The Ethical Foundations of Marxism

The Ethical Foundations of Marxism

The Ethical Foundations of Marxism

The Ethical Foundations of Marxism

Excerpt

Karl Marx, I shall argue in this book, came to Communism in the interests of freedom, not of security. In his early years he sought to free himself from the pressure exercised by the mediocre German police state of Frederick William IV. He rejected its censorship, its elevation of authority and of religion, its cultural Philistinism and its empty talk of national interest and moral duty. Later he came to believe that such pressures and such human dependence could not be destroyed without destroying capitalism and the whole system of private property from which capitalism had developed.

At the end of his Economico-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx paints a picture of the society of Communism, of the society of true and ultimate human freedom. Sympathetic critics have called it the picture of a society of artists, creating freely and consciously, working together in perfect harmony. In such a society, Marx believed, there would be no State, no criminals, no conflicts. Each man would be 'caught up' in productive labour with other men. The struggle would be a common struggle; in his work, and in other men, man would find not dependence and unpleasantness, but freedom and happiness, just as artists find inspiration in their own work and in the work of other artists. Truly free men will thus need no rules imposed from above, no moral exhortations to do their duty, no 'authorities' laying down what is to be done. Art cannot be created by plans imposed from outside; it knows no authorities and no discipline except the authority and the discipline of art itself. This discipline and authority every artist accepts freely and consciously; it is this and this alone that makes him an artist. No government authority, no patron or overseer, can make him one. What is true of art, Marx believed, is true of all free, productive labour.

This vision of Communism remained with Marx all his life. It . . .

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