Many Americans have a near-instinctive loathing for Communism, both the word, and nations and leaders who have put it into practice. How many can articulate why it engenders such disgust?
SJWs and other assorted Marxists use the battle-cry “educate!” The assumption, of course, is that anyone who disagrees with Marxism is either uneducated or, somewhat less charitably, just so stupid as to be unable to grasp its nuances. Marxism, some have claimed, is itself something of a misnomer, for Marx did not expressly construct the ideology. He was, they say, merely a philosopher.
Whatever. Call the ideology whatever you wish, it still remains the same. My own familiarity with the ideology comes from a lifetime of learning from those who lived under it, including my own in-laws. In this, my education in Marxism has been rooted in practicality. What does this ideology produce when its adherents are granted power?
This is how most Americans approach the subject, for we are nothing if not a practical people. You can sell us on a shiny, stylish new car, and claim it is the greatest thing ever invented. But if it breaks down frequently, is expensive to maintain, and generally fails to do the job for which it was purchased, we account it as a shitty car. We treat Communism the same way. One might claim it is more fashionable and trendy, that it is a greater and more moral ideology than our own. But when we see it fail, in every time and place in which it has taken hold… Well, it doesn’t matter how good of a salesman you are, or how many times you say it wasn’t real Communism. The American will look upon it like the worst of lemons on the Buy Here, Pay Here lot.
Our intrepid, plaid-clothed salesman may claim that we are merely uneducated, for the car is loaded with the latest in technological progress, but the American pays him no mind. It’s not as if we haven’t heard that line a dozen times before. But when pressed, the American often has difficulty articulating precisely why views it as a lemon. “It just doesn’t work right,” might be the response. Or perhaps he will say “the sales guy sounded like a weasel, no thanks.”
The claim of uneducated has a ring of truth to it, which is why the dig is often so effective. An American might think “well, you’re right, I don’t know an awful lot about it. I just know it doesn’t work.”
So let’s pry the lid off Marxism a little bit and approach it from an everyman’s perspective, and see what we might find. Let’s dig in and see precisely why it is such a lemon. Where its failures are, and how we’ve come to the point where Marxism, despite being seemingly defeated in the Cold War, has come dangerously close to complete control over most of the Earth.
This will be an ongoing series, where I will select a passage from Marx’s Das Kapital and go over in detail what it means, and how it relates to our current situation. And rather than this being some kind of long-winded sociopolitical scholarly treatment, it will be plain, and written for the layman. There’s enough loaded jargon on Communism festering around on the Internet these days, after all. I’ve no desire to add to that particular landfill.
Here are two quotes for today:
“In reality, the laborer belongs to capital before he has sold himself to capital. His economic bondage is both brought about and concealed by the periodic sale of himself, by his change of masters, and by the oscillation in the market price of labor power. Capitalist production, therefore, under its aspect of a continuous connected process, of a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus value, but it also produces and reproduces the capitalist relation; on the one side the capitalist, on the other the wage-laborer.”
― Karl Marx, Das Kapital
“The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer, the labourer.”
― Karl Marx, Das Kapital
Here Marx is attempting to sell the reader on the notion that workers are slaves, or at least have a relationship fundamentally similar to slaves with their masters. The worker may choose a different a master, says Marx, but he is still in economic bondage. It is still, in his words, a man conducting “the periodic sale of himself.”
In the days of the Industrial Revolution, this undoubtedly appealed to a great many workers. Let’s face it, life in the factory was hellish. They were dirty, dingy, disgusting, and undoubtedly dangerous. The hours were long, and the toil would have felt as close to slavery as anything could be. And then some Socialist agitator would come and explain that he had been granted insight into the ideology of Karl Marx, a man who said that one day they would escape this bondage.
Except the notion of this difficult labor as slavery is incorrect. It is the foundation upon which the rest of Marxism rests. That it is truly unjust for a man to work so. Let’s look at that notion more closely.
What would happen to a man in the stone age who refused to do the equally difficult and dangerous labor of hunting and foraging for food? Naturally, he would die. Was he thus a slave? If so, he would be a slave to Mother Nature. Before the Industrial Revolution, what would a man generally do for work? Most likely, he would be a farmer. Farming (especially back then) was also a hard, risky business. It is telling that people left the farms to go work in the factories, and never thought to go back.
You see, while the relationship between a factory owner and his workers may superficially resemble that of master and slave in some fashion, it really isn’t one. The worker can choose to do whatever he wishes, and whatever someone will pay him to do. He could be a farmer, or a servant, or a factory worker. He can choose who to work for, which is also very powerful.
Periodically, Facebook will fill up with comments about how evil and terrible Walmart is, as a company. They pay very little, it is said, and the work is demanding. Costco, they often claim, is so much better than Walmart in this respect. They pay their workers a living wage, provide healthcare benefits, and so on. The implied question is “why isn’t Walmart as good as Costco?”
That is a question I can answer, for many moons ago I worked at a Costco as a stocker and occasional cashier, when the dotcom bust hit in the early 2000s (no jobs for programmers back then). I would unload trucks, haul pallets around, and otherwise. And sure enough, they paid a great wage. Over $12/hour, and back then, it was good money for that kind of work.
So how was it that Costco could afford this, and Walmart couldn’t? Well, Costco is very picky about who they hire. And their expectations for work were very lofty. They worked me to the bone, let me tell you. And if you didn’t work to the bone, you didn’t last very long. Out of my crop of hires (over 20 new people), after three months I was one of only three still left. Some were fired. Most left on their own accord, because the work was too much for them. Walmart is much more lax about such things. When I go to a Walmart, I often see workers just lounging about, or slowly shuffling from place-to-place without any fanfare. Cashier lanes are much slower, too. You just didn’t see that at Costco. Or not for very long, anyway.
This gives the worker a choice. Go to Costco, where you’ll work very hard, but get paid pretty well to do it. Or slack off a little and make do with the Walmart wages. Otherwise, these Walmart workers would all be knocking on Costco’s doorstep for a job, rather than protesting in the streets, or posting rants on Facebook why Costco is great and Walmart stinks.
Is that really the choice of a slave?
Often times, the political Left will tell you that hard work doesn’t really get you anywhere. You’re exploited, you see, by the greedy Capitalists. But how many of them would really choose the higher-paying, but hard-working Costco job over the easier, lower-paying Walmart one? They want to have their cake and eat it too. Most folks have choices like this in their lives. You can almost always work more or harder, if you really want to. Whether the additional work is worth the payoff is another question entirely, but you do have a choice. And choice is precisely what separates you from slavery. If you take the choice away, i.e. embrace Marxist thought, you might be comfortable (probably only for a little while – see: Venezuela), but your lack of choice means you’ve effectively embraced enslavement.
And all of this presumes that you can’t, in fact, also acquire capital of your own. You can, and many folks do. Then you are no longer just a worker.
This notion of the worker as a slave is one of Marxism’s most important foundations, and it is built upon a lie. It is a lie designed to sound plausible, for after a long day of hauling pallets and paying rent, life can seem rather slave-like. Especially when you see the owner chugging up the hill in his fancy new Benz. But take it from a man who could afford pretty much any Benz he wanted, now, if he was inclined to be stupid with his money: you won’t always be where you are, and you do have a choice.
Nobody ever said that just because you aren’t a slave, life will be easy, full of plenty, and without dangerous, difficult struggles. A hard life doesn’t make you a slave, and an easy life doesn’t mean you aren’t one. Choice, not labor, is what determines your status as a slave or a free man.