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11/11/2009 | Reality defeated communist theory

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Twenty years ago, the rubble of the Berlin Wall crashed down loudly onto Marxism and pulverized it. Something that, paradoxically, confirmed Marx's opinion about theories, which he explained in his Theses on Feuerbach: ``It is in practice that man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the worldliness [Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking.''

 

Marxism simply could not withstand its confrontation with reality. It promised paradise on Earth and spawned 20 horrendous dictatorships. It left 100 million dead. It impoverished half a planet. It retarded the scientific and technical progress of numerous nations and debased several generations of people who were forced to lie and celebrate a regime they deeply detested.

When Marx died, his disciple, comrade and friend Friedrich Engels described the two ``great contributions'' of the German thinker: historical materialism and surplus value.

What were these? Historical materialism (a ridiculous hypothesis that ignored the enormous complexity of human nature) postulated that religion, the political system, the institutions of law, moral, art, etc., constituted the ``superstructure'' generated by the interests of the ruling class that controlled the ``infrastructure,'' that is, the means of production.

According to Marx and Engels, once private property disappeared and the workers gained control of the productive apparatus, the superstructure would radically change.

As to surplus value, it was an error that emerged from the theory of value held by the classic economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Marx believed that the value of production depended on the human labor attached to it, so the capitalist enriched himself by appropriating the difference between the price of sale and the real cost of the goods or services produced. That was surplus value.

A couple of years before Marx's death (1883), a young Austrian economist, Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk demonstrated to him his mistakes and incidentally pointed to the contradictions on that theme that existed between Volume One and Volume Three of Das Kapital.

Why did these two intellectual blunders generate a catastrophe as gigantic as the communist dictatorships? First, because in order to dismantle the bourgeois state and remake the relationships of property according to the utopia Marx had designed, he prescribed (and his disciples heeded him) a dictatorial stage directed by the proletariat.

In other words, he advocated a goals-oriented ethic capable of justifying any monstrosity that might lead humans in the direction of happiness and progress. Later, Lenin and other cruel communists created a method of social control through police repression that turned out to be unbeatable. Once the cage had been built, it was very difficult to escape from it.

Why, in the end, did communism sink? Basically, because of the demoralization of the ruling class when faced by the material and spiritual failure of Marxism-Leninism. The communists could not ignore the comparison between the two Germanys or the two Koreas. They saw with envy how all the scientific and technical discoveries took place in the Western democracies endowed with capitalist economies.

They had learned ad nauseam that Marx was wrong when it came to theory, and that the implementation of his ideas had senselessly led millions of human beings to slaughter and driven into poverty those societies that had tried them.

To deal with that situation, the reforms began; but Marxism was not reformable. Marx's presumption that he had discovered the laws that rule history and economic development was hogwash that could not be corrected.

His theory of surplus value and, in the end, his inability to understand the concept of subjective value, could not be modified either. It was like believing that the Earth is flat.

The provisional era of the dictatorship of the proletariat had become a nightmare. It was not a phase but a repugnant goal controlled by the security apparatus. For that reason, when they tried to fix the system, the edifice collapsed. It had been built on a false foundation.

Only Cuba and North Korea stubbornly cling to the error, but it's only a matter of time. In those countries, not even the ruling class believes a word of the official line.

(C)2009 Firmas Press

Miami Herald (Estados Unidos)

 


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