Marxism has clearly integrated itself in our society. Variations of the famous last line of the Communist Manifesto (“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of all countries, unite!”) abound; some catchphrases are not even remotely connected to Marxism. Many leaders strongly influenced by Marxism are still revered, and ironically, merchandise with their image and likeness make capitalists richer indeed. Certainly, wearing shirts depicting Che Guevara in his immortal pose, or Mao Tse Tung caps and jackets have become fashionable at some point or another. Music clearly influenced by class struggle and social injustices have had a large following, such as the now defunct Rage Against the Machine. And in other parts of the world, communist forces are still strong, combining the usual guerilla warfare with legislative tactics to achieve their goals. Aside from this, Communism has also influenced such unlikely fields as theology, with liberation theology making the rounds of Asian and South American countries. Even proclamations of Jesus Christ being the first communist reverberate.
Yet, is this the revolution Marx envisioned? Definitely not. Marxism is treated as a carnnival spectacle, something to be gazed at, being an abomination of the past. Yet, should it already be handed over to the dustbins of history? For the conditions that Marx envisioned would give birth to communism still exists: widespread poverty, unequal access to resources, human rights violations, etc. These are also the very same reasons why he thought society should be changed, and why Marxism still strongly affects people.
Revolution, for Marx, entails that the revolution be led by the proletariat, after which the dictatorship of the proletariat takes over (Magee, 2001, p. 168-169). This is not due to a whim, however; under such a system, workers are made to do labor under harsh circumstances: sub-human working conditions, wages not enough to live on, dangerous labor (Magee, 2001, p. 168). This is due to the fact that the owners of the means of production are profit-centered. Being profit-centered, they tend to think in terms of what will get them more profit: cutting corners with resources such as light, heat and water, keeping workers contractual, lengthening work hours, reducing wage, and finally, replacing people with machines that have less overhead costs. This of course leads to mass lay-offs, and dissatisfied workers. Since the workers are not in control of their labor (since labor, being a means of production, is owned by capitalists), they cannot do anything under this system. But if all the workers unite, they can wrestle the power away from the capitalists, and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat, where the means of production is owned by all, and not concentrated on a few people (Magee, 2001, p. 168-169).
It can be clearly seen that the conflict between the capitalists and workers is evident: capitalists want profit, workers want equal wages for their labor. This puts them at odds with each other, and will constantly struggle, until a victor comes out. This pattern can be seen in earlier forms of society, such as in feudalism. Here, the two classes are the peasants and the landlords. The struggle resulted into capitalism. And according to Marx, capitalism inevitably will lead to socialism, and just then, communism (Magee, 2001, p. 168). For Marx, conflict is a constant in societies where there is inequality and injustice. This never-ending conflict is spurned on by the conflicting interests of classes in society.
It is to be remembered that Hegel contributed to philosophy a way of thinking, that is, for a proposition one puts forward, another will give a counter-argument against it. From this, a new proposition will evolve, one that combines the good points of each, while discarding the weak points. This new proposition will now have a counter-proposition, and the process happens again. The original proposition is the thesis, and the counter-argument, anti-thesis. The resulting proposition is now the synthesis. Hegel said that an unkown spiritual force gives this process impetus. Marx, while agreeing that this process is perpetually present in our society, he does not believe that some unknown force drives this. It is people that are responsible for this, he argues. And it is only through this, through violent struggle, can the workers ever hope for better lives.
Marxism espouses that workers fight for their rights, because no one else can do it for them. There is no messiah, according to Marx, there is no one to “save” them. Therefore, if one is to hope for change, one must do it himself. Essentially, this is also what Nietzsche is saying. He said that we are living in a world where God is dead. He means that we no longer believe in morality anymore, so we must live our lives without a Supreme Being to fall back on: in full abandon (Magee, 2001, p. 172). In a world without morality, we are free to be who we really are. This, according to Nietzsche would result in a world where individuals are no longer bound by moral laws (which he calls slave morality) that only seek to protect the weak from the strong. Without these, we are now free to engage in the process that made us the most superior of all creation. By this, he means the struggle with other humans (Magee, 2001, p. 174). This is not to be feared, according to Nietzsche: for the end will result in stronger, smarter, and more corageous humans. Just as Marx espouses the survival of the proletariat for they are the owners of labor, so does Nietzsche espouses the survival of “supermen.”
Magee, B. (2001). Story of philosophy. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.