- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Dollars and votes

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on March 29, 1999 at 15:14:21:

In Reply to: help posted by Jon Way on March 26, 1999 at 10:36:38:

: I must give a 3 minute speech fo my public speaking class on why marxism would be better than the "Democracy" that we live in now. My goal is to persuade the class. A vote will be taken at the end of the class. I must assume that my audience is completly unfamiliar with Marxist ideology. Thank you for your help,
: Jon Way

SDF: I would recommend reading the advice Nikhil Jaikumar offered, even though NJ presented the issue as a rather complex thing that can't possibly said in 3 minutes. Something simpler might be; the main issue to be presented in a discussion of Marxism and democracy is the issue of dollars and votes. The question of democracy for Marx can be simplistically reduced to this (while losing lots of content of course): in a capitalist democracy, everyone of a certain age is granted the power of a vote, a vote for a politician who can offer a better world to the working people of a country, or a vote for a particular piece of legislation offering the same. However, in a capitalist democracy, only a minority are granted the ownership of capital, which is the power to pay others to produce material goods for one's own personal profit. Marx argued, perhaps unfairly, that the power of capital (measured in quantities of money, which after all has the power to buy anything people can make or do in capitalist society) outweighs the power of the vote. That is to say, Marx argued that dollars are more powerful than votes in capitalist society. Why did he argue thusly? Marx conceived that the power of any society was the power of work, the power of people to remold the world by making things. He argued that, in capitalist society, this power to make things was contained in the working people of the society, in a form which he called "labor-power," but that this labor-power was OWNED by a relatively small owning class which therefore had the REAL power in capitalist democracy, i.e. they had all the big money, over and above the power of the people as a whole to cast their votes. (At this point you might want to quote a statistic about the inequalities in wealth in capitalist society.).

Some people have argued, therefore, that the way to create "real democracy" from within capitalist society, therefore, is to give the working people real control over their labor power, and not just proxy control via a supposedly-benevolent democratic State. Marx, however, did not call such an ideal society "real democracy," because had a different conception of such a society; he called it "communism" and assumed that it necessarily involved the disappearence of the State. So if you want to call economic democracy "democracy" you probably won't be able to quote Marx in doing so.

Does that help any?

Follow Ups:

  • Simpler. Red Death Socialist party UK March 30 1999 (0)

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