Ohkay, now that I've finally and successfully bleached my brain to the degree needed to rid myself of the phrase "but why shouldn't I get paid more for doing more work!?" (eh gads) I can get onto the edumacation!
There's been alot of things said about marxism, most of them stupid.
So let's cut things to the bone, shift the hell out of this paradigm and punch the internet stoutly in the jaw!
Okay, so let's look at this from the most basic aspects first.
It's about economics.
No, wait, it's not-stupid economics!
But first some history: Prior to marx, the understanding of economics would be very familiar to most people now a days.
You see, everyone knew that through the laws of supply and demand, and given that everyone is a perfectly selfish economic agent, the "invisible hand" of the freemarket would ensure that everything would naturally be priced at a fundamental level - that is, that true and real world value of goods would emerge... if the government would only stop fiddling! (the age old "parent who insists on spitting on a tissue and trying to wipe some speck of dirt off your face when your freinds are around" view of government)
Suffice to say, this was complete bullshit, not only didn't it in anyway describe any existant (or since emerged) market, but it required that all labor be done by solar powered robots to even begin to make sense.
Marx then said, wait a second, then if that's so, then why do those who actually do all the actual work, the production and distribution of the goods that all rich people merely buy up and then sell off, get paid fuck all to do so? Why, in fact, do those who do the least work, get paid the most for it?
Becuase if you look at it from a common sense angle, it makes sense that there should be some lopsided distribution of wealth - there is after all whole families who have raised doing fuck all to an art form for a great many generations.
But inexplicably, those tend to be the ones who have most of the money, and in fact have the highest incomes, while everyone else, the hard working section of society, the one that put in the most hours and the most physical and mental effort in their day to day lives, worries about whether they should really worry about the funny color their legs have turned, because they can't afford to take a sick day, or a doctor's appointment even if they could.
So Marx did a Darwin, he didn't identify something new, because the Onions of the period had been commenting and critiqueing the inequalities of society for centuries, in fact the gross inequalities of society pretty much made Adam Smith's theories of economic fundmentals and invisible hands only of interest to people who had to justify the continuation of those same inequalities. But what he did do was provide a series of mechanisms to explain how such inequalities form, why they form, and why they form in the ways they do. For detail, please go look at the manifesto of the communist party, cuz I'm basically rehashing heavily here.
The how was simple, and was reasonably obvious, all profits are based on an invisible, drunken and very grumpy elephant on the factory floor, who is also, in effect, an income tax.
This income tax is paid directly to the employer, who through the wholesale employment of a section of the population that must, to eat and live indoors to, compete against each other for wages (which thereby depresses wages) can have the working class in effect pay the employer for the almighty and amazing privelage of being allowed to risk life, limb and mental health, in the pursuit of working, literally, for the capitalist, who in turn can make huge profits by selling off, at wholesale prices, the products of the working classes' labor to other capitalists, who in turn sell those products back to the working class at retail prices.
This relationship is the heart and soul of marxism, and hence socialism and communism, because it identifies how things are organised under capitalism: A hard working many are forced to compete amongst themselves so the hardly workiing few can, through cooperation amongst themselves, steal the money the working class are owed because their man hours have what Adam Smith would have called a "fundamental" value, which is much greater than what they are actually paid* for that labor.
This instantly suggests that there might be a rather obvious alternative, what if, instead of lazy assholes getting people to kill each other for the privelage of being able to give those lazy bastards money, the people who did the work, actually, you know, got paid for the work they did, rather than just enough to survive on the edge of poverty.
This therefore is what communism is: Economic Democracy, where work is actually paid for, as oppose to the current system of economic oligarchy, where only the few capitalists, who by definition exist only as long as they can charge the working class the capitalism tax that pays for their mansions and cleaners.
Note that I have only mentioned two of the three economic groups Marx identified, the working class the capitalists.
The third is the "petty bourgious", a term that I have not figured a modern translation to, and you'll see why in a second.
The petty bourgious, in marx's day, were basically the skilled artisan laborers who hired other people to train and to help them manufacture goods, the stratovarius' and handcrafted furniture makers of Old Europe.
In many ways the petty bourgious are the closest of the three groups to the hypothetical "democratic worker" that emerges as a possible alternative to the capitalist slave laborers, because the person who owned the businesses were generally making more money than the trainees and assistants for the simple reason that the old masters had more experience and skill than those they hired, and they actually work, but they fail on the way, for the assistants and trainees were generally paid disproportionately less than the old masters made, on the understanding that they were also being taught, and that cost came out of their end wages.
The profits for the petty bourgious then emerge not from competition for pay per se, but on competition for education, something which disappeared as teh old style of petty bourgious were destroyed by the increased and ever more sophisticated automation of the manufacturing process, which meant that a finely crafted chair or musical instrument could be produced in enormous bulk through the actions of idiot machines and relatively unskilled laborers. Thus that kind of petty bourgious disappeared.
There is however a modern form of the critters.
Most of these modern petty bourgious are not skilled artisans per se. Most are plumbers, and mechanics, and some builders and the small privately owned stores, all of which are themselves being bought out by the large scale corporate mechanics, and the supermarkets, and the increasingly more capitalist plumbing and construction companies, all of whom can indulge on savings of scale due to their size that will, inevitably, are leading to a massive dying off of these quaint, though routinely disliked, businesses.
Though, what some people have trouble with is that they think, Marx posited the working class, and he posited the upper class, so therefore, the petty bourgious, who sit between those two, must be the middle class.
but they're not, Andy Warhol is possibly the most famous petty bourgious of the twentieth century, along with the various fashion and perfume makers like dior or guchi, all of whom could be described as petty bourgious at one point or another, due, not to their wealth or how they lived or their social status, all of which put those last lot clearly into the "upper" section of the class pyramid, but due to their relationship to the means of production - they had skills and with their assistants and trainees, helped produce finished products.
That most of those things were then shipped off to some third world country so they could be produced and sold is why the fashionistas aren't as good example of Andy Warhol, who should, imho, be held up as an archetypal example of what the petty bourgious are, and therefore how marx was only talking, specifically, about the relationship various individuals and groups had to the act of producing stuff**.
You may then wonder where the middle class sit within the structure of marxist economics. Well strictly speaking they don't, it's not really designed to either predict nor to pay the slightest attention to the middle class. This is because as far as marxist economics are concerned the middle class do not exist.
This may seem like a weird assertion, or at least, an assertion that I disagree with and have some spanking new patch forthe model, after all, the middle class exist, I done seen them and their dumb ass coffee joints, how can they no exist?
Well because the middle class are a social or cultural class, with more in common with one of the non-ruling/non-spat-upon middle castes of say hindu india. This means that as far as marxism is concerned, the middle class are split into two groups, the middle class proletariat, who do the work, and the middle class capitalists, who "manage" them (what ever "manage" actually means, to date I've seen no indication that "management" is anything more than a bizarre version of that "sound" the japanese have to indicate a great silence. In short I think it's a word for the absence of work, but I can't prove it) on behalf of more senior capitalists.
If you had to define the middle class in marxist terms, then they would be the working class who work in a better, i.e. safer, less stressful, working enviroment, defined not by their social status or their income but by the enviroment and benefits they get in return for having their work stolen and sold at a profit by their bosses.
In contrast the middle class capitalist are the most god aweful wretches, defined not by the fact that they get something out of holding this position in society, but by the mild pay difference between them and the middle class proletariat, and the vastly inferior working enviroment (because they have a working enviroment at all) they have to endure compared to their bosses.
The only commonality is what drives them to work for capitalists, because whereas the lower class proletariat work because the alternative is death, even when sometimes the wage of a hard day's work is itself also death, the middle class proletariat are defined by their fear of being forced to become a lower class member of the proletariat, while they strive, pointlessly to become a member of the bourgious one day. Through hardwork of course, despite the fact that the bourgious are defined by their exploitation of the work of others.
Which means that the middle class bourgious are defined by their fear of becoming a member of the proletariat, and their hopes of becoming a member of the upper classes through the act of ensuring the working middle classes are so disorganised and so at odds with each other that they cannot put up any resistance to their exploitation by the bosses of the bourgious managers.
So to summarize; the middle classes are defined as those who put roofies in people's drinks, and those who have roofies put into their drinks.
By this point, you should be seeing the distinction between stalinist/maoist "communism" and traditional capitalists.
Umm.. I mean, you should be seeing the complete lack of distinction between stalinist/maoist "communism and the more traditional forms of capitalism.
But in case you don't let's move onto the last chapters of manifesto, where marx deals with the other forms of socialism that existed at the time, and how they differed from those of communists.
The first two seem like oxymorons, aristocratic and petty bourgious socialism seems nonsensical, but they make a sort of warped sense.
These forms of socialism are those marked by their propensity to reminiscence about the good old days before capitalism, and are quite happy to denounce the specific nastiness of capitalism.
They, of course, ignore both the fundamental dynamics of theft and exploitation that underlied both pre-industrial and industrial*** economics, and also ignore the fact that, like the fundies and their mythical pre-sexual revolution 50's, that the period they hold up as perfect gave rise to capitalism, and so a revertion to such a period would only last as long as it took for the revertionist aristocrats and petty bourgious to reinvent capitalism again.
Jokes about Etsy and "knitting feminism" go here I guess. Meh.
Of course, We then get onto the most interesting form of socialism, something that will be instantly familiar to all, but it rarely ever talked about for some reason.
This is of course "bourgious socialism".
It's defined primarily by it's focusing on many of the same things that the communists were, workers rights, educational rights, the end of child labor, the decreasing of working hours, the implementation of a minimum wage and a lot of other stuff that has been achieved.
health care would have been on there also, but health care of any kind largely consisted of just drinking huge amounts of diluted opium until you either got better or died, so subjecting the working class to those horrors would not have seemed very nice.
What distinguishes it from communism is then that it doesn't care about the proletariat per se - the sad and fucked up joke about american politics is that bourgious socialism is the most capitalist freindly, and economically neccesary thing that has ever existed, and which is what it currently considered to be the epitamy of evil communism.
Public education means you have a greater number of reasonably skilled laborers, who are easier to manage and it also deflates the wages of the otherwise quite costly skilled laborers that capitalists need occasionally when it has no other choice.
Universal Healthcare in turn means that individual employers don't have to pay the various and increasingly costly charges required for either each company to outfit and provide skilled healthcare professionals, or for each company to pay into a shared health care system, because the government can, through taxes, pay the costs that would otherwise come straight out of the capitalists' profits.
The bourgious socialist is therefore those who are interested in workers' rights, because a less stressed worker is a productive worker, and a healthy worker is able to work whereas a sick worker can't. They're marked by at the very least an awareness of the fundamental dynamics behind capitalism, are aware that profits rely on the workers working, and working well, but it understands this only so as to improve capitalism, to make it better and more profitable.
Of course Corporatists, who are more interested in the total power of the corporation and the castration of government that exists merely to ensure laissez faire economics gives them the maximum power to exploiter the worker as it possible, and which therefore lacks the subtly and economic flexibility of the symbiotic relationship a bourgious socialist state has, fails to realise neither the weakness of their proposed system nor the economic inevitability of their defeat by the bougious socialists, but who none the less fight bourgious socialism as hard as they can, and only ever let up their battle when a suitably powerful democratic movement rises up to threat both bourgious socialist nad corporatists in equal amounts
Bourgious Socialism is therefore the Democratic Party's socialism, and amusingly enough, is what it is quickly abandoning, having co-opted and devoured into pointlessness the civil rights movement of the 70's and thus having found itself under attack again by the corporatists of the republican party. This despite the fact that bourgious socialism cannot help but replacing the corporatist's greedy brain child when the corporatists break the economy and defeat themselves.
It should noted that bourgious socialism is not merely the province of the high muckety mucks in the democratic party, most of the more spectacularly ineffectual or counter productive left wing organisations in america are also bourgious socialists on some level or another. It requires not so much a concious awareness of the benefits of bourgious socialism versus other forms of socialism, but is merely a case of the bourgious or wannabe bourgious weilding socialism to the end of being able to exploit some group or another better.
So the modern Black Panthers and Nation of Islam are big on traditional family and are big on the role of women with the family unit, because to the husband, the wife is a worker and the husband, who like any capitalist, is often the first and loudest to scream and rave about how much work they do, even as they use every means they have available to exploit the unpaid labor of women both in marriage and in motherhood. Or the homosexual MOC is oppressed, is cast out of the communities who claim absolute right to dictate what is and isn't black, what is or isn't white, and declare the absolute right place the blame for the oppression of hte entire community, not on the backs of their oppressors, but on the backs of those they in turn oppress.
But in turn, the radical feminists, NOW and the Laissez Faire feminists of all stripes, are equally happy to seize upon and trap woc within arms of fair weather praise, and fair weather empowerment and support just prior to being explited to some end goal or another, and like the capitalist they are also the first and loudest to rant and rave about how unfair it is for their workers to complain about anything they do to them, and first and proudest to point to the not particularly impressive pay off their woc workers have received in return for their sweat and tears and blood. But also the transwomen and sex workers, Ostracised and hated by regular society, who's oppression rests so singualarly on that concept of untermenschen that gives leave to the johns and the police and the feminists in equal measure to beat, abuse, ostracise and hate so as to be able to say to themselves, like any capitalist would, that this hating, this Othering, is in and of itself good enough, that this is what htey need to do to make the world a better place, becuase such distinctions of hatred and goodness have to be maintained, or else the society and structures that the bourgious socialist lives off of will surely crumble, and the vines of democracy will over run the walls of their careful maintained castles.
* Otherwise the mere act of converting wholesale goods to retail goods would magically make the same goods, when sold retail, have more worth than the goods did when they were being sold wholesale, even when they were complete unchanged in any sense other than how they were sold, which makes no sense.
Yeah, that's sort of applying thermodynamics to economics, which of course doesn't strictly work, but do note that ignoring an essential... let's call it a "law of conservation of value", leads to inflation within a monetary economy. So in keeping the laissez faire conception of "fundamentals", which make some sort of sense (and throwing them away completely leads to models that do not), one has to explain where the remainder of the value goes or comes from during the wholesale/retail transaction, which is the sole reason why capitalism inherently favors big monopolistic producers and suppliers. That leaves you with wholesale theft or retail phlogiston as the only sensible explanations for that dynamic, and as phlogiston is completely without evidence, whereas capitalists make no bones about being evil bastards with no morals, so one is left to conclude that theft is the most likely answer.
** Sparta also had a clear petty bourgious class that would have been familiar to marx, indeed spartan society placed the marxist economic structure in full view, with their helots, skilled artisan merchants and spartan citizenry who owned the helots. Of course it must be remembed that sparta was a mere feudal society, and lacked the centralisation and qualities of scale that makes capitalism, capitalist.
*** It should be noted I'm always a bit hesitant to talk about "post-industrial" society, because it seems to be defined by the middle class existing in first world countries who are none the less linked economically to the exploitation of industrial countries, and so I don't like it as a category, because it seems like a way to cover up the continued reliance on industrial economics by these so called "post-industrial" countries, all of whom treated their own version of the "south" as they do the third world. And so the arbitrariness seems heavy, and the relevence or use of such distinctions seems non-existant.
**** which was rife throughout the world before various countries instituted mandatory public school systems, which are what exists in place of child labor, which was the primary, and exceedingly pro-life, method of population control, because the kids did those jobs that required small, cheap workers, who were readily replacable, was the least skilled of all the unskilled laborers. And the jobs also required 4 to 12 year olds to have an exceeding good ability to concentrate on the job at hand.
or else they'll be mangled in the factory machinery they had to clean while it was running, or by a fast moving coal miners cart. When it comes right down to it, the repugs want to get rid of public education or cripple it or make it useless so that they won't