This week (Feb. 21) in 1848, Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto, making this date a hallmark in the annals of phony political philosophy and pseudo-economic science. Marx died long before the Manifesto was to make him, alas, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th Century, with millions of human beings around the globe living — or more accurately suffering — under governments forged by Marxist principles. It is poetic justice that Marx himself died in abject poverty.
There is an argument, and it has merit, that Marxism was so twisted by various ruling parties to fit their own ends that Marx would not recognize his own teachings. Even so, the stuff Marx would recognize as his handiwork today was bad enough.
If you ever wondered what the heck the difference was between Socialism and Communism, Marx’s manifesto explains it. In Marxist theory the first stage to political and economic nirvana was Socialism, which would then evolve into Communism. Through Socialism, control of a nation’s “means of production” — the farms, factories, industries, etc. — would be transferred from the bourgeoisie (the middle-class) to the proletariat (the common laborer). Marx, perhaps history’s truest “democrat,” believed that political equality was a sham without economic equality. Thus Socialism would redistribute economic power among the masses, reinforcing their emerging political power.
At which point, according to Marx, these “workers of the world” would evolve into Communists, thereby creating an international Communist community that would make unnecessary all national and human individualism. Countries would cease to exist so there would be no nationalism. No nationalism meant no imperialism, so war would also cease.
Humans would, as well, shed their religious beliefs, ethnicity and cultural ties to become one global brotherhood. Central governments would dissolve, as would “bourgeois” market economies. They would be replaced by a system in which goods and services were exchanged, in Marx’s famous phrase, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Where others thought they could change human behavior, Marx thought he could change human nature.
He was wrong. Marx’s “scientific man”— a creature governed solely by the immutable laws of economic determinism — would not shed his humanity, even when living under the most repressive “Marxist” (military) regimes. Religious beliefs, ethnic ties and cultural identity, and the freedom necessary to express them, all proved impervious to Marxist dogma, as did nationalism and its first cousin, patriotism.
Indeed, history’s most successful nation is one in which people of various ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds are able to both retain those distinctions and assimilate them (willingly) in a “melting pot” society that balances individual freedoms with a respect for the rights of others. That would be the United States of America.