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nutshell guides: MARXISM

Marxism is, at its core, a simple philosophy.

There is a conflict between two groups that undermines all civilization. The two groups are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

The bourgeoisie own and/or control the means of production; the means of production can be anything that generates revenue. Revenue leads to profit, profit drives capitalism, and capitalism is, of course, the root of all evil.

The proletariat, on the other hand, don't own or control anything significant and have only the ability to provide labor. When they provide their labor to the bourgeoisie, they get paid for doing so.

That's it - basically. The rest of the philosophy we call Marxism explores ways to rebalance the social relationships between the haves (bourgeoisie) and the have nots (proletariat).

In modern times we tend to think of society as having three classes - upper, middle, and working. We don't say "lower class," we say "working class." I guess it's more polite than saying "poor," which is really what we mean.

In Marxism, there are only two classes in a capitalist society - bourgeoisie and proletariat - but the bourgeoisie are further split into three groups. The haute bourgeois own large companies, the petit bourgeois own small companies, and the professionals don't own companies, but help the other two groups run their companies.

All three bourgeois groups are, of course, intimately invested in keeping the system running the way it is, and that requires that they all work (or conspire) together to keep the proletariat powerless.

Marx says humanity is moving towards a new model of civilization, based on a progression that moved through three stages in the past and includes the one we're in and the one we're headed for.

The past models were:

  • Primitive societies, where humans had to work together just to survive. Think hunter-gatherers living in small, scattered tribes across the earth.
  • Ancient societies, where an aristocratic class owned and controlled the means of production and relied on slavery to supply them with a never-ending supply of laborers.
  • Feudal societies, where land was the most important indicator of wealth - but it was all still controlled by the aristocratic class.

The current model is the capitalist society, where the bourgeois (owners of the means of production) are using machines and technology to help them maintain control over the proletariat (laborers).

Marxism looks at capitalism as the root of all evil, because the bourgeoisie use their economic power to enforce their political and ideological constructs over the rest of the population. The capitalists have several tools at their disposal, such as:

  • Tools of Force, such as police forces, armies, secret police, etc.
  • Tools of Ideology, such as teachers, lawyers, politicians, journalists, etc.

Capitalists actually use the latter more than the former, because one of the most insidious aspects of the bourgeoisie is that they don't act overtly oppressive - they oppress in more subtle ways whenever possible, by manipulating the information the proletariat has access to.

This subtle oppression creates an underlying sense of alienation in BOTH groups. The proletariat are alienated from society because everything they do makes the lives of the bourgeois better - but not their own. The bourgeoisie are alienated from humanity because their lives are based on the exploitation and oppression of the proletariat.

The future, then, is the communist society, where nobody owns the means of production. The means of production exist for the common benefit of the entire proletariat.

The only way to make the transition from capitalism to communism - and thus improve society by taking it to its logical best solution - is to have a revolution.

In this revolution, the proletariat will realize its alienation, grow dissatisfied with it, and rise up in rebellion against the bourgeoisie.

To achieve Marx's proposed "dictatorship of the proletariat" though, the entire bourgeois class has to be wiped out. Eliminated.

Once the bourgeoisie is destroyed, the proletariat can create the perfect - communist - society.