Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Marx: On Alienation, 1844 Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century

Sources

Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Marx:
Civil War in France

Marx:
Alienation

Marx:
Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature

Engels:
Anti-Dühring

Engels:
Violence and the Origin of the State

Engels:
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

Lenin:
What is to be done?

Lenin:
Imperialism

Lenin:
The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

Lenin:
The Cultural Revolution

Lenin:
Left-Wing Communism

Lenin:
The American Revolutions

Lenin:
The French Revolutions

Lenin:
On Workers Control

Lenin:
On Religion

Lenin:
On the Arms Race

Trotsky:
Militarization of Labor

Luxemburg:
Russian Revolution

Zetkin:
The Women's Question

Mao:
Role of Communist Party

Mao:
On Violence

Mao:
On the Army

Mao:
On Women

Mao:
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Guevara:
Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

Fanon:
National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism


Karl Marx addressed the question of alienation very early in his academic work. It was a central theme in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which he wrote in 1844 three years after finishing his doctoral dissertation in philosophy in Berlin. Although these manuscripts were not published at the time and only known widely after 1932, they contained ideas that would be at the center of his life's work.

Marx was writing at the beginning of the industrial revolution and he saw clearly the situation that continues to this day. As he would express later in the Communist Manifesto, "the feudal system of industry, under which industrial production was monopolized by closed guilds" had been pushed aside and "the manufacturing system took its place." As a result the relation of a worker to his product had changed. In the old system, the worker produced a finished product, and he could be proud of it and paid for it. But under the new system of capitalism, products are produced by machines, and the worker may never see the final finished product. And rather than being paid for the products he produces, the worker is paid an hourly wage. Marx called this "estranged labor"

Under capitalism, the products of labor no longer belong to the worker; instead they belong to the capitalist. Paradoxically the better the worker produces, the richer he makes the capitalist, and the richer he makes the capitalist the more the capitalist has power over him.

Since his wage labor is bought and sold (unlike the situation under feudalism) the worker himself has become a commodity under capitalism.

Marx explains why he calls this "alienation" in his 1844 essay, "The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and extent. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he produces ... the object that labour produces, its product, stands opposed to it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer ... All these consequences are contained in this characteristic, that the worker is related to the product of labour as to an alien object."

Not only the worker, but also the capitalist is alienated under capitalism. At the end of the Marx's manuscript, he promises to deal with the alienation of the "non-worker" but the manuscript was never finished.

Marx became a revolutionary because he came to believe that capitalism could not be reformed. In the end, capitalism could only create alienation and estrangement. As he describes: there is an "essential connection between private property, greed, the separation of labour, capital and landed property, exchange and competition, value and the devaluation of man, monopoly, and competition, etc. - the connection between this entire system of estrangement and the money system."

Marx did not imagine that alienation could occur under socialism. Nor was it recognized by the Soviets, even at the end. Living in the Soviet Union in the 1970's and 1980's I was amazed to find that no one even knew the Russian word for alienation (utrezhdenie), let alone could they discuss its significance for their country. But the evidence of alienation was all around. Most of the Soviet people felt alienated from the government and from the results of the work that they were doing from day to day. The Communist Party was seen as an alien, undemocratic force. The economy was dedicated primarily to the arms race. Trade unions were bureaucratic for the most part. Most of the media was filled with propaganda. There was little hope for democratic participation. Only in the last few years was there talk of "workers control."

Soviet alienation was recognized in the analysis by Joe Slovo, writing from the standpoint of the South African Communist Party. As Slovo insisted, to survive as a viable, long-term alternative to capitalism, socialism must involve people in decision-making, not only at the level of government, but also at the level of production. Democratic participation, in the full sense of its meaning, is essential.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Writings of Karl Marx on the Discussion Board:
discussion board

Issues

Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authori- tarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Interna- tionalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare

Terrorism

Agent Provocateurs

Communica- tion systems

Psychology for revolution- aries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence


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More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Slovo:
Has Socialism Failed?

Freire:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Fidel:
Ecology in Cuba

Fidel:
On Religion

Mandela:
Human Rights in South Africa

King
on Nonviolence

Gandhi
on Nonviolence

Gandhi
on Communism