(A) Dialectical Materialism of Karl Marx:
Karl Marx was very deeply touched by the evils of Capitalism which took birth due to industrial revolution. He was also influenced by the contemporary socialistic ideology and Hegel’s Dialectic. Marx’s ideology starts from Hegel’s Dialectic. Therefore, it is essential to understand Hegel’s Dialectic. Hegel was a German Philosopher and at time of Marx, Hegel’s philosophy dominated the Bonn and Berlin Universities when he was a student there. He accepted the outer form of Hegel’s philosophy and discarded its spirit. Hegel was a spiritualist.
According to him the world including individuals and societies, is dynamic in nature; it is not static but is in a constant flux. An idea occurs in man’s brain and many ideas crop up to support that idea. In this way, thesis is prepared, but certain defects are noticed in this thesis. Therefore, many views occur in man’s mind against this thesis.
Later, there is a compromise between these contradictory ideas and with the co-operation of the both a synthesis is produced. Then a reaction takes place in man’s mind against this synthesis and coordination again becomes thesis.
Then anti-thesis takes place and in the end synthesis is created with the reconciliation of the two. In this way, development takes place through thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. According to Hegel, this cycle of human reason continues, because dynamism is the law of the mature.
Marx abandoned the idealism of Hegel and adopted the materialist view of the world. Thus, Marx’s philosophy is different from that of Hegel. Marx himself admitted in the introduction of his well-known book ‘Das Capital’, “I found the Hegelian dialectic standing on its head. I put it on its foot”.
Marx believed that Hegel’s theory was opposite to his (Marx’s) theory, as his own philosophy is straight. Engels has skillfully explained Marx’s dialectical materialism by giving an example of a barley seed. He argues, if a barley seed is sown, it will turn into an offshoot with heat and moisture.
In this way, the barley seed will destroy itself but its offshoot shall take the shape of a plant. That plant shall bear many grains and with the labour of the farmer these grains can be of better quality. After some time, that plant will destroy itself and the seeds will reproduce many more plants.
According to Engels, the seed is thesis and the plant is anti-thesis. Its fruit is synthesis. He has also given another example to explain thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. He says that in the beginning the entire society had a control over the land.
This was a thesis. Later on, the idea of individual control cropped up. It was an anti-thesis. Individual ownership on land was established and the production increased. The people supported this view. After the industrial revolution, many machines were invented.
Therefore, the idea came up to adopt mechanical method in the field of agriculture to boost production, but the individual had no financial resources to buy tractors or to install tube-wells for agricultural production. Therefore, the people demanded the social ownership of land and nationalisation of industries. In this way, a relationship was established.
We shall take up other features of Marx’s Dialectical Materialism:
(1) Joseph Stalin, in his book ‘Philosophy of Marxism’ says, “Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard nature as an accidental agglomeration o things, of phenomena unconnected with, isolated from and independent of each other but as a connected and integral whole in which things, phenomena are organically connected with, dependent on and determined by each other”.
(2) Regarding Dialectical Materialism Engels says, “All nature from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand and sun, from the protista to man is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change”.
(3) According to Dialectical Materialism, difference in quantity of things also brings difference in their quality. For example, when the boiling point of water exceeds a limit, it becomes steam and when it comes down considerably it freezes.
(4) According to Dialectic, the process of the development and change of things is not simple but it is zig-zag and complex. It is like a circle and an expanding line.
(B) Economic or Materialistic interpretation of history:
After this Marx tried to find out how capitalist society developed. He got clarification of this in the history and, therefore, he gives materialistic interpretation of history. For this purpose, he implemented his dialectical materialism in the process of the social development.
Marx agreed with his master, Hegel, that history represents a continuous and logical evolution but he differed from Hegel in maintaining that this dialectical movement was not due to any metaphysical causes but was the product of material conditions of life. In this way, he arrived at the economic explanation of the history of his theory.
According to his theory, the historical events can be explained in the light of physical situations of life. Marx said, “Legal relations as well as forms of state could neither be understood by themselves, nor explained by the so-called general progress of the human mind but they are rooted in the material conditions of life…. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness”.
Marx further says that it is the forces of production, which determine the relationship of production and the relations of production in turn are the foundation on which the institutional and ideological superstructure of society is built.
The change in the relations of production brings about a change in all other relations. In each age, the class which had control over the means of production had also control over the political power. During the middle Ages, Feudalism was in vogue.
All the institutions and social ideologies were framed according to feudalism. When in Europe feudalism declined and nation-states emerged, all the institutions and ideals of society were framed according to them. When capitalism came into existence, the entire morality, ideals and institutions changed accordingly.
Grossman sums up this theory in the following well-chosen words, “The wheel, the plough, currency and factory system, each in its time, had by its invention upset long-standing habits, moral laws, religious and political systems. It was the development of science of warfare, of communication, of farming, industry and finance which had really changed our ways of life and thought. These changes in the technique of production and distribution were primary factors in the dialectic of history; the principles of legislators and whims of princes could delay or accelerate change, but they were subject to the basic economic force which controlled the process”.
How do the materialist circumstances influence our life? In order to make it clear, the example of Great Britain is given where the reason to give the right of franchise to women was given, not that their demands were just because John Stuart Mill had proved this with strong arguments, but the real reason for this was hat a large number of women had entered the industrial life.
Secondly, it is said “at religious tolerance has not been given, because it was appropriate, but it was because due to its absence domestic conflicts took place, which created difficulty in trade and commerce.
Thirdly, the British did not introduce political reforms in India, because they considered the demands of the Indians as proper, but they did this because a contended India could serve as a good market for the finished products of Great Britain. Along with the change in the system of production, there is also a change in the mutual relations of different classes.
Marx, on the basis of the change in the relations of production has divided the human history in six parts:
(1) Age of Primitive Communism:
In this age, the institution of property had not taken birth and man had no knowledge even of agriculture and cattle-breeding. He had to live on hunted-animals and fruits. In this stage in each individual loved the other and they divided among themselves whatever they got.
(2) Age of Slavery:
In this age the agriculture and cattle-rearing started. Certain people were the owners of the land and certain people were slaves. It was the duty of the slave to produce and the master enjoyed the fruit of the slave’s labour. Then feudal system emerged.
(3) Age of Feudalism:
During this age big landlords were the owners of the land and in place of slaves farmers tilled the land but they were not the owners of the land. They were completely under the control of their feudal lords.
(4) Age of Capitalist Society:
The fourth age of capitalism started in Europe after industrial revolution. Many big industries were established and their owners were called capitalists. Millions of labourers worked in these industries. They got a meagre salary and the capitalist became the owner of the residual profit of the production. The capitalist had no control over the body or activities of the labourer as was the system in the age of slavery. During that age the masters had full control over the bodies of the slaves.
(5) Dictatorship of the Proletariat class:
Marx said that his age (nineteenth century) was the age of capitalism. There would be a constant struggle between the capitalists and the workers, because the capitalists exploited the workers constantly. In this struggle, the workers would ultimately be victorious.
After the revolution, capitalism would perish and dictatorship of the proletariat would be established. Marx’s prophecy came out to be fully true and today the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established in Soviet Union, China, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Yugoslavia.
(6) Communist Age:
Marx predicted that the last age would be the communist age. In this age there would be no class struggle because capitalism would have perished in the first age and thus there would be only one class. A classless and stateless society would be established. In this age each individual would produce wealth according to his or her ability and each individual would gel wealth according to his or her need.
(C) Theory of surplus value:
Economists like Ricardo and Marx also believed that the price of a commodity is to be determined according to labour invested on it. Thus, according to Marx, the basis of wealth is labour. Marx was of the view that the labourers produce wealth with their labour, but the capitalists does not give them their share of profit.
For instance, the capitalists purchase big machines and also establish big factories with their capital. Millions of labourers work in these factories. Due to lack of capital, the labourers cannot establish big factories. They are compelled to sell their labour and get employment in the factories established by the capitalists.
The capitalists sell the finished goods at a high rate and give meagre wages to the labourers. The difference between the cost of the finished goods and their sale price is called profit. This process of earning profit is called the theory surplus value. Marx held the view that this profit should go to the labourer and not to the capitalist because labour is the basis for production of all types of wealth.
(D) Theory of Class War:
Marx is of the view that there have always been two classes in the history of mankind, i.e., the exploiters and the exploited. Marx has laid stress on class struggle saying that, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, Lord and self, guild-master and journeymen in a word oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes”.
According to Marx, the capitalists and the labourers do not reconcile in this struggle, because the capitalists are the exploiters and the labourers are the exploited. The interests of both these classes clash with one another. Therefore, this struggle can stop only if capitalism is abolished and the workers gain a victory.
Marx was of the firm belief that germs are already present in the capitalism to destroy it, because the capitalism, with its inherent evils, creates a situation for self- destruction. Due to capitalism, the wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of a few.
On the other hand with the increase of industries, the number of labourers also increases. The labourers establish mutual contact due to concentration of mills in big towns and also because of the trade and capitalism assuming an international form. Transport facilities also play an important role in the field of the establishment of mutual contacts of the labourers. Later on, they establish national and international contacts.
With the increase of capitalism, the condition of the workers worsens and great unrest spreads among them. Therefore, the labourers raise the banner of revolution. Marx prophesied that the Workers will ultimately come out victorious in this struggle.
(E) Capitalism carries within itself the seeds of its own decay:
Coker has very ably defined the manner in which capitalism advances towards its own decay. He says, “Thus, the capitalist system enlarges the number of workers, brings them together into compact groups, make them class conscious, supplies them with means of inter-communication and co-operation on a world-wide scale, reduces their purchasing power, and by increasingly exploiting them, arouses them to organised resistance. Capitalists acting persistently in pursuit of their natural need and in vindication of a system dependent upon the maintenance of profits are all the time creating conditions which stimulate and strengthen the natural efforts of workers in preparing for a system that will fit the needs of working men’s society”.
That is why Marx wrote at the end of his manifesto, “the Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at the communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite”.
Dictatorship of the proletariat class and establishment of Communism:
Marx says that after the revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat will be established and the capitalism shall perish. The communist party shall be responsible for the organisation of the Communist forces. The working class shall control the government. With the help of the government there will be socialisation of the means of production. With the socialisation of the means of production, the capitalists and their supporters will enter into competition and they will try to organise a counter revolution.
In order to crush the capitalists completely there, will be the dictatorship of the proletariat in transitory stage. When the capitalism is crushed by force only the labourers will remain and there will be end of class struggle. Marx says that in the long run a stateless and classless society shall be established. In this society, the principle of distribution shall be from each according to one’s ability and to each according to one’s needs.