Full Marx Library series

Our growing understanding of the human impact on the planet poses some profound questions for all socialists, including Marxists, says the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY

IT’S true that much of Karl Marx’s own work was to do with economics. And class is central to a Marxist understanding of history.

Much of Marx and Friedrich Engels’s writing was concerned with examining the inherently exploitative and dynamic nature of capitalism, seen as underlying the struggle between exploiting and exploited classes which would lead to socialism (and eventually to communism) in which inequality would be abolished and there would be plenty for all.

But both Marx and Engels were well aware of the wider, environmental aspects of human “conquest” over nature. And Marxists today have a good deal to say about the environment.

The MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY explains how in a socialist society, decent housing would be seen as a right, not a commodity.

HOUSING today, especially in Britain, emphasises the contradiction between the basic need of the many for somewhere to live and the unnatural bloated wealth of the few. Homes have become a key part of our commodified economy.

Big business is reliant on the housing market for growth, millions of people live in inadequate, insecure and, for some, dangerous homes and nearly 5,000 people sleep rough every night on our streets. Meanwhile those with “capital” buy property as an investment device or tax dodge and often leave it empty.

Rather than promoting rote-learning, the humanist, revolutionary educator will adopt a problem-posing approach based on a dialogue between teacher and student, says the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY

BRITISH education is in meltdown. Author and educationalist Peter Mortimore writes: “Since 1988 our education system has been transformed into a market economy — as if schooling is similar to shopping or using an estate agent.

“The ideological inspiration for marketisation stems from the work of Milton Friedman. His Capitalism and Freedom provoked a new strategy for governing […] The key elements of this strategy are individualism, competition, choice, privatisation, decentralisation, deregulation and the use of the market in all public services.”

The MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY explores one of Marxism’s key concepts.

THE labour theory of value states that the exchange value of commodities (goods and services) is proportional to the amount of socially necessary labour (work) embodied in them.

The qualification socially necessary is important because we have to assume that all work is done with the average levels of equipment and skill of any given time.

This law of value (as Marx always called the labour theory) is the foundation of his political economy. So it’s natural that many people think it was Marx himself who discovered the law.

‘Free love’ or ‘family values’ — is there a Marxist view? The short answer is — there isn’t one.

Socialists have been known to argue at length about “the family” as well as every other social institution.

But Marxists don’t have a collective “position” on people’s personal relationships or domestic arrangements, as long as they are entered into freely, don’t involve violence, coercion, corruption, exploitation or greed, and don’t damage anyone else.

Love, in particular, is (arguably) beyond the remit of any Marxist analysis. People fall in love, fall out of love; two (or more) people get together, and while their relationship may be of interest to others, it is no particular business of a Marxist.

Some people love their pets, some love money, some evangelicals claim to be able to transmit God’s love of humankind. Marxists may have views on these latter manifestations of love, usually involving terms such as alienation and reification but these are the subject of other answers.

Having said that, it is hardly surprising that Marxists have studied the family as a social institution, given that it has played (and continues to play) such a prominent — and contradictory — role in social life.

Where, as ever, Marxists can make a contribution is in setting love, marriage and the family in their social and historical context.

The MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY takes a look at how the capitalist class fights for control over our minds in the classroom.

LIKE everything else in a class-divided society, education is a battleground. In present conditions, what is taught, how and to whom, is largely determined by the capitalist class.

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, ie the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force,” wrote Marx. That’s as true today as ever.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, ie the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force,”

Let’s start by looking at what Marx and his successors had to say about education.

Fascism is a strategy adopted by the ruling class to manage the capitalist state at a time when its continued rule is threatened by the organised working class and its allies, says the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY.

SINCE the comprehensive military and political defeat of nazi Germany and fascist Italy in the second world war, few individuals or groups have dared to call themselves fascist.

The word is now generally heard as a pejorative term applied to individuals (or organisations, or governments) on the extreme right.

Sometimes it’s applied as a term of abuse, an insult to someone who’s perhaps not quite as extreme or to emphasise the misuse of power.

But however we may (or may not) agree with newsreader Jon Snow’s refusal to wear a red poppy, for example, the pressure on him to wear one is not “poppy fascism.”

Here we’ll use the terms “fascist” and “fascism” analytically, rather than as an insult.

Credit is essential for the continuation of capitalism but also a major source of its instability, writes the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY.

WELL, the short answer is “yes, capitalism does depend on credit.” And it depends on debt, the other side of the “coin.” But the way it manifests itself is complicated.

Have a look at a £5, £10, £20 or, if you’re rich enough to have one, a £50 note. On the face with the Queen’s head on it, under “Bank of England,” all the notes have written: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…”

They are all promissory notes, IOUs, to you. But try taking your banknotes into a bank to ask for payment and you’ll get a very dusty answer.

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