Political Ideologies: A Comparative Approach

By Mostafa Rejai | Go to book overview
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aggrandizement of a few. The primacy of economic forces and the institutionalization of ownership-as-the-arena-of-exploitation give rise to incessant class struggle, oppression, and alienation. Conflict, in other words, is inherent in the economic structure of society.

The overriding and unifying theme in Marxism, as we have seen, is moral outrage against the institutions and practices of Western capitalist societies. When combined with unceasing reminders of exploitation, brutalization, dehumanization, and alienation, this dimension provides one of the most potent emotional appeals in human history. Thus, to paraphrase, Marx's Communist Manifesto closes with the ringing exhortation: Workers of all countries unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Ideally, the evaluative component of Marxism revolves around egalitarianism, communalism, and communal ownership and control of national wealth. All this is merely a step toward the realization of a classless society in some distant future--a society in which all conflict ends, peace and harmony prevail, human creativity finds complete fulfillment, and the formula, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," is promulgated.

The programmatic ingredient of Marxism is weak and untenable in that it calls for spontaneous and successful risings of the oppressed against the oppressor. As we shall see, however, this weakness was amply remedied by Lenin, Mao, Ho, and Castro, among others.

The social base of Marxism is, strictly speaking, fully internationalist: the proletariat, regardless of time and place. (In classless society, of course, all distinctions will presumably vanish into one harmonious human race.) In practice, however, as we shall see, Lenin, Mao, Ho, and Castro turned Marxism into national enterprises. As a result, there is as much friction between communist countries today as there is between any other groups.


Selected Bibliography

Avineri, Shlomo. The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

-----, ed. Marx's Socialism. New York: Atherton Press, 1973.

Bober, M. M. Karl Marx's Interpretation of History. Rev. ed. New York: Norton, 1965.

Bottomore, T. B., ed. Karl Marx: Early Writings. London: C. A. Watts, 1963.

Cohen, G. A. Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defense. Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1979.

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