Karl Marx was born in 1818 and died in 1883. He became a socialist in 1843. The duration of his political activity for socialism was spread over four decades, from 1843 to 1883. Marx’s political activities were inevitably influenced by the conditions at that time. The inevitability of this influence is even part of his own theory.
Capitalism was then a relatively new social system and still in its expansion phase. Based on coal and iron, its technology, although vastly more productive than the past, was backward in comparison with modern technology. We did not know the electric motor or diesel. The means of transport were limited to steam locomotive and horse-drawn carriage. Homes and streets were lit by gas. Many workers, if not most, were still employed in small workshops, not in the large factories of today.
From the political point of view also, capitalism was still in its growth phase. Political forms of capitalism (that is to say, parliamentary control, the extension of the franchise, a business administration) that exist in some countries, and even they were incomplete. Most of Europe was ruled by undemocratic regimes openly with leaders supported by a hereditary landed aristocracy. The three regimes of the most powerful among these (Tsarist Russia, Habsburg Austria and the Kingdom of Prussia) were a constant threat to the political forms capitalists, wherever they stood.
In short, Marx engaged politically at a time when capitalism was still the dominant world system, in terms of economic and political. This fact had a decisive influence on its political tactics. II thought it was capitalism that paved the way to socialism and that the former had more work to do. It therefore recommended, given the circumstances, it was the duty of socialists to work not only for socialism, but also for the progress of capitalism at the expense of reactionary political and social forms. This led Marx to support campaigns that sought to establish political democracy or which would, he said, to stabilize or protect democracy.
And saw one take Independence Party of Ireland, in order to weaken the power of the English landed aristocracy that was an obstacle to development of political democracy in Britain. He also supported Polish independence, in order to establish a buffer state between czarist Russia and the rest of Europe, to give political democracy a chance to develop. By cons, it does not say for Slavic movements demanding independence from Austria or Turkey. This shows at least it’s not because he believed that every nation had an abstract right to self-determination that he supported some independence movements.
Marx was in fact so opposed to the Tsarist Russia that he came to support the Franco-British alliance during the Crimean War – which was, in our view, a mere misjudgment. He supported the establishment of a unified state in Germany and Italy, because he thought that it would accelerate the development of capitalism and took up a position for you in the North American Civil War, considering that the victory of the slave South retard the development of capitalism in America.
These positions were to some extent understandable at a time when capitalism had not yet finished creating the material basis of socialism, as they were intended to accelerate this process. But when capitalism had created the conditions, say, thirty years after the death of Marx. such positions became obsolete and reactionary even, and this according to the theory of Marx.
Thirty years after Marx’s death, the electrification of industry, internal combustion engine, radio and other technological advances had appeared and showed clearly that the problem of producing an abundance for all was resolved, that the shortage was finally overcome and that mankind could finally start enjoying the hard work of previous generations of farmers – but only if capitalism is abolished and socialism established.
In 1914 war broke out, called “global” and rightly so, that marked the emergence of capitalism as a dominant and unchallenged global system and which led to the fall of three empires reactionary that Marx had seen as a threat to democratic progress and social development of its time.
With these changed circumstances, the Socialists no longer had to help prepare the way capitalism to socialism. Capitalism had done and had therefore become a reactionary, and therefore. Socialists were exclusively devote their efforts to encourage the development of socialist consciousness and organization of the working class. That’s why we have always refused to be deterred from our goal to put us to advocate or support social and democratic reforms and moves to establish new States, or to put us to support one side in wartime.
Marx was also concerned about another problem that was solved later through technological developments in capitalism: the transition to socialism. Marx lived at a time when capitalism had not yet fully laid the foundations that would allow the immediate establishment of socialism. When we raised this objection, he answered that if the working class had taken power in that time (which was, we can see now, highly unlikely given the political immaturity of the working class and given the that many were still employed in cottage industry), it would have to have a relatively long transition period that would have first to centralize the administration of the means of production not yet fully industrialized. This done, he would have had to work the rapid development of means of production can soon satisfy all human needs. But meanwhile, again according to Marx, it would have limited use, even in a society based on common ownership and democratic management of production facilities and free access to individual needs could have be implemented before the means of production is to be further developed. Marx did not mention the time it would take, but by evaluating the technological progress that followed, it is likely that this would have thirty years.
We repeat that this view is explained at the time, but today. Today, the “transition periods”, the “revolutionary dictatorship”, the “good work” have no purpose and represent concepts of the nineteenth century. Free access for all goods and services according to individual needs could be fully introduced almost immediately after the establishment of socialism – and we can establish socialism when the working class and want to lead the political action needed .
Related articles on Marx and Socialism
- Marx: Ideology and Domination (the-philosophy.com)
- Capital by Karl Marx (the-philosophy.com)
- Marx and the proletariat (the-philosophy.com)
- Karl Marx, part 5: The problem of power (guardian.co.uk)