Marx was wrong?

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Marx was wrong?

Post by Egalitarian on Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:10 pm

I have heard some assert Marx was wrong because the proletariat's living standards improved and society did not tear itself apart from bourgeois institutions. I plan on expanding this point...as for it is now, what can be said to refute it? I conjured up a counter-argument around the like of stating an improvement for the working class doesn't mean someone somewhere else isn't flourishing better (every 10 steps we take, a 1000 they take). A more logical reason exists perhaps?

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Re: Marx was wrong?

Post by Rev Scare on Fri Nov 02, 2012 11:14 pm

Marx was not wrong. Contesting Marx's immiseration thesis is a favorite bourgeois tactic used to discredit Marxism and extol capitalism. It is a straw man. Firstly, Marx clearly referred to the continued alienation of labor as much as exploitation. Technological progress (i.e., increasing productivity) has resulted in the cheapening of basic commodities, but this does not contradict the fact that in a relative sense, capital, and therefore wealth, becomes concentrated in fewer hands, resulting in the comparative impoverishment of the working class. Marx also never maintained that workers could not organize themselves so as to increase their collective bargaining power and demand higher wages and superior conditions. However, as the present distribution of wealth in the United States demonstrates, we have returned to a state that, relatively speaking, resembles the age of robber baron capitalism toward the end of the 19th century, without the concomitant rise in real wages.

There is a thread on the immiseration thesis in the Theory section.

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Re: Marx was wrong?

Post by Egalitarian on Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:00 pm

Precisely what I was thinking. Although living and working conditions may increase, they do so at the cost of further exploitation (grovel to the elites more).

How about the manifestation of Leninism in the early 20th century? It appears to have obviously not been developed in accordance to Marxian laid down historical determinism. Professors I know have insisted the framework of the October Revolution has attested to contradictions in socialist theory.

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"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."


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Re: Marx was wrong?

Post by Rev Scare on Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:53 pm

Egalitarian wrote: How about the manifestation of Leninism in the early 20th century? It appears to have obviously not been developed in accordance to Marxian laid down historical determinism. Professors I know have insisted the framework of the October Revolution has attested to contradictions in socialist theory.

The socialist movement and Marxism are far too broad to refer to unitary "contradictions." (If neoclassical economic theory were appraised realistically and without any ideological underpinning, that is, if it were judged objectively, it would be exposed as a pitiful failure.) Marx and Engels were perhaps too optimistic about the likelihood of revolution in their lifetimes, but this was understandable: in addition to being great thinkers, both were committed political activists who wished to witness real social change. Marx, moreso than Engels, stressed the need for working class (socialist) consciousness as a prerequisite for proletarian revolution, whereas Engels gravitated more toward the view that capitalism's internal contradictions, by way of its crises, would spur the proletariat to action of its own accord, but he gradually came to relax this notion as he grew older.

Lenin, coming of age (politically) during the "golden age" of Western capitalism, saw no revolution in sight. Instead, he described a "trade-union consciousness" gripping the working class, stifling revolutionary potential, and he criticized the reformist social democratic parties for upholding this complacency. If anything, the concept of historical determinism, falsely attributed to Marx, applies more aptly to the reformists, who espoused an "evolutionary" and gradual path to socialism, subscribing to a farce known as "revolutionary waiting." Needless to say, Lenin rejected this interpretation and formulated his own theory of the vanguard party (which had some basis in the writings of Marx) to successfully lead a socialist revolution. As far as I am concerned, Leninism was not a departure from Marxism, but merely Lenin's evaluation and addition to Marxist theory. It was certainly not revisionist.

Another proponent of the idea that socialist consciousness must impel revolution through political organizing was the British Marxist economist and leading member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, Edgar Hardcastle. Though an opponent of Leninism, he stressed the need for political activism and anti-reformism. While I disagree with Hardcastle's view that the capitalist "system will stagger on indefinitely," I do not find it realistic to expect that socialism will emerge from "spontaneous" action on the part of the proletariat or as the inevitable result of capitalism's eventual demise. Historical experience discounts such fantasies.

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Re: Marx was wrong?

Post by GreenBowman on Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:13 am

Certainly not to antagonize anyone here but one thing I do notice that worries me, not just here but with the RevLeft in general and that is a sort knee-jerk combativeness with regards to the questioning of Marx. I do not consider myself a Marxist, I do agree with some of his insights, and I suppose the overall anti-capitalst sentiment in his writings is nice to take in sometimes (I read Kropotkin for the same reason, don't like Bakunin's style of writing much though. A little too aggressive) But surely if a path emerges to emancipate workers and build a classless, egalitarian, and democratic society than it should be taken even if it does deviate significantly from a Marxist approach.

Perhaps I'm missing something but the unwillingness to deviate from Marx that I've seen some Hardline Marxists take seems to show loyalty to Methodology than the intend result of said methodology.

Why is this?

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Re: Marx was wrong?

Post by Lumpenproletariat on Sat May 04, 2013 7:04 pm

Egalitarian wrote:I have heard some assert Marx was wrong because the proletariat's living standards improved and society did not tear itself apart from bourgeois institutions.
That is a terrible argument.

In the U.S. the slaves of the 19th century had a significantly higher living standard than those of the 18th century. Is this supposed to be an argument for slavery? In fact even in Hitler-Germany the living standard increased sharply and rapidly. Is this supposed to be an argument for fascism? Same goes for capitalism. Our living standard is constantly increasing - at least statistically. Is that supposed to be an argument for capitalism?
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Re: Marx was wrong?

Post by Rev Scare on Thu May 09, 2013 9:42 pm

GreenBowman wrote:Certainly not to antagonize anyone here but one thing I do notice that worries me, not just here but with the RevLeft in general and that is a sort knee-jerk combativeness with regards to the questioning of Marx. I do not consider myself a Marxist, I do agree with some of his insights, and I suppose the overall anti-capitalst sentiment in his writings is nice to take in sometimes (I read Kropotkin for the same reason, don't like Bakunin's style of writing much though. A little too aggressive) But surely if a path emerges to emancipate workers and build a classless, egalitarian, and democratic society than it should be taken even if it does deviate significantly from a Marxist approach.

Perhaps I'm missing something but the unwillingness to deviate from Marx that I've seen some Hardline Marxists take seems to show loyalty to Methodology than the intend result of said methodology.

Why is this?

Certainly, the Left has its share of dogmatists and sectarians. This is perhaps palpable on Revleft, but I do not believe it to be the case on this forum. To the extent to which those of us who consider ourselves Marxists defend his work, it is invariably because of misinterpretations and misrepresentations of it. We find value in Marx and, of course, Engels' thought, but I, for one, certainly do not consider either infallible. Considering their mortal limitations, there are aspects of their work that are incomplete (e.g., crisis theory, the projected plan of Capital) and vague (e.g., socialism, nationalism, revolution) which subsequent "Marxists" have struggled to grapple with and often clashed. It is a living theory, however, and should be treated as such, open to evolve and be refined, but if one wishes to challenge it, they had better present a coherent and compelling argument, not the usual caricatures, platitudes, and twaddle that those of us who follow in the Marxist tradition must contend.

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