.. to the Critique of Political Economy. Marx’s “political isolation” ended when he joined the International Working Men’s Association. Although he was neither the founder nor the leader of this organization, he “became its leading spirit” and as the corresponding secretary for Germany, he attended all meetings. Marx’s distinction as a political figure really came in 1870 with the Paris Commune.
He became an international figure and his name “became synonymous throughout Europe with the revolutionary spirit symbolized by the Paris Commune.” An opposition to Marx developed under the leadership of a Russian revolutionist, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin. Bakunin was a famed orator whose speeches one listener described as “a raging storm with lightning, flashes and thunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions.” Bakunin admired Marx’s intellect but was personally opposed to him because Marx had an “ethnic aversion” to Russians. Bakunin believed that Marx was a “German authoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted to transform the General council into a personal dictatorship over the workers.” Bakunin organized sections of the International for an attack on the “dictatorship” of Marx and the General Council. Marx didn’t have the support of a right wing and feared that he would lose control to Bakunin. However, he was successful at expelling the Bakuninists from the International and shortly, the International died out in New York.
During the next decade of his life, his last few years, Marx was beset by what he called “chronic mental depression” and “his life turned inward toward his family.” He never completed any substantial work during this time although he kept his mind active, reading and learning Russian. In 1879, Marx dictated the preamble of the program for the French Socialist Workers’ Federation and shaped much of its content. During his last years, Marx spent time in health resorts and dies in London of a lung abscess on March 14, 1883, after the death of his wife and daughter. Marx’s work seems to be more of a criticism of Hegelian and other philosophy, than as a statement of his own philosophy. While Hegel felt that philosophy explained reality, Marx felt that philosophy should be made into reality, an hard thing to do. He thought that one must not just look at and inspect the world, but must try to transform the world, much like Jean Paul Sartre’s view that “man must choose what is best for the world; and he will do so.” Marx is unique from other philosophers in that he chooses to regard man as an individual, a human being.
This is evident in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. There, he declares that man is a “natural being” who is endowed with “natural [and] vital powers” that “exist in him as aptitudes [and] instincts.” Humans simply struggle with nature for the satisfaction of man’s needs. From this struggle comes man’s awareness of himself as an individual and as something separate from nature. So, he seeks to oppose nature. He sees that history is just the story of man creating and re-creating himself and sees that man creates himself, and that a “god” has no part in it. Thus, the communist belief in no religion.
Marx also says that the more man works as a laborer, the less he has to consume for himself because his “product and labor are estranged” from him. Marx says that because the work of the laborer is taken away and does not belong to the laborer, the laborer loses his “rightful existence” and is made alien to himself. Private property becomes a product and cause of “alienated labor” and through that, causes disharmony. “Alienated labor is seen as the consequence of market product, the division of labor, and the division of society into antagonistic classes.” So, capitalism, which encourages the possession of private property, encourages alienation of man. Capitalism, which encourages the amassment of money, encourages mass production, to optimize productivity.
Mass production also intensifies the alienation of labor because it encourages specialization and it makes people view the workers not as individuals but as machines to do work. It is this attitude that incites the uprisings of the lower classes against the higher classes, namely, the nobility. Regarding Marx’s attitude toward religion, he thought that religion was simply a “product of man’s consciousness” and that it is a reflection of the situation of a man who “either has not conquered himself or has already lost himself again.” Marx sums it all up in a famous quote, stating that religion is “an opium for the people.” Marx’s hypothesis of historical materialism contains this maxim; that “It is not the consciousness of men which determines their existence; it is on the contrary their social existence which determines their consciousness.” Marx has applied his theory of historical materialism to capitalist society in both The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, among others. Marx never really explained his entire theory through but taking the text literally, “social reality” is arranged in this way: That underlying our society is economic structure; and That above the foundation of economy rises “legal and political forms of social consciousness” that relate back to the economic foundation of society. An interesting mark of Marx’s analysis of economy is evidenced in Das Kapital, where he “studies the economy as a whole and not in one or another of its” parts and sections. His analysis is based on the precept of man being a productive entity and that “all economic value comes from human labor.” Marx speaks of capitalism as an unstable environment. He says that its development is accompanied by “increasing contradictions” and that the equilibrium of the system is precarious as it is to the internal pressures resulting from its development. Capitalism is too easy to tend to a downward spiral resulting in economic and social ruin.
An example of the downward spiral in a capitalist society is inflation. Inflation involves too much currency in circulation. Because of inflation and the increase in prices of goods resulting from it, the people of the society hoard their money which, because that money is out of circulation, causes more money to be printed. The one increases the effect of the other and thus, the downward spiral. Marx views revolution with two perspectives.
One takes the attitude that revolution should be a great uprising like that of the French revolution. The other “conception” is that of the “permanent revolution” involving a “provisional coalition” between the low and higher classes. However, an analysis of the Communist Manifesto shows inconsistencies between the relationship of permanent and violent revolution; that Marx did not exactly determine the exact relationship between these two yet. Aside from the small inconsistencies in Marx’s philosophy, he exhibits sound ideas that do seem to work on paper but fail in the real world where millions of uncertainties contribute to the error in every social experiment on Earth. Communism never gets farther than socialism in its practice in the real world and that is where the fault lies, in the governments that try to cheat the system while still maintaining their ideal communist society.