It is difficult to find a more prominent personality that has been despised and vilified in public like Karl Marx. His most famous work The Communist Manifesto has been shredded apart by critics, scholars, and even government agencies. His writings and ideas are referred to as a bunch of nonsense inspired by Satan. When he was alive, Marx himself was called stupid, insane, and even likened to the devil. However, these reactions can be excused and sometimes even understood when you look at his impact on our society.
His philosophy known as Marxism has been identified as the dominant factor in the prevalence of oppression, abuse, malice, sophistry, corruption, tyranny, and even genocide. Wherever the Karl Marx ideology has been practiced, tyranny, loss of freedom and a host of other negative factors have been the order of the day. If you are in doubt, take a look at North Korea, China, Cuba and even some parts of Africa.
Adherents of Marx ideologies who found themselves in power were all exposed as power-drunk despots. Besides, what do Joseph Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Tse Tung, Mussolini and Fidel Castro have in common? Apart from being ruthless dictators, these rulers were staunch disciples of Marxism. Also, Hitler based his evil work Mein Kampf on the ideas he got from Marxism. And the results gotten from the war that followed such a theory are still being felt today. From the time Marx propounded his philosophy till now, an estimated 100 million people have been killed in a bid to promote his ideas.
Despite this, Karl Marx’s influence is still much more pronounced in our public space. So what could be responsible for this anomaly? Could it be that the world has suddenly seen the usefulness of his theories? Or have we discovered that he is not to be blamed for the atrocities perpetrated in his name? Whatever the case may be, in this article we shall try to understand why Karl Marx is still an influential figure:
What is Karl Marx’s philosophy?
Before going straight into the article, let us first understand the philosophy Karl Marx promoted. Doing so will hopefully help us achieve the objective of this article.
Karl Marx developed a philosophy known as Marxism which was based on the freedom of the masses. It is an economic, political and social system that is dependent on the citizenry managing every aspect of their lives without interference from the ruling class. It also encourages citizens of a society to be in charge of producing and distributing goods in a free competitive market that is driven solely by profit. The branches of Marxism include socialism and communism. In simple terms, Marxism is about giving the masses the right to rule themselves.
Why is Karl Marx still an influential figure?
- He was against capitalism: If there is one thing Karl Marx is popular for, it will be his hatred for capitalism. He saw capitalism as a tool used to destroy the human spirit and society. According to him, capitalism reduced the worker to a commodity that can be traded in the labor market, instead of as a resourceful and creative individual. For instance, a capitalist would exploit his workers for as long as he is in business, irrespective of the guilt he may feel. He claimed that societies where capitalism is practiced are unstable and subject to crises. The reason is that there societies are operating on a system that is fundamentally flawed. And when it is allowed to flourish, it will widen the gap between the rich and poor. Therefore, he advocated that the working class should do all they can to overthrow this system and get their freedom. Looking at the economic situations in most countries of the world, it is easy to see why Marxism has been adopted by those yearning for a change.
- He promoted racial equality: Karl Marx had a profound view on race which was light-years ahead of his time. In his Marxism theory, he claimed that racism only served the interests of the ruling class. He argued that the employers of labor intentionally divided workers along racial lines in order to reduce their unity. And because there is disunity among the workers, their bargaining power will also be reduced. Marx believed that the only way to end racial inequality was for all races of workers to unite and pursue a common goal. At a time when racism was the order of the day, his views were highly controversial and ridiculed. But men like Martin Luther King jr. embraced his thinking and were able to play a role in liberating their people from the clutches of inequality.
- He encouraged unity among workers: If you are working in a place that has unions and workers’ organizations, you should thank Karl Marx for that. In the capitalist system practiced in major economies around the world, employers traditionally have the upper hand. When workers ask for improved wages and saner working conditions, their requests are typically turned down by the employers. And since most of them are scared of losing their jobs, they do not pursue their requests further. Marx was the first philosopher to come up with a solution to that problem. He encouraged the working class to come together and form unions that could effectively challenge their employers. Of course, we can see the power that unions wield in today’s society. Also, we know how they can bring any government to a standstill if their demands are not met.
- He supported gender equality: Even before the feminist movement had a voice, Karl Marx was already speaking for them. It is no news that around the world, women are exploited more than their male counterparts. They are often discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens. This situation is obviously worse for women of color. In his philosophy, Marx traced the history of how the oppression of women began and why it is still thriving today. He saw the entry of women into paid labor as the first step towards their liberation. This step would also break their dependence on the male folks. His ideology formed the basis of the feminist movement that revolutionized the world and accorded women equal rights with men.
In this article, we have been able to see why Karl Marx influence still reaches out till today. We have learned that he fought against capitalism, encouraged workers’ unity, and broke racial and gender barriers. Despite the barrage of criticisms that still follow him, it is undeniable that Karl Marx was a revolutionary philosopher whose ideas have withstood the test of time.
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