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Very well put, Pete.

I have one comment that may be important given that decreasingly younger folk do not slog their way through the tortuous Marx but rely instead on secondary sources or word of mouth. This is that it is not fully clear what Marx himself meant by this socialist future. This in turn reflected a methodological and political/historical decision by Marx and Engels not to follow the path of the utopian socialists, whom they applied that label to. Part of the reason for that label was that they considered those folks to spend too much time describing their future socialist utopias and not enough engaging in "scientifically" analyzing capitalism and its historical path. Arguably this led to them saying too lilttle about that socialist future.

As it is, Engels wrote more about it than Marx, and did some of that when Marx was either old or outright dead, given that he outlived Marx and some would argue was perhaps more practically minded as an actually successful capitalist compared to his more philosophical coauthor who was constantly living on handouts from him. So, it is in Anti-Duhring by Engels alone that we have full-bore advoccay of central planning, although there are some vague references to it in earlier writings by both of them, notably in The Communist Manifesto.

In some sense the "platform" at the end of that work is the most clearly laid out vision of what socialism would be in immediate terms. If one reads that platform one finds a curious mix of items, some of them in effect reformist proposals that have largely been implemented in most current actually existing market capitalist ecnomies, such as progressive income taxation (which some continue to diss precisely because it was advocated in the commie publication). Others are more garden variety sorts of things that we have in fact seen in pretty much all economies that have labeled themselves as socialist, although some of them also to some extent in more socialist-oriented mixed economies, such as nationalizing "the commanding heights" of the economy, such as banking, large-scale manufacturing, major transportation, and so on. Many mixed economy western Europeans did that, with a gradual backing off during the privatization wave since 1980.

The one truly utopian goal stated there was the called for ending of the split between the city and the countryside, although some would say that this is what the suburbs are, hah hah hah.

So, Marx by himself said not much about all this, and some of the things he said in one place contradict what he said in other places. Was he for "bourgeois democracy"? Well in some places he appears to be so, but in others not, with Lenin emphasizing those places where he was not.

The one place where he clearly went fully utopian was in his famous comments in the Critique of the Gotha Program where he speculated on what the "final stage of socialism" would look like, generally thought by most observers to correspond with the goal of "pure" or "true communism." This was the ultimate anarchistic vision of the "withering away of the state when we shall reach the state of 'from each according to his ability to each according to his need.'" Needless to say, no actually existing socialist state ever moved in that anarchistic direction.

I would note as an exit to this that most of the actually existing socialist states, particularly in the Soviet bloc after the immediate War Communism phase (an old focus of Pete's), did not claim to have achieved "communism" or "the final stage of socialism." Most of them officially described themselves as being "socialist economies in transition to full communism," which showed that they continued to be aware of this famous dictum of Marx's and fully aware that they were nowhere near it. Only a few states made an effort to leap to that state, such as Russia immediately after 1917, the Great Leap Forward under Mao in China, and Cambodia/Kampuchea during the Pol Pot period, with such efforts ending universally in major disasters with many people dead.

There is no reason to study Marx in detail when glaring errors jump out from a brief look.

() The labor theory of value. Wrong.
() Industrialization leads to a race to the bottom in salaries offered, starving workers amid overproduction. Wrong.
() Thesis produces Antithesis which then combine to produce Synthesis. A useless overgeneralization.
() Interpreting the working conditions of the industrial revolution as a crime committed by capitalists, when prior working conditions on farms were worse.
() The machines of the 1860's would produce everything. People would be needed only to push the buttons. Wrong.
() An enlightened few could lead the masses to utopia by guiding them with the superior knowledge of the elite. Actually, the result has been theft, mismanagement, oppression, and poverty wherever tried.

The theory was wrong, the texts are inconsistent and contradictory, and the experiments failed. The failures were worse in proportion to the fidelity to Marxist thought.

One last reason for studying Marx would be to discuss Marx with the Marxists to show them explicitly where they are wrong. But, they won't apply reason. They are embedded in a mythology which is not accessible to reason.


Heck, with nobody commenting further, I shall follow up with another odd item that some of you know, but many of you may not, particularly the younger ones. Various of Marx's writings were banned in the former Soviet Union, only available to specially approved people to read. Among the most famous were his Early Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts, written before he fully formed his socialist ideas and he was taking a more idealistic view of things and also his Precapitalist Economic Formations, in which he posited the idea of the Asiatic mode of production, which Stalin did not like because it came to be used against him by Trotskyists and other critics who said he had made the USSR into such a system. There were others, but it is a reminder also that Marx's views changed somewhat over time, much as did those of Keynes and Hayek, and most others who write prolifically and seriously over a long period of time.

Interesting, yes, but Marx will not be refuted by just your say-so; the dearth of references makes your points mere propaganda. Instead of a lenghty piece of nitpicking, I will only say: Piketty:Capital in the 21st Century. The contradictions inherent in capitalism are easy to find if you want to. Marx was just one of the first to point them out.

I have read that Marxists thought that getting rid of capitalism would free human nature to return to its state of innocence. But by the time of the Russian revolution, Marxists had begun to realize that human nature was stuck and just ending capitalism wasn't enough. They would have to re-educate people and those on whom education didn't work would have to be removed from society. That's when the terror began. Anyone have similar ideas?

Also, some socialists I have blogged with lately deny that Marx was a true socialist, and especially vehemently deny that Lenin, Stalin and Mao were socialists. Of course, as Hayek pointed out in Road to Serfdom most socialists were disgusted by what those leaders did. They seem to be market socialists but are unaware that they cannot achieve their goals without force.

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