200 years since Karl Marx's birth (1818-2018).
By Nikos Mottas.
By Nikos Mottas.
"Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."
- Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach.
Two centuries have passed since the birth of the greatest thinker in the history of mankind. It was the 5th of May 1818 when Karl Heinrich Marx was born in Trier, Rhenish Prussia (present-day Germany).
He was the man who tried not just to interpret the world, but to change it. The issue of how to change the world consisted the core of his remarkably unique theoretical work as well as his practical activity. The result was the scientific theory of the working class, for the overthrow of the capital's power and the establishment of the workers' power, the "dictatorship of the proletariat", the abolition of the exploitation of man by man and the ultimate transition from class societies to communism.
Karl Marx's theoretical work became the basis for social change, highlighting the scientific perception of the class struggle as the driving force of History. "The genius of Marx”, Lenin wrote, "lies in his having been the first to deduce from the lesson world history teaches and to apply that lesson consistently. The deduction he made is the doctribe of the class struggle” (V.I.Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism). Marx's thought and work consists a milestone in the history of philosophy, political economy and social sciences.
As Lenin wrote, the Marxist theory “is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism”.
The thought of Marx brought a cosmogony in the field of social sciences thus changing the way we interpret the world. “At best”, Lenin pointed out, “pre-Marxist “sociology” and historiography brought forth an accumulation of raw facts, collected at random, and a description of individual aspects of the historical process […] Marxism indicated the way to an all-embracing and comprehensive study of the process of the rise, development, and decline of socio-economic systems. People make their own history but what determines the motives of people, of the mass of people—i.e., what is the sum total of all these clashes in the mass of human societies? What are the objective conditions of production of material life that form the basis of all man’s historical activity? What is the law of development of these conditions? To all these Marx drew attention and indicated the way to a scientific study of history as a single process which, with all its immense variety and contradictoriness, is governed by definite laws”.
Through his extensive work, Karl Marx elaborated and expounded Hegel's dialectics and created an integrated philosophical materialism which gave to humanity- and especially to the working class- a powerful weapon of knowledge. Marx- with the significant contribution of Engels- highlighted aspects of political economy that prominent bourgeois economists and scientists of the nineteenth century had failed to feature. As Lenin explained, “where the bourgeois economists saw a relation between things (the exchange of one commodity for another) Marx revealed a relation between people […] The doctrine of surplus-value is the corner-stone of Marx's economic theory”.
Although Marx's economic theory have been vindicated by History herself (e.g. the over-accumulation crises in capitalism etc.), the bourgeois propaganda still disputes the correctness of Marxist economics. However, even some of the most prominent representatives of bourgeois politics have admitted the truth about Marx.
Here is what Paul Craig Roberts, an acclaimed bourgeois economist and former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under President Reagan, wrote in 2009: “If Karl Marx and V.I.Lenin were alive today, they would be leading contenders for the Nobel Prize in economics. Marx predicted the growing misery of working people, and Lenin foresaw the subordination of the production of goods to financial apital’s accumulation of profits based on the purchase and sale of paper instruments. Their predictions are far superior to the “risk models” for which the Nobel Prize has been given and are closer to the money than the predictions of Federal Reserve chairmen, US Treasury secretaries, and Nobel economists, such as Paul Krugman, who believe that more credit and more debt are the solution to the economic crisis” (Counterpunch.org, 7 October 2009).
The man who could perfectly and precisely summarize the importance of the Marxist thought is, of course, the long-time companion of Marx, Friedrich Engels, with whom he co-authored some of the most significant theoretical works of the proletariat's revolutionary theory such as “The German Ideology” (1845), “The Holy Family”(1845) and the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848). Among other things, Engels noted in his farewell speech at Marx's grave in 1883: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history […] But that is not all. Marx also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem, in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in the dark”.
Refering to his own work, Marx was pointing out: “What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production (historische Entwicklungsphasen der Production), (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society” (Marx to J.Weydemeyer in New York, March 5, 1852).
The work of Karl Marx consisted the basis for the emergence of another great man- the leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, who further developed the theoretical work of Marx and Engels in the era of Imperialism thus composing the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism.
Marx's heritage became the foundation for the first socialist state in the world, the Soviet Union, while Marxism became the “moving wheel” for numerous popular movements across the world which aimed at social emancipation and the abolition of exploitation of man by man. Likewise, Karl Marx and his work inspired and influenced revolutionaries and extraordinary personalities-symbols of the 20th century's socialism- from Joseph Stalin to Ernst Telman and from Ernesto Che Guevara to Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minch.
Today, almost 28 years since the counterrevolutionary overthrows in the USSR and the socialist countries of eastern Europe, those who had predicted the “End of History” and the failure of socialism have been refuted. The prolonged, deep systemic crisis of capitalism and the immense contemporary problems rooted in the anarchy of capitalist production prove the correctness of Marxist thought. Being rotten and outdated, capitalism becomes more and more aggressive, creates and perpetuates economic crises, extended poverty, unemployment and war.
Karl Marx- the man who changed the world forever- has been totally vindicated by History and his revolutionary thinking is more timely than ever.
* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.