Before focusing on Marxism and its theories, and how the idea of Marxism can be implemented in practice, let us draw a translucent margin between Marxism and Communism. Marxism is an idea, while the practical implementation of Marxism is Communism. Usually, capitalism manipulates the common man by conquering his mind and creating a phobia that Communism has waged war against religion, but that is not true. We let this phobia conquer our minds and let ourselves state blindly, “Communists are Atheists”. In trying to befool people, capitalists cover up the actual adversary: “It is actually us (capitalists) against whom war is waged, not religion”.
Marxism is not just a political ideology; it is a theoretical framework of analysis that tries to transform society into a socialist one. Communism can be considered as “practical implementation of Marxism”. In simple terms, the very existence and birth of communism depends on Marxism. A society where all the people are considered equal, treated equally and where all the myths created by capitalists are dismantled, could be regarded as a communist and socialist society.
Once a spectre was haunting Europe – of Communism and Socialism. Now, with the passage of time, when privatisation is dominant over the State and the people, and government institutions have become slaves of privatisation, a new spectre – of Capitalism is haunting the world. A reporter asked a leading capitalist how he made his fortune. The capitalist answered: “It was very simple: I bought an apple for 5 cents, spent the whole night polishing it, and sold it the next day for 10 cents. With this money I bought two apples, spent the evening polishing them, and sold them for 20 cents. And so on until I amassed a fortune.” After reading the above decoction, some of you might have smelled the real essence of capitalism. Many questions might arise from it: Is it fair? For whom capitalism works, for whom it does not?
With the disintegration of the USSR, liberals assumed that Marxism had crumbled completely. But it was only hysteria and a chimera. With the advent of globalisation, ideas of Marxism have become more powerful. It is because of the exploitation which is taking place against common people in the world, especially the poor. It is an incontrovertible fact that globalisation has brought tremendous prosperity in the world, but the distinction that has to be made is, to whom? Clearly, it is the rich that are profiting ever more while the poor are hardly getting any benefits. The so-called neo-liberal policies have made the life of poor people miserable. They have led to alienation and human beings have been reduced to just a commodity.
In the name of freedom, liberal policies have also encouraged the rich to oppress the poor even more. After the end of the cold war with Russia, capitalist nations have killed millions of people in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, blatantly. They have justified these killing as being for the sake of freedom and democracy. But the real purpose was to fulfil their rapacious and insatiable interest, which could only happen by duping the world in the name of freedom and democracy. It has brought wreckage, disasters, and agonies in human life. It has always acted as a despotic system. In spite of the fact that in the market there is availability of food and other products in abundance, but still those who are living in abject poverty cannot purchase any of these things.
Theory of alienation and its relevance
Marxism is grounded on both dialectical and materialistic aspects. Marx’s theories raise some pointed questions about the nature and development of capitalism. In the theory of alienation, Marx gives an answer to some of these questions.
With the continuous grinding and exploitation of workers by the bourgeois class, the conscience of workers is continuously stirred to a state of boiling insurgency. Marx’s ideas have, therefore, naturally attracted trade unionists and the working class. The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels argued that the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the proletariat.
The four dimensions of the alienation among the proletariat identified by Marx are: alienation from the product of labour, from the process of labour, from others, and from the self. Capitalistic practices result in a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. A recent study confirmed that the factors contributing to alienation today are similar to those 150 years ago. They continue to be linked to the commodification of workers by the capitalistic system. The relationship between alienation and technology remains as it was in the 21st century. Marx developed the theory of alienation from Feuerbach’s philosophical critique of Christianity, in which Feuerbach argued that the concept of an all-powerful God as a spiritual being to whom people must submit in order to reach salvation was a human construction. Marx applied this concept of alienation to industrial capitalist societies, arguing that emancipation for workers lay in their own control over their lives, rather than of a small dominating ruling class (bourgeois).
Workers alienated from their own labour: They have to work as and when required and to perform the tasks set by their employers.
Workers alienated from the products of their labour: The products are sold in the market for profit, but workers only receive a fraction of this profit as wages.
Workers alienated from each other: They are encouraged to compete with each other for jobs and better pay.
Workers alienated from their own self: According to Marx, satisfying work is an essential part of being human, but capitalism makes work a misery. So, work under capitalism alienates man from himself. It is no longer a joy but simply a means to survive.
Marx’s solution to the ills of alienation was Communism: a way of organising society in which workers would have more control over their working conditions, and thus would experience much less alienation.
The continuing relevance of Marxism can be highlighted from the following data as well. It was estimated by the World Bank that due to Covid-19, seventy to hundred million people would be forced into extreme poverty, which the bank defines as having less than 1.90 dollars a day. The bank warned, “South Asia may see a large increase in the number of poor as a result of Covid-19, particularly in India”. As per the World Bank, “Two-third of the world’s poor population will be from South Asia due to the pandemic”. It is further expected by the World Bank that “Poverty will rise in the world and will force more than 150 million people to live in extreme poverty in 2021.” According to Oxfam, “Globally, 2,153 billionaires have grabbed more wealth than 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the world population.” As per a global survey, the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all women in Africa. The number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade, although their combined wealth declined last year. In a report by the World Food Programme’s Director David Beasley, it was warned that in addition to the threat posed by Covid-19, the world faces “multiple famines of biblical proportions that could result in 300,000 deaths per day by hunger”. He added, “Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations including many women and children face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the spectre of famine a very real and dangerous possibility.” The UN’s global report on food crisis-2020 highlights 55 countries where 135 million people are already facing food insecurity.
The above statistics regarding wealth, poverty and hunger prove that Marxism still have strong relevance in the world and have not at all become redundant. Marx’s theories focus on the basic needs of human beings. Without the fulfilment of these basic needs, human beings cannot live a happy and peaceful life. For the sake of political freedom, human beings can compromise, but not for the sake of economic freedom. That is why Marx focuses on human liberation from the economic point of view. He said, “Human liberation is a historical act, not a mental act, and is necessary for the development of human beings”. So we can say that Marx promulgates that there should not be any compromise on the basic needs of human life. On the other hand, capitalism is constantly looting and exploiting the poor in the world and is making poor nations economic slaves of developed countries. Instead of fulfilling the need of everyone, it is fulfilling the greed of a few selfish and egoistic capitalists.
In short, liberalism has created a false illusion in the minds of people regarding Marxism, in order to hide the failures and miserable performance of capitalism. Liberalism has also increasingly adopted a hawkish and overweening stance, which must be countered collectively by all the poor and working-class people of the world.
Mir Tajamul Islam is a student of B.A., LL.B, at School of Law, University of Kashmir. [email protected]
Aarif Rashid did his Masters from Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir. [email protected]