Karl Marx: Are Workers' Rights Attainable Through Peaceful Means?

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Perhaps more than any other scholar in the modern period, Karl Marx, through the espousal and propagation of his philosophy of revolution, has affected the course of modern, global history and politics with broad, bold strokes. There have been numerous grand attempts since Marx’s death to implement his groundbreaking, revolutionary ideas, played out spectacularly on the world geo-political stage, with most attempts ending in equally spectacular failures. Although Marx’s theories of class struggle seem to remain relevant today, as there are still sharp, distinct and visible economic, social and political conflicts between Marx’s bourgeoisie and proletariat, there exists one, central obstacle to the modern implementation of Marxist ideology. Namely, the continued existence, prosperity and growth of a capitalist system of trade and commerce throughout the world have created what are probably insurmountable practical and theoretical obstacles for Marxism. More specifically, the continued relative success of this capitalist system, as made manifest and most visible through the concept of the United States, has subverted the very theoretical underpinnings central to Marxist ideology. Regardless of the ideological lens through which one views recent history, it is inarguable that the United States and its Western counterparts have enjoyed economic and political successes on a scale which was previously unknown to the modern world. America has been able to maintain a vibrant, albeit pressured, middle-class up to this day, and mild redistributive economics are ever expanding. Through its capitalist system, the United States has, for decades, gradually integrated developing nations into a worldwide network of uniquely capitalist trade, commerce and exchange. In this way, the United States has echoed Marx’s own predictions of a capitalist, bourgeoisie system that would scramble to fill the corners of the Earth. However, it is precisely because of this spread of capitalist industrialization that the credibility of Marx’s calls for violent revolution has been gradually eroded. In short, America, in its propagation of capitalist, democratic institutions, has also spread a general belief in the viability of these same capitalist institutions. In other words, as America has achieved unprecedented success, it has given to the world a belief in the possibility of capitalism to bring about greater equity and equality throughout the world. Countries and their leaders throughout the world, despite their rhetoric, continually seek to accept and adopt those characteristics of Western industrialization and capitalism that they deem most useful. Even in China, hard-line communist leaders have, for quite some time, accepted and furthered “Special Economic Zones”, or areas in which free trade is essentially the only governing system. Other large, modernizing countries like India and Mexico, despite sporadic anti- American and anti- Western sentiment, are being guided by their leaders into closer working and trading relationships with the United States and the West in general through outsourcing and trade agreements. It could be argued that the United States has expanded the “American dream” to outside of American borders, and a belief in the possible, extreme prosperity available through capitalism has seemingly spread throughout the world as a result. Marx’s practical calls for a revolution against this entrenched capitalist system seem all the more academic and improbable while these capitalist institutions continue to prosper and grow. As calls for revolution become more improbable in nations with a steady foothold on the path to modernization and global integration, there undoubtedly still exist captive audiences for Marxist ideology in underdeveloped, “Third World” nations. As one scholar states, “If it is because Marx mistook the birth pangs of capitalism for its death throes that the theory has proved irrelevant to industrial...
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