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“Communist states didn’t work because it didn’t happen on world scale” – A Critique

The last year I have been debating some of my friends who are Marxists to the end. They believe communism is the way forward and defend it with passion. I love these debates and most of the time I can see where they are coming from. I have read quite a bit of Marx during this time and agree with him on some levels. But there are a couple of arguments which are given by Marxists which just strike me as odd and show, in my view, why communism or Marxism is doomed to fail. One of these is: “Communist states failed because the revolution didn’t happen on world scale. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels write that the proletarians of all countries should unite. It is because only a handful of countries did this, that communism failed.”

            The first contra point is that saying that when Marx wrote this, he was talking about the proletariat of every country is rather anachronistic. There was not a proletariat in every country, since there was no capitalism in every country and the proletariat exists only because of the internal conflict capitalism brings. The proletariat is the negation of the bourgeoisie and capitalism but the negation of something can only exist if the thing itself already exists.

            What is more worrisome is the apologetic character this argument has towards the communist regimes that have existed. The hidden premise of this argument is that if there was no country with different ideals than that of the communist country then everything would be fine and the atrocities that the countries have committed wouldn’t have happened. This is to put the blame on external factors instead of internal ones for the failure of the states. It’s because the capitalist USA was intervening with the USSR that the USSR built gulags in order to send people that didn’t agree with their thinking, not because there was a dictator at the head of government. It puts the blame of failure on the enemy instead of the state itself. This is to say that the system itself is perfect, if only people didn’t resist it or there wasn’t that one enemy that ruined everything. Replace communist with German and capitalist with Jew and you get Hitler’s rhetoric. It would be naïve to think that just by changing the words we change the meaning.

            This argument also shows what the idea is really about: world domination. The idea needs to dominate the world in order for it to fully work. We need to all think the same in order for the idea to work. There can be no conflict on large scales. Not only is this vision rather utopian, but this also shows the totalitarian character of the idea. In order to move to the stage of communism which has no state there has to be according to Marx, a dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead of the bourgeoisie being the dictator it’s the proletariat, the common worker. This proletariat needs to be represented by a leader or a group, which will function as the representative of the proletariat. He will in effect be the dictator. He needs to deal with the large conflicts. But as long as there are humans on this planet, there will be large conflicts. And even if there were none left, he would just invent them to keep his power. Hence, there will always be a dictator in the communist regimes. That’s just one of the obstacles you don’t have in theory but is widespread in practice.

            There is only one way to solve external conflicts and that is world domination. The goal is not many states living in harmony together. The goal is one state. Because as long as there are individual states there will be external conflicts, if only just because people differ in ideas in a nuanced way. As long as there is not one leader, there will always be external conflicts. Once this happens, there is no reason why the supreme leader should give away his power, since he already controls everything.

            It is baffling how this argument is used by communists sometimes. Obviously, if a state doesn’t have conflicts it will succeed. You can make that claim for every society ever existed. The point is that there are conflicts, and you want to have a society capable of dealing with those conflicts. That’s the definition of a capable state. You want a state capable of dealing with coronavirus in a good way, not by shooting people in the head who might have been infected. It just shows that there is a historical naivety among communists making this claim. It shows that they deny that most communist states because of internal contradictions and crimes against humanity, but rather believe that it was the power of capitalism that brought them down.

By elenchusphilosophy

I'm a Philosophy student in Belgium, trying to talk and write about ideas of all kinds of sorts.

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