Posts Tagged ‘Engels’

Who leads Marx’s communist state?

From the limited Marx and Engels readings that we have covered in our class, I have come to understand Marx’s idea of the communist state as, if not naïve, at least an incomplete one.  I base this analysis particularly on pages 808 and 809, in the “Communist Manifesto” section of our textbook.  The proletariat is to assume the position of the ruling class collectively as the State.  The revolution is one of an organized group, and so, surely, there must be a leader of the revolution?  And furthermore, there must be a head of the State?  Granted, Marx and Engels’ “The German Ideology” and “The Communist Manifesto” are critiques of capitalism and a call for revolution by the Proletariat, and not detailed blueprints for a constitution.  However, the fact that they lay out ten general guidelines for the communist state (seen on page 809 of the textbook version of “The Communist Manifesto”), and not one of these mentions leadership of the State, it appears that Marx believes that the communist state will function without a leader.  The collective interest is supposedly so strong that every one of the proletariat knows his or her role and function and will carry it out in the association.  This idea of communism has unrealistic expectations for the knowledge and willingness of man to cooperate.

According to Freud (1959), reiterating Le Bon’s work, there is no such thing as a leaderless group (p. 17).  The group is a malleable, “obedient herd” waiting to be commanded by a master, in which “no personal interest, not even that of self-preservation, can make itself felt” (p.13).  There is no individuality in the group.  Freud later does go on to state that the group can be led by an idea rather than a person (p. 40). However, who is to make the decisions for the State, and how will they be made?  A democratic vote of the vast population?  This isn’t feasible; ultimately, someone will decide which issues are on the voting agenda, and is this person not a leader?  Who is to decide which actions do or do not support the Communist doctrine, the leading idea?  There is no individuality in the group, and no prescribed leader of the State.  How can the State function?  An idea cannot be a master, but is rather a guideline for action.  Particularly in a Communist nation with no leader, there will be a problem of collective action; by not ascribing roles to each person in the “association” and instead letting each person “freely develop him or herself”, people will have incentives to free ride and simply live off the work of others.  One may counter this statement with Marx and Engels’ eighth measure listed on page 809: the State necessitates “equal liability of all to labour”.  This may be an ideal of the “vast association of the whole nation”, but simply in this statement, it is evident that without some institution of government, some leader, enforcement of labor is simply impossible in the vast nation without a leader.  Some sort of institution is necessary – the Marx and Engels communist state is too heavily dependent on the sense of duty and responsibility of the individual.  It is too idealistic.


Modern Political Thought, Wootton.

Freud, S. (1959). Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Read Full Post »