Why Marxism is Inherently Repressive
Contrary to a popular caricature of those who know me personally, I am actually rather well read on Marxist theory. Indeed this goes as far as recognising that Marx himself fails to support what many associate with ‘Marxism’ – allegedly having quoted “Ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist).
Despite my affinity for Austrian economics and having a framed photo of Milton Friedman centred on my bookshelf, I actually rather enjoyed attempting to read Das Kapital last summer. The vision of a society without stress or such the need for work sent me down a nostalgic path of summers as a five year old – where all is bright, and the only worry is of the brambles on the blackberry bushes.
However, as tempting as this Smurf-Village like utopia sounds – we must never forget the dictatorial mother who had total control over our lives.
While the consensus amongst Marx’s last remaining disciples is to distance their ideology from the inconvenient suffering of hundreds of millions of people throughout the 20th century as ‘not real Marxism’ - perhaps conceivably, after so many failed attempts, the issue
lies in the scriptures themselves.
For Marxist apostles, the mere concept of questioning the sacred texts is an act of heresy. Fundamentally however, these collectivist puritans are forgetting that a group of intellectuals sat around a fireplace discussing utopia is an entirely different reality than one of a leader making decisions in a country with over 100 million people. This conflict between theory and reality is one many Marxist evangelists always seem to forget – and is a conflict that is decidedly won every time.
On the basis of this, the undeniable flaws within Marxist theory deserve great scrutiny – and presents a significant explanation in that the issue does not lie within the implementation of the theory – but within the theory itself.
Inevitable Centralised Control
Arguably the greatest flaw of Marxist theory is how it assumed away any form of opposition. To Marx, the question of the proletariat not being committed to collapsing the social order in a bloody revolution likely failed to even cross his mind.
His pseudo-scientific analysis of history in the theory of ‘historical materialism’ attempted to identify contradictions within capitalism that would make such a revolution unavoidable. He argued that this theory was legitimised through a deterministic sequence of events cascading from the dawn of humanity, all the way towards the current order collapsing and the fire of communism burning through. This was taken a step further through his theory into ‘class consciousness’, which states how upon the working classes becoming aware of their suffering, they would see no alternative expect to ‘make the ruling classes tremble’. Marx asserted that as literacy rates increase around the developed world, this theory will be invariably confirmed.
However, as the past century has shown, with the increase in education rates – the proletariat have become more bourgeois in their thinking. While formally condemned to the perpetual suffering within working houses and factories, education has emancipated the working classes into an era of excess. Through the power of creative destruction in the modern day, developments in society would have enabled J.B. Priestley’s Eva Smith to enjoy luxuries that Louis XVIII would fail to conceive in his wildest of dreams.
As Marxist crusaders would argue, the age of consumerism has poisoned the mind of the proletariat with distractions that take away the focus from their actual suffering. This has become the logical basis of Marx’s critique of Parliamentary Democracy, which states how the infection of the ruling classes runs so irrevocably deep within the current system, the only way it can be dealt with is to overturn society as a whole. The inherently repressive nature of socialised systems permeates through this principle – and provides credence to the idea why Marxism and democracy are incompatible – for the working classes would simply carry on electing bourgeois parties that uphold the consumerism they
have been adulterated by. The only option is to therefore dissolve this institution.
Further conflict between Marxist theory and practice, as well as being the reason for inevitable centralised control, is the dichotomy Dr Kristian Niemitz introduced the previous week. As collectivist states begin to socialise all goods through requisitioning, opposition is unavoidable. Whether the Kulaks under Leninist Russia, or the supporters of Batista under Castro’s Cuba, every collectivist experiment that wishes to diametrically alter society has involved widespread opposition at some point or another. From here, Dr Niemitz explained the decision leaders are faced: either embrace the opposition and see the end of their regime – or become more repressive.
This therefore explains the significant extent of the need for the state-mandated terrorism that has plagued all socialist experiments – as any form of dissident is a direct threat to the collectivist vision of utopia.
The greatest reason for why centralised control is entirely inevitable is through the logistical implementation of such a theory and the broad absence of an exit option. In a market-based system where supply is guided by consumer preference, the goods/services which firms sell will be in direct response to what individuals demand for – and alternatively – firms would learn which goods/services consumers don’t wish to have through the reduced demand. This is the principle which underlines what A-Level economists refer to as the ‘price mechanism’. In a socialised system, this is completely distorted, as the voluntary exchange between buyers and sellers will be replaced by a state monopoly inflexible to the guiding hand of consumer preference through its rigidity to forces of the market.
The information contained in the price mechanism is one of the most powerful forces of nature. The only way in which a substitute for market-based systems can replicate such information would be through an infinite number of surveys and petitions. Due to the clear logistical problems this would cause – the only substitute for a market-based system is one that concentrates decision making around a small, highly-centralised body.
Regulation the Cure?
In spirit of this highly-centralised body, of the Marxian fundamentalists I’ve spoken with, the recurring counter-argument is to suggest that the method of dealing with the inevitable corruption is to have in place a regulatory body that provides a check and balance on power. However, the clear issue subverting this problem is the very issue famous Chicago economist George Stigler won his Nobel Prize for recognising. ‘Regulatory Capture’ occurs when regulatory bodies and the entity they’re tasked with managing collude together. If in the case of an unlimited socialised system where the same entity in control of the enterprise is the exact same entity that is in control of regulating that entity – corruption and bureaucracy are inevitable. Imagine the bizarre situation in which McDonald’s are left to regulate the standards of their Big Mac’s – do you believe they will strive to ensure high quality?
Clearly therefore a system of an all-encompassing state that is in control of all enterprise and also regulating those enterprises is a terribly misconceived idea and - as in many of the proposals put forward by Marx’s disciples – the prescription is far more damaging than the ailment.
Economic Calculation Problem
While humanity is intelligent enough to travel to the moon and find a way to instantly destroy itself a million times over, there are infinitely as many limits on this.
Much akin to our inability to answer the fundamental question of our existence, the hubris of intellectuals has extended into thinking they can replicate the billions of decisions that happen every day naturally within a market economy. Indeed with advances in technology this number has increased from the times of Lenin and Pol Pot – however we are still millennial away from being even in the same league as the forces of nature.
Supply and Demand are ultimately laws of science – much like Electromagnetism and Gravity. While we may think to understand and rationalise it, we are very primitive when it comes to controlling and replicating such forces. The intellect who believes they can duplicate the laws governing market economies has about as much in common as the Bond Villain trying to create an Anti-Gravity Gun.
This was the line of reasoning that acts as the logical basis of Mises’ theory into the ‘Economic Calculation Problem’. His theory revolutionised our interpretation of centralised control back all the way in 1919, and made many successful predictions about the desolate reality of life within such systems as a consequence. Such thinking was in direct response to the simplified view still held by many Marxist evangelists today, that all decision makers must do is distribute goods according to the ‘needs’ of society. His conclusion was a frighteningly accurate prophecy that centralised economies will be forever plagued by severe shortage and surplus. The danger of collectivist entities attempting to replicate the billions of decisions made naturally in a market-economy is that upon making a mistake, the consequences are catastrophic. To illustrate this principle, imagine the hypothetical situation:
A government in control of the production of all goods within an economy has to make a decision about how much food and clothes to produce respectively. If they have £1 billion to split between the two sectors, how much of each would they know to make?
The individuals making such a decision decides that the people need £600 million in clothes and £400 million in food. In reality, the split was 50/50. There is therefore a surplus of £100 million in clothes, and more damagingly, a shortage of £100 million in food.
Despite the hypothetical guess being only marginally out from the actual amount, the impact of this was significant. Some upon reading this may be thinking that a greater amount of due diligence would ensure the margin for error would significantly reduce. This thinking however fails to recognise that such an example is just one of the billions of decisions that are to be made each and everyday.
On the contrary, the market-economy - driven by consumer preference and choice - makes such immense number of decisions naturally. This system of a ‘Spontaneous Order’ is paralleled by another example – language. No single governing body arbitrated the creation of every word within the English language, it evolved naturally as an organism to the stage where dictionaries have been published and you are understanding the sentences I am writing. Even if the centralised body had the greatest of intentions in the world, the ability to accurately replicate the forces driving resource allocation in a market-based economy is limited by our intellect. History is polluted with innumerable examples of when an entity with transcendental powers attempts to replicate the forces of nature – and will forever serve as a lesson in the consequences of when it goes wrong.
Marxist View on Society
The most sinister of all principles Marx conjured was the reduction of the individual to a mere unit of the unlimited state.
Marxist philosopher and former FBI Most Wanted Fugitive Angela Davis notoriously presents the typical Soviet apologist argument in outlining:
“the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles of the goals you're striving for, not how you would reach them”
The idea that the ends justify any means has consequently led to some of the greatest suffering in the history of mankind. During the 1917 Russian Civil War, Lenin implemented a policy later to be known as ‘War Communism’, where grain was forcefully requisitioned from the peasantry to supply urban workers and soldiers. A total number of people greater than the entire population of London were left to starve until death in what became one of the worst famines in history. In order to contain their suffering, there are many haunting tales of where cannibalism was the only option. One particularly harrowing photo our A-Level Soviet History teacher showed us was of a peasant family with the body of their half-eaten and decaying child lying on the floor next to them.
This fundamental Marxist principle in that the end point of paradise on earth justifies any assault on the individual is through any definition of the term supremely repressive. The shared view of his disciples in that society is a chessboard and that people are simply pawns that can moved around at will is the elementary reason why his thinking is the polar opposite of the values we should be striving for.
The complete desecration of individual liberty in his name will forever haunt the legacy of humankind. Marxism for many has become what he himself hated most: an irrational ideology that worships an ever-correct omnipotent figure. While the religious devotion of his subjects will keep his failed ideology alive for a short period – the day his name is finally forgotten will be the day people can begin to live without fear of their freedom.