Marxist Economics – Introduction
Marxist Economics is summed-up by V.I. Lenin as follows, “Communist society means that everything—the land, the factories—is owned in common. Communism means working in common.”1
The economic system plays a much larger role in the Marxist worldview than in that of either Christianity or Secular Humanism. For Marxists, the economic system determines laws, the type of government, and the role of society in day-to-day life. While most would agree that an economic system affects these areas to some extent, Marxists claim that it dictates their precise character. With this in mind, Marxists conclude that undesirable economic systems create backward, undesirable societies. They point to the evils in a capitalist society and conclude that capitalism, based on private property, is a bad economic system that must be replaced with a more humane system, one that abolishes private property and the free and peaceful exchange of goods and services (a free market).
According to Marx, the key problem with capitalism is that it breeds exploitation of the workers. Marx says that in a capitalist society, the bourgeoisie (property-owners) equate personal worth with exchange value, leading to “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.”2
Marxist Economics – The Evils of Capitalism
According to Marxist economics, two flaws necessarily cause capitalism to be a system of exploitation. The first flaw is the problem of surplus labor. According to this concept, the bourgeoisie profit not by selling their product at a price above the cost of materials plus labor, but rather by paying the worker less than the value of their labor. This ability of the bourgeoisie to manipulate workers allows them to devalue labor, thereby creating profit for themselves by lowering the price of labor. Marxists see capitalism as creating a vicious circle that causes workers to be exploited more and more. Marx explains, “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole... ”3
The second flaw in capitalism is its chaotic nature. Whereas the state can control every aspect of socialism from production to distribution, capitalism is controlled by the free market. (Technically, capitalism is known as a market-directed economy and social-ism as a centrally planned economy although in practice most economies are a mixture of both.) In a socialistic system, economic decisions regarding price, production, and consumption are made by central planners affiliated with the government. In a capitalistic system, economic decisions are made by every producer and every consumer—a housewife with a shop-ping list, for example, is an economic planner in a capitalistic system. Marxism stresses this difference, claiming that only a planned economy can truly discover the best methods of production and distribution. Marxists believe that capitalist economies thrive on crises that tend to stimulate them. Marx believed this reliance on crises would create economic havoc in the long run, and therefore advocated that a planned community replace such a spontaneous, erratic, freewheeling system.
Marxist Economics – The Self-Destruction of Capitalism
The theory of Marxist economics maintains that capitalism eventually destroys itself as it exploits more and more people until everyone has been reduced to worker status. Engels explains the process: “Whilst the capitalist mode of production more and more completely transforms the great majority of the population into proletarians, it creates the power which, under penalty of its own destruction, is forced to accomplish this revolution. [Eventually] The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property.”4
In this way, the proletariat acts as a catalyst for the downfall of capitalism and the rise of the new socialist system. “The extremely sharp class conflict between the exploiters and the exploited constitutes the basic trait of the capitalist system. The development of capitalism inevitably leads to its downfall. However, the system of exploitations does not disappear of itself. It is destroyed only as the result of the revolutionary struggle and the victory of the proletariat.”5
The concept of the dialectic illustrates that the downfall of capitalism and the subsequent rise of socialism and eventually communism are inevitable. The bourgeoisie (thesis) and the proletariat (antithesis) clash to create socialism (synthesis) that guarantees the advent of communism. The dialectic, if carried forward, also guarantees that communism cannot be the final synthesis.
Marxist Economics – The Communist Utopia
Worldwide communism will usher in a number of benefits. Marxists claim that communism provides more freedom than other economic systems. Humanity will have achieved perfection, making the law and government moot. The redistribution of wealth will solve many problems. The text Political Economy explains some of them: “Once the exploiting classes with their parasitic consumption have been abolished, the national income becomes wholly at the disposal of the people. Working conditions are radically altered, housing conditions in town and country substantially improved and all the achievements of modern culture made accessible to the working people.”6
Another advantage of communism has to do with the motivation of workers: “Can capitalist society with its chronic unemployment ensure each citizen the opportunity to work, let alone to choose the work he likes? Clearly, it cannot. But the socialist system makes the right to work a constitutional right of a citizen, delivering him from the oppressive anxiety and uncertainty over the morrow.”7
In short, Marxists believe communism is the ideal economic system and the foundation for utopia in all aspects of society.
Marxist Economics – Conclusion
According to Marxist economics, the move from capitalism to socialism to communism and the classless society is inevitable, according to the dialectic. Capitalism contains its own fatal flaw, and it cannot stop its advance toward socialism just as socialist countries such as the People’s Republic of China cannot stop their advance toward communism. When communism becomes the world’s economic system, the dialectical march toward utopia will have reached its zenith. Kenneth Neill Cameron explains, “Marx and Engels expected that communist society would be the last form of human society, for once the world’s productive forces were communally owned no other form could arise.”8
In the Marxist worldview, nothing could be more ideal, and according to Lenin nothing else will allow the survival of the human race. He says, “Outside of socialism, there is no salvation for mankind from war, hunger and the further destruction of millions and millions of human beings.”9
In reality, however, the Marxist system itself is responsible for the destruction of millions of human beings at the hands of its political parties and dictators, making it the greatest killing machine of all time.10