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Another Look at Marxism
Class Struggle-An Observable Truth
Karl Marx stated in his Communist Manifesto that German Socialism is the “True” Socialism. He stated that, “In Germany, the petty-bourgeois class, a relic of the sixteenth century, and since then constantly cropping up again under the various forms, is the real social basis of the existing state of things. To preserve this class is to preserve the existing state of things in Germany.” While the political conclusions that follow from Communism, Socialism, and Marxism are debatable, the historical arguments on class struggle are an observable truth, even in today’s modern society.
Since its conception, Communism, Socialism, and Marxism, have been vilified as a danger to society. However, Capitalism, while giving the illusion of freedom, has really been just another form of enslavement. The rise of industry in the late nineteenth century gave birth to, and paved the way for capitalism to prosper. In response, German thinkers like Karl Marx saw the unfairness of the bourgeoisie owning all the property while the proletariat, who made this possible, lived in poverty. We see a similar problem today as in the form of the Occupy Wall Street movement which criticizes the fact that 1% of the population is the elite property owners and 99% of the population is the proletariat—at least in the United States which is the poster boy of capitalism today. In a time where the gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider, it would seem that Marx's claims have been proven true.
America, Home of the Free?
Other German Marxist Thinkers
The founding father of communism, Karl Marx, was concerned with class struggle. In his Communist Manifesto he suggests that the most important type of relationship throughout history is that of the oppressor and the oppressed. His solution was to abolish property but in order to do that there had to be a revolution. While his solution is debatable, his concern that the bourgeoisie has been the oppressor to the proletariat, and will continue to be an oppressor if allowed to, is legitimate. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer shared a similar view with Marx but they saw the instigator for the bourgeoisie as the mass culture industry in the United States in the 1950’s. He claimed in The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, that mass culture is a monopoly whose, “…violence becomes more open, so its power grows.” Adorno and Horkheimer saw the mass culture industry the way Marx saw the manufacturing industry—as a system that was designed to make elites out of a few and slaves out of the majority. The Red Army Faction also shared this concern in the 1970’s. What the Red Army Faction and Karl Marx shared in common was that they believed power should be in the hands of the people, the proletarians, and not just a few chosen elites—the bourgeoisie. Like Marx, they saw class struggle as the result of capitalist greed, and like Adorno and Horkheimer, they were well aware that modern materialism was a trap to perpetuate the enslavement of the working class.
More extremist views, like those of the Red Army Faction, are equally founded on legitimate concerns. In Germany in the 1960’s, the German people were divided between capitalism and socialism in the most empirical way—a wall literally divided the two Germanies along with their ideologies. The West was seen as a monster set out to destroy German kultur, and the East was portrayed, by Communists and Socialists, as the practical solution to the plague of Capitalism.Such a visible reminder of this class warfare perhaps made it hard to ignore the fact that maybe this guerrilla group had a reason to be concerned. Their extremist response, however, was to become German guerillas and force people to see society their way even if it meant using violence. This is not necessarily a solution that I support because violence only begets more violence, but I can certainly sympathize with their concern. Now more than ever capitalist greed is at the forefront of every discussion with economic and political overtones. The Red Army Faction were also very concerned with the illusion that government serves the people when in reality they are just serving themselves. Again, this concern seems to be prevalent today. Many times throughout the history of Germany the worry was that the government would turn fascist. It was especially a concern in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. Here in the United States we currently have that same worry.
Is Marxism Making a Comeback?
As you can see, I've paired modern propagandist style posters, better known today as memes on the internet, with quotes from Marxist texts to illustrate that the German concerns of one hundred fifty years ago are the same today here in the United States, and perhaps with more reason. This article is intended to comment on class warfare as we better understand it today—the rich against the poor and the dead end cycle that we are all trapped in. Given some of the negative connotations that go along with words like socialism and communism, it is understandable that most people may initially scoff at such a comparison, but, it is hard to argue with the non-political points about class struggle that Marx, Adorno, and other Marxist writers make. The images, or memes, that I have selected were all found on the internet. Essentially, what I want to illustrate with these images and quotes is that this concern is not a modern one. It has been around, as Karl Marx stated, throughout all of history. I hope that the person reading this will go away with a better understanding of the realities of our culture society and the purpose for it. It is not my intention to convince anyone that Communism or Socialism is necessarily better, but I do see the benefits of some of the ideas behind these ideologies. In a sense, class struggle is an observable truth in society and Marxism is just one view that provides a rational understanding of it, so my intention is to enlighten the viewer.
Power to the People!
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