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Every single time Marxism has been implimented it has failed miserably. So why do my...

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beartrapstrong | Honors

Posted December 1, 2011 at 1:31 AM via web

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Every single time Marxism has been implimented it has failed miserably. So why do my teachers keep teaching this as if its some fun new idea?

Every single time Marxism has been implimented it has failed miserably. So why do my teachers keep teaching this as if its some fun new idea?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 1, 2011 at 1:39 AM (Answer #2)

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Of course, I can't speak for your teachers and the exact way in which they teach about Marxism.  Here are two reasons why I teach it.

First, it is an interesting contrast to our beliefs about the way an economy should work.  It is never a bad idea to look at beliefs that are opposed to your own so that you can better evaluate your own and see if there might be holes in them.  For example, Marxists argue that capitalism alienates people from their labor and makes them unhappy with their working lives.  This is a valuable insight and it has led to things like all the tech companies you read about that try to make their workplaces fun.  They want people to work hard, but they want them to be able to feel like they can take a break and go shoot baskets or whatever when they want to.  So Marxism can be a good thing to study if you look at it as a critique of our system and if you try to think of ways that our system can be improved while still keeping the basic idea of free enterprise.

Second, I teach it because it is an important historical phenomenon.  It certainly did not work as it was supposed to, but it clearly changed the world.  I don't see how I could truly teach about the Cold War without teaching about Marxism.  And without understanding the Cold War, how do we understand the whole second half of the 20th century.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2011 at 2:29 AM (Answer #3)

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If pure Marxism represents the end of classes and an equal distrbution of income and resources, then pure Capitalism represents the other extreme.  Teaching the two as opposing phiosophies is valuable and timely.  Look at the OWS protests and the debate in the US about taxes, debt and income inequality.  Should we tax the rich?  Have a flat tax?  What about social programs?  Most governments in the world, including the so-called communist ones, are somewhere in between these two philosophies.  Since a balanced approach is probably the most humane and effective, the continued debate about what the balance should be is a good one to have in schools.

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beartrapstrong | Honors

Posted December 1, 2011 at 5:32 AM (Answer #4)

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See, these are the same thing my teachers, (and my parents) say before they shut me up when I try to ask these question. This is not like comparing two different equally effective ways to install insulation. We are talking about a system that caused massive amounts of destruction and misery everywhere it was even slightly introduced. Marxism was the direct cause of millions of deaths in several countries. Every country that it touched was devestated. Everyone was unhappy. Humans are naturally individualists and marxism only exists on the idea that people will work hard without individual incentive. This has clearly been proven to be utterly and completely false. Humans tried it, its sucks. Its terrible. Its horrible. It has no redeeming qualities Why can't it go away like all the other thousands of pseudosciences?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:58 AM (Answer #5)

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This is an excellent question. One reason is that Marxism seems attractive as long as it is merely an ideal.  After all, who would not favor a society in which everyone could be guaranteed a basic and comfortable standard of living? Who would oppose a society in which there were no poor people and a minimum of human suffering? Many academics are idealists, and this ideal appeals to many of them quite strongly.  However, as you say, the record of communism in actual practice is very sorry and also very bloody. You may find some of the books by Robert Conquest relevant to this whole issue:

http://www.google.com/search?q=robert+conquest&btnG=Search+Books&tbm=bks&tbo=1

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:38 AM (Answer #6)

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I would assume that it is being taught because it is simply a part of our history. Marxism is still used as a critical lens through which many texts are examined. For that reason, Marxism is still relevant today.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2011 at 8:23 AM (Answer #7)

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Also remember that the Pure Marxism is different from the eventual establishment of Communism, and both differ from Socialism. Marxism is the Ideal that can never be achieved, Communism is the failed governmental attempt at achieving those ideals, and Socialism is simply the government taking control of industry from the private sector. In other words, Marxism/Communism are types of society/government, and Socialism is a technique used by those methods.

In answer to your question, I think the reason that many teachers seem to have an affinity for Marxist/Communist principles is that they actually do agree with them. Although history and established fact show that Marxist principles fail in practice, they remain a Utopian ideal, a world in which everyone works for everyone's benefit. It is an impossibility, but many people buy into it because they think "All we have to do is do it right this time!" Of course, no country has really tried to implement Pure Marxism -- Communism by State Controlled Capitalism is what we usually see in practice, and it has always failed. Remember, Communist China succeeds economically because they are the world's exporter; the people aren't so happy, but they don't matter to the whole, which profits from their Capitalist businesses.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:06 AM (Answer #8)

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I would echo what many previous posts have suggested which is that teachers teach it because it is both historically important and it is also an intriguing idea which has never been implemented in an ideal situation.  The argument that marxism has always failed is hard to counter, but we certainly can make an argument that capitalism has had its failures as well.  Many empires based on a capitalist economy have come to crashing and ugly halts and some above have suggested the rather ugly direction our own capitalist economy appears to be headed.

So The willingness to simply dismiss Marxism is perhaps understandable, but I think also relatively ignorant and dangerous.  Blind faith in one idea and the willingness to ignore others is always dangerous.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:50 AM (Answer #9)

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"We are talking about a system that caused massive amounts of destruction and misery everywhere it was even slightly introduced."

The same thing could be said, and quite cogently supported by mountains of examples, for capitalism.

I'm no Marxist. In fact, as a historian, I find his analytical framework way too reductionist. But he has been a powerful influence in just about every field of study from sociology (which he practically invented) to feminist studies, even if the societies that were ostensibly organized around his revolutionary philosophy collapsed. At the very least, I think his critics owe it to themselves to read his works before they dismiss them. I will go out on a limb and say that he is, along with Adam Smith, perhaps the most misunderstood and oversimplified thinker in the western tradition.  The fact that the Soviet Union failed does not make "18 Brumaire of Louis Napoleon" or Kapital any less important.

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beartrapstrong | Honors

Posted December 1, 2011 at 3:39 PM (Answer #10)

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"We are talking about a system that caused massive amounts of destruction and misery everywhere it was even slightly introduced."

The same thing could be said, and quite cogently supported by mountains of examples, for capitalism.

I'm no Marxist. In fact, as a historian, I find his analytical framework way too reductionist. But he has been a powerful influence in just about every field of study from sociology (which he practically invented) to feminist studies, even if the societies that were ostensibly organized around his revolutionary philosophy collapsed. At the very least, I think his critics owe it to themselves to read his works before they dismiss them. I will go out on a limb and say that he is, along with Adam Smith, perhaps the most misunderstood and oversimplified thinker in the western tradition.  The fact that the Soviet Union failed does not make "18 Brumaire of Louis Napoleon" or Kapital any less important.

I disagree that he had much of an influence at all in feminist studies, and I don't know what else you are referring to. And I think the study of sociology came as a result of the contrasting societies (capitalism vs communism) rather than what he said. The writings of the constitution were just as reflective and analytical on society. I really don't see the connection other than just liberalism in general.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 2, 2011 at 5:15 AM (Answer #11)

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Marxist feminism is an entire branch of feminist thought that emphasizes the degradation of women as part of a system of division of labor. Even scholarly feminists who would not describe themselves as Marxists have been influenced by his thinking on the ways that industrial development affected gender roles.  I'm not sure what the Constitution has to do with any of this, as it doesn't really offer any reflections or analysis on society. Sociology had been around for a while by the time "communist" societies emerged, and Marx is universally acknowledged as an influence, albeit a flawed one. Despite what some ignorant demagogues would have you believe, Marx has just about nothing to do with modern liberalism.  Anyway, linked below is an article from enotes about Marx and sociology, followed by one from Stanford University about Marxist feminism. These are just two examples of his influence, and hopefully, they can demonstrate that Marxist thought, agree or disagree with it, goes well beyond "communism" as we imagine it. It has been applied to many different fields in an attempt (I think very flawed attempt) to explain much larger human issues, which is why it remains relevant.

http://www.enotes.com/oxsoc-encyclopedia/marxism

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-class/

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beartrapstrong | Honors

Posted December 3, 2011 at 1:58 PM (Answer #12)

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First of all, "Despite what ignorant demogogues would have you believe" Is a break from a civil discussion. You are calling me an ignorant demogogue. Every conclusion I have I have come to by my own analyisis, by reading left and right and nuetral sources. If there are any ignorant demogogues that are 'having me believe something" its bleeding heart liberals.

Second of all, my own understanding of the american constitution is nothing more and nothing less that an incredibly insightful analysis on society. It was written with the basic idea that all men are inherently flawed, and because this is true power should be as decentralized as possible. It wasn't simply a new fun type of government. It was a bunch of people realizing that there was no society that thrived when few people had power over many. So they invented a comprehensive plan for government where nobody had too much power over anybody else. I do not understand why you would think that the American constitution was developed without a deep analysis of society. Perhaps YOU are an ignorant demogogue.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 4, 2011 at 2:46 PM (Answer #13)

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I wasn't claiming that you were an ignorant demagogue, I was referring to those in politics today, particularly cable TV pundits, who characterize any government intervention in just about anything as a slippery slope to Stalinism. Apologies if that's how my post read, I was just trying to underscore the point that modern American liberalism has very little to do with this discussion.

As for the constitution, I don't deny that it is based on some pretty shrewd observations about human nature, even though it is not the same type of document as anything Marx wrote, which was my point. I would dispute (as would opponents of ratification in the wake of the convention) that it was based on the idea that powers of government should be decentralized, but that might be another topic for another thread.

Finally, my larger point, getting back to your original post, is that Marx was primarily a theorist. He offered an analytical framework for understanding historical developments. He was not attempting, as the Framers were, to establish a new government. As I've said in all my posts, I think his framework is deeply flawed, but I also don't think you can understand history without coming to terms with it in one way or another. He has been very influential in a variety of fields, which is why students still learn about him, even if most of his predictions about class revolution have yet to come true.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 10, 2012 at 12:26 AM (Answer #22)

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Fun New Idea!  As #7 posted, everyone who advocates Marxist principles subscribes to the ideal of a world in which everyone works for everyone else's benefit. Should an individual choose to labor for someone else, that's his or her decision, but to be coerced to do so violates that individual's fundamental Rights of choice. Charity must be freely chosen, not willfully imposed. What Marxism proposes is the "something for nothing" philosophy promulgated by a central authority, that someone else will do the dirty work and I will reap the benefits.  Clearly this is untenable; everything has a cost, and the only viable philosophy is "something for something," or an even trade determined between individuals. Why Marxism continues to be taught is because most of those who do the teaching believe in the "something for nothing" Marxist ideal. It should be taught, so it may be shown to be what it is.  The counterargument I would propose (coming from someone who was once a Marxist) is that you don't get utopia. "The poor you have with you always." You will never get a culture where EVERYONE is equitable; it doesn't happen because as individuals, we are not, and will never be, (nor would we want to be) all equal.  The attempts throughout history to make all mankind "equal" have perpetrated the greatest crimes and caused the greatest misery. In terms of individuals exercising Rights, there is (and only should be) equitability under the law, or that we are all equal in our ability to exercise our Rights as sovereign individuals.  Since you can't get a utopia, what should also be taught is the question of what system will minimize the numbers of disenfranchised and maximize the exercise of Rights?

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beefheart | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted January 21, 2012 at 5:34 AM (Answer #24)

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The reason communism is still taught as a powerful idea is because a lot of people feel instinctively that it would be a better system than capitalism. Remember that capitalism screws a huge percentage of the world's population; it has created a few million mega-rich people and billions of hard-working poor people.

Also, the soviet union was not a good example of communism. It was a brutal dictatorship. Perhaps, in the future, when technology reduces the price of resources and the average person is much more educated, Marxism will flourish. We live in an age of an unequal distribution of scarce resources, billions of people are exploited for the benefit of the rich. It is not a fair system. Communism proposes a fair system. It is a powerful idea.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 23, 2012 at 10:34 PM (Answer #25)

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In response to #24 -- Unless Communism adheres to the Rule of Law where individual Rights are safeguarded, an age of flourishing Communism will never be.  And should Communism adhere to the Rule of Law, it would, by definition, no longer be Communism.

Capitalism has not screwed a large portion of the world's population, rather, it has enabled the population of the world to sextuple in a 150 years.  It has raised the standard of living for millions, and those millions would not exist today had it not developed.

One may feel instinctively that one system is better than another.  Choosing whatever system to run a society should, however, be based on fact, not feeling.

Whatever Capitalism's faults, (and I invite such a list) I'd suggest that its perceived "failings" are due to intrusive or poor government than any fault of the Free Market. More ills have been perpetrated by governments  favoring industries through back door deals than have ever been caused by those competing in a truly level field.

Certainly fortunes have been amassed at the expense of the poor.  That is not the fault of Capitalism, but a failure of government to safeguard the poor from theft by unscrupulous businesspeople.

The only fair system is one in where individuals may exercise their Rights. The exercise of Rights does not include "special rights" conferred by government to favor a given industry or corporation and manipulate the market. As bad as that is, that's a minor transgression relative to a government controlling all industry and distributing goods and services as it sees fit in the name of some economic egalitarianism.

Read The Communist Manifesto.  Then read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 30, 2012 at 4:17 AM (Answer #27)

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See, these are the same thing my teachers, (and my parents) say before they shut me up when I try to ask these question. This is not like comparing two different equally effective ways to install insulation. We are talking about a system that caused massive amounts of destruction and misery everywhere it was even slightly introduced. Marxism was the direct cause of millions of deaths in several countries. Every country that it touched was devestated. Everyone was unhappy. Humans are naturally individualists and marxism only exists on the idea that people will work hard without individual incentive. This has clearly been proven to be utterly and completely false. Humans tried it, its sucks. Its terrible. Its horrible. It has no redeeming qualities Why can't it go away like all the other thousands of pseudosciences?

This has clearly been proven to be utterly and completely false. Humans tried it, it sucks. It's terrible. It's horrible. It has no redeeming qualities. Why can't it go away like all the other thousands of pseudosciences?

I suspect you are attacking Comunnism. Marxism is a much wider and more intellectual subject than the depraved results of Lenin Mao and Stalin. It has been a powerful engine of political change for the last 150 and your dismissal of it ignores the impact of his ideas on non-communist countries. Marx changed the lives of every working class 'western' person significantly for the better and is responsible for much of the emancipation of women and minorities aswell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism#See_also

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discussion1984 | Salutatorian

Posted November 25, 2012 at 5:57 AM (Answer #28)

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I don't think Marxism has ever been implemented in any society. Every country that has called itself communist has been a state form of capitalism. The problem is also that it's unclear what Marxism is. If you read the literature, there are the analytical Marxians, the traditional Marxists, the feminist Marxists, the anarchist Marxists, the Maoists calling themselves Marxists, the Leninists calling themselves Marxist. Maybe once the term and the philosophical questions in it are solved, there might be a hope that it is implemented somewhere. Until then....

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