I read the very famous book by Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto.
I don’t agree with the political idea of Communism, but in effort to understand the political leaning of the people that do, I decided to read up on the issue a bit more. That was my approach to this book from the start.
However, this is not a book review. I do recommend you read the book for yourself, as it is rather important if you want to understand Communism, as well as modern socialism.
I’m from Finland, one of the top socialist countries, and I see what benefits, as well as problems, socialism can have. There are both good and bad sides to just about anything, so it is important to at least try and understand both sides of the argument, so we can hopefully meet somewhere in the middle. That’s why politics and politicians are important at the end of the day.
My goal here is not to change anyone’s mind really, but to make you think. To see another perspective, like I am trying to do for myself. Also, I like to talk about things that I’ve read, and this is definitely something worth talking about.
Let’s get to the actual point of this blog post then.
I’ll go through some of the points that Marx brings up, and give my opinion.
The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx
Firstly, we need to understand that this book was written in the 18-hundreds. It contains information that was true then, but has at the very least changed for the better.
Here’s an example excerpt from the book:
“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”
What he’s saying here is true for the time that he lived in. The working class were at odds with the capitalist class, because of the industrialization that was happening at the time this book was written. Even in Finland we had these same problems in the 1800’s (before the country became independent) as well as in the early-to-mid 1900’s.
That was the driving force beyond Communism at the time. It is outdated by modern standards, and people need to understand that.
We have gone a long way since then, and I don’t think this kind of opposition exists, or at least the gap between these two classes has gotten closer.
Everyone has the tools to go from a working class person to the middle class, or even beyond that, in any modern society. It is what you decide to do with your time, and how you approach life, that will shape what your future is like.
The key to success is already in your hands, now all you have to do is find the right door.
The Political Theory
Problems with Capitalism
Marx correctly criticized Capitalism for its faults. Like I said earlier, all ideas have good and bad sides to them, and that of course applies to what I consider the opposite of Communist ideas, Capitalism.
Let’s have a look at Marx’s points one by one.
Modern Work Is Alienated
Marx said that work can be one of our greatest joys in life, but in order to be fulfilled by that work, we need to be able to see ourselves in the image that we have created in our heads.
Let’s say you are a baker. You want to produce the best bread and cake in the world. You can’t afford to start your own business, so you go and work for a company that mass produces baked goods. You become specialized in that line of work, but there are many others doing the exact same thing you are doing at the work place. Making the same kind of bread, baking the same kind of cake. It’s difficult to feel like an individual in this kind of environment.
You see yourself as a part of the system rather than the greatest baker in the world that you wanted to see yourself as. Instead of doing what you’d love to do – you end up “just working”.
This is how I understood what Marx referred to when talking about alienation in modern work.
I agree with it. You can’t be an individual in low skill jobs. A worker at McDonald’s will just be another worker at McDonald’s, and in my opinion, that’s how it should be. This, in theory, should motivate you to aim to become what you want, rather than just accept that you’re stuck here doing this unfulfilling job for the rest of your days.
Modern Work Is Insecure
In Capitalism, workers are expendable. As soon as expenses go up, or technology allows it, the employer can just remove workers to reduce costs. Of course, this is true.
In Marx’s mind, and he is correct, we don’t want to feel like we can be just let go of, based on circumstances outside our own sphere of influence. It creates unpredictability, and humans crave security.
Workers Get Paid Little While Capitalists Get Rich
This is obviously one of the driving forces behind Communism.
We look at CEO’s of companies doing well, making the big bucks, while presumably not doing that much more than the worker than creates the products for the company to sell. It is not the CEO who does the hard labor; its the workers. Therefore the CEO’s get rich off of someone else’s hard work, and they are there just to reap the benefits.
This kind of thinking comes from the wrong place. It’s the thinking of a greedy and a jealous person. I understand it might have had more merit in the past, because moving up and down the corporate ladder was more difficult, but these days I don’t see why people hold this kind of beliefs.
CEO’s do put in their own share of work. Some of them had to work hard in the labor force as well to get into the position they hold now. In fact, I think since the world is so competitive now, because everything happens globally whether you want it or not, CEO’s are even more pressed to do more and more work.
Again, I recommend you read my book review on Think And Grow Rich to find out for yourself what you need to do to get rid of this kind of thinking – as it is harmful to your own success.
Capitalism Is Very Unstable
Think of any modern crisis, and you will notice that it is probably due to Capitalism. From the great depression of 1930’s, as well as 1990’s recession (in Finland the early 1990’s depression was the worst depression that has ever happened.) as well as the recent 2007-2008 financial crisis. On top of those, economists are saying there’s another crisis coming our way, not too far into the future.
Even the climate change is partly due to Capitalism and growing economy. Some would say it’s entirely Capitalism’s fault.
Marx argues that the crises of today are crises of abundance caused by Capitalism. Unlike in the old times when we used to have other kinds of crises, like famine or the plague, that were due to lack of resources, most of our crises today come from abundance of goods.
We produce so much, that in theory we could give everyone their own free car, house as well as education. It could all be free, because we have so much.
Few of us actually need to work, because we’re so good at producing goods. Yet we consider not working as something negative, when in Marx’s opinion unemployment should be called “freedom” instead. The freedom to do whatever you like rather than work for the Capitalists.
So, based on this observation, Marx offers a different kind of model. Distribution of wealth. Some of the wealth of the rich should be distributed among the poor and middle class, so that the gap between these two opposite “factions” becomes closer, and so that we can go on living our now free lives without the worry of not having enough money.
Yeah, sounds wonderful, until you take the time to think about what this will mean in the long run.
This doesn’t work. We already know it doesn’t work. Let me explain what I have experienced as a person who is from Finland, the land of equality, freedom, and yes where distribution of wealth is actually active. Not quite in the same way Marx imagined it, but close enough to see the horrors of it. Okay, I might have gone a little overboard there.
Now, there is plenty of good that comes from the system in place in Finland. “Free” healthcare (it is not 100% free), free education (Arguably the best part of the Finnish system. Finland has achieved 100% literacy among its population), as well as the fact that crime rates are low and the streets are kept in repair and clean. All of these are wonderful things.
Now where I start to disagree with it is when the distribution of wealth comes into place. I’m not going to complain about the taxes, even though they are very, very high, but instead I’ll focus on what the distribution of wealth does to young and poor people. And yes, I understand it does keep the crime rates lower, but it isn’t all positive.
As soon as you graduate from secondary school, you are eligible for monthly payment’s from the government. That is correct, you get money for doing absolutely nothing in return. This has been changing a little bit lately, forcing the unemployed to at least seem like they’re looking for work, but it hasn’t really worked if I’m completely honest.
Let me explain the issue a bit further. You can get aid from the government for both living on your own (you get help to pay your rent) as well as your living expenses. The amount of money isn’t much, but it will keep you going, and off the streets. The government doesn’t give you enough to live a fulfilling live, but it keeps you alive to see another day.
The alternative to this for poorly educated people, and sometimes even those who decided to go into university and get a relatively useless degree, is to work at a minimum salary job that offers similar amount of money than what the government offers, but you have to work for it.
Now, the choice then is, do I work at McDonald’s (or similar low skill job), look miserable while doing so, or do I make about the same amount of money and just sit at home doing whatever I want instead? The answer is obvious.
Of course, these are not the only kind of jobs available, but the truth is, because of modern technology people can keep doing things that produce enough endorphins to keep them going, so there’s little reason to go out there and look for a job, when your basic living costs are covered.
They could also seek to educate themselves further, but that would require focus and effort, and humans in general try to stay away from things that require effort. It’s in our nature. They live comfortably enough, so what’s the point?
If you follow E-sports at all, you will know that especially the Swedish (Sweden being another country where this same distribution model is applied) and Finnish people are very good at video games. It is because that is their life, and has been for a very long time. They sit at home doing unproductive things all day, and it’s enough for them. Of course you only see or hear from the ones that actually made it work – now think of the many that didn’t, and think of where those people are now. At home, of course, because they don’t need to be anywhere else.
Obviously, this doesn’t only extend to video games, but all of social media. Some people like to browse YouTube, Facebook or Instagram all day. It’s easy, feels good, and makes you feel like you’re connecting with people.
It is very difficult to end this vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself once you enter it. The distribution of wealth is a problem that supports this kind of system, and I fully disagree with it.
Distribution of wealth in modern times, kills creativity, and encourages passivity. It is not a good way to live, and everybody who lives in a country and benefits from it knows it.
It doesn’t work. Simple as that.
All of that being said, Finland’s system has improved recently where you have a base income, but you can also work on top of that to earn more – and once you reach a certain threshold (you earn enough) you no longer gain benefits. Previously, if you got a job, you would immediately lose your benefits, and that obviously worked “wonderfully” in terms of motivating people to find work.
This doesn’t actually change the fact that the system still encourages passivity, but at least we’ve made progress toward a better version of this system.
I might write another blog post talking about this more, but right now is not the time. I’ve gone off the rails too much already, let’s move on.
Capitalism Is Bad For Capitalists
Marx didn’t see Capitalists as evil, but that their life’s and thinking was misguided by their own greed.
For example, in Marx’s mind the typical bourgeoisie marriage was motivated by financial reasons, and that it had little to do with feelings of love and passion.
Marx believed that the Capitalist system encouraged people to put the economy at the heart of their lives. With this kind of thinking, Marx argues, people don’t know about deep, honest relationships, as money is everything that matters in the end.
At the core of Marx’s ideas, Capitalist thinking is what colors our way of thinking in terms of material goods, rather than using our feelings to guide us in the right way.
In Capitalist system, the rich and poor only think of the world in a way that relates to the economic system. The person who doesn’t work has no value. Leisure in abundance should be frowned upon. More belongings (material goods) we have will make us happier. The only worthwhile things will, invariably, make us money.
The problem therefore, for Marx, was that it’s not that the Capitalists at the top of the system are evil, but that the Capitalist ideas lead us to think in ways that make us anxious, competitive, conformist and politically complacent.
This kind of thinking is rather poetic and full of emotion, and of course he is correct, at least partly. I don’t think the people in power marry for financial reasons alone, although that does happen, at least not these days.
I think it’s good to see Capitalist system from this angle as well, as it paints the picture of an archaic, money making machine with no emotions to it. That we go from day to day, with only money in our minds.
Marx was worried that money would soon engulf our minds, and that would cause the world to become cold and cruel place to live in. So, the reasons behind Communism are good, and based on really lovely ideals, but in practice it doesn’t quite work.
What we can do instead, is take what Marx has told us, and apply it to our own personal lives, and try to live our lives in a way that is less tied on the concept of “money has all the power in the world”, and focus on our emotional side as well. We should do this for ourselves, to create balance.
Let that be the message you get from reading his book. Don’t try to change the world into thinking like this, try to change the individual who needs it to lean in this direction maybe a little more.
If you are intrigued by this, you can buy his book here: The Communist Manifesto
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