“We do not regard Marx’s theory as some thing complete and unassailable; on the contrary, we are convinced that it has only laid the foundation stone of the science which socialists must develop in all directions if they wish to keep pace with life.”
– V.I. Lenin, Our Programme, 1899
When Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto with his comrade and fellow revolutionary Freidrich Engels, the embodied ideas and theories (explained in great detail in Kapital) laid a foundation that had enormous effects throughout the world, some of which can still be seen today. Unions of trade workers throughout the Proletariat (or the Working Class) demanded better working conditions, higher wages, and other benefits. By organizing themselves and fighting against the never-ending quest for profit at the cost of the labor force, those trade unions of the past gave today’s Working Class the 40-hour workweek, workplace anti-discrimination policies, and, perhaps most importantly, an avenue of communication, reinforced and amplified by the strength found in numbers, to voice any dissatisfaction.
Marx laid out the concepts of Capitalist Production, detailing the methods by which the Capitalist exploits the labor force for profit, simultaneously oppressing that labor force and increasing their own accumulated wealth. He described, on a macro-economic scale with micro-economic examples in practice, the many interconnected ways in which Surplus-Value is created, and demonstrated how Capitalism will lead only to greater inequality between classes (and the various gradients within those classes).
However immortal his science may be, there was a major flaw in the way Marx laid all of this out for us – it was impossible to fully understand unless you already have a decent understanding of economic principles. Fast forward more than 150 years, and while all of that science still holds true today more than ever, the language is outdated and tough to follow. Combine that with over a century of Anti-Socialist propaganda, the systemic under-education of the Proletariat, and the outright deceit of the Bourgeoisie (or the Ruling Class), and there is little to wonder as to why the majority of today’s Labor Force consistently supports and defends an economic system that holds them in perpetual slavery to the Capitalist Class. Words like “Communist” and “Socialist” will quickly draw the ire and disdain of those who have been duped into believing that the Capitalist has their best interests in mind, and is doing them a favor by allowing them the opportunity to earn meager wages (when compared with their actual production value as a Worker).
Marxism unmasks the truth behind those lies and betrayals, and shows us how, though the Capitalist has convinced the Worker that the Worker depends on the Capitalist, the exact opposite is the fact of the matter – the Capitalist cannot create profit without the Surplus-Value of the Worker, whereas the Worker retains the ability to produce that Value regardless of Capitalist intervention (or lack thereof). It therefore becomes incumbent upon all who understand Marx’s science in even the most basic way to educate their peers as to the reality of the economic, political, and social conditions that we find ourselves in today. There have been attempts at this very thing throughout history, efforts that continue today in vastly different methods, thanks to advancement of technology and the ease in which we can communicate and transmit ideas.
For all of his flaws in the eyes of various factions, one cannot deny the importance of Max Eastman’s contribution to helping the average American Worker understand the theories laid out in Kapital. In 1932, Eastman published Capital and Other Writings, a heavily edited version of Kapital‘s three immense volumes as well as Marx’s Theory Of History, the Manifesto, and selected writing by Lenin. Noting the philosophical nature of Marx’s mind (and therefore his work), Eastman wrote:
Marx gave the world as important a gift of scientific knowledge as any man of the modern era; he is one of the giants of science… But instead of presenting his thoughts in (a) simple and clear form as a specific plan for the solution of a specific problem, he started in by deciding in general what the universe is made of and how it operates, and then gradually worked down towards a demonstration that… this universe is inevitably going to revolutionize itself in just the manner outlined in his plan, and therefore as intelligent parts of a universe of such a kind it behooves us to get to work on the job. That is surely one reason – and I think it is the main reason – why Marxism did not take firm root in our culture where its lessons are most directly applicable.
Eastman kept the most vital parts of Kapital, those things that were essential to understanding Marx’s science, and did away with the rest. In each of the three volumes of Kapital, some of the theories and ideas were repeated as Marx developed them further – these repetitions were also done away with and the developed idea presented fully.
Another problem in the organization of Marx’s original work was that it was written as if Marx was addressing his colleagues in economic theory – some of the things he wrote about in Volume I required an understanding of things he discussed at length in Volume III. Eastman reorganized the remaining essential parts of Kapital into a linear analysis that the average Worker could follow and understand. In each section, Eastman attempted to preserve the exact wording of the original (though adding or omitting a word or two and including footnotes here and there for clarity was, of course, necessary at times).
Today, almost 200 years after Marx first laid out the principles behind his analysis, we find that there is still an immense disconnect between the Working Class and the understanding of the Marxist science. This is in spite of the continued efforts of leftists, throughout history and still today, to enlighten others. We often find ourselves in an echo chamber, preaching to the choir, and making little progress in uniting the Working Class as a whole. The Capitalist’s greatest tool in creating profit is the division of the Labor Force in production – likewise, the Capitalist’s greatest tool in the oppression and perpetual enslavement of the Working Class is the division of the social and political power of the Working Class. And, just as in mass-production, the Capitalist seeks out the most effective and efficient way to ensure that division remains by using the most effective and efficient tools to create and maintain such a division- the members of the Working Class themselves.
As we fight amongst ourselves over whose form of oppression is more oppressive than whose, clamoring for more attention to be given to one marginalized group over another, and even members within those groups ostracizing fellow members as “The Other”, the divisions created are ever-widened, strengthening the Capitalist’s hold over Labor and further reducing the social and political power that the Working Class could attain were it to unite under a common banner of Equality. In the quest to lift up voices of one marginalized group facing a particular form of oppression, we should not drown out other voices and discount their own material conditions. Instead we should seek to lift up ALL voices, uniting those differences in common, much like the chorus of a song unites the different verses (or sections). There is no need to ignore one group’s struggle in favor of another – conversely, as we seek to create a truly egalitarian society, every voice should be heeded and understood, and every concern should be taken into account. The Intersectionality of oppression must likewise be analyzed and understood as intrinsic parts of Capitalist oppression as a whole. And it can and should be done under the banner of Equality, of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat – that is to say a truly equal democracy formed from the bottom up rather than the top down, where We The People truly have autonomous control over our lives and our destinies.
The ideas that we on the Left have as to how we might actually achieve this are as numerous as leaves on a tree. All have their merits, and all have their flaws. All are worthy of discussion, analysis, and evolution. Just as the leaves of a tree stem from the same trunk, all of these ideas stem from the science that Marx discovered. And as time progresses, technology advances, and our Material Conditions also change, old leaves may drop off and wither away so that new leaves may form and develop, and the tree may continue to grow in strength and scope. Without its leaves, the tree would die – without the development and analysis of these ideas, and indeed the introduction of new ways to approach our conditions, Marxism itself would surely be forgotten to history as the highly effective and efficient machinery of Capitalist Propaganda obscures every trace of this understanding of our material conditions. We must continue Marx’s work, and the work of those who followed, by passing along this knowledge in as many ways as we can, and using as many voices as possible.
The living mission of The Modern Marxist can be found in three parts:
1.) Understanding the principles inherent in Capitalist society as laid out in the Science of Marxism – We will seek do this through analysis of the work of Marx and others, and of the various schools of Communistic thought, including the anarchistic as well as the authoritarian. We will attempt, through discussion and analysis, to bring those ideas to more contemporary mediums in various formats that are accessible to all people, regardless of their level of education or economic status.
2) Uniting the Working Class – In every way, we will attempt to fight against the divisions among the Working Class sowed by Capitalism and the conditions created by Capitalism, while also highlighting the individual oppressions of separate groups of marginalized people. We do not seek to silence or erase any voices. We believe in a free and safe environment within which differing ideas of merit can be discussed and analyzed, and we seek to create such a space for that to happen. We do NOT believe that hate speech, bigotry, homo- or trans-phobia, misogyny, nationalism, and other right-wing reactionary views hold any merit in uniting the Working Class, and will not be tolerated on any platform with which we are associated. We believe that an idea has merit until it begins to encroach on the autonomy of any other person or group of people – these ideas need not be discussed, as they are not in line with the egalitarian ideals espoused in Marxism. In short, Nazis and Nazi Sympathizers, or those who would seek to deny rights to others that they demand for themselves, need not apply. All else are welcomed.
3) Material Support – There exists a disdain for intellectual labor among those who perform more manual labor. This is understandable, as the Intellectual Laborer often looks down on the Manual Laborer as “unwashed, uneducated, uncultured, and undesirable”. Add into this the disparity in wages paid for these different types of labor, and another division in the Working Class has been sown. But the plain fact of the matter is that some are better suited to build homes and others are better suited to educate or entertain. Despite this truth, there are many who engage in Manual Labor strictly out of the necessity of survival who would be highly respected authors or musicians if only they had the freedom to pursue those passions. Likewise, there are just as many who reap the benefits of the Intellectual Laborer that shouldn’t.
Marxism gives the individual the freedom to pursue those intellectual passions as they will – the Worker can find the time to also be the Musician, the Author, the Fisher, the Farmer, the Painter. Under a Capitalist system, the Worker is the Worker and little else. Their lives are consumed with the process of creating profit for the Capitalist in order to provide for the necessities of life, and very little beyond that. The disdain that the Manual Laborer feels towards the Intellectual Laborer is multiplied by the inability of the Manual Laborer to pursue such intellectual passions. Yet, as we see over and over again throughout history, the spark of revolution created by Capitalist oppression is often fanned best by the Intellectual Laborers of the Working Class. Revolutionary ideas find their way into music, poetry, literature, painting, and all manner of intellectual product, and spread throughout the Working Class by the same. The Communist Manifesto itself is an example of just that.
We believe that one of the more effective ways to bridge the gap between the Manual Laborer and the Intellectual Laborer is to engage in Material and Community Support through Direct Action efforts. The Modern Marxist seeks to provide an avenue for that. As we grow and find ourselves able to meet and exceed the ability to provide for our own necessities (we, too, are slaves to the Capitalist system of Wage Worker Exploitation, with jobs and families), we will find ways to contribute as we are able to various political, social, and community organizations in support of grassroots revolutionary actions to improve the material conditions of the Working Class. This may come in the form of physical material support at protests and demonstrations (as we are able), or it may come in the form of contributions to legal defense funds of political prisoners. All of the content of The Modern Marxist will always be free of charge, as the poorest among us are those who need this science the most – this too is a contribution to the betterment of society, and the product of our own labor being used for the benefit of the Working Class rather than for the profit of a Capitalist. (Whaddaya know, it really does work!)
Lastly, it is important to us that we reiterate this fact – we are members of the Working Class, and we are by no means experts in the science of Marxism. This is a learning journey for us. We will surely be evolving, as anybody would, as we read and analyze more and more of the theories built from the foundation of Marxism, as well as critiquing the Socialist States of history and modern day. We seek to help others remove some of the social programming of Capitalist propaganda, as we simultaneously lift that veil from our own eyes. The Modern Marxist might not be what the seasoned leftist is looking for. And that’s ok. A diversity of tactics in Class Struggle is not just beneficial, it is unavoidable. And it is necessary. Rather than developing a whole new school of thought, The Modern Marxist seeks to help others gain a more in-depth and inclusive view of their material conditions simply as we also analyze and learn about them ourselves. We are bound to get some things wrong, or incomplete. We invite all critiques, and desire more than anything to spark revolutionary discussion among likeminded individuals to unify the Working Class under one single creed: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need!!!”
William Forbin, The Modern Marxist