We explain what Marxism is and what this doctrine implies. Other concepts such as alienation, class struggle, surplus value.
What is Marxism?
Marxism has been the doctrine that has influenced the great political-economic and ideological system with which capitalism has had to fight during the nineteenth century, but mainly during the twentieth century: communism.
While this has certain nuances that must be taken into account, Marxism has influenced in a remarkable way entire generations of politicians and intellectuals who denounce the negative consequences of capitalism and jog for a classless society .
Marxism can be understood as the theoretical set based on the work of Karl Marx and Friederich Engels , and continued by a large generation of intellectuals, with multiple differences, which is still in force (more as a set of intellectual ideas than through political realization).
Marxism is influenced by German socialism and has as its basic postulate the dissolution of capitalist society , responsible for the exploitation of workers. This theory understands that during the accumulation process a part of the population appropriated the means of production (the bourgeoisie), while another only has its labor force (the proletariat).
The relationship is asymmetric: one exploits the other and enriches itself at the expense of it. For these reasons, Marxism appeals to class awareness by workers , achieve a proletarian revolution and reach a classless society.
What is alienation ?
According to Marx, man is “alienated” , that is, he is reduced in his humanity and uniqueness to a being that only counts as a work force . The worker does not have the means of production and is forced to work to survive, inevitably needs the bourgeoisie for its existence.
Capitalism reduces the humanity we find in man by not only not having the means to produce, but it is only related to a part of the product and not to the whole. The worker is only an appendix of the capitalist machine.
In the Theses on Feüerbach, Marx shows his position against the two strong theories of the moment:
- Materialism : Marx emphasizes that they have known how to take reality as a source of truth and not with abstract philosophical concepts. However, it fails to take the subject as a liability against the historical future.
- Neohegelians : Their mistake is the inverse since they understand reality as a dialectical movement, but they only deal with abstract concepts, in Marx’s words : “oppose sentences against other phrases.”
From this follows one of the main postulates of Marxism, which has influenced all subsequent social theory: historical materialism .
It is important to highlight the historical and economic conditions under which certain phenomena occur, understood as a development determined by the economic relations of production.
There is a very important turn, since it is not the man who determines his conscience, but the social being, the result of the previously explained relationships, which determines the conscience of the individuals.
Many authors believe that when Marx writes ” Capital ” he finds his intellectual maturity. Beyond this questionable position, it cannot be denied that Capital is the most emblematic work of this author.
Divided into three volumes:
- The first explains the process of capital production.
- The second explains the circulation of capital.
- In the third, the global capitalist process as a whole is exposed.
Among its main concepts, we find the idea of surplus value, the concept of merchandise and the value-work relationship . Addressing these issues in depth would be impossible, as it has given for endless debates between economists, philosophers and other social scientists.
The concept of surplus value refers to the basic process from which the capitalist extracts his profit . The process is that the bourgeois hires a worker and pays him a salary (which is enough for his basic subsistence), but he is not paid for the amount of wealth he produces, but for hours of work.
This unpaid surplus is what is known as surplus value, which is appropriate for the bourgeoisie to be reinvested in the productive process . Due to this internal contradiction between bourgeois and proletariat, coupled with the finite capacity for accumulation, it is an obligation of the working class to take control of society by abolishing private property , understood as the origin of all inequalities.
This would lead to a dictatorship of the proletariat in the State , and then be dissolved. This is one of the most debated points by Marxism, since when it came to power in the USSR or in Cuba, the State not only did not dissolve, but also took huge proportions.
Marxism took shape in communism , with its maximum expression in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and in the USSR . However, many consider that “the revolution was betrayed.” Although some guidelines of Marxist thought were followed, it resulted in a more totalitarian regime, outside Marx’s original idea. After the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War, with the dissolution of the communist bloc, Marx’s ideas fell into disuse.
In recent times, different intellectuals have rescued Marxist theory as a critical tool rather than as a revolutionary policy due to the recurring crises of the capitalist system.
Karl Marx and Friederich Engels
Karl Marx was born in Prussia in 1818. Of Jewish origin, his work is technically immeasurable. His work includes philosophical, political, economic texts , history, among others.
He not only stood out for his intellectual thinking , but also dabbled in journalism and politics . Raised in a middle -class family, he quickly contacted Hegel’s thought continuators (from whom he will take the concept of dialectics), called neohegelians.
In 1844 he met Friederich Engels , with whom he will not only share his intellectual work, but will be his intimate friend throughout his life.
Marx’s philosophical texts and main concepts
Among the main texts that we find in the work of Karl Marx and therefore, of Marxism, we find “The German Ideology” and “Thesis on Feüerbach” .
Within “German ideology” we find the first steps of the key to Marxism: historical materialism. In this text we will find the concept of alienation as the articulating axis of Karl Marx’s exposition.
It is characterized as a historical, economic and philosophical reflection of society throughout its development. Marx establishes a development based on the modes of production, going through the slave mode to the feudal and finally to the capitalist.
One of the most important ideas that is present in all Marxist theory is that the production model is not only limited to the economic aspect , but that the mode of production determines the form that consciousness will take at a certain moment.
This form that it will take is not only not random, but it is the result of the domination of a class , which in capitalism is the bourgeoisie . The bourgeoisie not only dominates materially, but imposes a way of seeing the world.
In the historical process of eliminating feudalism , a number of merchants are affirming themselves as the class that dominates finances and has a tremendous influence on the political class. This has its peak in the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, both understood as bourgeois revolutions:
- French Revolution : It works like the one that eliminates the rights and property of the Church and the old aristocracy, and puts the bourgeoisie in charge of society.
- Industrial Revolution : Itserved to find in the factory the operating base of the capitalist service, where Marxism will denounce that the greatestexploitation of man by man is carried out.