Looking back on the 20th century, we can clearly understand that Marxism was a failure. Yet, still today many find themselves advocating for the same Marxist systems that caused the deaths of millions. Is it leaps of logic that allows for such justifications, or is Marx’s prophetic utopia of the proletariat truly right around the corner?
Saying that the ideas of Karl Marx are profoundly influential in the modern world is somewhat of an understatement. His life and work culminated in two seminal texts: The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Within these works, he discussed the problems with modern capitalism and the conditions of the working man. Moreover, he made a prediction that the proletariat would inevitably rise up and take control, displacing the in-power bourgeoisie.
The Consequence of Marx
As a result of Marx’s writings, many began to take up the mantle of communism. History shows us that the 20th century saw the eath split in half: on one side, we had the capitalist world, and on the other, we had the communists, both vying for domination. As a result, communism left a bloody stain on the tapestry of human history.
In Robert Conquest’s book The Great Terror, he makes clear that we can’t exactly know what the death toll was in the Soviet Union. But in his book, Conquest estimates that Communist leaders killed no fewer than 15 million people. Many have come out and debated the exact numbers, but from official records, we do know that 1.7 million were killed in the Gulags and nearly 400 thousand Kulaks were killed during forced relocation.
Furthermore, Mao is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions. He tells us that under communist China, over 30 million were massacred in the name of a Marxist utopia. Dutch historian Frank Dikötter claims that this is an underestimate. According to him, the true number of victims was in excess of 45 million. Mao saw violence as the only clear option towards achieving his communist goals.
Soviet Russia and Maoist China are only two of the horrendous Marxist regimes throughout history. What compels people, then, to continue carrying on the banner of communism? Are these acts of cruelty not enough? The issue lies in the writings of Marx, and the prophetic nature of his call for the reign of the proletariat.
In 1951, the French Philosopher Albert Camus published The Rebel. Within this text, Camus explains the idea of rebellion and revolution, in addition to interrogating various revolutions across history. He looks into the idea behind a communist revolution and why they continue to occur.
“Marx, in his turn, prophecies the classless society and the solution of the historical mystery,” Camus writes, “however, he does not fix the date.” Marx made a declaration – a prophecy – that the communist utopia was going to occur in the future. He promised his followers for the next few centuries that they shall not be discouraged, for their ideal was near.
Camus continues that his prophecy “predicted the trend of events”. It predicted that the rich would become richer and that the poor would become poorer. It predicted that capitalism by necessity would meet its demise. Yet, “the events and the facts have forgotten to arrange themselves according to the synthesis,” Camus maintains.
A time comes when deception transforms patient hope into furious disillusionment and when the ends, affirmed by the mania of obstinacy, demanded with ever increasing cruelty, make obligatory the search for other means.
According to Camus, the desire for the communist future is what fuels the spirits of Stalin and Mao. By any mean necessary, they will implement the communist utopia, because history is on their side. As we know, this was not the case. It was a disaster. Millions were killed and the economic system was not functional in the long run. Marx was not the sage that they thought he was. His prophecy was completely false and lead to one of the worst moments in human history.
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