The ideal of a visionary, hailed and hated, an ideal which at its zenith controlled half of the planet, an ideal which threatened to revolutionise the world with the rule of the proletariat, has all but collapsed. Such hopes and dreams probably never experienced the level of anti-thesis which proletarians underwent with Marxism, and its most implemented denomination, Marixsm-Lenninism.
I say anti-climax because the bourgeoisie could mentally prepare themselves for eternal damnation, for Marx had condemned them to his equivalent of hell, but the ideals of ending their capitalist hegemony over business resulted in a centrally planned economy, which in all irony turned out to be the polar opposite of a free proletarian paradise, by creating the biggest business monopoly human history had witnessed, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
This problem is compounded by the infusion of Lenin’s authoritarian ideals into Marx’s paradise, “democratic centralism” is Lenin’s euphemism for authoritarian rule through the leader and the politburo. The lack of accountability through a Parliament (truly elected by the people) and the absence of a free market (which is mostly self accountable and where workers could compete and be paid for their value and where businesses compete to cut costs and innovate) was replaced with a system where the executive acted with utter impunity, not only politically but economically. Workers might not be vulnerable to capitalist exploitation (in which they could at least pick who would exploit them) but were vulnerable to exclusive exploitation at the hands of the state, and could not be independent from the state. A miner in Siberia couldn’t even dream of living in the splendour his fellow “proletarians” enjoyed in the Kremlin. Lenin and other General Secretaries, the messiah of workers, resided in a Tsarist paradise. That’s egalitarianism in the USSR.
Politics and economics are seldom separated, a combination of authoritarianism and centrally planned economics made the USSR highly inefficient. A lack of incentive to innovate (as there are no competitors) meant that the protuberance of state enterprise only multiplied until inefficiency reached cancerous levels in the 1980’s when the USSR experienced stagflation, because of the inability of poor quality Soviet goods to compete internationally. This is because businesses dont compete for consumers in Marixsm, as there is only one enterprise in Marxism (the State) and it provides most needs, the incentive to be efficient is low and we see a limit on the Production Possibility Curve. Vast bureaucracy will slow down the approach of the economy towards the PPC, so inefficiency is abundant, red tape in bounty and free enterprise (the cornerstone of modern innovation including the industrial revolution) profoundly lacking.
Marx’s concept of Labour, is that the Industrial revolution decreased the value of labour, as products were produced quicker, therefore the cost was reduced. Marx repeatedly emphasises in Das Kapital the tendencies of businesses to be willing to cut labour costs in order to make a profit. And to an extent that’s fine, because that means that costs of production will be lower, so goods will be cheaper, inflation will be low – and this will benefit workers. Neither capitalism nor communism are perfect, but greater efficiency will prevent stagflation. This benefits everyone, including workers.
The art of Marxism-Leninism was the perception of “breaking the chains” of the proletariat in revolution, of course the endemic corruption and nepotism by a socialist bureaucracy, re-incarnated those chains. The key to those chains were held not by the multitude of layers of capitalists (here multiple owners hold the keys), but by the state (one key for all workers) one institution had hegemony above all, and that is a contradiction in Marx’s ideology. He dreams of an egalitarian state, but creates an economic autocracy, in which the Communist Party is above all.
Nonetheless Marxism appeared to have served as a form of deterrent, which catalysed overtures by other nations to improve the conditions of the working class in order to stave of revolution. Free market economies understood the warning that extremely poor conditions for the working class would allow the voice of fringe groups such as Communists to resonate with workers, henceforth introduced reforms such as welfare and the minimum wage in order to stave off revolution.
However, Marx fundamentally got one other thing wrong, he believed that class warfare was the final war, the thing is it wasn’t and isn’t. Humans are biologically idiosyncratic and socially fractionated (even Marxism can’t guarantee that everyone has a fair chance at love). People are held bondage by a system of patronage (even with religion excluded) domestic, local, ethnic and linguistic priorities could be considered more important than political ideology (but not always). Religion might be the opium of the masses but ethnicity, linguistics and social custom are by-products of Darwinian evolution. Ethnic tension was always bubbling under the surface in the Soviet Union, and this inhibited the creation of Marx’s utopia. My evidence is the strong rise of nationalist feelings in the Gorbachev years, the Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Turkmen people wanted their own state on the basis of nationality. Religion didn’t bind these Muslims together and nationalism fractionated them. Islam couldn’t unite them, what real chance did Marxism have?