Common Misconceptions about Marx

I’ve recently had the privilege of studying Capital, and wish to share a few things will you all.

A) Marx believes communism is political system superior to capitalism. Although there is a way to understand this statement as true, it is deeply misleading. Isn’t that communism is an alternative political system so much as a distinct historical-political epoch. For Marx, history is the history of class struggle, so all political forms in history will propegate class struggle and ossify it in a particular way or other. Capitalism is the last of these systems because it is the most universal, because it eliminates all antagonisms except the capitalist-worker exploitation. The beauty of capitalism for Marx is that it destroys nationalism, racism, pastoralism. It destroys every value that is not reducible to pure exchange-value, i.e., cash. Communism is a political organization which cannot be foreseen in its structure (because, for Marx, ideas are products of material conditions, we don’t have the appropriate material conditions to think what communism would look like).

B) “Marx believes capitalism is immoral”. Although in his early writings he did appeal to what you could call liberal morality to decry capitalism, it is improper to say that Capitalism is immoral for Marx. In Das Kapital, Marx shows how Capitalism has the morality which is appropriate to it – Capitalist morality. This morality consists of the freedom to labour and to recieve a just wage for your labouring. A just wage is defined as the cost of the commodity of your labour, which is the socially average labour time which it takes to produce it. So, a fair wage is a “living wage” in the sense of the amount of cash it takes to sustain you as a human being. This does not mean basic needs in the scientistic sense, because Marx believes with Hegel that there is no strict distinction between what liberals would call basic needs and luxury goods. For Marx and Hegel one important difference between animals and humans is that humans develop new needs, and you can’t take the fulfillment of those needs away from them without making them less the humans they were. In other words, for Marx, if a computer is an integral part of your life (as it probably is) you can’t be deprived of it without becoming less of a human, less human.

C) “Marx decries the division of labour”. This is just wrong. Marx thinks the division of labour is integral to capitalism, and that capitalism is the best political system thusfar because it is the closest to fully actualizing our labouring capacity.

D) “Marx believes you should support the communists no matter what”. This is definitely wrong, Marx thinks you should support whichever party is being revolutionary. So, for example, since the universality of capitalism must be expanded across the entire globe to fullfill its logical destiny (and by that, make the coming of communism, and non-exploitative labour possible), communists should support the capitalists against the opponents of globalization. When jobs are being exported they should explain to the workers that while it might be not in their particular interest, it is in the universal interest. Communists are those who take the long view.

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