I make no pretenses: I detest communism. It is a noble concept, but it is one that cannot work without a radical change in human consciousness, and I don’t want to be lobotomized.
Communism was destined to fail even before it was implemented, because it was based on a fundamentally defective postulation about human nature. The assumption was that human beings would behave “unselfishly,” as defined by Marxist-Leninists, if only political leaders with determination held guns to peoples’ heads and forced them to act “unselfishly.” Communism failed because human beings cannot and will not be psychologically subjugated or physically coerced into behaving “unselfishly.” Leaders, who coerce others into behaving “unselfishly”, will behave according to their basic human nature. They will impose their own selfish values of “unselfishness” upon others, and call it a “selfless service.”
All philosophers are products of their time and place and Karl Marx was no different. His communist theory was created by what his perceptions and understanding of his environment. The Communist Manifesto is not so much a how to book on the functioning of communism, but an explanation of why communism will happen. Marx’s design is essentially quite simple, but its application has never been realized.
Karl Marx lived in Germany during the pinnacle of its industrial revolution. As with many countries in Europe during the industrial era, Germany had poverty, labor abuse and exploitation. Marx understood that all of human history was defined by the separation of the classes. Although in different time periods; classes have always existed: patricians and plebeians, lords and serfs, but the basic relationship always existed, oppressor and oppressed, owner and slave.
The industrial period was unique considering the nature of the work. For the first time in human history, the social classes were not dependent on an agriculturally based market. The new oppressors were the bourgeoisie, or the middle managers of the factories. The oppressed were the proletariat, or the working class. The proletariat had a power none of the other oppressed peoples or the before eras possessed, they controlled the production of the goods. If the proletariat stopped producing, the bourgeoisie could do nothing except hand over control. In previous eras if the oppressed stopped farming, they would die. The revolution of the proletariat was the first step in Marx’s theory. By taking control of the means of production the proletariat would control the economy.
The second step of Marx’s theory was the dictatorship of the proletariat. Since the bourgeoisie would not be simple to eradicate, the proletariat needed to assure they could never regain power. Since the bourgeoisie did not have the numbers or the means of manufacturing needed to effectively retake power they would need to use the one skill they had, manipulation. Marx believed the proletariat needed to establish a totalitarian government so the bourgeoisie could not manipulate and usurp back into power.
Once all bourgeoisie were purged, a process that would take a few generations, step three could occur. In step three the proletariat dictatorship would voluntarily abdicate and a classless, stateless communist system would be fashioned. This was seen by Marx as the final evolution of human society.
There are a number of arguments as to why communism, as Marx described it, has never been achieved. Most focus on human nature and the fact that people are not essentially altruistic or sharing at their core. But there are many more practical reasons. For one, the proletariat revolution would have to be global. In order to eliminate the threat of a bourgeoisie counter revolution, all bourgeoisie would have to be washed out and not just in one country. Observably, this mass uprising did not occur. How could it when the poor and impoverished, if given food and shelter by the bourgeoisie would fight against the uprising? Give them shelter, food, things to blow-up…college tuition and a nifty uniform combined with the blind idealism of undying patriotism, and you could snuff out a revolution OF the poor BY the poor.
Another reason Marx’s theory has never culminated is because it has never been followed. All of the countries that have ever been called communist or still claim to be communist never met Marx’s standards. Russia was far from an industrialized economy in 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution was lead by a small group of largely middle class intellectuals, not industrialized labor. China, in 1949, was even farther behind in industrialization than Russia. The Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong adapted Marx’s theories for an agrarian peasantry, not an industrialized labor force.
When the reality of the situation is not even close to the criteria of the theory, the end result cannot be what the theory describes. In fact, not a single country that has ever called itself “communist” has ever advanced to true communism as according to Marx.