Monday, March 16, 2009
What is Marxism?
March 16, 2009
What is Marxism?
By Steven Plaut
Marxists claim that Marxism is a science. It is not. It is a sort of
pagan religious cult. It is a theology. It is a form of superstition.
Marxists claim that Karl Marx understood capitalism and economics. He did
not. They also claim that the entire validity of Marx's set of theories
on all subjects rests ultimately on how valid Marxist economic thought is.
Marxist economic thought was completely wrong.
Marx claimed that all products contain value that is directly proportional
to the amount of labor embodied within them. He was wrong. All the rest
of Marxism is based entirely on this mistaken and falsifiable premise.
Marxists claim that the operations of markets have a natural tendency to
spawn monopolies. They call this "monopoly capitalism." In reality,
markets have a natural tendency to break up and undermine monopolies.
Almost all monopolies under capitalism are those set up by governments
stifling and interfering in the operations of markets.
The most harmful monopolies in modern economies are the labor unions.
Marxists claim that corporate monopolies are growing in importance and in
power. In fact, monopolies have been losing power and strength under
capitalism for well over a century.
Marxists think that large corporations collaborate and operate
power-sharing arrangements among themselves. They do not and cannot.
Large corporations compete, undercut, and threaten one another's market
shares every day. As one of many proofs, just look at the number of
inter-corporate law suits.
Marxism is based on conflict between "social classes." But social classes
do not exist at all. This is not to say that there are not richer folk
and poorer folk all about. It only means that all the richer folk share
no collective common interests, and the same is true for all the poorer
Marxists claim that people's ideas and ideals are dictated by property
relations. They are wrong.
Marxists and socialists in general care a lot about the distribution of
material wealth. But they have no idea how to bring about the creation of
the material wealth that they wish to redistribute. They just assume it
all gets produced all by itself. That is why people in communist regimes
Marxists claim that workers are oppressed in capitalist societies.
Workers in communist societies always try to sneak out into capitalist
societies. No one in South Korea is trying to sneak into North Korea.
The Berlin Wall was not built to keep West Germans from sneaking into East
Germany's collective farms. Cubans in Florida do not steal boats to seek
asylum in Cuban collective farms.
Marxists claim that lower-income people support the Left and that
higher-income people support the Right. Generally the opposite is the
case. Let's not forget the Hollywood Left.
Marxists claim that capitalism creates "crises of surplus," where
materials build up that cannot be sold. They are wrong. Surpluses just
cause prices to drop.
Marxists claim that capitalists do not work and that workers do not own
capital. That is why they comprise "social classes." But nearly all
capitalists work, often in work days with very long hours. Meanwhile, a
huge portion of capital is held by workers themselves through their
pension funds and other institutional investment intermediaries.
Marxists claim that businesses are owned by a small closed clique of
capitalists. Actually, most businesses are "public," meaning they are
owned by shareholders and anyone at all can be a shareholder in them.
Marxists claim that capitalism cannot be democratic. But every single
democratic society on earth is predominantly capitalist. Not a single
communist regime was ever democratic. Communists take power via military
coups and military conquest, not via elections.
Marxists claim that capitalists use violence to protect their perquisites
and privileges. In truth, Marxists in power use violence to protect
their perquisites and privileges. They use violence to suppress
opposition wherever they manage to seize power, including violence against
opposition groups of workers. It is conservatively estimated that 100
million people were killed by Marxism and by Marxists in the twentieth
Marxists claim that people are prisoners of their material circumstances
and of their classes of birth. Tell that to the limousine Marxists, the
endowment-fund Trotskyists, and the tenured socialists.
Marxists claim that all workers share common interests and shared goals,
making them into a "class." In reality, they share nothing in common and
have no common interests.
Marxists think that all capitalists share common interests and get
together in large stadiums every few weeks to plan out a program to
achieve those. In reality, if capitalists were ever to congregate in such
a stadium, they could agree on absolutely nothing, not even on the price
of the beer. There is no single issue in economic policy over which all
capitalists have the same position or share the same interest.
Marxists claim that workers in capitalist societies feel "alienated." In
reality, pampered children in capitalist society feel alienated because
capitalism produces wealth, makes material comfort possible, and so
creates the opportunities for idleness and leisure that lead to
recreational feelings of alienation.
Marxists think that if you earn more money than me, it means you are
exploiting me. In reality, it means you are more talented, harder
working, better skilled, and luckier than me.
Marxists think that if one person has more wealth than a second person, it
can only be because the first one stole the wealth of the second. Ditto
for richer and poorer countries.
Marxists think that only things matter in economics, meaning tangible
products, and so services do not. They believe that big products are more
important than small products, big industries being more important than
small industries. They also believe that consumer goods are superfluous
and should not be produced much. All those ideas are why the quality of
life and the standard of living are so miserable under communist regimes.
In wealthy countries, small- and medium-size enterprises are the main
engines for producing wealth.
Marxists do not see why workers should need to be allowed to vote. The
interest of workers is always defined as whatever those claiming to speak
in the name of the working class happen to support and desire.
Marxists think that socialism works. It does not. The only form of
"socialism" that has not produced mass impoverishment and starvation is
Scandinavian capitalism merged with a bloated "socialist" welfare state.
Marxists claim that most Marxists come from the working class. In reality
almost all Marxists are the pampered children of middle class and wealthy
parents. There are more Marxists today on the campuses of some American
universities than in all of eastern Europe.
Marxists claim that under Marxism everyone receives according to his needs
and contributes according to his capabilities. In reality, under Marxism
everyone receives according to whatever the entrenched party apparatchiks
decide their needs are, usually sub-sustenance levels of consumption, and
the same people decide what are your abilities, generally assumed to be
your ability to work endlessly at whatever you are told to do without
getting paid much. To put this differently, in the absence of positive
incentives, no one is capable of doing anything and everyone's needs are
Marxists think that "experts" can tell what needs to be produced. They
cannot. That is why Marxist experts produce starvation. In some cases
Marxist starvation has produced cannibalism. There is not a single
Marxist scholar or expert on earth who could produce a pencil by himself.
Marxists think that efficiency in production can be achieved by
terrorizing factory workers and communal farm members. While terrorizing
them, it has never successfully achieved efficiency that way. People are
always smarter than the terrorizing officials and manage to thwart them.
Marxists believe that economic incentives do not matter. That is why they
think there is no need to pay people more for working hard or exerting
effort. It is enough to appeal to their "class interests." That is why
people starve under communism.
When a Marxist speaks of "dictatorship of the proletariat," he means he
thinks he has the right to use violence to impose his own arbitrary
dictatorship upon members of the working class and upon everyone else,
without asking for their approval or votes.
Marxists claim that Marxism is fundamentally democratic. In reality it is
always fundamentally anti-democratic.
Marxists pretend to be in favor of the working class collectively owning
all property. In reality Marxists always steal the property of members of
the working class and turn it over to well-paid party apparatchiks.
Marxists think that Marx understood economics. In fact, virtually all
Marxist "theories" were completed debunked 160 years ago. Marx was wrong
about virtually everything he wrote on economics. It is more difficult to
say whether he was correct about anything in sociology, but that is more a
commentary on the nebulous and muddled nature of sociological thinking.
Marxists see no need at all for "finance capital." That is why they
always steal everyone's savings in communist societies. It is also why
workers in communist societies hide their savings in banks in capitalist
Marx did not have the slightest inkling about what determines wages of
workers in markets. He had even less understanding of what determines
Marxists use the term "concrete" whenever they do not know how to finish a
sentence, or whenever they have no idea of what is being discussed.
Marxists think that women live better lives under Marxism. That is
because they never speak with any women who grew up under communism.
There is not a Marxist on earth who has actually read and understood Karl
Marx's tedious book "Das Kapital." You can read a summary of the book on
Wikipedia, written by people who did not read it either. In reality, Marx
had no idea at all even what capital is.
Marxists often want to abolish the family, but that is because they became
Marxists in the first place as a way to antagonize and irritate mommy and
Marxists believe that people living under Marxism lose interest in
religion. They do not.
Marxists believe that in every voluntary transaction, one side wins and
the other loses, and so it is impossible for two sides to profit from it.
That is why they think you should be told what to buy and how much you
should pay for it.
Marxists claim that capitalist countries engage in imperialism. But since
World War II the largest empires of imperialist conquest were those headed
by Marxist regimes.
Marxists believe that there are no real conflicts of interest between the
workers living in different countries and speaking different languages or
coming from different cultures. That is without a doubt the very
stupidest idea of all coming from Marxism. In any case, that is why
Marxism is generally spread only via military conquest.
Marxists think that capitalism makes people greedy. Actually people
living under communism become much greedier because they are poor and
Marxists claim that Marxism is a science. It is not. It is today little
more than a form of mental illness.
Steven Plaut is an economist and teaches business administration.