Critics of economists
Economics has undergone a paradigm shift since the end of the 19th century with the triumph of neoclassical theory. This introduced a break with the classical national economy on which Marx’s analysis was based and which consists in considering that it is the worker who creates value. According to Marx, the worker would therefore be exploited by the capitalist. But according to Solow, Nobel laureate in economics, this theory is now obsolete. Robert M. Solow called Marxist economic analysis a “dead end now irrelevant.”
The practical consequences of the application of Marxism on the political field are the subject of debate, as well as the concrete relationship with Marxist thought of the various governments that claimed it during the course of the 20th century. Marxism’s relationship to totalitarianism is controversial, with some criticism not only of the actions of regimes claiming to draw inspiration from Marxism, but of Marx’s thought itself.
Dictatorial political regimes practicing the planned economy, designated after the Second World War under the collective name of the Eastern bloc, claimed Marxism-Leninism. Although several Marxist currents opposed the USSR from its inception, most of the main communist parties, partly financed by the Soviet regime, remained loyal to it for decades. In the USSR, Marxism was confiscated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and set up as the official ideology of the regime. The speech of the 20th Congress of the CPSU stated in 1956: “the Communist Party and its Central Committee are not only a collective organizer, but also a collective center for the development of Marxist theoretical thought”.
André Glucksmann, a former Maoist, developed in his book La Cuisinière et le mangeur d’hommes (1975) the thesis that such dictatorships were “necessary and foreseeable” consequences of the Marxist model, in the exact framework of the class struggle. simply adapted to this new mode of production. He added that dictatorship can only engender a new ruling class, the nomenklatura and the party apparatus, and concluded that Marxism “produces not only scientific paradoxes, but concentration camps”.
Denouncing the discredit brought in his view on Marxism by its use in communist regimes, Alexander Solzhenitsyn declared “Marxism has sunk so low that it has simply become an object of contempt”. Questioning the relationship between Marxism and totalitarianism, Raymond Aron wrote in his memoirs: “Must we conclude that Soviet socialism logically emerges from the thought of Marx? That it constitutes the authentic realization of the Socialist-Marxist idea? The man Marx who pleaded all his life for freedom of the press, revolted by temperament, we can hardly imagine him as an apologist for a despotic state. (…) The decisive question lies elsewhere. Doesn’t the socialist idea, pushed to the limit, to the negation of the commodity form, with equality as its objective, necessarily or at least logically lead to a Soviet-type regime? Alexander Zinoviev pleads this thesis and I would defend it today.” However, a distinction is generally made between Marxist theory itself and the political regimes that have more or less directly adopted it. Boris Souvarine, a very critical analyst of so-called communist regimes, established a distinction between Marxism, a “complex and variable” object, and on the other hand Leninism and Marxism-Leninism: “Lenin quotes Marx to justify the Soviet regime identified with the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, whereas Marx understood by this expression a “political hegemony” resulting from “universal suffrage”; which has nothing in common with the monopoly of a party, the omnipotence of an “oligarchy” (Lenin dixit), an inquisitorial GPU and a Gulag archipelago”.
Daniel Bensaïd, Trotskyist theorist, for his part denounced the thesis according to which “It is to Marx in person, and not to Stalin or Lenin, that the original sin and the relentless metamorphosis of the socialist paradise into totalitarian hell would go back”, commenting “Accused of carrying within it totalitarianism, Marxism on the contrary launches the most radical challenge to any form of incarnation of power. By tracing the perspective of the withering away of the state, he envisages the transitory exercise of a delocalized and “disembodied” power, of a social democracy which would really mark the exit from our religious and mythological prehistory.”
Astrophysicist and Marxist activist Anton Pannekoek claimed in 1938 that the USSR was a regime of “state capitalism” and that Bolshevism “was never Marxist”. Taking up this argument, there are a certain number of intellectuals who, while inscribing their thinking in the wake of Marx’s thought, see in Marxism a subversion of it: most of them define themselves as “Marxians “.
The shortcomings of the Marxist model of the analysis of capitalism
When Marx states his law of the downward trend in the rate of profit and that of the impoverishment of the workers, he loses sight of two extremely fundamental elements, namely the law of diminishing returns and the role of technical progress which play a crucial role in the dynamics of capitalism. If it is well known that in advanced countries, the population does not increase or increases only slightly (for historical and sociological reasons), it is no less true that capital (the various production goods in the such as buildings, miscellaneous equipment, raw materials and semi-finished products) nevertheless continues to increase briskly. In production workshops, the law of diminishing returns indicates that when a fixed factor (or relatively as such) is associated with a variable factor (i.e. which increases), the productivity of the variable factor ends up falling (the additional quantities of production or marginal values of the product produced gradually decrease as the quantities of the variable factor added increase) and the productivity of the fixed factor increases. Consequently, and even in the absence of technical progress, the productivity of labor (or, which amounts to roughly the same thing, the real wage per worker) does not continue to increase and the productivity of capital (measured by the rate of interest or profit taking into account the risk of the entrepreneur) gradually declines. Which makes the Marxist law of The Impoverishment of the Workers untenable. The fall in the interest rate or in the profile can be slowed down (which is historically true) by applying technical progress which makes it possible to maintain the long-term interest (or profit) rate within a relatively stable range and not within a downward trend as the first Marxist law stated above suggests.
(Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu)