COMMUNISTS: Dr. Crankley's Children

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 9)

The Idea Market. Marx got into the center of all this commotion by making a statement about The Machine. It was not a clear statement, and every year more evidence piles up that it was wrong. In the market place of ideas, however, it did not have very effective competition. Among its competitors were:

1) The idea (still popular) that The Machine doesn't matter, that human society is not deeply affected by it.

2) The idea that The Machine is pure evil, and should be destroyed. (This idea was first expressed by a village idiot, Ned Ludd, who stalked around Nottingham, England, in the late 18th Century, smashing stocking frames.)*

3) The idea that The Machine is pure good, the center of a new evolution towards greater & greater prosperity.

In Marx's day, Europe was divided between these three attitudes towards The Machine. The old aristocracy tended to ignore The Machine, or to agree with Ned Ludd. The new aristocracy of trade committed itself to a philosophy of materialist progress. Some of the workers believed the promise; some believed Ned Ludd.

Marx accepted The Machine. He accepted and further glorified the materialism of the capitalists, but rejected the idea of progress and said that The Machine would lead the workers where Ned Ludd said it would, unless the workers took control of The Machine away from the capitalists.

The idea of class struggle was certainly not original with Marx. What he did was rewrite history with class struggle in the center. Superficially, it might seem that the abundance of goods The Machine could produce would soften the class struggle; Marx said that this very possibility of abundance would sharpen class struggle, that the capitalists would use the state's police power, its war-making power and all other means to prevent glutted markets, i.e., abundance. It followed that the workers had to seize the state by revolution (they would never get it any other way) and use the state's powers to control The Machine. This would lead to the world's first classless society; its goal: unlimited material prosperity.

The Secret of Success. These ideas were set forth in the 1848 Manifesto and developed in Das Kapital and other children of Karl Marx's mind. The most interesting thing about these ideas is their success in the teeth of developments proving that Marx's main assumptions were wrong. He assumed, for example, that the spectacular poverty of industrial workers of his day would spread and deepen. The capitalist philosophers, who predicted rising living standards, were right. A hundred years after the Manifesto, however, the class struggle is sharper in spite of the fact that the living standard of the "exploited classes" is almost everywhere higher than it has ever been.

The other day a keen U.S. observer, back from a year in Italy, was warning of the danger of a Marxist political victory there. A listener asked: "But when the Marshall Plan gets going, won't rising living standards greatly reduce the unrest?" The observer replied: "Not necessarily. The discrepancy between the rich and the poor will still be there, and that is what counts."

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9