Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, interest in Marxism is back again. While the post-Lenin Soviet Union is a grossly inappropriate barometer to judge actual Marxism by, interest in genuine hard hitting criticism of Capitalism is a healthy sign.
Criticism of Capitalism is not a new phenomenon, but with the advent of the social media and larger than life film and print media, it has taken a whole new dimension. It has given us access to material not available before. It has given us access to questions that were not answered before. It has given us the ability to share and verify information faster than any point in history.
There is a problem however.
The problem is scratching the tip of the iceberg and attempting to come up with a solution, but not understanding what lies at the bottom of the iceberg.
It is easy to be attracted to critique of capitalism. It talks of equality. It talks of power to the masses. It talks of a different world. It talks of an uprising. It talks of change. It talks of revolution. All concepts that hit home very easily, quite simply because the world needs these concepts. Capitalism has dug its teeth deep into humanity or whatever is left of it. It has turned the world into a vicious cycle of debt, injustice and economic tyranny. A worldview that talks of ideas in opposition to this is very easy to absorb, and there is a massive need for it to succeed.
But when we criticize Capitalism, it is extremely important to remember that it is not just a sociopolitical system. It is a socioeconomic system too. It advocates free markets. It argues in favour of private ownership of the means of production. It claims distributing a larger share of the pie to everyone but only ends up benefiting the 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%. The economics of the system are structured to develop and nurture inequality.
No criticism of Capitalism can be complete without talking about Civil Liberties. They have always, and will always be core elements when turning the tables on Capitalism is discussed. The case for this is solid as a rock : A system that shuns away civil liberties will suffocate people to a point where the very system starts bursting at its seams. Liberties and political identities associated with religion, security, life, conscience, expression, assembly, equal treatment etc are vital components of uniting the working class under an anti-Capitalism Umbrella.
This is why both the socioeconomic and sociopolitical elements of Marxism need to be understood in order to uproot Capitalism from its very foundation and not just give it a temporary drag down. Socioeconomic factors that have led to the creation of class difference and which further fuel class conflict, need to be evaluated closely since it will open multiple dimensions enhancing the worldview around how the ruling elite has exploited and alienated the working class. The shortcoming of private ownership and the free market needs to be understood. Key concepts like surplus value and surplus labour need to be understood, for understanding the opposite side is the best way to comprehend it’s weakness and bring it down best. The fact that surplus labour is the paramount source of Capitalist profits only adds further weight to the importance of grasping these key concepts.
While we stay on the subject of sociopolitical and socioeconomic understanding of Marxism, a trend that needs to be watched closely is Anarchism. It borrows multiple concepts from Marxism, but not offering a fixed ideology leave it open to misuse and abuse. Being a rather popular school of thought currently due to the mistrust of authority and governments, it brings up the right criticisms, but doesn’t offer concrete solutions – much like what I stated at the start of this piece. The slope of falling into Anarchism is slippery and dangerous, and while the merits of the ideology are welcome, its de-merits outnumber the former substantially. It is crucial that people who are attracted towards Marxism or its various variants do not fall on the wrong side of the line that divides Marxism and Anarchism. Marxism is an expansive worldview. Anarchism unfortunately, isn’t.
Due to its inbuilt flaws, Capitalism will eventually collapse. It is not a stupid system though. It is an extremely clever system. But clever does not mean humane. This is why a Marxist revival is such brilliant news. But this revival must be utilized correctly. Care must be taken to build a movement on both socioeconomic and sociopolitical grounds, since they go hand in hand. Care must be taken so the actual focus is on the solution, not just the critique.
Make no mistake, a Socialist Revolution will happen. The working class will rise.
This post originally appeared on Very Bad Apple on December 14, 2014.