A Few Quick And Untidy Thoughts On The Marxist Behemoths

Marx was not the first philosopher to write about dialectics, the concept of the interpenetration of opposites and the logic of contradictions in society which was the philosophical justification for the notion of class struggle. He was not the sole author of ‘The Communist Manifesto’ but rather the co-author with fellow “Young Hegelian” Friederich Engels. Hegelianism was an already-established philosophical school of thought, with it being known to have influenced Darwin. The laws of dialectics were laid out by Hegel who had a higher concern with spiritual ideas. Marx adapted Hegel’s dialectic theory into a materialist stance. Marx is more concerned with the practical implications of the dialectical process in the post-enlightenment world and thus more relevant; however, the influence of ‘The Communist Manifesto’ was not a result of just Marx but rather a circle of philosophers who were contributors.

However, this philosophical tradition was pushed into recognition by events that occurred at the time of its formulation. Trotsky commented that “Hegel wrote before Darwin and before Marx” and he argues that Hegel’s dialectical idealism was thanks to the “impulse of the French Revolution”. Therefore, if it was not for the French Revolution, Marx may not have written ‘The Communist Manifesto’; and even if he did, it would not have received the attention that it did. Marx would not be as influential as he was if it were not for the environment and previous events at the time.

Marx’s ‘The Communist Manifesto’ did not permeate society when it was published in the middle of the 19th Century, but later. However, a further credit to Marx is the failure of future social thinkers to respond to Marx. It was not until the end of the 20th Century that ideas contrary to Marx like Friedman’s libertarian economic ideology were considered to be as impactful as Marx. One strategy has been to reduce Marxism to its analytical core, known as analytical Marxism, which came at the cost of sacrificing its most interesting and perplexing ideas.

Furthermore, his own influences can be seen as evidence that, although he may be considered a genius, he was “just another wheel in the cog” of economic and socio-political thought. His influences range from Hegel’s dialectics, the classical economics of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, French socialist thought- including the Paris Commune, Rousseau, Saint-Simon, Proudhon and Fourier-, the philosophical materialism of Feuerbach; the secularism of Paine and the working class analysis by Engels. But, to Marx’s credit, he adapted Hegel’s initial ideas which were “idealistic, abstract and arbitrary” as he echoed the metaphysical words of Heraclitus that “everything flows and nothing stays”, Marx’s economic determinism and societal evaluation was science-based just as Darwin’s observations. Marx drew upon established scientific truths and related the fundamental proposition of dialectics that everything is in a constant process of development to the industrial structure of society.

The like-minded thinkers that succeeded Marx to keep his process alive into the 20th Century like Trotsky and Orwell are a testament to his great influence and the upmost regard that highly influential intellectuals held for him even after his death. ‘The Communist Manifesto’ gave hope to whole populations, who had lived after and perhaps learned of the events during the French Revolution, who considered themselves oppressed, and thanks to Marx, left-wing voices became respected and revolutionary political ideology was established.

MM

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