Marxism After Marx
1] Orthodox Marxism
Lenin, Mao, Rosa Luxemburg.
2] Neo Marxism
Scholars: Lukacs’s, Gramsci.
Schools: Frankfurt School & Structural School
Orthodox / Political Marxism
It is based on the works of mature Marx like COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. The key principle of political Marxism is historical materialism, dialectical materialism and class struggle.
Followers of Marx projected these principles as scientific, but critics of Marx described Marx as determinist. (non-scientific).
Lenin introduced some changes which fundamentally altered the theory proposed by Karl Marx. And for the same reason, Lenin is called Peter, who denied his master.
Marxism was meant for advanced capitalist countries, but Lenin applied it in Russia, which was primarily feudal. There is no role of peasantry in Marxism whereas Lenin included peasantry in the revolutionary class. Marx was against the concept of communist party, preferred spontaneous revolution when masses develop true consciousness. Lenin made communist party ‘vanguard of revolution’. Marx was against intellectuals, Lenin incorporated intellectuals.
On one hand, we can give credit to Lenin for implementing Marxism. On the other hand, Lenin is held responsible for the criticisms which Marx faced as enemy of open society. The biggest theoretical contribution of Lenin is, his theory of imperialism in his book IMPERIALISM – THE HIGHEST STAGE OF CAPITALISM.
Lenin exploded the myth that imperialism is white man’s burden or civilizing mission. Lenin even suggested that the first world war was the war of colonies. Lenin described the evolution of capitalism in 3 stages
1] Mercantile capitalism 2] Industrial capitalism 3] Finance capitalism
Marx was ‘ethnocentric’, Marx also considered colonialism as blessing in disguise for the people of the east. e.g. He believed that British rule is a source of modernization for India. He considered revolt of 1857 as a feudal revolt. On the other hand, Lenin had sympathy for the people in colonies. He directed that ‘communist international’ (int org which he formed) should support the nationalist struggle in colonies. He believed that the spark against capitalism will begin in colonies where capitalism is in its most inhumane form. Lenin’s theory of imperialism became the basis for Marxist theory of international politics or political economy.
Lenin held that “politics is a concentrated form of economics.”
Mao was the first person to implement Marxist principles in Asiatic situation. Maoism is a very pragmatic form of Marxism/ communism. He was influenced by Marx, Machiavelli as well as the tradition of peasants revolts in China. If Marxism is against capitalism, Maoism is against feudalism. In Marx peasantry has no role, in Lenin peasantry has secondary role, in Mao peasantry has central role in revolution.
Mao has also made some changes in the concepts of Marx.
Marx was against nationalism whereas Maoism is not against nationalism. It is strongly nationalist.
Maoism is against two things 1. Feudalism. 2. Imperialism.
Mao was not against domestic capitalists.
Mao had modified Marx’s concept of dialectics. According to Mao, dialectics (contradictions) are of two types. 1. Antagonistic 2. Non-Antagonistic.
1] Antagonistic Contradictions: Contradictions which cannot be resolved. e.g. People (peasantry) has antagonistic contradiction with feudal lords and foreign bourgeoise class.
2] Non Antagonistic: Contradiction which can be resolved e.g. Between people and national bourgeoise class. (National capitalist class).
In Marx there is a single revolution. Mao believed that single revolution is not enough, he supports the concept of permanent revolution.
He suggested that reactionary (class against whom revolution is done by Marxists) elements may come up again and again. Hence system needs cleansing from time to time. e.g. After communist revolution, Mao started cultural revolution.
Cultural revolution by Mao
Mao after establishing communism in China, gave the slogan of “Let hundred flowers bloom, let thousands of school of thought flourish.” It implies that revolution is over, there is no need to fear and people can express themselves freely.
Mao held that reactionary elements have cropped up which needs to be cleaned to save the revolution. Cultural revolution was no revolution. It was just a political strategy. Mao was aware that some people are against Mao. Hence he started hundred flower campaign to know who are against power. Once he came to know his critics, he started cultural revolution to clean the system.
Contribution of Mao.
Mao was a man of action. His most famous work is THE RED BOOK. The book contains the strategy of the guerrilla warfare. Mao believed that people (masses) lack resources hence they should go for guerrilla warfare. Some of the techniques suggested by Mao include 1. Never attack the center, like rat, start nibbling from the peripheries. 2. You retreat, when enemy advances, you attack when enemy sleeps.
According to Mao, “Power comes through the barrel of gun.” Like Karl Marx, Mao also believes that masses can end their exploitation and come to power only through violent revolution. Mao in his THE RED BOOK has given elaborate strategy on guerrilla warfare. Mao was successful in bringing communist revolution in China. Mao is one of the most successful mass leaders in the world.
Mao and Gandhi were contemporaries, both suffered similar challenges. The situation of China was worse as China was an international colony. The influence of both the leaders go beyond their countries. Both led successful mass movement. However the two represent the two different schools of thought and political strategies. If Mao believes that “Power comes through the barrel of Gun”, Gandhi believed that “eye for eye will make the world blind”. Gandhi believed that “violence belong to the world of animals.”
3] Rosa Luxemburg
She was contemporary of Lenin and Bernstein and critic of both. She criticized Lenin for playing with Marx’s ideas. Lenin should have waited for the spontaneous revolution. She also criticized Bernstein for advocating parliamentary road to socialism. She also believed that revolution is necessary to improve the situation of workers.
Rosa Luxemburg also modified the theory of imperialism and held that imperialism is not the last stage of capitalism, on the contrary capitalism is inherently imperialistic, nationalistic and militaristic.
Critical School / Frankfurt School
Why they are known as Critical School?
They were critical of liberalism as well as Soviet Marxism. According to them, the ultimate aim of Marx was freedom, the end of alienation. But what happened in USSR was the establishment of totalitarianism.
If soviet Marxist project historical materialism as the main principles of Marx, critical school scholars focus on alienation. Soviet Marxist focus on mature Marx, critical school theorists focus on young Marx.
As mentioned before, they are also critical of the way of life as established in western countries. According to them, neither in east nor in west there is any scope for freedom. If people are not free in USSR, they are also not free in so called ‘western liberal’ societies.
They are also critical of science. Science has undermined rationality. Science promotes only a specific type of rationality. Instrumental rationality. Science has undermined the importance of right and wrong. It has undermined the importance of values from our life. Science only talk about true and false. Science has reduced man to the level of animal. Mindless consumer of utilities. We behave like herds of sheep and goats.
The most adverse impact of science is that it has given rise to the consumerist society. Hence they are also critical of projecting Marx as scientific. On the other hand, they project Marx as a philosopher interpreting freedom.
The aim of critical Marxism is to make man free. Since USSR was under totalitarianism, their entire focus was on the western societies. They explored the possibility of making man free in the western world.
However critical Marxism is pessimistic. They do not believe in the possibility of the liberation of man. They believe that man cannot be liberated. So long capitalism exists, man will remain slave. Man will remain alienated. There is no scope of ending capitalism.
It is not possible to end capitalism because capitalism ensured, that consumerism become mass culture. Consumerism is no more limited to elites, it has become mass culture. At present time, it has become global culture. Information and communication technology made consumerism the mass culture. Science has always been the Lieutenant of capitalism.
They have focused on the role of ‘advertisement industry’ in making capitalism a mass culture. Hence they suggest to change the Marxist mode of analysis. According to orthodox Marxism, economic structure is the basic structure. According to critical Marxists, culture is no more the part of superstructure, it has become basic structure. Today, culture is manufactured, produced, distributed at a mass scale. We are producing the cultural items at a mass scale. Culture itself has become an industry. One of the most powerful industry. Hollywood, Bollywood, TV Serials, Advertisements etc.
Thus they have analyzed why capitalism is surviving, they concluded that capitalism is surviving by making consumerism the popular culture at the global scale. There is no freedom for humans as they mindlessly work to accumulate the consumer items. There is a loss of aesthetics, there is a loss of folk culture, folk music, man finds happiness in collecting the items of utility.
Scholars of Critical School
Herbert Marcuse ONE DIMENSIONAL MAN.
Herbert Marcuse is one of the chief exponent of critical school. He argues that man used to be a multidimensional personality, now only one dimension remains i.e. Man as a consumer. Until and unless we reject consumerist culture, there is no scope for freedom. According to him, it is an illusion that we are living in democracy. We are actually living under authoritarianism. Few persons are dictating our choices, behaviors. Culture has become means for social control. He calls American culture (Pop culture) as highly ideological. It serves the purpose of protecting capitalism. We are ignoring the psychologically destructive effects of the culture, ignoring the wastage and damage we are causing to environment and social relations.
As per laws of dialectics, we were supposed to move towards greater progress, more freedom but reverse dialectics has started by which we are moving towards more slavery.
Theodore Adorno has analyzed the interaction between capitalism and music industry. Original folk music has gone, only that type of music is sold which promotes a specific type of culture.
To sum up critical Marxism suggests that we need to take culture as a part of basic structure, we have to understand how culture is being produced, promoted and works for the preservation of capitalism.
Prominent Thinker: Althusser, FOR MARX
Althusser disagree with Frankfurt school scholars who believe that alienation is a major concern of Marx and we have to emphasize on young Marx. According to Althusser, there is a ‘epistemological’ break in the thoughts of Marx. According to him, mature Marx is a real Marx. Althusser also believes that base and superstructure model is the key principle of Marxism. However he makes modification in Marx’s model. He believes that in Marx, economic factor is ‘overdetermined’. Rather Althusser gives ‘multi-structural approach’ which means there can be multiple structures. Historical change can start from any structure and not necessarily from economic structure. He gives the example of Russian revolution, according to him it has started from political structure.
Contemporary relevance of Marxism
Marx has been one of the most influential scholar. Marx’s followers consider him as a God. Unfortunately ‘Marx is a God, which has failed’.
Biggest challenge to Marxism’s relevance came with the collapse of communism and emergence of globalization. Defined by Francis Fukuyama as ‘end of history’.
However Marxism as a ‘mode of analysis’ remains relevant. Marx has shown a very different way of looking at politics. Later day Marxists like Gramsci and Althusser further enriched Marxist mode of analysis, by addressing economic determinism of Marx and giving multi-causal and multi-structural approach.
As a political ideology the appeal of Marxism has declined considerably. However with growing inequalities, and because of global financial crisis there has been revival of interests in works of Marx.
Two important contemporary works highlighting the importance include
1] Thomas Piketty’s CAPITAL IN 21ST CENTURY. and
2] Terry Eagleton’s book WHY MARX WAS RIGHT?
It is suggested that Marxism will remain relevant as a critique to capitalism and to ensure that capitalism remains humane.
Test Your Knowledge!
1] What was Marx’s view about colonialism?
a) He considered it a blessing in disguise for the colonies
b) He exploded the myth that imperialism is white man’s burden
c) He directed ‘communist international’ to support nationalist struggles in colonies
d) He had sympathy for the people in colonies
Ans: a) He considered it a blessing in disguise for the colonies
2] Which of these did Mao support?
d) One time revolution
Ans: c) Nationalism
3] What are non-antagonistic contradictions in Mao’s views?
a) Contradictions which cannot be resolved
b) Contradictions which can be resolved
c) Contradictions between peasantry and feudal lords
d) Contradictions between peasantry and foreign bourgeoise
Ans: b) Contradictions which can be resolved
4] Who made the statement, “Power comes through the barrel of gun”?
Ans: c) Mao
5] Frankfurt school is critical of
b) Soviet Socialism
d) All of the above
Ans: d) All of the above
6] What change do the Frankfurt school bring in the Marxist mode of thinking?
a) They consider consumer culture part of the base
b) They advocated for a ‘communist party’ to bring revolution
c) They consider feudal countries better suited for revolution
d) They gave the strategy of guerilla warfare
Ans: a) They consider consumer culture part of the base
7] Who gave the concept of ‘One Dimensional Man’?
a) Herbert Marcuse
b) Theodore Adorno
d) Rosa Luxemburg
Ans: a) Herbert Marcuse
8] What is ‘multi-structural approach’ given by Althusser?
a) There is only one structure—economic
b) Revolution can occur from any of the multiple structures
c) Revolution can occur only from the economic structure
d) The Russian revolution started from the economic structure
Ans: b) Revolution can occur from any of the multiple structures
9] Which of the following can be called as the biggest contribution of Marxism?
a) It has overthrown capitalism
b) It has brought classless societies in many parts of the worls
c) It has been able to remove western democracy from Asia
d) It has ensured that, the capitalism remains humane
Ans: d) It has ensured that capitalism remains humane