the world; one must be concerned with transforming it, which meant transforming both the world itself and human consciousness of it.
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This, in turn, required a critique of experience together with a critique of ideas. In fact, Marx believed that all knowledge involves a critique of ideas. He was not an empiricist. Rather, his work teems with concepts appropriation, alienation , praxis, creative labour, value, and so on that he had inherited from earlier philosophers and economists, including Hegel, Johann Fichte , Immanuel Kant , Adam Smith , David Ricardo , and John Stuart Mill.
What uniquely characterizes the thought of Marx is that, instead of making abstract affirmations about a whole group of problems such as human nature , knowledge, and matter , he examines each problem in its dynamic relation to the others and, above all, tries to relate them to historical, social, political, and economic realities.
Through alienation, the relations between workers has been reduced to the quantity of labor that goes into their respective products.
Only then can these products exchange for each other at a ratio which reflects these quantities. It is this which explains Smith's and Ricardo's finding that the value of a commodity is equal to the amount of labor time which has gone into its production. Surplus-value, the third aspect of value, is the difference between the amount of exchange and use value created by workers and the amount returned to them as wages. The capitalist buys the worker's labor power, as any other commodity, and puts it to work for eight or more hours a day.
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However, workers can make in, say, five hours products which are the equivalent of their wages. In the remaining three or more hours an amount of wealth is produced which remains in the hands of the capitalist. The capitalists' control over this surplus is the basis of their power over the workers and the rest of society.
Marx's labor theory of value also provides a detailed account of the struggle between capitalists and workers over the size of the surplus value, with the capitalists trying to extend the length of the working day, speed up the pace of work, etc. Because of the competition among capitalists, workers are constantly being replaced by machinery, enabling and requiring capitalists to extract ever greater amounts of surplus value from the workers who remain.
Paradoxically, the amount of surplus value is also the source of capitalism's greatest weakness. Because only part of their product is returned to them as wages, the workers cannot buy a large portion of the consumables that they produce. Under pressure from the constant growth of the total product, the capitalists periodically fail to find new markets to take up the slack.
This leads to crises of "overproduction", capitalism's classic contradiction, in which people are forced to live on too little because they produce too much. How did capitalism originate, and where is it leading?
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Marx's materialist conception of history answers the first part of this question with an account of the transformation of feudalism into capitalism. He stresses the contradictions that arose through the growth of towns, population, technology and trade, which at a certain point burst asunder the feudal social and political forms in which production had been organized. Relations of lord to serf based on feudal rights and obligations had become a hindrance to the further development of these productive forces; over an extended period and after a series of political battles, they were replaced by the contractual relation of capitalists to workers.
With capitalists free to pursue profits wherever they might take them and workers equally "free" to sell their labor power to the capitalists however they might use it, the productive potential inherent in the new forces of production, especially in technology and science, grew to unmeasured proportions. However, if maximizing profits leads to rapid growth when rapid growth results in large profits, then growth is restricted as soon as it becomes unprofitable. The periodic crises which have plagued capitalism from about on are clear evidence of this.
Since that time, the new forces of production which have come into being in capitalism, their growth and potential for producing wealth, have come increasingly into contradiction with the capitalist social relations in which production is organized. The capitalists put the factories, machines, raw materials, and labor power all of which they own into motion to produce goods only if they feel they can make a profit, no matter what the availability of these "factors of production", and no matter what the need of consumers for their products.
The cost to society in wealth that is never produced and in wealth which is produced but in forms that are anti-social in their character continues to grow and with it the need for another, more efficient, more humane way of organizing production. Within this framework the actual course of history is determined by class struggle. According to Marx, each class is defined chiefly by its relation to the productive process and has objective interests rooted in that relation.
The capitalists' interests lie in securing their power and expanding profits. The class struggle involves everything that these two major classes do to promote their incompatible interests at each other's expense. In capitalism, the state is an instrument in the hands of the capitalists that is used to repress dangerous dissent and to help expand surplus value. This is done mainly by passing and enforcing anti-working class laws and by providing the capitalists with various economic subsidies "capitalist welfare".
And, finally, the state is an arena for class struggle where class and class factions contend for political advantage in an unfair fight that finds the capitalists holding all the most powerful weapons. An adequate understanding of the role of the capitalist state as a complex social relation requires that it be approached from each of these three angles: as an instrument of the capitalist class, as a structure of political offices and processes, and as an arena of class struggle.
In order to supplement the institutions of force, capitalism has given rise to an ideology, or way of thinking, which gets people to accept the status quo or, at least, confuses them as to the possibility of replacing it with something better. For the most part, the ideas and concepts which make up this ideology work by getting people to focus on the observable aspects of any event or institution, neglecting its history and potential for change as well as the broader context in which it resides.
For example, in capitalist ideology, consumers are considered sovereign, as if consumers actually determine what gets produced through the choices they make in the supermarket; and no effort is made to analyze how they develop their preferences history or who determines the range of available choices 1arger system. As the attempted separation of what cannot be separated without distortion, capitalist ideology reflects in thought the fractured lives of alienated people, while at the same time making it increasingly difficult for them to grasp their alienation.
As the contradictions of capitalism become greater, more intense, and less amenable to disguise, neither the state nor ideology can restrain the mass of the workers, white and blue collar, from recognizing their interests becoming "class conscious" and acting upon them. The overthrow of capitalism, when it comes, Marx believed, would proceed as quickly and democratically as the nature of capitalist opposition allowed. Out of the revolution would emerge a socialist society which would fully utilize and develop much further the productive potential inherited from capitalism.
Through democratic planning, production would now be directed to serving social needs instead of maximizing private profit. The final goal, toward which socialist society would constantly build, is the human one of abolishing alienation. A readable copy.
Bookmarks How Marxism Works (Arabic) : Chris Harman
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