Marx’s communism appears quite logical if his assumptions are correct. However, many of his basic assumptions are in doubt and by his own standards of praxis determining the validity of philosophy communism has failed the test of historical application. This at best proves that the world or mankind is not in the right state for communist revolution or at worst proves his assessments of capitalism and the belief that there is “no such thing as a ‘human nature’” are wrong. (Text, 348)
In “Human Action” Ludwig Von Mises explains human nature or human action as being the result of social evolution that began with the very basic need of survival. Modern society is also the result of the evolutionary process beginning with the most primitive forms of the division of labor which even Marx appears to recognize. “In every society…we find a particular mode of cooperation, corresponding to a particular level of echnological development, in which different productive tasks are relegated to different people. The most basic form of the division of labor…is that manifested in the sexual act. It takes two people each performing a unique role to produce a third. Almost as basic is what Marx calls the “spontaneous” division of labor found in very technologically primitive societies. Here different tasks are assigned on the basis of natural or biological attributes. The stronger will become the hunters, the weaker food gatherers, and so forth.” (Text, 329) However, this seems to imply that society created the division of labor instead of the division creating society. This is why Marx is apt to conclude that society and “for the benefit” of society are and should be the primary motivators of men. The truth, however, is that men formed societies out of self-interest, a motivation evolved from the very basic instinct of survival. If this is in fact true the idea of communism nearly crumbles from this false assumption alone.
Another fatal flaw to communism is Marx’s misperception of economics. Marx posits a theory that “asserts that the market or exchange value of any commodity is the amount of labor embodied in it.” (Text, 335) However, history and modern economics have proved that labor is not necessarily what determines the value of a good or service but rather supply and demand. Demand being the subjective value placed on a good or service by those who would purchase it, the price they are willing to pay, as well as the number who wish to receive said product or service. Supply is simply the availability of the product or service. Supply and demand are what determine price which is what determines the allocation of property, not necessarily the amount of labor. Value has always been subjective to the individual and so is hard to incorporate into a general philosophy. The text also makes the following claim in reference to objections to Marxism or communism: One “objection implicitly assumes a condition of scarcity in which well-being, even survival, depends upon the ceaseless struggle to acquire more. Such a condition will not exist in a communist society.” (Text, 347) The very nature of economics is the assumption of a “condition of scarcity” based on finite resources. If communism somehow provides infinite resources and eliminates the concept of “scarcity” then it may very well work. A third economic problem with Marxism is the doing away with “specializations”, which are generally recognized as drastically increasing the efficiency, in a communist society. “In Marx’s words, communism ‘makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic.’” (Text, 346) Without experts or specialists progress will be much more difficult to obtain and quality and innovation will almost certainly suffer. More advanced fields that take years of extensive training to master will all but fade away. For this the suggestion appears to keep some specialists but with the following caveat: “The specialist need not acquire more than others simply because he or she performs a highly skilled function.” (Text, 347) However, if a man could receive the same benefits from doing a task that can be learned in a day and requires significantly less effort to perform why would he spend much of his life studying and expend vast amounts of energy to perform a more specialized task. Marx claims the man would because it would benefit society and he would have no desire to receive more for his increased efforts. This, however, defies common sense and the burden of proof that such a consciousness can be achieved is on those who defy common sense with their theories and speculations.
Marx recognized that his ideas were contradictory to common sense or what he called consciousness so he claimed that the current consciousness was based on false perceptions and that his ideas would both require and cause “the transformation of social consciousness.” (Text, 348) While it may true that reality both forms the consciousness and is formed by it or that the actions of man are determined both by nature or the environment as well as man himself; the transformation of social consciousness is not likely to occur abruptly through revolution but gradually through evolution. That is why even if it were some day possible for leadership to lead solely “at the behest of the whole community” and that their “relations with others will be cooperative rather than conflictual” it is not according to the current consciousness and that will not change through any sort of revolution.
The evidence that Marx’s philosophy is incompatible with today’s social consciousness is through his own standard of praxis or practical application of his theories. Those who have claimed to be Marxists have failed to achieve anything remotely similar to that posited by Marx and “the failure of the proletariat…may be interpreted as a failure of Marx’s theoretical analysis of capitalism and, by extension, of the whole philosophy of historical materialism upon which it rests.” (Text, 351) Some may claim it is because the principles were never properly applied but the reason they were never properly applied is because they are incompatible with the nature of man in his current state of evolution. I can not say whether or not the nature of man will ever be compatible with communism or if it will ever be a viable philosophy. However, if it is in our future of social evolution it is more likely to occur as the Marxists who hold the classical view of Marxism insist…after capitalism has “become a worldwide phenomenon.” (Text, 354) Even then it will happen gradually and not through revolution.
Note: This essay was written for a college class. The source “Text” used in the citations refers to:
Nelson, Brian R. Wester Political Though: From Socrates to the Age of Ideology. 2nd Edition
Prentice Hall. New Jersey: 1996.