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.

Solidarity,

Scott

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

 
Author
    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 (24)

Sherri Dodsworth | February 14, 2018 at 3:06 AM

Regarding your quote “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.” Tell that to the people of Cuba who had everything they owned stolen from them by Castro. Tell that to the Venezuelans who are starving because of Communists destroying their once prosperous nation.

    Joe Sims | February 15, 2018 at 3:16 PM

    It’s simply not true that “everything” was taken from Cubans. Secondly the Communist Party of Venezuela is not the ruling party there. Capitalism is still dominant in the Venezuela’s economy.

Laura Jackson-Radford | February 09, 2018 at 12:34 PM

And yet, how interesting that even with Stalin’s ‘version’ of Marxism that the Soviet Union went from a feudal, agrarian system, to ONE OF TWO SUPERPOWERS…in just a few decades…

Obviously Communism won’t work…oh, wait–it DID.

James Nall | February 07, 2018 at 9:35 AM

great to see the answer, I appreciate clarification of what Marx actually meant. TY comrade

Earl Smithe | January 15, 2018 at 3:26 AM

Are there any successful business folks just eager to go the commie route? What about the wealthy person who worked hard and has 10 million $ in real estate? Will that be taken.

    Scott Hiley | February 02, 2018 at 1:45 PM

    No one gets ten million dollars by working hard–at least, no hard working person I’ve ever seen has ten million dollars. To make that kind of money, you need to be taking advantage of someone else’s work, paying them a wage while you take the fruits of their labor (or owning stock in a company that does so). So yeah, people who are making money from other people’s work will no longer be allowed to do so. How that happens (seizure? compensation? inheritance taxes?) depends on what course socialist revolution takes.

      Laura Jackson-Radford | February 06, 2018 at 6:07 PM

      Remember William Jennings Bryant saying that no body ever earned a million dollars honestly?

        Scott Hiley | February 08, 2018 at 1:32 PM

        Had seen that one. Might need to adjust it for inflation, but he’s right on. Was that in the “Cross of Gold” speech?

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.

    Cory Simenson | January 12, 2018 at 1:21 AM

    It’s fascinating that, one, you believe that the capitalist economic system is democratic; two, that capitalism in the United States is somehow decentralized considering 6 mega-corporations control almost every aspect of what we see, hear, eat, and how to think. So tell me again how the consumer is the master. Obviously a socialist system unique to the United States is not going to look anything like the former USSR, China, Cuba, Vietnam, or North Korea. Because of the Cold War, many in the Boomer and Gen X generations have come to equate Communism as a political system rather than an economic one. The owners and shareholders of every single one of the corporations would rather keep their billions. That it would be taken from them scares them to death. Not to mention that they don’t care how they get those billions. Did you know that child slave labor in Africa extracts the mineral it takes to make your smartphone work? That’s capitalism at work. It demonstrates how amoral the capitalist system is. The capitalist market economy is at the root of many of the ills (literally) in the United States. People die because they can’t afford the health insurance that is available in the market. The capitalism of greed is tearing the country to shreds and people like you defend it. I can only wonder how you benefit from such a morally bankrupt system.

      Laura Jackson-Radford | February 06, 2018 at 6:18 PM

      Bravo, well put!

    Michael Leone | January 13, 2018 at 10:25 PM

    >”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?”

    In a socialist society, all shares of ownership will be held in common through the state with everyone owning an equal share and receiving the dividends in the form of their social services, such as healthcare, childcare, education, housing, etc. etc. The transition could be done through various means, not all of which would necessitate crude forms of violence.

    >”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?”

    This isn’t true. There are many state-owned companies which exist in socialist states (particularly China) which are far superior to privately owned rivals. The transition to socialist ownership would not in itself necessitate an immediate change of how production is organized, although this would change in order to meet the greater needs of society as part of a general economic plan.

    >”In the capitalist system the customer is the master and the companies must satisfy the customer or lose business.”

    It’s true that market forces determine who stays in business under capitalism so long as markets are competitive. This isn’t negated by socialism.

    >”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.”

    This is not true of late stage capitalism in which the economy is dominated by monopolies (or more commonly oligopolies technically) who have eradicated competition. These industries become highly centralized, which is only natural in order to ensure stability and economic efficiency. As this happens, prices become increasingly detached from market forces and become inflated, which you can see in telecommunications, automobiles, even concert tickets, just to name a few examples. In late stage capitalism, price inflation by monopolies dominates the market. In socialism, by expropriating these monopolies from the capitalists and making them socialist property, the prices are deflated and the commodities are distributed on a social basis (i.e., free access to the individual (healthcare, transportation, internet, etc.) with more scarce commodities being distributed by both market and social means.

    >”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 isn’t true. Enterprises under capitalism also operate through internal planning mechanisms to efficiently allocate resources, such as what needs to be stocked on what shelves, etc. Under capitalism this is all done in order to maximize profit for the owners, who are separate from the workers. Under socialism, the workers are the owners and thus this is organized for their social benefit. Just as planning mechanisms can be prone to error under capitalism, so too are they under socialism and must be corrected or else lead to economic problems. Under socialism, however, resources must be allocated rationally to meet the needs of the entire society without any amount being siphoned off by absentee capitalists for their own private estates. While the fundamental social differences are stark, the logistical differences aren’t so stark as you pretend.

    >”This is because communists do not believe in a market economy.”

    This isn’t true either. It is true that market mechanisms play a reduced role in economic management under socialism, but that doesn’t mean that markets are abolished. In developing industries, markets are used in socialist societies to distribute resources. In fully developed industries in which markets are not necessary, commodities are distributed on a social basis with free access for the individual in a regulated and self-sustaining system.

    KB | January 31, 2018 at 10:09 PM

    Socialism means that the workers own and control the means of production. So when you say “the communists” will take over all those companies, I would correct it to say that those companies would be nationalized. They would be owned by the people, not by wealthy individuals. Those profits could instead provide a better life for all, rather than a luxurious life for a few. When industries are nationalized, the transfer of ownership happens just as you describe. It can be, and has been, done without violence.

    I admit I had a chuckle at your comment about no companies created under communism can come close to rivaling the companies you listed. I would say that private profit is not a measure of success, but of oppression. There is no “Apple” or “Exxon” of communism precisely because those sorts of corporations operate based upon the very practices that communists fight to end. We are anti-capitalist, and that means no more private profit. Does that mean that the world of business would look very different under communism? I’d certainly hope so. But the lack of exceedingly profitable companies under communism is a feature, not a bug.

    If you’re under the impression that capitalism is in any way democratic, you are unfortunately mistaken. Finally, you seem to be enamored with the idea that communism always includes a highly centralized planning mechanism for the economy. While yes, socialists do support planned economies, there is no reason at all for them to be centralized as they were in the Soviet Union and other 20th century communist states. In fact, there is no reason to think that 21st Century Communism would resemble the 20th Century variant at all – we’re far more developed now, and capable of better communication, more automation, etc. Communism belongs to the people, not to a ruling class (you’re thinking of capitalism), and we get to build the kind of society we’d like to live in.

    Laura Jackson-Radford | February 06, 2018 at 6:13 PM

    I think any millions of ordinary people probably are owners of tiny fraction of the IMMENSE and OBSCENELY bloated industries. I believe in peaceful revolution,, okay–but this IS a struggle, and these ARE our OPPRESSORS and CLASS ENEMIES. What do YOU feel like doing when you lose your home and a way to feed your kids…whilst the GOOMBAHS who caused the whole mess GET A MULTI BILLION TAXPAYER BAIL OUT?

    Put it in THOSE terms, perhaps.

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.

      See
      State-owned enterprises Fixing China Inc
      Reform of state companies is back on the agenda
      http://www.economist.com/news/china/21614240-reform-state-companies-back-agenda-fixing-china-inc

      “…Second, despite these advantages, SOEs have given progressively less bang for their buck. Faced with mounting losses in the 1990s, China undertook a first round of drastic reforms of its state-owned companies. There were mass closures of the weakest firms, tens of millions of lay-offs and stockmarket listings for many of the biggest which made them run a little more like private companies. That initially paid dividends. SOEs’ return on assets, a gauge of their productivity, rose from barely higher than zero in 1998 to nearly 7% a decade later, just shy of the private-sector average. But over the past five years, their fortunes have ebbed. Profitability of state companies has fallen, even as private firms have grown in strength. SOE returns are now about half those of their non-state peers. For an economy that, inevitably, is slowing as it matures, inefficient state companies are a dangerous extra drag. Jian Chang of Barclays says that putting SOEs right is “the most critical reform area for China in the coming decade”.”

      See
      6 $25 Billion Companies That Started in a Garage
      Every new company has to begin somewhere. These 6 world-famous ones–worth more than $25 billion each–started in garages.
      By Drew Hendricks
      https://www.inc.com/drew-hendricks/6-25-billion-companies-that-started-in-a-garage.html

        Michael Leone | January 13, 2018 at 10:42 PM

        >”Under communism state-owned enterprises have been dismal failures. That is not a track record that inspires people to choose communism.”

        This is patently false. Three of the top five largest companies in the world by revenue today are state-owned assets of the People’s Republic of China. Moreover, despite being far behind the US and other developed capitalist countries, the USSR had many successful enterprises (notably its space program) which transformed their backwards agrarian country only one generation removed from conditions which the west had not seen in centuries into the second most powerful industrial nation in the world. This isn’t to say that all socialist enterprises are models that American corporations should be remodeled around, nor that existing socialist enterprises are models of perfection which don’t need to be improved in constantly changing internal and external conditions; but the claim that no communist-led enterprise has ever succeeded is resoundingly false.

        Laura Jackson-Radford | February 08, 2018 at 8:04 PM

        And yet, how interesting that even with Stalin’s ‘version’ of Marxism that the Soviet Union went from a feudal, agrarian system, to ONE OF TWO SUPERPOWERS…in just a few decades…

        Obviously Communism won’t work…oh, wait–it DID.

      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.

      Michael Leone | January 13, 2018 at 10:33 PM

      >”You at least acknowledge that Karl Marx’s “Abolition of private property” will require violence.”

      You should also acknowledge that private property was created through violence. From the deprivation of land from native Americans, the enclosure process in England, and every place where capitalism has replaced more primitive modes of production, violence has always been a characteristic of the creation of private property.

      >”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.”

      This is not true. In socialism, the means of production become the common property of society and are owned and administered through the state. This means that all commodities produced, through collective labor, are immediately owned by the people who produce them through this socialist ownership and they are distributed on a social basis. Whereas under capitalism, all commodities produced do not belong to the workers but to the capitalist to sell, leaving the workers alienated from the fruits of their labor. It is only the state which gives the capitalist the permission to deprive the workers of their creation through the institution of private property just as much as it gives the workers that immediate collective ownership under socialism. If you are advocating for a system in which workers own the fruits of their labor without an intermediary that takes from them and sells it back to them at a marked up price, then you shouldn’t be putting yourself in the position of defending capitalism.

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.

Leave a Comment to gary Mueller Cancel Comment

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer