200 years after Marx’s birth, his worldview lives on

 
BY:Communist Party USA| May 5, 2018
200 years after Marx’s birth, his worldview lives on

200 years ago the basis was laid for a fundamental change in human relations. Revolutions in industry, commerce and science exploded on the world stage and brought with them renewed strivings for freedom’s democratic promise and the demand for social revolution to achieve them.

During these turbulent times, Karl Marx stepped into history – and soon changed it. In his dramatic personage a confluence new ideas, discoveries and events along with the burgeoning might of the working class combined in a new historic synthesis that in the midst of twists, turns, reversals, hesitations, long silences and leaps, made and continues to make its mark more deeply with the passing of each day.

A youthful encounter with Frederick Engels led to lifelong friendship and an enormous political association that helped birth the political life of the modern labor movement as embodied in the First and Second Internationals, (the International Workingmen’s Association and the Socialist International), an achievement that alone would have guaranteed both  a place in history. But there was more. Working together and basing themselves on the best economic, political, scientific and philosophical ideas of their times they conceived a new world outlook: the socialist and communist worldview and began to chart out a path to it through a radical critique of the capitalist system. In so doing they created an outlook and practice  that will last an entire epoch.

They published the Communist Manifesto, a best seller then and now: they organized, studied and planned; supporting every labor and democratic movement at home and abroad. They wrote; critiqued, agitated and proselytized. Marx had made an important discovery, the concept of surplus value, the fact that workers earn back only a fraction of what they produce during the workday and with it the secret to unwinding what they termed the “exploitation of labor” the capitalist appropriation the major portion of what is produced.

It was the basis of the modern class struggle, the source of inevitable conflict, whose resolution demanded a social revolution in favor of the working class. It was a startling idea, brilliantly conceived and creatively executed to the great displeasure of the existing order forcing both revolutionaries into exile after the attempts at revolution in 1848.

But they pushed on from abroad with Marx in England; agitating for a shorter work day, an end to human slavery; full suffrage for women, and independence for oppressed nations. “No nation can be free so long as it oppresses other nations,” wrote Marx.

Most of all they championed the independent, and leading role of the working class and fought for it to position itself as the leading force against the ills of this society and the fight for a new one.

Marx’s work was untiring; in the midst of political and organizational  efforts, he set himself the task of critiquing the entire capitalist economy, in his three-volume Capital. “There is no royal road to science,” he said to those who found it too difficult, “It requires hard work.”  Among Capital’s brilliant polemics was a deep understanding of the role of labor in the struggle for democracy: “Labor in the white skin cannot be free, so long as labor in the black skin is branded” demanded Marx. The liberation of one was central to the liberation of the other.

He went further and condemned the turning of  Africa into a “warren for hunting of black skins” denouncing  the rape of India along with the looting of indigenous America.

Marx took the side of the Union in our country’s Civil War and corresponded with Abraham Lincoln. He and Engels worked with British labor in the anti-slavery movement. They hailed the defeat of the slavocracy and applauded Reconstruction.

Where there was a struggle for justice; there you’d find them: supporting independence for Ireland and bemoaning anti-Irish prejudice in the British labor movement.

When revolution came to the streets of Paris, they gave the French communards each and every support.  The Commune’s defeat at the cost of 30,000 murdered affected them deeply leading Marx to demand the necessity of a working-class led state as a fundamental feature of the new socialist society.

Both he and Engels did not stop there. They continued their work and study, adding ever fresh experiences to the growing body of working-class knowledge. They welcomed the growth of the labor movement in Germany, the successful use of the franchise and questioned the viability of insurrection in such circumstances. They foresaw the possibility of revolution in Russia.

Marx’s death was a heavy blow. “What great heart has ceased to beat,” said Engels.  Yet the modern communist movement beat on as the history of the 20th century unfolded with both the great victories of the October Revolution, its enormous achievements, followed by China and influencing decolonization throughout the world and of course Cuba.

At the same time there were  defeats from which the students of Marx continue to draw lessons, making adjustments, at times unevenly, often painfully,  slowly, but steadily, as workers, employing the method and analysis to practice.

Today both old and new challenges confront and confirm Marx’s legacy.  200 years later workers increasingly are able to assume leadership of their independent parties drawing on Marx, Engels, Lenin and also the women and men of their respective countries, people like Ho Chi Minh, W.E.B. Du Bois, Fidel Castro, Rosa Luxemberg, Nelson Mandela, Claudia Jones, and Angela Davis.

200 years later Marx’s influence extends beyond the worker’s movement influencing myriad forms of human endeavor, from philosophy to history; from political economy to sociology, from anthropology to chaos theory. It is the most influential worldview in human history.

In this bicentennial year of Marx’s birth the joining of the labor and democratic movements fueled by the growth of the internet and social media, grow even more in importance as women, people of color and immigrants demand an end to male supremacy, racism, homophobia and anti-immigrant hatred.

Today, as literally millions of young people see renewed hope in socialism his method of analysis and fight for unity in practice is increasingly important as we confront the threat to the planet and our existence with global warming and nuclear annihilation along with assaults on democracy by the Trump far and fascist-minded right.

Today, Marx’s famous prediction regarding the growing monopolization of the economy, and concentration of wealth along with the growing inequality and stagnation of wages ring consistently true.

The great scholar and activist Dr. Du Bois wrote that “no universal selfishness can bring social good for all. Communism, the effort to give all what they need and to ask each the best they can contribute, this is the only way of human life.”

Lenin once wrote that “Marxism is omnipotent because it is true.” It remains a living science, changing, unfolding, adapting, revolutionizing the world. In the words of the old spiritual, “Its truth goes marching on.”

 

Author

    The Communist Party USA is a working class organization founded in 1919 in Chicago, IL.

    The Communist Party stands for the interests of the American working class and the American people. It stands for our interests in both the present and the future. Solidarity with workers of other countries is also part of our work. We work in coalition with the labor movement, the peace movement, the student movement, organizations fighting for equality and social justice, the environmental movement, immigrants rights groups and the health care for all campaign.

    But to win a better life for working families, we believe that we must go further. We believe that the American people can replace capitalism with a system that puts people before profit — socialism.

    We are rooted in our country's revolutionary history and its struggles for democracy. We call for "Bill of Rights" socialism, guaranteeing full individual freedoms.

Comments (2)

C | May 17, 2018 at 3:24 PM

I’m fairly late, but I must say that I love this article!

BH | May 08, 2018 at 6:36 AM

Happy Birthday Dr. Marx.

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