Is Marxism anti-democratic?
In order to answer this question the parameters of the discussion must first be set, with key terms in the title defined. Marxism I define to be ‘an economic and socio-political worldview and method of socio-economic enquiry which focuses upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change and an analysis and critique of capitalism. ‘ Democracy, I define to be an ‘egalitarian form of government in which sovereignty is vested in the people and exercised by them or elected agents.’ In the following essay I will present two opposing interpretations of Marxism, with both leading to wildly divergent conclusions regarding the democratic nature of Marxism. The first perspective revolves around a literal interpretation of Marxism; with the emphasis being entirely on Marx’s writings as oppose to any subsequent interpretations or manifestations of his beliefs. The second perspective involves an empirical study of Marxism, with various Marxist regimes analyzed and the extent to which they are democratic being the primary means of assessing as to whether Marxism is democratic or not. The following two quotations, I believe demonstrate the polarity of opinion existing on Marxism and Democracy and accurately summarize the two perspectives I will be arguing; Hal Draper (1978) states ‘Marx’s socialism maybe most quickly defined, as the complete democratization of society, not merely of political forms,’ and Joseph Femia ‘Communist despotism was a logical consequence of Marxist theory.’ In the first part of the essay, I will outline Marx’s theory of the state and democracy which supports the argument that Marxism is not theoretically anti-democratic. In the second part of the essay I will present the view that as a result of their being such significant empirical evidence in opposition to this thesis I believe it is hard to argue that Marxism can be viewed as democratic. Marx stated ‘The question whether human thinking can reach objective truth-is not a question of theory but a practical question.’ This can be interpreted to mean that Marx believed that his ideology should be based on its empirical value; therefore I believe, when answering this question, Marx’s wish should be upheld. I will therefore argue that Marxism is anti-democratic as a result of its ‘failure to produce a coherent and convincing theory of democracy ,’ and ‘has been beset by undemocratic forces and tendencies’ (Cohen, 1965).
Ferenk Feher states ‘History is merciless to all ideologies, how has the Marxist dream of emancipation turned into a nightmare of authoritarianism?’ (Femia,1987). As I outlined in the introduction, it is clear that Marxism, has clearly been significantly misinterpreted when practiced in political actuality. As ‘Marx and Engels persistently refused to speculate about in detail a broader political structure,’ (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/) analysis of Marxism must focus on general themes from his writings. . In the following paragraph, I will attempt to outline the Marxist philosophy, focusing particularly on the role of the state. The Marxist ideal, proposes a classless, stateless society in which ‘the means of production are publicly owned,’ Marx does talk however about the notion of ‘true democracy,’ with this achieved only when ‘civil society (abolition of private property) and egoism of the state (deprofessionalisation and democratization) had occurred. ‘True democracy,’ I infer from Marx’s writings, to be the state in which civil society and the state are unified, with this being the state when means of production are publicly owned and the state is synonymous with its inhabitants. The impact of the publicization of the means of production is emphasized in the following quotation from Marx ‘We must liberate ourselves, taking possession of all the means of production-therewith all inequality must fall away. This I believe to clearly conform to my...
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