Marx had it wrong, but probably not the way you think

Joseph Almighty
Joseph Almighty

Many people in the west think they know all they need to know about communism. It’s bad, evil and “bloody.” After sixty years of constant anti-communist propaganda, what is left to know? Right-wingy news pundits cut out little tails and pin them on their cartoon donkey labeled “Communism” and the public responds like Pavlov’s dogs: “Communist! Socialist! Get thee behind me, health care and food stamps.”

The fact that the world is currently moaning along under the lash of a particularly brutal form of capitalism has the few socialists who remain confused. Why are the workers committing class suicide? Why are they tolerating austerity, high unemployment, hunger and hopelessness? Why don’t they arise and cast off their chains?

Most Americans have no clue what Marx actually said and cannot define either socialism or communism. I asked a conservative,

“What is socialism?”

“Communism Lite.”

“What is communism?”


By that (grotesque) logic, any action a government takes to relieve the plight of its citizens is just the first step on the slippery slope to hell.

If it were possible to approach Marx with an open mind (highly doubtful) you might agree with him in many areas. He suggested this scenario: The workers work and produce a surplus which the owner of the means of production skims off, living off the sweat of the workers. The more sweat, the lower the wages, the more surplus, the more luxury the owner can enjoy while the worker is ground down to the bare bones of just staying alive to work some more.

Marx thought it inevitable that workers would rebel against this misery at some point; to him it was historically inevitable. They would seize the means of production and produce for themselves and their comrades, eliminating that parasitic owner. One thing Marx had wrong was that the workers would inevitably rebel. They only rebel successfully when political units organize and direct them.

When the communist political units came to power, they behaved like political units always do: they sought first of all to retain their positions of power.

Marx did not understand human nature. Humans mostly want to stay alive, and who can blame them? If you are dead, highfalutin’ political theories are irrelevant. Jefferson nailed this truth in the Declaration of Independence:

“…all experience has shown that mankind are more to disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

So workers will keep on taking a beating in order to stay alive. That is human nature. That will continue until they are organized and directed by the few human beings with a talent for that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the few human beings with a talent for organizing and directing large groups of other human beings are likely to possess a fatal flaw: they are skilled power-brokers and once they have power, they use the same skills they employed to obtain it-to keep it.

You can’t fight human nature. But you can recognize it, in all its glories and shortcomings. Marx did not. The Founding Fathers did. They were quite aware that the few who could pull off a revolution were also likely to become tyrants them selves once they came to power.

Marx thought human beings were basically good, and so the state would wither away and all men would live in peace, justice and harmony with their fellowmen. The Founders thought human beings could be good, but they also could be bad so checks and balances would have to be built-in to rein in those political units.

Alas, the USA has lost its balance. A financial elite has managed to set up an oligarchy. This oligarchy uses “socialist” and “communist” to scare the workers away from the few crumbs falling from the oligarch’s tables. The workers will endure until their sufferings become insufferable, as Jefferson said.

Workers, take a lesson from history: You have to keep a close eye on the leaders of your revolt, lest you go from the frying pan into the fire.

The question is not: “Who should rule?” The question is: “What means do the people have to smack them down if they turn out to be a jerk?”

King Dick (a children’s book for grownups) (Click to open pdf)


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