Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Is Marxism And Democracy Are Incompatible Politics Essay

Is Marxism And Democracy Are Incompatible Politics Essay Karl Marx is widely thought of as the modern pioneer of the Socialist  movement. His theory of radical social  change through upheaval and class  struggle has undoubtedly left its mark on the history of the world. Countries  such as Russia, Yugoslavia, Albania and Cambodia have all attempted to use his  model of Socialism. There are  some present states such as Cuba, China and North  Korea that would still be considered Communist. The  question of whether or not  Marxism is compatible with democracy is in effect two questions.  Ã‚  First whether  Marxism can be brought  about within a pre-existing democratic framework and secondly whether democracy  can  endure and thrive within a Marxist regime. As  a starting point, it should be noted that there are a number of different  models of Marxism, including many  formulated since the death of Marx.  Ã‚  I will initially focus on the model as  formulated by Marx himself, discussing  some of the conte xt in which he wrote  and then I will then consider different critiques of the models that followed  Marxs writing. The term democracy is made up of the two Latin words Kratos  (which means rule) and demos (which means  by the people). Democracy is  widely defined by five key features: participation through elections, open and  fair  competition for power, avoiding tyranny of either the rulers or the  majority, ensuring accountability of government  and providing a forum for  discussion of political issues.  Whilst there are many different forms of democracy, Marx  wrote extensively on his critique of liberal democracy  and of the menace of Capitalism  in  The Communist Manifesto. Marx  refers to the abolition of the state through  radical change and social  upheaval. This change is needed because Marx contends that laws are made for  and  serve in the interest of the bourgeoisie. He writes the executive of the  modern state is but a committee for  managing the common affairs of the whole  bourgeoisie'[1]and that  the first step in the revolution by the working  class is to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class to win  the battle of democracy.[2] As a starting point for a  critique of Marxisms compatibility within a pre-existing democratic framework, it is clear that, for Marx,  winning the  battle of democracy is not about playing within the rules of  democracy. The  radical uprising and  social upheaval he  talks of in  The  Communist Manifesto  involves power being seized by the workers from  the ruling classes by  revolutionary and non-democratic means. Whilst the  Marxist- Leninists of the early 20th  century would say that  this  would be the lesser of two evils and that social harmony would be reached in  the end, the road by which  they achieved this would be undemocratic. Marx talks at length in  The Communist Manifesto  about the means  in which the proletariat would seize the  power. He explains that they would  abolish all private property, income tax, inheritance rights and ultimately the  class system. An aspect of Marxs vision that one could argue is democratic is  the way that he critiques  Capitalism in terms of the way the individual is  suppressed by the employer. He holds that in a truly democratic  society people  would be able to create  what ever they wanted and  that through the abolition of social classes  people would become individuals,  creative and free. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and  class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development  of each is the condition for the  free development of all.'[3]  Carol Pearce writes that the desirability of Marxism  lies in  Ã‚  the freedom of the  individual to express their own tastes and perso nality, explore her own  interests, and thus develop her human  potential.[4]  Whilst there are other positive aspects of the Marxist  utopian vision that our modern society would  advocate, such as the abolition of  child labour, the growth of individual freedom and (for some) the state control  of the transport networks, there are many aspects of the Marxist utopian vision  that do not coincide with a truly  democratic society. The question at hand also seeks to discover if democracy can  thrive in a Marxist regime, thus questioning its  compatibility with democracy.  Norman Geras (1987) asserts, it is an axiom that  Socialism should be democratic  [5], but  this assertion is not necessarily true.  It has been argued that Lenins and then Stalins interpretation of the  Marxist vision distorted  the original ideals of Marxism. Stephen Boner  (1990) explains in the chapter  Leninism  and Beyond  that at the time of the Bolshevik October revolution in 1917 the  Bolsheviks believed that democracy  would become the price for a premature  seizure of power under conditions of underdevelopment.[6]  However  Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist, primarily saw these events as, a  revolution against Marxs  Capital  [7].  This  is because of the fact that under Lenin there was to be a short cut'[8]  on the road to Socialism. In an ideal social  revolution, Marx explained in  Capital[9],  there would be gradual changes in order to reach true social democracy  but this  was not the case in terms of the October Revolution and critics of Lenins brand  of Communism have  affirmed that there are no short cuts to achieving a true  Marxist society. Lenins successor Stalin  is also interesting to look at when discussing the democratic accountability of  the  Russian Socialist state in the years that followed. Stalins dictatorship  is well known for the cult of personality,  his collectivisation policies, the  mass death (from the famines that followed this policy) and the large-scale  work camps for prisoners (the gulag system) that he created. Whilst Stalinists  would have claimed that this  was being done in the interest of the policy they  called Socialism in one country, which would in the end  strengthen the Soviet  position in the world (with the aim that that the ideals of Socialism would  ultimately  spread), there are clearly many aspects deeply flawed with Stalins  interpretation of Marxism on a  humanitarian level and the consequences that followed. When considering the humanitarian implications of Marxism  it is worthwhile to compare the different forms of  Communism that have emerged  up in the 21st  century. While Lenin focused on the needs of the  working class as  the ruling class the dictatorship of the proletariat Mao in Communist China was concerned with the needs of the  peasantry.  Bernard-Henri Là ©vy, a French New  Philosopher, who became despondent with Marxism (he had  been a Maoist)  said there is: No socialism without camps, no classless society without its  terrorist truth.'[10] Ultimately one could argue  that all forms of Communism leads to the same place, namely that when the political state is  abolished via revolutionary activity and non-democratic means ultimately this  is followed by death, destruction of the people or that of their political  freedoms. Max Weber explains this notion: no ethics in the world can  dodge the fact that in numerous instances the attainment of good ends is  bound to  the fact that one must be willing to pay the price of using morally  dubious means or at least dangerous ones   and facing the possibility of evil  ramification  [11] One of the main reasons one could argue that democracy is not  compatible within a Marxist framework is  because Marxism has never successfully  coexisted with democracy on a large scale. The federation of  communes that Marx  describes in his ideal social democracy is an institution, which under everyone  makes  decisions together a direct democracy. In this collective everyone  would have a say, however it could be  argued that in order for a society to  work you need people with expertise in certain fields or there would be social  chaos and nothing would be achieved.   One of the key events that influenced Marxs political  writings was the French Revolution.  Ã‚  Marx wrote near the  end of the 19th  century and it could be  suggested that it was the events of the hundred years before him that  shaped  many of his ideas. He had been born into time just after an age of democratic  revolution.[12]  The  American, English and French Revolutions had taken place in these years and  the democratic world seemed to  be a plethora of unrest and rebellion. Marx saw  and commented on what had happened at this time. He writes in  The Civil War in France  -part III  (1871) the features by term he  understands democracy. He wrote that the Paris  Commune that took place from 18th  March to 28th  May 1871 where the workers took control was a good  model  of democracy. Anarchists and Marxists are well known to celebrate this  form of direct democracy. One might argue that one of the only truly democratic models  where Marxism has been known to work in the world was within the  Kibbutz in Israel. The Kibbutz  is or at least was a form of Communism in which there are small communities  in  which the people work together for equal pay and for equal share of the  land. Originally these communes were  set up by the Russian refugees in the  early 20th  century many of which who were escaping persecution from  the  Russian Tsarist regime. They set up these communities that were based  around agriculture and with the strict  view that each person would receive a share  of whatever work they put into the community, a lot like Marxism. This  model,  although not entirely Marxist, is based on Marxs ideals of collective  responsibility and is thought of to be  one of the only known models of Marxism  that has successfully incorporated a democratic element, perhaps  because it is on  a small scale. Another way that one can  approach the question of Marxisms compatibility with democracy is to consider the  ways in which Marxism, as a form of social democracy designed by and for the  people, falls short of success.  Schumpter (1965) refers to the idea that  democracy is not an end in itself. The book  Can  Democracy Be  Designed?[13]  looks at the transitions to democracy from different societies and the  intuitional choices that are  made . Stable democratic societies  are  usually the product of natural democratic evolution. In the 1830s the  Peel-  and Pitt-ites who were anti revolutionary would have called it the organic  system of government and  society that works best and that is the most  stable.  Ã‚  Professor Mayo writes that  democratic societies are  economically advanced where the emphasis is on the  rights of the citizen and on freedom and tolerance.  Democracy of this kind has  evolved slowly and is the result of long historical struggles.  [14]  This means that because democracy comes about through slow development, that the violent change and class struggle that is associated with Marx is incompatible with the idea of democracy or it existing after a Marxist revolution. Marxism emphasises the need to restructure the economic  order and the way in which the workers relationship  with the employer is taken  advantage of.  Ã‚  The inconsistency  with democracy therefore lies in terms of taking the  power from the ruling class  and then everything naturally failing into place with democracy after such  radical  social change. This would seem to be  one of the major  problems with democracy and Marxisms compatibility.  Critics of Marxism  have said that the key incompatibility lies in terms when used together.  Ã‚  Joseph V.  Femia  writes, arent the two terms in the title mutually contradictory? Is Marxist  democracy not an oxymoron?'[15]  A  Marxian democracy if one were to exist would simply be a dictatorship of the  proletariat'[16]as Marx called it.  Ã‚  He explains that once the masses have taken control from the  bourgeois parliamentary government that the  dictatorship of the proletariat  has to be cruel, stern, bloody and painful  [17]and that in terms of Lenins legacy it  is difficult  to treat him as a philosopher of freedom'[18] Writer  Francis Fukuyama  (1992)  posits that  liberal  democracy  has continually confirmed to be a more successful  structure than any other system and that the world has entered the final stage of sociological development. He writes, The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a  paroxysm of  ideological violence which amounted in the Cold War to ,finally an updated  Marxism that threatened  to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war.'[19]  Perhaps the concept  that liberal democracies are the finalised and best-developed models of world than  that of Marx is true an extent but his theory falls short in other ways.  Fukuyamas  The End of History and Last of Man  states that the societies are in its final stage of development and that other models that have come before such as Marxism, the World has progressed past. Fukuyama states that ultimately society has reached the end of its development democratically with the end produ ct being what we have today. However one can argue that his suggestions are parochial in the sense that in every society people would have assumed that their understanding and development would be the final knowledge of the world as they knew it. To say that we may have progressed passed Marxism would be one assertion because perhaps due to what we have learnt from the dangers of Communism we have indeed developed past it. However to say that this is the end of history and that we have no more knowledge that will developed from democracies in the world is a narrow perspective no one can ever know what will happen next. This is even more so the case if we look according to what has happened in the world thus far. Usually it is out of the Capitalist or liberal democracies that comes the most revolutionary regimes in society such as Marxism. We can never know what will come next. Since the fall of the  Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War it seems there is a growing importance surrounding  the notion of democratic peace theory.  Democratic peace theory aims to explain  how and why  in the liberal democracies, states that are democratic generally do  not fight each other.[20]  However neo-Marxists such as  Imma nuel Wallerstein who is  a world systems theorist would say that it due to there being a  collective  interest for peace within these countries that world wars and rebellions do not break out. He also says that this is not supposedly to  do with the triumphs of liberal democracy but the fact that it is not in the economic interests of the most powerful countries to be at war. In essence the  question whether Marxism can be brought about and work within a pre-existing  democratic framework  Ã‚  and  if democracy can endure and thrive  within a Marxist regime is one that clashes because the two notions in both cases are incompatible. I think one of the fundamental arguments  in terms of  the apparent  eclipse of socialism is that Socialism has been superseded by other forms of government and ones that are more humanitarian, stable and that have worked for a longer time. Whilst it may be nice in some cases for a there to be direct democracy where people could vote on every issue they wanted to and for and some aspects of Marxism to be applied today, features of it would be impractical. If there were to be a referendum and monthly, weekly or daily commune I doubt this would work very well. Not only would decisions take a long time to be counted, but perhaps you need people in society with certain expertise like the men in parliament who we ent rust our civil liberties with. Not only can the failures of Marxism been seen and the impracticalities of a purely Socialist democracy , but also Marxism can be perceived as outdated. Aspects of the Capitalist world such as the competition that is created in the markets could be argued to be compatible with democracy as there is a genuine choice people face whether or not they enter into this competitive race. Democracy in terms of economics is something that Marx focuses heavily on, whilst seemingly failing to handle the social problems that inevitably arise from radicalism. His utopian vision is one that I believe is inherently incompatible with democracy. [1]  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1888)  The Communist Manifesto, Chapter 1, ed David Mc Lellan,  Oxford  Worlds Classics [2]  ibid Chapter 2 [3]  ibid Chapter 2 [4]  Carole Pearce (1991) A Critique of Marxism-Leninism as Theory and  Praxis,  Review of African  Political  Economy,  No. 50, Africa in a New World Order, pp.102-114, Taylor and  Francis Ltd   [5]  Norman Geras,(1987) Post Marxism?,  The New Left Review  163, May-June 1987 [6]  Stephen Eric Boner ,(1990)  Socialism Unbound  ,pg.87, Routledge: New  York [7]  Antonio Gramsci, The Revolution Against Capital in  Selections from Political Writings  1910-1920,  ed. Quinton Hoare, trans. John Mathews (New York, 1977), pp.34ff [8]  Stephen Eric Boner ,(1990)  Socialism Unbound  ,pg.87, Routledge, New  York [9]  Karl Marx (1867)  Capital  Vol. 1 [10]  Bernard-Henry Levy (1979)  Barbarism with a Human Face,  1st ed  ,New York:  Harper   Row, pp.155 [11]  Max Weber (1964) , Politics as a Vocation, in  From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology,  ed  H.H.Gerth and C.W.Mills, New York, 1964 p.121 [12]  R.R Palmer, (1969)  Age of the Democratic Revolution,  The: A Political History of Europe  and  America, 1760-1800: v. 1: Challenge,  Princeton: Princeton University Press [13]  Can Democracy Be Desgined?  (2003),,  Ed .Sunil Bastian and Robin Luckham,  Zed Books, London [14]  H. B. Mayo; Walter Bedell Smith (1957)  Democracy and Marxism  by  The  Philosophical Reviewà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã‚ ¨Vol.  66, No. 2 (Apr., 1957), pp. 268-271 [15]  Joseph V. Femia (1993)  Marxism  and democracy,à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã‚ ¬Ã‚  Oxford University Press: Oxford p.1 [16]  Marx (1852),  Letter to Weydemeyer [17]  Marx  Andrzej  Walicki  Ã‚  (1995)  Marxism and the Leap  to the Kingdom of Freedom  The Rise and Fall  of the Communist Utopia,  Standford Universtiy  Press: Chicago pp.280 [18]  ibid  Ã‚  pp.332 [19]  Fukuyama, Francis  (1992).  The  End of History and the Last Man. London: Penguin. [20]  Daniele  Archibugi(2008)  The Global Commonwealth of Citizens.  Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy,  Princeton University Press: Princeton

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