(The following is an attempt to understand Marxism as a social and economic ideology from a non-technical point of view. Already a bevy of efforts to simplify Marxism have been made and this is merely another addition to the trend. This lay interpretation of Marxism is spread over a series of articles of which this is the first.)
By Zia Ahmad
Back in the day when color red carried connotations of evil and Godlessness, words like Communism, Socialism and Marxism were equated with unrepentant vice, waywardness and choice of lifestyle adopted by the heretics and atheists. Nothing short of a foul swear word in view of our elders, Marxist and Socialist ideas were actively discouraged and demonized. Sharing the wealth was more of a ruse for the red Socialist/Marxist/Communist threat to gobble up all privately owned, hard earned asset and capital from the people leaving them destitute. No thanks to the Soviet Empire’s expansionist designs and invasion of Afganistan, the bar was considerably raised for their Godless ways. And more often than not when asked where it all started from, fingers were raised at odd sounding names like Lenin and Marx. One would imagine Marx and Lenin palling up in dark corners of a shady alley, geared up in trench coats and smelling of cheap booze, plotting the demise of the free living world and special attention was drawn to the fact that the gent by the name of Karl Marx was a Jew.
As time passed by and the cold war thawed into uncertain peace, communism didn’t look urgently threatening anymore. It just turned into a failed ideal and any one still associated with it was seen as a hopeless fool or a bitter union leader. In my teenage years the Marxist brand looked attractive but institutionalized education and faith inclined family values discouraged me from adopting the Marxist brand for it wasn’t economically viable in this world or the one after. It was the refuge for the vagrant artists and the aforementioned bitter union leaders.
A couple of more years passed and beating of the proverbial practical life presented the much ballyhooed capitalistic way of life in a whole new light. Capitalism made itself apparent in all its gory details, warts and boils…the works. Inequality began to redefine itself eloquently. The reason why rich grew richer and poor got poorer was made more evident. Every vice known to man was rooted in one simple human trait; the want for more and more.
However, in all fairness capitalism rocked as well with its agency to provide us with all basic comforts and more. And at times the cost of reaping the benefits was conveniently ignored for too much knit picking into the capitalist way of life induces guilt. Though, the newly discovered realization of the spoils of capitalism brought the attention back to the demonization of communism. Was it that bad in the first place? Was the utter “Godlessness” of the commies more evil than the desire to acquire more and more wealth by means of exploitation?
First thing’s first. How does one differentiate between communism, socialism and Marxism? Not to mention the not so distant cousins that go by the name of Maoism, Stalinism, Trotskyism etc. To keep things less sticky and simple let’s assume that the ideals of communism, socialism and the rest of the isms trace their origin to the thoughts propounded by Karl Marx hence Marxism is the root source for all the leftist scribbles and strands of thought that one will ever hear in reaction to the now fashionably detested capitalism.
The term Marxism in itself can be seen as an umbrella term for a range of disparate disciplines that align themselves to the philosophy derived primarily from the works of Karl Marx and his keen associate Friedrich Engels. Essentially this particular philosophy is a critical analysis of capitalism and a theory for social change, a concept that was as frightening to unsuspecting masses in the sepia toned 19th century as it is now.
But what exactly is Marxism and what terrible things does it have to say about capitalism? At its core Marxism states that class struggle is the central element of social change. Where ever there will be tension between social classes, which is more or less universal, there is bound to be some sort of political unrest. More often than not such political unrest is administered by swift and efficient clamping down of disciplinary authority by the powers that be. Nothing a good old fashioned Lathi charge can’t take care of. Unfortunately for the powers that be, Marxism has rendered authoritative charge of most kinds to be obsolete. Karl Marx suggested a solution for conflict between social classes by delegating power to the people, a process that could evolve to establishing public ownership.
What exactly did Herr Marx mean by this, stay tuned for the next exciting installment of Marx Shrugged