How communism fails as economic theory
For decades, academia has popularized communism as an economic theory. Students can likely recall lectures in which professors would compare and contrast Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto with Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (or Thomas Hobbes), debating asset ownership, price controls, redistribution of wealth, and government spending. Other provocative questions along this line would include, should the community share equal ownership of all of a society's goods and property, and who should own the means of production?
While these questions are necessary and should be debated, the most unsettling component missing from these discussions is that in actuality, communism, as it is derived from Marxism, is not, as James Lindsay has explained, an economic theory, but rather a pretext and vision for a revolutionary theory.
The underlying fundamental goal of communism is to manufacture a revolution, and the Marxist loyalists will use whichever social inequity (class, race, sex) they believe at that moment in time will achieve a class consciousness reckoning. Marxism is a theory of social stratification, of social conflict, in which there is some dynamic that divides society into two groups.
The mainstream perspective is that Marx offered an economic theory, and while he did integrate economic principles, the intent remained steadfast: to launch a revolution. Economic subjugation was just a tactic to light the fuse. In recognizing during his time that economic subjugation was in fact the most receptive form of activism to jumpstart a revolution, Marx played on the abysmal working conditions workers endured in order to trigger a mass rebellion of the proletariat. To reiterate, Marx purposely dressed up his call for a revolution in economic terms.
Marxian Theory seeks to raise the consciousness of an exploited group by making them fully aware of the extent to which society is exploiting them. Thereby energizing them to rise up and overthrow the current system. Marx anticipated that when the revolution is fully forged, the proletariat themselves will take over and a Dictatorship of the Proletariat will ensue.
Amidst all this talk about a revolution, it helps as a reference to think of a revolution as a means of purging the society of the "Four Olds," which entails eradicating society of customs, culture, habits, and ideas. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong's unwavering goal was to cleanse society of its centuries-old traditional elements. During the early years of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, an article circulated throughout the nation that revealed the revolution's truest intentions:
The proletarian cultural revolution is aimed not only at demolishing all the old ideology and culture and all the old customs and habits, which, fostered by the exploiting classes have poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years, but also at creating and fostering among the masses an entirely new ideology and culture and entirely new customs and habits — those of the proletariat.
As Chairman Mao sought to demonstrate, communism seeks to topple the prevalent system by wielding all possible methods to separate society based on social identities and privilege categorizations and by instilling a culture of hatred, resulting in an inescapable splintered society.
Unlike Marx, who referred to the working class as the proletariat, present-day neo-Marxists consider the "new proletariat" to be minority or oppressed classes. That is to say, Marxism today, commonly referred to as neo-Marxism, all but ignores class struggles while alternatively severing society into two opposing racial blocs including privileged (white) oppressors and marginalized (black and brown) victims of oppression. This is central to Critical Race Theory (CRT), which makes race the central construct for understanding inequality. Marxists today seek to rouse "racial consciousness," opposed to an alienated "class consciousness."
With his underlying goal of forging a revolution, Marx intended on rousing class consciousness to awaken the working class to their purported victimization under a Capitalist society. Today, Marxism is rooted in identity politics with the proletariat consisting of marginalized victims of oppression within a "white supremacy"–dominated society. Race consciousness has replaced class consciousness, but the goal remains the same: use whichever social inequity at the time is most divisive in order to usher in a revolution.
J.B. Cohle is a graduate student.
Image: Public Domain.