This is of course an astonishing question to ask. Why anyone would want to believe in Marxism is a modern mystery? Its partner in crime – socialism seems in the modern situation to ignore its disastrous past.
When one hears the statements of Levica, or Der Linke, or Corbyn’s Labour Party, or Melenchon’s Socialist Party, or even Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the USA one wonders if they have missed all the negative history of socialism and communism. Have the not noticed all the failures of economics or human rights. As the saying goes their views are ‘a triumph of hope over experience’.
The various forms of socialism seem to be united in an opposition to capitalism and yet they do not understand what it is. They seem to think that that Capitalism is some sort of political philosophy. In fact it was originally coined as a sort of term of abuse. At its very basic level it is a recognition that such a thing as capital exists in every society. This thing which is property of some sort goes back to the birth of civilisation. It was not called capital thousands of years ago but it existed; tools, a hut, a primitive canoe, a store of food, clothing were all items that had been invested in and intended to last for varying periods of time. Most were personally owned but some were jointly owned or communally owned such as a place of worship.. Later on when means of exchange were developed for trade and business money as a store of value also became capital. The term capitalist first came into use in the 17th century but it was first used as a term of abuse by Marx when he launched his attack on the capitalist mode of production. Despite the fact that the industrial revolution lifted many people from rural poverty and therefor drew many from the land to towns Marx dwelt on the problems of change rather than the benefits. Therein lies the root cause of his terrible mistakes.
His two big mistakes were to believe his own so-called scientific Theory of History and the second to call for the abolition of private property. Other mistakes were not to imagine the future and the advances that would be made by science and technology. Nor could he imagine how democracy would develop.
Marx could no more imagine a female Prime Minister than he could imagine universal voting suffrage. It seems bizarre that in the Communist Manifesto that he (with Engels) says that wage labour only creates capital for the Bourgeoisie and not ordinary people. He could not imagine the extensive private ownership of houses and cars and pension plans, let alone boats and computers. He did imagine wrongly however the bourgeoisie getting richer and richer and workers getting poorer and poorer. He could not even begin to see that in a market economy the producers of goods and services want more and more customers so they in fact want everyone to become more affluent. His obsession with fixed class structures also meant that he could not see how in the future they would change and have great flexibility. Millionaire footballers and pop stars – impossible for Marx.
He amazingly imagined that communism ‘makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner’. He also fell into the trap that also modern socialists fall into that fairplay is just a matter of controlling and distribution of existing wealth and not increasing the total amount of wealth in society which has made modern society what it is.
This chase after equality and re-distribution with compulsion is what links Socialists and Communists. Alexis de Tocqueville perceptively said
“Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
In the Communist Manifesto Marx attacks the various types of Socialist but then says that the communists may ally themselves with them in the development towards a revolution and this was made to fit into his theory of history. Unfortunately most of the various socialist parties were greatly influenced by Marx’s ideas and still are even though history has shown all their experiments to be failures. And yet modern socialists keep saying that socialism, real socialism, has never been tried. But socialism is defined in the dictionary as ‘collective or government ownership and administration of the means of production of goods’. So yes it has been tried!
Just think of the failed attempts at this malign creed. The USSR which was clearly socialist by the above definition, was lauded by all sorts of socialists in the 1920s before they discovered the lies and crimes that they had been fed. Clearly also by this definition National Socialism was socialist and Mussolini’s fascism also. Additionally also Mao’s China and Tito’s Yugoslavia were socialist and we know the crimes of Mao and the abuses of Titoism. Then we have Cuba and Albania and North Korea and Zimbabwe, and now Venezuela. The latest object of admiration by socialists, Venezuela, has became another failure and 3-5 million people have left in the last few years, in effect refugees. And yet only recently people from the left of the British Labour Party and Levica and others were flocking there to see the socialist ‘miracle’. Now they are like their forebears in the 1920s suddenly very quiet.
The honeymoon periods of the socialist experiments appear all the time and yet the idealists fail to see the constant failure. They also still adhere to the phrase ‘the end justifies the means’ so for Lenin it meant to ‘crush’ the capitalists ‘with the fiercest ferocity and savagery’, and Tito’s post war executions, and Castro’s murders and so on in order to destroy private property ownership. But this was stupid as it took away incentives for development even Aristotle said two millennia ago ‘because – where no-one owneth no one really careth’.
The expropriation of farms turned Zimbabwe from an agriculture exporter to an importer and poverty for many. If the same happens as is possible in South Africa the same result will occur. The present new Socialist-Marxist should remember that the Soviet Union had to import wheat from Canada and Australia to stay alive because of irresponsible collective ownership. It is now an exporting country for wheat.
We all know from experience that collective or committee decisions more often than not result in divided responsibility to be no responsibility at all. It is very difficult indeed to find any socialist production that was better than that from a capitalist market economy
Even the liberal socialist John Stuart Mill recognised the need for incentives and this comes primarily from wishing to have some property (or capital) of ones own.
So why I ask is Marxism through the medium of socialism making a comeback. It seems to me that always the idealist is craving for socialism and is misguided by hope and nevers get down to the reality so that these idealists waste their energies on trying to create a collective moribund society instead on getting down to the real work of helping the cases where there is suffering. Perhaps that is why capitalism has produced more medical cures and drugs than socialism, perhaps that is why socialist experiments ended with massive military expenditure, perhaps that is why capitalism has improved agricultural production by science and reduced poverty more than socialism.
Capitalism should be judged against socialism on how each works, not on practise compared to a dream. In every case in fact socialism became a nightmare for ordinary people. The failures in a capitalist society such as the banking fiasco are dealt with not always in my view the best way but at least they are dealt with. The failures in socialism drift on secretly for years.
For some reason these latter day marxist-socialists seem to confuse their philosophy with democracy but history also tells us that the democracy of 18th century England and the USA were despite limited franchises far better defenders of human rights and liberties than socialist societies. De Tocqueville saw that clearly as in the earlier quote. Democracy may have its price but socialism has only great penalties. We should never forget that capitalism is based on voluntary cooperation and socialism on coercion.
It is a pity that many of our young people are not taught the history and truth of Marxism and Socialism in their schools and universities. It is also a pity that so-called democratic socialists do not know that they are latter day followers of a corrupt history.
Return of Marxism? Not if we want to keep improving the standard of living for the whole world.
Books that should be read in schools and universities in addition to the greats Adam Smith, Hayek and Hernando de Soto, are Heavens on Earth by J P Floru, Capitalism by Eamonn Butler,The Morality of Capitalism by Tom Palmer, and The Triumph of Liberty by Jim Powell.