Capitalism, once a progressive force in both social and productive terms, becomes more parasitic and moribund throughout its development. More and more, the social relations of production, crystallised in a social and legal system based on protection of private property, begin to hold back the development of society’s productive forces. More and more, labour is wasted in socially-useless production or financial speculation. Capitalism daily fails the majority of people, impoverishing them in order to make the rich richer.
One of the main accusations thrown at Marxists over the years, particularly in bourgeois academic circles, is that Marxism is determinist – a crude form of mechanistic materialism which neglects to take into account individual human beings.
Capitalism distorts our understanding of social relations. Class structured societies, by their very nature, deform these relations. Marx developed and looked at the theme of alienation, from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts in 1844 to Capital in 1867.
Marx said that commodity production captures human labour within capitalist production. The relationships between people get caught up in the relationship between things.
Women’s oppression is as old as class society. Indeed, oppression of women can be found in all class societies without exception. Prior to the division of society into classes, whilst there is evidence of division of labour between the sexes, this was not antagonistic. It was at the point at which human beings could create a surplus above that required for their survival that both classes and the relationships of domination and subordination between the sexes appeared.
Working people of minority social groups in Britain continue to face official and unofficial forms of discrimination in their social and economic life.
The forms of oppression and the significance for our struggle also depend upon the context. For example, in Britain, British Black and British South Asian groups make up 3.4% and 6.8% of the population of the UK – 2.2 and 4.4 million people respectively.
Like all groups, the disabled’s relationship to society has evolved with the advancement of progression. So, for a Marxist understanding of how disabled people are affected by capitalism we have to first look at how human evolution changed the ways disabled people connect to society.
We live in a country, that up until recently, considered LGBT+ lifestyles, identity and relationships unacceptable and actively persecuted those who didn’t conform to heteronormative standards. The fight for equality and same-sex recognition has been drawn out across the decades, with many social rights groups campaigning for changes in the law and in society’s attitude towards LGBT+ people. Despite progress, there are still challenges facing the queer community that cannot be overcome under the current Capitalist system.
The nature of trades unions under both capitalism and socialism is a question which has occupied many sections of the international Marxist movement since the beginning of the 20th century and before. The basics are, of course, obvious.
Trades unions are formed where workers unite to defend their immediate interests against those of capital. In fact, the very existence of trades unions is due to the basic contradiction between labour and capital. The primary motivation of capital is to increase the surplus value extracted from the workers.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Further, it follows that every class which is struggling for mastery, even when its domination, as is the case with the proletariat, postulates the abolition of the old form of society in its entirety and of domination itself, must first conquer for itself political power in order to represent its interest in turn as the general interest, which in the first moment it is forced to do.” (The German Ideology, Marx & Engels).
To what extent does Marxism advocate the use of violence in pursuing political aims; specifically, when does class struggle become armed struggle?
Communism is certainly not a pacifist ideology. Throughout history, Communist Parties, and organisations in which Communists have played a leading role, have resorted to armed struggle, either in self-defence or in order to further revolutionary aims. Examples include socialist revolutions, national liberation struggles and anti-imperialist wars of national defence. Indeed, violent struggle has often played a key role in social transformation, far predating Communist influence.