Has Marxism influenced the course of History?
By Khalid Mandai
Karl Marx, 1818-1883, was a German philosopher, socialist and political economist. His ideas and actions that are termed Marxism have influenced the course of history immensely. Marxism is an economic interpretation of history. It talks of the material condition of the people’s lives. It opposes the class system in the society. According to Marx there are two classes in the society, which he named bourgeoisie and proletariat. Bourgeoisie stands for those who control the means of production, and proletariat means those individuals who sell their labor power and add to the product of bourgeoisie. To him, this system had advantage solely for the ruling class at the cost of working class. So, the ultimate object of Marxism was to establish a classless society in which equality should be made the main feature of the environment.
Marxism, in fact, prepared the poor people to get rid of bourgeoisie. It wanted that the working class should be free, and must be the masters of their own fate. It preached that proletariat must revolt. And they must take the means of production from the control of the capitalists by force. After that, the workers of the world started acting on this demand of Marxism to get their rights through revolution.
The influence of his ideas, already popular during his life, was greatly broadened by the International Workingmen’s Association, which was arranged by Marx in London in 1884. It was followed by the second International conference of Paris in 1889 and included socialist parties of Europe. All unions and parties of labours were invited to the conferences. And the main purpose of those gatherings was to unite the working class against the capitalist. After that, the attendants of the meetings started working in their states to get their rights from their cruel governments. Due to the meetings, communist parties were established in Spain,
Italy, Russia, Latin America, Germany and France.
As a matter of fact, Marxism by virtue of its principles gave a new trend to the history of mankind. As Judd Harmon says “Marxism is today the official ideology of millions. True, it has been imposed by force upon most of them, but many have embraced it without compulsion because they have been convinced of its essential rightness” Harmon, 2004: p. 144.
In the same manner, the communist parties, which were the product of Marxism, wanted to bring the ideas of Marx into practice. Marx stressed to establish the dictatorship of proletariat through force. For instance, in Russia, the tsar had been controlling the means of production and treated the workers as his servant. They were deprived of the basic needs of life. In this regard, Russians, under the leadership of Lenin, stood against the Tsarist regime in 1917. After a long struggle, the revolutionary leaders defeated the old system, and a new system was established on the principles of Marxism.
Viewing the advantages of Marxism in Russia, the workers of China came forth and challenged their capitalists. Their kings were powerful landlords and had a complete control over the means of production. Their way of governance was almost contrary to the values of Marxism. The Chinese Workers and peasants wanted emancipation and freedom. For this purpose, they established a communist party in China in 1921. With the passage of time, the party got strength and most of the workers joined the party. In 1947, Mao tse tung became the head of the Communist Party. He mobilized the people for a revolutionary change. In 1948, he along with his supporters challenged the regime. After a fierce battle, he succeeded and destroyed the old system. Then the Chinese Communist Party established its system on the principles of Marxism. As Thomas H. Green says “the coming to power of communism in Asia, beginning with China in 1949, played a crucial role in preparing the Asian communist parties “road to power”. In this way, Marxism influenced many other Asian countries like North Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, and even India. It is argued that Marxism gave a new trend to the history of the area by empowering the working class against the capitalists.
Before Marx, proletariat, in capitalist states like Russia, West Germany , Poland, France, Hungary and Austria, had no freedom. They were deprived of the basic needs of life. Their condition was miserable. So, it was the first time in the history of mankind that a new theory “Marxism” supported the labours. It encouraged the people to revolt because in their struggle as Marx himself says “the labours will lose nothing but their chains”. At last, in various capitalist states, the labours revolted against the capitalists. Thus the Capitalists were defeated in the battlefields, and labours got freedom especially in Cuba and Indonesia etc.
About this impact of Marxism on the freedom of men, Judd Harmon, says “it is a matter of controversy today whether or to what degree the Marxist theory itself constitutes a threat to free men, or to whether the nationalistic policies of the nations that have espoused the doctrines constitute the real danger. Whatever the danger may be, it empowered labors and provided them freedom under their own governments”.
Marxism also changed the very face of international politics. After the World War II, the world was divided into two blocks, capitalist and communist. The communists, under the banner of the communist party of Russia, were working against the capitalists. They aimed that they would finish the capitalist system from the world. At the same time, the capitalist states under the leadership of America were struggling to decrease the influence of communism in the world, and particularly in the Western Europe. During the period, the capitalist block made a force called NATO in order to protect their areas from the growing influence of communism in the world. America also helped non-communist states by giving them economic aid like Marshal Plan. In the response to NATO and Marshal Plan, Russia introduced Warsaw Pact and Comenform, so that it could help and defend communist states. At last, Russia, the leader of the communist states, was defeated in 1991. Despite the collapse of Russia in the cold war, today, still some states like China, North Korea, and Cuba practice the main values of Marxism in their political and economic system and communism is still a danger for the capitalist. Thus, Marxism really influenced the political system to a large extent. “Marx rudely shattered the then political philosophy from the very basis and gave it a new outlook” Majeed Memon: 1999, P. 273. Marxism gave a new trend to the world history by empowering the labours of the world. It is even today the only hope for the working class. Therefore, Thomas Green says “the world did not remain the same since Marx”.
To sum up, in the course of twenty 21st century Marxism really influenced the course of history, and still its affects are being observed in the present world.