By Nikos Mottas*.
"On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep-but forever”. With these words, Friedrich Engels had opened his speech during Karl Marx's funeral at London's Highgate cemetery. This year marks the 134th anniversary since the death of the greatest thinker in the history of mankind; the man who tried not only to interpret the world but to change it. And, indeed, Marx's theoretical work became the basis for social change, highlighting the scientific perception of the class struggle as the driving force of History.
"The genius of Marx”, Lenin wrote, "lies in his having been the first to deduce from the lesson world history teaches and to apply that lesson consistently. The deduction he made is the doctribe of the class struggle” (V.I.Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism). Marx's thought and work consists a milestone in the history of philosophy, political economy and social sciences. As Lenin wrote, the Marxist theory “is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism”.
The thought of Marx brought a cosmogony in the field of social sciences thus changing the way we interpret the world. “At best”, Lenin pointed out, “pre-Marxist “sociology” and historiography brought forth an accumulation of raw facts, collected at random, and a description of individual aspects of the historical process […] Marxism indicated the way to an all-embracing and comprehensive study of the process of the rise, development, and decline of socio-economic systems. People make their own history but what determines the motives of people, of the mass of people—i.e., what is the sum total of all these clashes in the mass of human societies? What are the objective conditions of production of material life that form the basis of all man’s historical activity? What is the law of development of these conditions? To all these Marx drew attention and indicated the way to a scientific study of history as a single process which, with all its immense variety and contradictoriness, is governed by definite laws”.
Through his extensive work, Karl Marx elaborated and expounded Hegel's dialectics and created an integrated philosophical materialism which gave to humanity- and especially to the working class- a powerful weapon of knowledge. Marx- with the significant contribution of Engels- highlighted aspects of political economy that prominent bourgeois economists and scientists of the nineteenth century had failed to feature. As Lenin explained, “where the bourgeois economists saw a relation between things (the exchange of one commodity for another) Marx revealed a relation between people […] The doctrine of surplus-value is the corner-stone of Marx's economic theory”.
|Karl Marx in 1861.|
The man who could perfectly and precisely summarize the importance of the Marxist thought is, of course, the long-time companion of Marx, Friedrich Engels, with whom he co-authored some of the most significant theoretical works of the proletariat's revolutionary theory such as “The German Ideology” (1845), “The Holy Family”(1845) and the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848). Among other things, Engels noted in his farewell speech at Marx's grave in 1883: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history […] But that is not all. Marx also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem, in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in the dark”.
Refering to his own work, Marx was pointing out: “What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production (historische Entwicklungsphasen der Production), (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society” (Marx to J.Weydemeyer in New York, March 5, 1852).
The heritage of Marx's thought is certainly inversely proportional of the material goods he left to his descendants. He died as he lived: poor, without the scientific recognition that other thinkers and scientists of his era had enjoyed. With the extraordinary assistance by Engels he left behind the most valuable, powerful and important work that the working class could inherit. From the “Capital” (one of the most brilliant works in the history of human intellect) to the “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” and from the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” to the “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, Marx gives answers to the most fundamental questions that had been highlighted by humanity's pioneer philosophical thinking.
|Marx's tombstone in Highgate, London.|
Today, more than 25 years since the counterrevolutionary overthrows in the USSR and the socialist countries of eastern Europe, those who had predicted the “end of History” and the failure of socialism have been refuted. The prolonged, deep systemic crisis of capitalism and the immense contemporary problems rooted in the anarchy of capitalist production prove the correctness of Marxist thought. Being rotten and outdated, capitalism becomes more and more aggressive, creates and perpetuates economic crises, extended poverty, unemployment and war. Karl Marx- the man who changed the world forever- has been totally vindicated by History and his revolutionary thinking is more timely than ever.
*Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.