The Ten Tenets of Communism
In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx describes ten steps towards establishing Communism. The ten tenets of Communism, taken directly from the Communist Manifesto, are listed below, along with my analyses, views and comments.
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
The abolition of private property, in land and otherwise, will be discussed at length further on. About using all rents, of land and everything else, doesn't that happen even in Capitalism?
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
This, in my opinion, is highly unfair. It is unjustly biased against rich [of course, which is precisely the intention behind it]. Also, as I have said earlier, earning means generating wealth, which is not only beneficial to the earning individual, but also to society at large. This kind of a tax structure discourages an individual form making efforts to increase his earnings, i.e. wealth generation. This will naturally be bad for the economy.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
This aim appears to be completely irrational to me. Simple logic shows that such a measure is unjust. For example, let us take an individual A, who has earned a certain amount of wealth through his own, honest hard efforts and labour. From any viewpoint, this entitles him to the right to use this wealth for his pleasure. Next let us assume that A has a child B. Naturally A will get pleasure from B's pleasure; and B, like any other person, gets pleasure out of wealth. So A wills his wealth to B, as he has the right to. Thus the transfer of wealth to, and possession of it by B is justified. Similarly, B can now pass this wealth to the next generation, where again the same logic will apply. Thus inheritance is completely justified, which makes its abolition unjust.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
If emigrants, in today's context would mean NRIs etc., then this is not correct. And in the case of rebels, it is absurd. Anyone having differences with or objections to the possibly corrupt or oppressive government of the State at that time can be termed a rebel. That does not mean that his property should be confiscated. Before the Russian revolution, the Communists would be classified as rebels. How would they have liked it if all of their property had been confiscated then?
5. Centralisation of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
The argument against this has two aspects. One is that it is economically inadvisable to centralise banks and credit, and particularly to have a State bank with a monopoly. This is again connected with the competition talked about earlier. Just as an example, Mrs Gandhi's move, similar to the one outlined here, was and is criticised by many for having been detrimental to the economy. The second aspect is moral; this would again imply an infringement of an individual's rights.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
There is nothing wrong in the State's owning means of communication and transport; as the Indian railways and Delhi's bus service show, this can be a boon to society. But if this implies monopoly of the State in these spheres, then I beg to differ. Monopoly would eliminate the vital factor of competition, whose virtues have been expounded upon earlier. As an example, we may consider the State-owned Indian Airlines, which has had to improve its services due to competition from private airlines.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
Taking this measure at face value, there is nothing objectionable in it. As will be discussed later on, the extension of State-owned factories and instruments of production is advisable. And no one objects to the bringing of wastelands under cultivation and the improvement of soil.
8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
At the risk of repeating myself, this measure is unjust. This would mean everyone would forcibly be made to do some prescribed amount of labour. As said earlier, no one should be forced to work against his will. It is a violation of basic human rights! Even the Geneva Convention, relating to prisoners of war, states, in effect, that forced labour is against international and human law and morality. About establishing industrial armies, if he means unions or groups of workers, it is fine.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
As a general aim of a State, I agree with this measure. The allying of agriculture with industry, which is taking place in many parts of the world today (like USA and India), increases efficiency and produce quality as well as quantity. And a more equitable population distribution is recommended by most as a solution for various problems.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc."
I fail to see any fairness in free education for all children. Although it is practised in many countries, including USA and India, I advocate its abolition. When it is said that the State is paying for the education, what is actually meant is that the ordinary taxpayer is paying for it. Now it hardly makes sense for the State to take, on one hand, some of an individual's earnings away in the form of taxes, and then to give them back to him in the sense of giving his children free education. But more importantly, what about those individuals who don't have family members being educated? It is not fair to make them contribute towards the expenses of others' education.
About the abolition of child labour. Marx is specifically talking about the child labour of his times. But we may consider child labour conditions to have not changed significantly. In theory, I agree with the abolition of child labour; but in practise, is it not better for a child to work and at least earn enough to survive, than to die of starvation due to lack of employment?
About the combination of education with industrial production. If Marx means giving students more hands-on experience, and making the education more career/work oriented, then I completely agree with him.
My Objections to Communism
In communism, those wanting to practise capitalism cannot do so, because the former is based on the concept of controlling others' actions, which is absurd in itself. On what basis do the advocators of communism ascribe to themselves the right to arbitrarily control and restrict the actions of others? Whereas capitalism is based on freedom in one's own actions, not restricting or controlling the actions of another, which makes more sense to me. It is based on maximum freedom to the maximum people, which is what any state-system should be based on. Within capitalism, those wanting to practise communism are free to do so- they are by no means prevented from establishing there own communes, where property is held in common, and where communist ideals are followed.
The denial of this freedom, along with many others, is the central theme around which most of my objections to Communism revolve.
The following are the words of Karl Marx (in boldface), along with my analyses, views and comments. Except for the first, which is a famous ideal of Communism, the other quotes are excerpts from the Communist Manifesto.
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."
Firstly, about the part regarding each person working/contributing according to his needs. No one should be forced to work more than he desires. Doesn't how much he wants to work matter more than how much he can work? There are people who simply do not like working, for their own reasons (whatever they may be). It is completely irrational to apply this communist ideal, which would entail forced labour of such people. Also, one almost never works at one's maximum capacity, except in emergencies, etc. And no one would like to be forced to work using his reserve force all the time. Besides all this, there is the simple difficulty of deciding who will determine each individual's ability.
Turning to the part about each getting enough as his needs. Why should a hard worker have to part with his justly earned wealth to satisfy a lazy man's desires? No one should get enough for his needs if he doesn't work enough for it. According to this part of the tenet, all people should be ensured their necessities. This would mean that the state, in other words the ordinary taxpayer, would be compelled to take on the financial burden of all people not generating enough wealth to earn their living, through their choice or otherwise. In the case of the aforementioned people who just don't want to work, this would be grossly unfair. However, even if we overlook such persons, there are yet people incapable of earning a living (due to handicaps of any nature) to be considered. According to some, such people, since they cannot to be blamed for their state of affairs, they deserve to be provided for by the state. However, simple logic will lead to the conclusion that since they don't work, they cannot earn a living, and hence must either die, or survive on the charity of others. Do they have the right to demand from working, contributing members of society, enough wealth for their existence? If an earning person, of his own free will, gives out of charity or the goodness of his heart, to non-earning persons, then it is humanitarian, ideal, well and good. But state sponsored morality is hypocrisy. The state should not, and justly cannot, force the worker to part with his earnings so as to support non-earning people.
This is not to say that I completely disagree with this Communist ideal. It is very correct, provided it is used only as a guiding ideal, not to be practically applied, and it is achieved through its more just version (the author's creation): 'From each according to his will, to each according to his work'. When (and if) the time comes that the original tenet will be fulfilled inspite of the other version; i.e. when each individual will want to work in proportion to his ability, and each individual's work will generate enough wealth so as earn for him enough to satisfy his needs (material as well as otherwise); then society will have achieved an ideal state of development.
"The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.
In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
This is my one of my basic grudges against Communism: that it denies the basic human right to own property, and do what you like with it, which is a very essential right of all people.
As Marx has himself anticipated, infinite objections can be raised against this doctrine on the basis of the fact that this property is the foundation of all personal freedoms of trade, occupation, activity, etc. If a man earns enough money, through his own hard labour, to purchase a plot of land, then why should the right to utilise it as he pleases, be taken away from him? Communism assumes, and wrongfully so, that by earning anything, particularly property, through his own labour, more than he has at that time, he is denying another from similarly earning, and thus improving his life conditions.
This is another basic (warped) assumption of Communism: that there is only so much wealth in the world or nation; and so if one person accumulates a great deal of it, though it be through his own hard labour, he is preventing someone else from getting his basic share. Hence the justification for state intervention in so-called excess accumulation of property. What the Communists don't seem to realise, is that wealth is not present in a predetermined, fixed and unchangeable quantity on either the global or the national scale. It is being generated by every earning member of society, in his very earning; and thus its quantity being in constant flux, one member's earning i.e. generating more wealth for himself should not cause concern to others. Anyone wanting more wealth has simply to work enough to generate it for himself.
"In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed -- a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market."
This is another mistake Communists make: they equate capital with capitalists. Whereas this is not justified. Capital is simply money, one of the essential factors of production. It can be owned by anyone, not just by big industrialists.
"In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed…"
If this were true, then there would be no structural unemployment, i.e. the labour structure would perfectly match the capital structure, and a great number of problems would be automatically solved.
"…a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital…"
The whole purpose of work is to increase capital; the issue is whose. This is the root trouble: - Communists consider capital to be basically bad. What they seemingly don't realise is that no economy can run without capital. They assume that any capital belongs automatically to the capitalists. State owned capital is, however, still capital.
"These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market."
There is a mistake made here: it is the labourers' labour that is a commodity, not the labourers themselves. Capital, land, property, raw materials, organisation, skill & expertise etc. are all commodities. If they consider (and rightly so, there is nothing wrong in it) that the labourers are selling their labour piecemeal, just so are the entrepreneurs or so called 'Capitalists' selling their know-how and expertise, 'piecemeal'. Looking from this point of view, everyone has to sell something that he has and another needs, so that he can earn enough of what others need (in today's scenario, money), and get what he needs from these others by giving what he has earned; that is what makes up an economy.
Now about the labourers' being exposed to competition; everyone is. And it is in fact desirable. Competition is what increases efficiency, and competence, and leads to better and faster progress. As examples, let my cite firstly Japan, whose tremendous growth has been mainly attributed by many [including a founding member and ex-Chairperson of the board and C.E.O. of the Sony Corporation, Mr Akio Morita, who is the author of the international best-seller 'Made in Japan' and was a member of the IMF], to the great amount of free and open competition present in the economy. Secondly the state owned television network, Doordarshan, which has vastly improved in the recent years after having been exposed to competition from the cable television channels.
"Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production."
"Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour…"
Machinery has been invented, developed and used for good of mankind. By its very definition, machines are made and used either to (a) increase the speed of production, thereby finishing more word in the same amount of time, and (b) to increase the quality of the produce. Particularly in today's context, with the world population being what it is, it is irrational to want to try and do without the aid of machines. Division of labour is equally necessary, for self-evident reasons.
"…the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.
It is obvious that here, Marx is talking with reference to his times, which is to be expected. He seems to be thinking of the kind of worker depicted in the movie 'Modern Times'; one expected to risk his health and sanity by doing one boring, tedious task ad infinitum. However, times have changed, and world worker conditions have definitely changed drastically for the better. For instance, contrary to popular opinion, according to Mr Morita, many assembly line workers find their job quite interesting and challenging.
"Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production."
Today, because of technology, even factory workers have to be educated and able to specialise, have to learn more skills and faster. The education of labour will increase their so-called cost of production. However, I beg to disagree with Marx; the price of a commodity is not equal to its cost of production, since commodities are sold for a profit.
"The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.
Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.
"…this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production…"
By saying this, Marx has in effect admitted that the action he is advocating here is (a) neither correct nor justifiable; exactly as he has himself said here, the Communists' abolition of private property is despotic, which is what Communism is; and (b) not going to be appreciated by a large section of the society, or at least by a substantial minority. By admitting this, he is actually establishing the fact that he has no right to take the action he is saying should be taken.
For example, in India, the amendment of the parts of the Constitution which symbolise its very essence and spirit, and which amendment would bring about a change in the structure of the Constitution, requires a very special and complex procedure, namely the approval of a special majority: 2/3rds of the parliament plus ratification by 50% of the state legislatures. This is how it should be; when there is to be a change in State policy, the people of the State should know and approve of it. And the more drastic the change, the greater should be the number of people required to agree to it, for it to take effect.
Now if the change under contemplation is so drastic as that of one to a Communist State, then in my opinion, the number of people required to want the change should be very, very high, perhaps even 100%. This is because as I said earlier, this system controls others' actions; if all private property is to be abolished, then it is logical to think that all should have to agree for that to happen.
My Utopian Alternative
In this section, I briefly outline a new system, one that hopefully incorporates the best of Communism, Capitalism, etc.
Firstly, it shall have the basic feature of a mixed economy: - the existence of both the private and the public sectors. This is where I deviate from Capitalism; I do think there should be a State owned public sector. But it must be a non-profit, and more importantly, a no-loss venture. The State has huge amounts of capital at its disposal; this should be used for social welfare. But not such that the people end up paying for anything, like in Communism.
Secondly, it will follow and adhere to the principles of democracy. Democracy is the most just and the best political system, since, as already mentioned, it gives the maximum amount of freedom to the maximum number of people. Democracy stands for basic human values like equality, liberty, justice and maximum participation in political processes- 'government of the people, by the people and for the people'.
Lastly, it shall have minimum trade restriction. Thus it will be closer to Capitalism than to anything else.
However, there are some ideals of Communism, which I completely agree with, such as the eventual abolition of the State, and the eventual achievement of a class-less, equalitarian society.