Shannon Barry, Period 7
In theory, Marx’s Communist Manifesto is appealing. It speaks to the everyday man, who faces class struggle and dreams of equality. Many argue that Free Trade has become a form of exploitation, where workers are treated inhumanely for big business’s profits. This deteriorates the quality of human life, and prevents us from existing in a peaceful and natural state. As Aristotle warns, “money was intended to be used in [equal] exchange, but not to increase at interest… wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural” (The Politics). Marx argues that money is becoming the “natural superior” that rules society; personal worth has been dwindled down to exchange value. On paper, this argument is powerful and appealing. However, in all applications of Communism, there has been a fatal flaw that prevents the society from succeeding. In the examples of Soviet Russia, China, and North Korea, it is evident that the true, functioning Communism is impossible.
The Communist Party in Soviet Russia evolved from the Social Democrat Party. They gained political power after Russia’s involvement in World War I. By mid-1917 the country was left damaged from two and a half years of war; the army was exhausted tsarist police force was not far from collapse. It was easy for Lenin and his communist ideals to spread powerfully and quickly through Russia. The citizens were enthusiastic about a brighter future under Lenin’s regime. Although Communist propaganda sounded ideal, it was flawed, and did not reflect at all what Marx had dreamed of. The application of communism separated Russia from Western civilization and culture, and prevented them from entering “the Modern Age.” Lenin first began with wiping out almost all “bourgeois” intellectual generation. The Soviet government oppressed the “educated and culturally important” parts of the Russian society. Stalin later finished what Lenin started, by continuing to wipe out culture and the intellectual generation. The elimination of the tsarist culture stunted the national development. Originally, the Social Democrat Party had emphasized the success of the farming population. However, in a campaign launched in 1929, Stalin did the opposite. He confiscated what little property the Russian “kulaks,” or farmers, owned, and severely punished those who did not give their land up to the government. The farms became government property, and were worked and harvested under government control. What followed was a major famine and a loss of two-thirds of the country’s livestock. Russian agriculture was hit so powerfully and painfully that its development was set back several decades, and it has not fully recovered to this day. As Ludwig Von Mises’s Liberty and Property implies, the economic failure is due to the lack of private property. Von Mises states that private property serves a social function, in that it is the “means to stimulate a nation’s most enterprising men to exert themselves to the best of their abilities” (Liberty and Property). In other words, a man is working best if he is working for himself on his land. Unaware of Von Mises insight, it appears that what Lenin and Stalin most retained from The Communist Manifesto was the “history of class struggles” that Marx described. Marx separates the “Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat,” where the former is ceaselessly oppressing the latter. It is evident in Lenin’s “Intellectual Genocide” that the Communist Party was attempting to wipe out a seemingly oppressive generation. However, instead of resolving the tension of class struggles, Lenin stunts national development and wrecks the culture of the nation. Soviet Russia subsequently fails economically, and the Communist Party can no longer function according to what Marx wrote.
In 1947, the Communist Party obtained complete control of China under Mao Zedong’s rule. They set out to follow the Soviet model, which included heavy industry and surpluses extracted from peasants. Consumer goods were deemed “unnecessary.” In the 1950’s, however, Zedong developed Maoism and split from traditional Marxism. Mao believed that communists and capitalists could not exist peacefully. Maoists then began a strong communist tradition, which included the movements called the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The Great Leap Forward was intended to develop industry in China, but it was instead a massive failure. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao murdered millions of people whom were considered to be his “enemies.” During the Great Leap Forward, Mao announced a Five Year Plan to begin in 1958, and strived to develop agriculture and industry. China was then reformed into smaller communes; each commune contained approximately 5000 families. The citizens living in a commune gave up their ownership of all possessions, and the material goods were then placed under the ownership of the entire commune. The commune provided all that was needed, but the lives of the individuals were all taken over by the commune. Independence ceased to exist. In 1959, things started to go wrong. Political decisions overrode common sense and communes could no longer provide what Communist Party Officials ordered. Quickly produced machinery fell to pieces when used on the farms, and thousands of workers became ill or injured after working long and painful hours. Additionally, food production in China was dependent on the good weather during1958. This lucky year of growing was followed by a year of poor conditions during 1959; China was hit by floods and drought. Production was far below what China needed; starvation occurred. 1960 had worse weather than the years before; 9 million people starved to death in 1960, and millions more were left ill. As weather improved in later years, living conditions also improved. Today, China still cannot produce enough essential supplies to sustain its population, but mortality rates are much lower. After Zedong’s death, China slowly became more and more capitalistic. The written constitution today includes many civil rights, including free speech, press, worship, and the right to own private property. However, in practice this constitution has not been followed. Very little is done to ensure that new laws instituted follow the constitution. The Chinese judicial system does not provide any method for review of new laws, and therefore, progress is slow and citizens are still oppressed. Zedong’s following of Marx’s words initially followed the Russian interpretation, and therefore included the attempted elimination of the “enemies,” or Bourgeoisie. In Marx’s words, the Bourgeoisie “resolved personal worth into exchange value.” Zedong counters that by forming the communes; in these small communities, everyone had a role to contribute. Mao believed that people were no longer being “brutally exploited,” and were instead working for themselves. However, the Chinese Communist political system desperately failed. Von Mises would conclude this failure is due to the lack of private property, much like the failure in the Soviet model. Zedong’s interpretation of Marx’s text resulted in the commune system, and since the citizens were no longer working for themselves on their own land, millions died in starvation, and the government could barely function. According to Von Mises, the “nation’s most enterprising men” were no longer stimulated to achieve. The communist model failed, yet again, to reach the perfect utopia that Marx set out on paper.
North Korea’s Communist Party came to power close to the same time that China’s did. Their first two decades of rule greatly resembled each other. In the 1970s, the two versions of communism began to diverge dramatically. The North Korean economic system is called Juche, and combines xenophobic nationalism and economic independence. North Korea attempts to meet all of their needs with domestic goods. However, the dictator Kim Jong Un enjoys elaborate imported meals and imported consumer goods. Juche has created an economic disaster. Today North Korea has become perhaps the poorest country in the world and cannot fulfill even the most basic needs of its people. Korea was previously a heavily industrialized nation. When the Communists took power, it was wealthy and productive. Kim Il Song, the Communist Party leader, installed a program much like the Soviet economic system. In 1950, the Korean War left the country devastated, and what followed was much economic decline. As in other Communist nations, agriculture failed due to collectivization and mismanagement. Along with droughts, crop failures have resulted in famine. Approximately 3 million people died in a famine that began in the 1990s. Instead of improving to benefit the citizens, the country’s economic policies have worsened, and contributed to the stress of an already dire situation. The major cause of the famine appears to be a result of Government policies similar to those pursued by Soviet Russia’s leader Stalin during the Ukrainian famine. In the 1990s, Kim Jong Il used food as a reward for those deemed loyal, and withheld it from those he thought to be least loyal. In many ways, the Korean Communist model mirrored the Soviets and Chinese. Here, however, individual worth is pushed to the maximum. The economic system Juche tears its society away from all traces of capitalism, the “slavish existence.” The failure of this communist system is again rooted in the lack of private property. Von Mises argues that the possession of private property prevents nations from “plunging into stagnation.” North Korea ceased to progress because stimulation, or private property, was withheld from the citizens with ingenuity. Kim Il Song had interpreted Marx’s harsh words against exploitative capitalism extremely. By denying his nation of any outside trade and binding them to industrial independence, he thrust them into poverty. Juche’s failure only indicates that Marx’s Communist Manifesto is impractical and impossible to be carried out in a real nation.
Although The Communist Manifesto rings with independence and individual worth, it cannot function in a nation. The Soviet, Chinese, and Korean models of communism all failed due to their differing interpretations of Marx’s ideas. The Communist Manifesto evokes individuals to deny oppression, but it is not without flaw. The words are simply words, and when applied to economic models, they cannot succeed. True Communist society cannot perpetuate with these flaws that bring about its failure.
Aristotle. The Politics. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
“Communism and Computer Ethics.” Communism: In China. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~eroberts/cs181/projects/communism-computing-china/china.html>.
“Communism: North Korea.” Communism : North Korea. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013. <http://histclo.com/essay/war/com/wc-nk.html>.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967. Print.
“Search the History Learning Site.” History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/>.
Von, Mises Ludwig. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988. Print.