Abolition of private property?

BY: Scott Hiley| January 4, 2018
Abolition of private property?
QThe father of communism Karl Marx says in his Manifesto of the Communist Party "In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." People are not going to be handing over their private property voluntarily to the communists. This will only happen at gun point once the communists are in power. So why do you say that communism is not violent ? “Political power grows out of the barrel of the gun...” ― A quote from Mao Zedong the father of communist China.
AThanks for writing in.  The phrase from Marx that you cite has been twisted and misinterpreted to serve the ends of the ruling class. The private property that Marx is talking about is private ownership of things like factories, banks, and railroads, which allow their owners to make money from the work of other people.  He has (and we have) no problem with working people accumulating  the sort of stuff needed for a comfortable life.  In fact, making life better for working people is what we're all about.  As Marx says, under capitalism, "private property has already been abolished for nine-tenths of the population." In other words, as long as the economy is run by a few wealthy people in their own interest, the working class won't be able to achieve prosperity.

And he was right!  Look at the Great Recession: banks drove us into an economic crisis by peddling subprime mortgages so that they could repackage the debt as an investment product.  They got rescued by the government, while the working class faced unemployment, foreclosure, loss of retirement savings...  And now, the GOP has passed a tax bill that shifts the tax burden to working families, a form of confiscation.

So abolition of private property doesn't mean that someone comes to your house with a bag and a gun and collects your jewelry, or whatever.   Abolition of private property means stripping billionaire investors of the ability to get rich from our labor (and taking away their political power, as well)--just like the abolition of slavery was the abolition of private property in human beings.

As for the quote from Chairman Mao, it had some truth in his context.  The Chinese Revolution was an armed struggle to transfer power from one class to another.  Just like the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the Bolivarian independence struggle...  It does not describe our vision or our understanding of socialist revolution in the United States.  Violence is the weapon of the capitalist class. We counter it with solidarity, education, mass mobilization, and the struggle to advance democracy and collective participation.

Sorry for the long response.  Hope this helps clarify things a bit.



Image:  a street sign in Berlin honors Marx and Engels, authors of the Communist Manifesto and founders of scientific socialism. Creative Commons.

    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

Comments (8)

Dino Feldman | January 12, 2018 at 3:06 AM

The violence exists with capitalism,99% are pillaged by capitalists..To take from them the means of production which cause powerty it is justice.

Rachel | January 09, 2018 at 2:14 PM

So obviously that means the communists will be taking over Apple Inc, Exxon, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, Chevron Corp,, Walmart, AT&T, Proctor and Gamble Co. Johnson & Johnson and other billionaire companies.

And how exactly will that be done non violently?

Will the millions of ordinary people who are also owners of these companies through their shares of stock just give up this private property voluntarily?

And since you can not point to any companies created under communism that come close to rivaling the above companies I’ve listed what makes you think communists can do a better job?

In the capitalist system the customer is the master and the companies must satisfy the customer or lose business. The capitalist system is a democratic economic system because it is decentralized economic system where the people who make up the economy make the economic decisions and via the price mechanism determine the supply and demand of goods and service. Unlike communism where government central planning committees make the economic decisions. Communist central planning committees have no rational basis for deciding prices of goods and services, production quotas, distribution, wages, prioritizing production or even what should and should not be produced. This is because communists do not believe in a market economy.

Mike Magee | January 07, 2018 at 5:34 PM

It is a good reply, but we must accept that there is almost always violence in the course of a revolution precisely because the rich and wealthy who control the government will resist it. The working people and middle classes do not want violence, but it is usually something that the ruling class force on to them. And, of course, when they respond to ruling class violence they are then accused of being the instigators of it.

    Joe Sims | January 09, 2018 at 10:00 PM

    The point for us is that we strive, work for, a peaceful transition.

      Rachel | January 10, 2018 at 11:59 AM

      Be serious Joe, “taking over Apple Inc, Exxon, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, Chevron Corp,, Walmart, AT&T, Proctor and Gamble Co. Johnson & Johnson and other billionaire companies.” could never be done in a a peaceful transition.

      Do you think people will just decide one day that companies like Apple and Microsoft started in a garage by people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would work better being run by the communists. And the next day they hand over the keys to the communists and say you are in charge now. Under communism state-owned enterprises have been dismal failures. That is not a track record that inspires people to choose communism.

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      Svante Vitold | January 12, 2018 at 2:38 AM

      So instead of one greedy idiot at helm we will have millions of them fighting pulling it in all directions

    Rachel | January 10, 2018 at 11:54 AM

    You at least acknowledge that Karl Marx’s “Abolition of private property” will require violence. And you also acknowledge that under the communist system you are no longer entitled to the fruits of your labor since the state will claim ownership and the right of distribution. Unlike the capitalist system where you are entitled to the fruits of your labor and don’t need the state’s permission.

gary Mueller | January 05, 2018 at 4:47 PM

Dear Scott, that was a wonderful answer, I hope it does not fall upon deaf ears.

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