KARL Marx and his theory have come under severe criticism over the years, and the fall of the erstwhile Soviet Union, in the eyes of many, all but sealed the fate of the two in terms of historical discourse. Having said that, we are too close to the events to sit in judgment on the matter. History tends to take its own sweet time to decide, and the jury, as they say, is still out.

Marx was a German philosopher and economist, a man who wanted to bring in a revolution by empowering the working class, eliminating the class difference and, most importantly, ending the capitalism-feudalism combine.

The theory itself has a very strong base. In the 18th century, the upper class, also known as the capitalists, had the power and the working class was left with nothing but a bare minimum wage which was insufficient to meet even their basic needs. Marx thought around a single theme: elimination of capitalism, and nationalisation of everything. But, in keeping that focus, it appears Marx overlooked the human nature.

By their very nature, humans work better and harder if they stand to get direct benefits. A labourer cannot have the same dedication and seriousness about making, say, a factory grow like the owner of that factory. The owner’s eagerness ultimately brings in the element of competition. So, the implementation of Marx’s idea will eliminate competition; everyone will work for the wage.

Capitalism and competition lead to new ideas and the search for profits results in a better economy, which, in turn, happens to be a good thing for one and all. In case of any issue that hampers production, a capitalist resolves it as soon as possible. The same agility cannot be expected of a labourer. Exceptions apart, that is what the human nature is.

Socialism is very similar to communism. It is, in fact, communism with a bit of capitalism thrown in. It included division of labour and bourgeois rights. Marx divided communism into upper and lower stages. The lower stage had some features of capitalism, while the upper stage had none. Later, Vladimir Lenin called the lower stage of communism as socialism. Had communism been an outright success, Marx would have never divided it into two stages.

An argument given by the Marxists in defence of the controversial quote describing religion as opium for the masses, is that opium was not an illegal drug in the 18th century. It was actually prescribed by doctors to patients in severe pain. It was only in the 19th century, when morphine was introduced, that the use of opium was stopped and it was declared illegal. Both morphine and opium, however, come from the same plant. But this argument in defence of Marxism is rather weak when one sees it along with all the other controversial things Marx said on the matter.

Communism is considered dead and failed as the countries that followed it did end up in a miserable condition, with suffocating social existence in the absence of vital elements like the freedom of speech. Also, such states demolished all religious places as soon as they got into power.

The communism presented in the books, however, is very different from the communism that was imposed in real life. Was there an issue with the theory or with its implementation?

The jury, as they say, is still out.

Talal Maqbool
Lahore

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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