Why I’m a Marxist

Ramsey argues that the ‘borgeouis’ have twisted the average person’s view of Marxism

Blake Ramsey, Staff Writer

Marxism is one of the words which seems almost forbidden to even mention at this university.  Sure, people read Marx’s readings in sociology and history because Marx was the foundation of sociological work and his writings played a pivotal role in history, but Marxism, and the figures surrounding it, have become distorted.  When you ask a random person on the street what Marxism is, you will get a variety of answers – from government intervention, to Nazi Germany, to wanting to destroy US institutions, to the “woke agenda.”  Unfortunately, even here at Washington and Lee, a school which holds itself in high esteem for its academic rigor and liberal arts study, I doubt you would get an accurate definition of Marxism if you went around asking people on the colonnade.
So, this comes to the question, what is Marxism?  Marxism, put simply, is a materialist analysis of history (historical materialism) to understand class relations.  Out of this historical analysis comes the dialectical perspective on how social transformation in the world happens, coined as dialectical materialism.  Because Marxism in reality is merely the application of theories forwarded by Marx and Engels, Marxism can take a lot of different forms.  People like Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, two staunch Marxists, analyzed the potentiality of reformation through democracy while Marxists such as Rosa Luxembourg and Vladimir Lenin analyzed the hold the bourgeois had on the institution of democracy itself.  I hold no fear to say that I agree with Lenin and Luxembourg’s analysis of the necessity of revolution to bring about socialism and the end of capitalism, but people like Bernstein and Kautsky are equally as Marxist as Lenin, Luxembourg, and me.
Hence, this leads to a question, why has Marxism come to be understood in a completely different way in modern society?
I posit this answer is rather simple.  It is in the interest of the bourgeois to completely skew what Marxism is.  Marx and other Marxists analyze that class relations cannot be understood through a socio-economic wealth analysis, but rather the analysis of ownership of the production and the means of production themselves.  Most people would be surprised to learn that Marx himself in his writings never uses morally charged language against the owners of capital, rather purely staying in the realm of economics.  This is incredibly important because Marxist writers hence analyze that the bourgeois are economically infeasible and will continue to exploit the labor value of the proletariat through rigorous economic and historical analysis, providing legitimate reasons backed in the Marxist materialist philosophy on how capitalism is a self-destructing, inherently contradictory system.
For instance, in Capital vol. 1, Marx analyzes that capitalism inherently causes the consolidation of production and monopolies to form in the hands of the richest capitalists, stating:
It is concentration of capitals already formed, destruction of their individual independence, expropriation of capitalist by capitalist, transformation of many small into few large capitals…. Capital grows in one place to a huge mass in a single hand, because it has in another place been lost by many…. The battle of competition is fought by cheapening of commodities. The cheapness of commodities demands, ceteris paribus, on the productiveness of labour, and this again on the scale of production. Therefore, the larger capitals beat the smaller. It will further be remembered that, with the development of the capitalist mode of production, there is an increase in the minimum amount of individual capital necessary to carry on a business under its normal conditions. The smaller capitals, therefore, crowd into spheres of production which Modern Industry has only sporadically or incompletely got hold of. Here competition rages…. It always ends in the ruin of many small capitalists, whose capitals partly pass into the hands of their conquerors, partly vanish.
Lenin further analyzes this phenomenon in Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, looking at the role of banks in purveying the formation of monopolies, stating after analyzing the consolidation and growth of big banks:
As regards the close connection between the banks and industry, it is precisely in this sphere that the new role of the banks is, perhaps, most strikingly felt. When a bank discounts a bill for a firm, opens a current account for it, etc., these operations, taken separately, do not in the least diminish its independence, and the bank plays no other part than that of a modest middleman. But when such operations are multiplied and become an established practice, when the bank “collects” in its own hands enormous amounts of capital, when the running of a current account for a given firm enables the bank—and this is what happens—to obtain fuller and more detailed information about the economic position of its client, the result is that the industrial capitalist becomes more completely dependent on the bank.
These excerpts showcase the extensive research and analysis Marxists perform to understand the workings of the capitalist economies and its contradictions, namely in this case that capitalism preaches to be a “free market” where businesses compete against each other on a level playing field, but this is not the case at all as the biggest members of the bourgeois will continue to own more and more and consolidate the economy around themselves.  In the modern day, think of Disney and Anheuser-Busch.  Disney has grown to be so big that it literally competes against itself in multiple different sectors, including television and film.  Anheuser-Busch owns most beers served in the USA, from Bud Light to Michelob to Natty Light to Corona to Stella to Peroni.  The company competes against itself with essentially zero competition in the market, leading to the great consolidation of capital solely to that company.
As showcased, it is against the material interests of the bourgeois to allow Marxism to ferment, as their exploitation and consolidation of capital would become apparent.  Therefore, they have completely made the word and its resulting analysis lose all meaning in modern society.  This, however, is once again not a surprise to a Marxist.  Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist who wrote extensively on the effects the bourgeois can have on culture.  Gramsci defines this phenomenon as cultural hegemony, in which the bourgeois utilize ideology to permeate the ideals of the proletariat to make them side with them.  Eventually, the culture from the hegemony continues to permeate throughout society, replicating itself and further strengthening the hegemonic hold the bourgeois hold through the superstructure – the institutions set in place which purvey the desired culture.
Yes, the complete bastardization Marxism and its meaning is a result of the bourgeois maintaining the culture desirable to them in order that they can continue to control production and its means.  Culture and its importance to people has taken on such a life in the US that people regularly vote and act against their economic interests (mostly out of racism), assisting the bourgeois in maintaining power in the country.
Even the ideal of homeownership is a cultural movement in the USA to defend against Communism.  After WWII and during the Cold War, homeownership was pushed as not only a protection of the family values but also as a bulwark against Communism itself.  However, a rather non-discussed fact is that these cultural issues led to more people owning private property, joining the ranks of the petit-bourgeois, aligning their own material interests with those of the bourgeois despite it really only assisting the biggest of the bourgeois as analyzed by many Marxist writers, including not only Marx and Lenin whom I have discussed, but also Bukharin, Luxembourg, and others.
Another way Marxism has been skewed is by the question “where has socialism worked?” or by pointing to different countries claiming to be socialist and saying they’re failed.  This is wrong for many reasons.  Firstly, I want to discuss the fact that most times Marxist governments have been propped up, the capitalist world has tried its very hardest to end it.  Cuba has been under US sanctions since the Cuban Revolution which ended the control the bourgeois had on the island, which has only led to economic downturn with its closest country and one of the biggest trading powers in the world.  Chile’s Marxist president Salvador Allende was overthrown by CIA-assisted reactionary forces.  Nicaragua’s Sandinistas were ousted by right-wing death squads funded by the USA.  Burkina Faso’s Marxist leader was assassinated most-likely in a French plot.  The USA sent troops to Korea and Vietnam to attempt to prevent “Marxist” governments from gaining control of the land.  This is not just Cold War politics against Communism either.  The USA supported Pol Pot and his genocidal regime in Cambodia which claimed to be Communist – it was actually Vietnam which ended Pol Pot’s regime.  The USA still holds an embargo against Cuba preventing a fuller economic development.  The USA still holds sanctions against Venezuela and recognized an illegitimate leader in Juan Guiado.  The USA still meddles in affairs of leftist leaders, including Evo Morales in Bolivia, where a US-dominated OAS claimed he held a fraudulent election despite proof to the contrary.  If socialism is such a doomed ideology anywhere it takes hold, why does the US, a country wholly owned and controlled by the bourgeois, go on such a rampant effort to make sure it does not come to fruition?  If it’s because Communist leaders will “abuse human rights,” I am sorry to inform you about the right-wing dictatorships the USA has put into place.
We all truly know the answer on why the USA and the first-world fights so hard against Marxism.  It is against the bourgeois’ interests.  Any place where Marxists take over mean less markets for the bourgeois to expand into – as markets eventually run out in a country and bourgeois continue to expand into new markets where they can exploit labor more and gain more profit, a phenomenon analyzed by Lenin in the aforementioned Imperialism.  So when certain writers in the Spectator try to say if an idea is good it would win in the “marketplace of ideals,” I maintain your “marketplace of ideals” is a bourgeois construction which forcefully stifles any Marxist idea to perpetuate ideologies still beneficial to the owners of capital.
So, why am I a Marxist?  I would like to quote Ernesto “Che” Guevara, another highly bourgeois-manipulated figure, “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”  Economic analyses on the foundations of capitalism and commodity exchange leads me to understand that capitalism must be abolished to build a better, more just society that does not see exploitation of the proletariat.  Additionally, the scourge of capitalism is interwoven with the exploitation of marginalized groups, and while the cultural superstructure of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny will not fall with the fall of capitalism, we must apply the materialist analysis of the exploitation of capitalism to our fight for rights of marginalized people.  Yes, I am a Marxist because I agree with Marx’s conception of historical materialism and the theory built upon that by integral authors like Lenin, Luxembourg, Guevara, Trotsky, Fanon, Gramsci, and Kollontai.  But more importantly, I am a Marxist because I love everybody, and only through the collective effort can the individual be truly strengthened and liberated.