Critique Of The Gotha Program "From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs"

Karl Marx

"From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs"

Context: Marx is best known today, of course, as the creator of the philosophical basis of modern communism. In 1875 representatives of the two German workers' organizations met at Gotha and combined to form a single organization. The new union announced its socialistic policies and goals in an elaborate statement known as the Gotha Program. Marx regarded the entire proceeding as a useless waste of energy which should have been diverted to action rather than to talk, and he considered the statement to be vague, ambiguous, and worthless ("Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programs"). Sick though he was, Marx wrote a searching and ruthlessly severe commentary on the program statement in which he dissected every ambiguity and vagary. The Gotha Programmers had proposed that all wealth derived from labor should be equally divided among the workers who produced it; Marx pointed out that different workers produced differing amounts and had differing needs; therefore, some other method of distribution would be necessary:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; . . . after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly–only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!