Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Measuring Marxism: Where Did We Go Wrong?

 In my previous series, I assessed one aspect of the moral vision in Marxism - its relationship to individualism. This time around I want to confront the so-called "failure" of Marxism, and how can we measure his vision of socialism. This post is part of a series attempting to quantify Marx's theory of socialism.

Comprehensive privatization in China. The bureaucratization that plagued the Soviet Union. Repressive policies in nearly all 'socialist' states. The dilution of democratic apparatuses in the same. The data seem conclusive: Marxism has failed. Either that, or our measurements are off.

In fact, these failures reveal a number of conditions which do more to support Marxism than anything else. The accurate measurement of the Marxist framework has very little to do with the propaganda efforts of the NATO / Soviet blocs, which often invoke the imagery of workers' power for their own political gain.

Furthermore, it is the self-proclaimed anti-communists themselves who long ago quantified the very measurements which prove just how right Marx was.

The Lie That Keeps on Giving

Naturally, we have to start with the predictions Marx gave for the immediate future. Honest accounting for the accuracy of Marxism relies on few fundamental facts, following from nothing more than a literal interpretation of Marx's works:

  1. Socialism is worker management of the means of production; where workers have more power, there exists more socialism.
  2. Socialism will only take root where the means of production have reached a heightened state of development which produces capital in excess of that needed for the wealthy to prosper.1
The historical situation, on the other hand, tells quite a different story:
  1. Any socialist apparatuses set up in the USSR and PRC were immediately disassembled or diluted. Socialism was more closely reflected in the establishment of worker's rights programs in the New Deal, as well as the labor union movements across Europe and in the U.S.
  2. The state of development in China and Russia were ripe for Marx's Bourgeois Revolution, which he viewed as an earlier, inevitable stage of political economy, as they were Feudal societies wherein the cities had started to be transformed by capital.
A slap in the face to the Western economists, who have decried Marx - everyone from free-market extremists to social-democrats have rejected the Marxist models, all the while implementing policies fulfilling Marxist predictions: the accumulation of capital, the stalling of labor discontent with handouts, the crises. And this is just as much a slap in the face to the Communist Party apparatchiks, since it rejects their bureaucratic-totalitarian model of socialism.

It's the Democracy, Stupid

A rudimentary review of Marx's works confirms just how inconsistent the pedestrian assessment is with the former. A real measurement of Marxist should start fresh. For Marx, socialism is the humanization of economic conditions and social relations - in the context of a sufficiently advanced, or prosperous society. It is, in fact, the democratization of power.

In a capitalist society, the closest proximity to a measurement of socialist society and its viability is the power held in the hands of the working class. As I will show, the material basis for socialism - a sufficiently prosperous society - complements the growth and power of civil society, that is the democratization of society. What's more - this very correlation was acknowledged theoretically and confirmed empirically 60 years ago, and only last month it was re-confirmed at the Center for Economic Policy Research.

Next: The Centralization Myth and Socialism as a Democratic Model

1Marx, Karl: Communist Manifesto Ch 1

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