Monday, April 20, 2009

Working Men of All Countries, Unite!

A couple factors led me to read Karl Marx’s and Frederick Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. For some reason, ever since Obama was selected as the Democratic candidate for President I have heard more talk about Marxism, Communism and Socialism than at any other point in my life. One of my friends at church was telling me about a Marxist friend of his who professes to be a Christian. We talked about how Marxism and Christianity have conflicting perspectives, and the likelihood of a true Christian having a Marxist political philosophy. The cherry on top for me was the day I decided to openly make negative comments about Marxism to gain a better understanding of how “normal” non-Christian folks think about it. By far, the most common reaction from the people I spoke with was a visible display of discomfort at their uncertainty about Marxism and/or Karl Marx.

And here we are. I ordered the book and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it was only 57 pages in length, which meant I could probably read it in one sitting. This is precisely what I did and I have to say … I have never received more strange looks from people for reading a book. Slowly, I attempted to hide the title on the cover because it was pretty embarrassing to read.

My first impression of The Communist Manifesto was that he was using a peculiar vocabulary, especially two terms that continuously made their way onto the page: “Borgeois” and “Proletarians.” The Borgeois consist of any group of people who own private property, the middle class, and all upper classes including royalty and most national rulers. Proletarians refer to the lowest of all the classes and do not own any private property.

If you want a summary of this entire work, here is my official understanding of his conclusions: It isn’t fair that some own private property while others don’t, therefore we should do away with all private property. While we’re at it, let’s do away with religion, morality, and the family unit.

No, I’m not kidding. I don’t believe Marx said a single thing I agree with, and that’s saying something. His worldview and presuppositions are completely wrong, his political philosophy wouldn’t work, he is completely opposed to moral standards and religion in general, and finally, he doesn’t recognize the terrible terrible inconsistencies within his own philosophy.

More than once, Marx and Engels acknowledge the criticism of their viewpoints. Here is one example,

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend” (Marx, K. Engels, F. The Communist Manifesto. Pg. 31. Brandywine Studio Press. 1888).

Yes, I am horrified at such an intention. I am unfamiliar with the correctness of the statement that 90% of the population at that time didn’t own property and were in the lowest of the classes. In any case, and he makes these kinds of statements throughout the entire work, it seems like I can pinpoint a handful of his presuppositions:

(1) It isn’t fair that some people have more than others.
(2) If someone has more than you, you have a right to take it from them to make yourself feel better.
(3) Their (Proletarians) rights are more important than the rights of the Borgeois.

Marx notes another objection, “…that upon the abolition of private property all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us” (Marx, K. Engels, F. Pg. 32).

What is his response? “According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything, do not work” (Mark, K. Engels, F. Pg. 32).

[Enter sarcasm] Oh! What a brilliant response! I had no idea the rich were lazy and undeserving of their extravagant wealth. [Exit sarcasm] Seriously though, what a copout of an answer. Does he expect us to believe that the wealthy in society are lazy? Did they attain their great wealth through great amounts of effort or from idleness? His response is pathetic. Terribad.

Oh, and if you attempt to interact with his arguments from a religious or philosophical perspective, Marx has this to say: “The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical, and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination” (Mark, K. Engels, F. Pg. 36). Okay then. Marx just demonstrated how serious he is of persuading his opponents.

Pages 38 and 39 have a list of 10 steps to have a successful Communist revolution. I wish I was joking, but at least we know what to look for.

The final words of The Communist Manifesto are about as bad as it gets. Nothing I can say could do it justice so I’ll just quote the following:

“In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

In all these movements they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

(Mark, K. Engels, F. Pgs. 56-57).

Anyone else feeling sickly? Ugh. Let me remind the reader that Adolf Hitler was greatly influenced by Karl Marx, which seems to be a wonderful expression of the “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”

One of my friends recently asked me, “But, isn’t Communism a good idea on paper but just lacks some direction to function properly?”

I asked, “Which Communist nation recently failed?”

He answered, “Oh yea … The Soviet Union.”

“Yea,” I said, “the reason for this is because Communism is bad on paper and bad in real life. It makes-believe that human beings are something they are not and expects society to function on make-believe ideas. It doesn’t work.”


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