7: The Mask of Marxism
There can be no real doubt as to whether Marx really believed in helping the case of the workers: His intentions were to help against poverty, exploitation, suppression and estrangement from work. There is no good in exploitation, nor has technological progress always helped improve working and living conditions. But Marx's work fails to recognize the nature of what it calls capitalism, it fails to deliver a fitting model for world history, it fails to offer a working solution, it fails to create an acceptable model of a future society. These claims will of course earn me nothing but protest from Marxists, and perhaps I'm overstating my case here to provoke second thoughts. Nor may these arguments be new. But their being old doesn't make them outdated, on the contrary. This only shows how prevailing anti-Marxist criticism is. Neither do I want to be confused with political affiliations of any direction, I don't believe in such directional terms. But it seems that today such affiliations are not debatable, and if I have to think of a wing I would belong to, as a Christian I would have to assign myself to a central-leftist position.
The term capitalism itself is a construction which cannot honestly be upheld, could never be upheld. Profit and capital are two important factors driving today's economy and the economy of Marx's time; but so it has always been since the upcoming of trade and exchange between people. Money and wealth are just currency; they are not the nature of the economic system. The function of the capital for the economic system is that it measures its productivity, its power, its strength. Money has no worth in itself, it is an indicator. The more money, the more potent a society, a human being. Money is being accumulated not for the mere fun of it but to do something with it. That this something isn't necessarily evil has been proven throughout history time and again: Euergetism, liturgies, private funding - these elements have been crucial for antique societies, they have continued to be important until today, although in different scope. Today we have taxation of the great mass, taxation, through its larger scope caused by stronger economies and a larger population, being able to gain more money for the affairs of the public than private funding ever could contribute. Today's political and social structure is different, different also from that of Marx's time who rather lived in a time of transition.
Exploitation isn't the soul of capitalism. Capitalism can only work properly when a market exists - a market where the products produced by the economy can be sold. In antique, medieval, mercantile and early capitalist societies, this market was usually divided into lower and upper classes, the lower classes only able to be interested in subsistence, the higher classes only able to be interested in luxury, commodity and comfort. A good-bad scheme, however, is utterly wrong here: The upper class also provided for feeding the lower classes. It is a ridiculous argument of Marxism that workers and farmers could run a society on their own, that they are the ones who do the work and feed the upper classes. The results of labor have to be made accessible for the public, for the market, for society. This distribution is no evil act, it is no act of estrangement. On the countryside, farmers could very well sustain themselves and make a good living. But for city conditions, such a solution cannot work out. But as soon as a farmer would give his agricultural products to somebody not being able to grow his own food, he would rightly have to be given a compensation in labor or something valuable. The easiest form of such exchange is money. But is the farmer now a capitalist because he gets money from the exchange? If he demands a reasonable price for his goods, doesn't he deserve payment? And as he himself has produced and distributed the product, doesn't he deserve to set the price? Workers in the factory might produce something, and they do. But the production isn't finished without distribution and the necessary steps: Advertisement, logistics, coordination, planning. The work of the "capitalists" belongs to the act of labor, without them, all labor would be useless. There is no sense in producing something when it isn't made accessible to the market - this process of distribution but is worth a compensation also. This is called division of labor. The worker cannot be estranged from the finished product because it isn't only him that produces it. The work the "evil capitalists" do is ensuring that the worker gets paid his wage, and it ensures that the product can gain the best profit possible. The higher the profit of the enterprise, the higher the wages of the workers can be:
"In the days when all the parts of the human body were not as now agreeing together, but each member took its own course and spoke its own speech, the other members, indignant at seeing that everything acquired by their care and labour and ministry went to the belly, whilst it, undisturbed in the middle of them, did nothing but enjoy the pleasures provided for it, entered into a conspiracy; the hands were not to bring food to the mouth, the mouth was not to accept it when offered, the teeth were not to masticate it. Whilst, in their resentment, they were anxious to coerce the belly by starving it, the members themselves wasted away, and the whole body was reduced to the last stage of exhaustion. Then it became evident that the belly rendered no idle service, and the nourishment it received was no greater than that which it bestowed by returning to all parts of the body this blood by which we live and are strong, equally distributed into the veins, after being matured by the digestion of the food."
Marxism blatently claims that the proletarian class would be the one favored by history, and that this process should be accelerated and catalyzed with the means of violence, within a revolution. The concept of revolution and violence will be dealt with later, the claim of creating a class-less society by eliminating all other elements of society being dealt with first. In antique societies, class was a very concrete term. In democratic Athens, class defined citizens (who were all male), non-citizen strangers, women, children and slaves. Only citizens were allowed to take part in political life, rich citizens were entitled to make extensive fundings through liturgies. In the army, money played a role in that the richer citizens were better equipped. In late republican and imperial Rome, in addition to this more general division, very concrete divisions were created by taking into account the possessions of the citizens: Senatorial, equestrial and, less directly defined, plebeian order. A religious class existed in both examples. Later, in following centuries, senatorial and equestrial order could be understood as equalling aristocracy and knights. Aristocratic and oligarchic systems rely on such clear-cut distinctions, the political structure dictates the economic structure, a system of patronage and euergetism exists to perform the acts of distribution. Almost all basic welfare tasks relied upon this client-patron relation and later on the Church. Quite ironically, mercantilism and capitalism succeeded in breaking up that political class system, in fact abandoning class borders. Today's definition of class is rather blurred, taking into account the economic and educational conditions of each person. But, unlike in the Indian caste system, no one is restricted by any imaginary aristocratic class borders; it is possible to change one's economic situation. A class term thus has rather become unproductive, it is not helpful to assign classes to a political-economic system like the modern democratic market economy in which something like the so-called "middle class" defies any definition. Capitalism, by creating a market, has to embetter the financial and educational situation of the workers and former lower classes in order to survive.
Capitalist systems which are in its initial phase, like in Third World countries or, in history, at Marx's time, usually haven't grasped this. But that's not a question of system, it is a question of individual personality also: Some people believe they could get rich in a free enterprise society by charging high prices, they aim at getting rich over a short-term period. This exploitative method, regardless of any cost of material or lives, is nothing which can be ascribed to something like a capitalist world system (which doesn't exist), it is rather a sign of lacking morality and wisdom and can be found throughout all history. Examples would be the acts of plundering and devastating conquered lands and cities, of over-taxation, American slavery and slave trade and the exploitation in early-capitalist factories Marx rightfully complained about. These acts of exploitation are not happening because of capitalism but in stark contrast to what capitalism aims for. Over a long-term period, such destructive techniques hinder the development of a market, destroy the infrastructure and hinder technological progress. Today's industrial countries make their money not because of their exploiting Third-World countries but mainly through their own markets: It is no use selling computers to a desert tribe without electricity. The exploitation of the Third World in colonial times, again ironically, hindered the development of the colonizing countries rather than it helped. Short-term monetary gains through exploitation corrupted free trade and entrepreneurism. In the Southern United States, slavery might have made some slave owners very rich but the infrastructure was destroyed, the South lost its leading financial position. Countries like Germany, the Scandinavian countries or the US had either no colonies or not for a long time, with no monetary gains worth mentioning. Colonization only helped spreading language and culture, in turn destroying and hindering the countries that were colonized. Exploitation and conquest did happen, and they happened also weighing heavily on the colonized countries. But these are side effects which created profit mostly for single persons, not for the state. What is true for capitalism in its own country is true for the world market: In globalization lies the chance for the poor countries to get out of their misery. Marxists usually don't realize this, and in doing so they worsen the situation of the lower classes and poorer countries rather than helping them. This will be further shown in the ensuing parts.
February 6th, 2000