Karl Marx and Failure of Communism

The 21st century is on us and there is very little talked about Karl Marx and his concept of Socialism. However in the 19th century Karl Marx with his thesis 'Das Kapital' had struck a chord in the heart of the liberals and the revolutionaries. This was the period of what is known as the 'Industrial revolution' and Europe was the centre of a great manufacturing upsurge. Factories were being established everywhere and the capitalists were having afield day.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial revolution needed raw material which was available cheap from the colonies and the workers were greatly exploited. They worked for long hours with the owners having little concern for their welfare. For the workers this was a dark age. In such a scenario Karl Marx with his collaborator Engels propounded the revolutionary theory of 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Marx was of the view that religion was a creation of the Bourgeois and was a tool to suppress the workers who would rise and be the owners ultimately.

This theory of Karl Marx had a romantic tinge and many intellectuals were swayed by it. But it must be pointed out that what Marx wrote was applicable to only the industrial world as he had no comprehension of the agrarian societies in China and India.

Marx and Governance

Again Marx laid out only an economic theory and talked little of the sinews of governance and how the working class would rule. This interpretation was given by revolutionaries like Lenin who read Marx and adapted it for their needs. They interpreted Marxist theory to mean a dictatorship and a complete negation of human values. Thus the regimes that spawned in Russia and Eastern Europe paid lip service to Marxism, but in effect were naked totalitarian ruled nations with a single party. Dissent was crushed and in these countries other elite was created in the form of the political commissioner or communist party member. This was not what Marx had envisaged. Perhaps Marx never laid any stress on this aspect and just presented a utopian theory that negated human emotion and creativity. This was perhaps the biggest flaw of the theory envisaged by Marx.

Marxism in Russia

The first communist regime was ushered into Russia by Lenin.He was a brilliant intellectual, but again he also had no comprehension of the freedom and spirit of man. He did ram down the throat of the Russian people a regime that he professed was 'different'. But he equated dictatorship of the proletariat with state ownership. This was not what Marx had envisaged. The result was that at the first sign of weakening of resolve in the central leadership, the edifice built by Lenin collapsed. Thus the October revolution of 1917 that ushered in a soviet republic collapsed within six decades.

The Future

The only professed communist states now are China and Korea. They also in real terms do not follow classical Marxism and are just one party ruled government that tolerates no dissent. Keeping the spirit of man in mind these states also within a decade or two are sure to be shown the door.

Where do we place Marx now? He was a great thinker but what he wrote needs better interpretation. Classical Marxism is  in my view is in real terms practiced in the west where the lot of the workers and their health is paramount. It is an irony of fate that the Marxist theory in a way has helped the working class in the west. But perhaps if the Marxist theory had been applied in Russia and human values respected then perhaps Marxism would have a had longer reign.