We are surrounded by amenities. But as Marx explained, capitalism is not about commodities, nor about the “brand” of commodities; rather, it is about how goods are produced and distributed. Capitalism is a mode of production, which essentially means “the way of producing”.
The mode of production in simplistic terms consists of two things, a) the social organization of production or the relations of production and b) the type of technologies, tools and methods used for production or the forces of production.
Different modes of production have existed throughout history depending on the specific combination of the two. So, apart from the capitalist mode of production that emerged in late medieval Europe and dominates the contemporary world, we have had in the past primitive communism, the old mode of production and the feudal model of production, all based on distinct combinations of forces of production and relations of production.
Production relations basically means the relationship between those who own means of production like land, plant and capital, and those who do not. It’s about how work is extracted from people.
At various times in history there have been relationships as master-slave and patricians-plebeians (ancient/slave mode of production) and lord-serf and guild-fellow (feudal mode of production).
The dominant relationship in capitalism is that of the bourgeoisie or the capitalist and the worker.
In the slave mode of production, the population was divided into freemen and slaves. The free had all civil and political rights, while the slaves were deprived of all rights. In this mode, not only the means of production were the private property of free men, but also human slaves.
After the demolition of this system due to several slave revolts, the feudal mode of production came into being in which the old category of “slaves” was demolished and a new economic class of “serfs” was born. In this, the feudal lords held full property rights over the means of production but incomplete property rights over the peasant serf.
Thus, the serfs had to provide a range of services, taxes and levies to the feudal and in return they received a small proportion of the products. It can be described as a bonded labor system.
In the later stages of feudalism and with the development of towns and commerce, several other new classes like wealthy merchants and master craftsmen on the one hand and a large mass of journeymen and apprentices emerged. From these classes later emerged the modern bourgeoisie or capitalist class.
The feudal mode of production was then overthrown in a series of peasant and bourgeois revolts during the 16th to 18th centuries and led to the establishment of the capitalist mode of production.
The capitalist mode of production is, by far, the most advanced mode of production in human history. Just like previous modes of production, the capitalist mode too is based on private ownership of the means of production but on an unprecedented scale.
Moreover, unlike previous modes, workers are free to sell their labor in the capitalist mode of production; workers are not bound by any obligation or law to work for a capitalist.
Capitalism is based on the system of wage relations and free trade. This is why Marx and Engels called the most advanced capitalist mode and the bourgeois class the most revolutionary class so far because it “put an end to all feudal, patriarchal and idyllic relations. She ruthlessly tore apart the motley feudal ties that united man to his “natural superiors”.
Writing in the middle of the 19th century, Marx and Engels highlighting the enormous progress of the capitalist system wrote; “During his reign of barely a hundred years, [capitalism] created more massive and colossal productive forces than all previous generations put together”.
Capitalism is a system driven by profit; in pursuit of profit, capitalism constantly revolutionizes production methods through technological developments and converts all social or common goods like forests, rivers and mountains, etc. in private ownership.
Precisely because capitalism is the most advanced and productive system in all of history, producing immense wealth, it is characterized by enormous exploitation and the misery of a large part of the population because the source of wealth is not the economy of the capitalist but the work of the workers. to classify.
Although the working class is theoretically free in a capitalist society, it is nothing but a commodity that must sell its labor power in exchange for a wage to the capitalist or the employer.
Marx showed that the source of profit in the modern capitalist mode of production is the exploitation of the working class.
In a simple economic equation, a capitalist cannot profit from his fixed cost (raw material, rent, bills and taxes, etc.) but only from the variable cost, which is nothing but the wage provided in labor exchange. The lower the wage given to a worker, the greater the profit.
This is why governments constantly attack the rights of the working class.
Marx and Engels described the modern state as “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”. The role of the state in the capitalist mode of production is to facilitate the interest of capitalism or the ruling class, which is achieved either by the legislative method or by direct brutal coercion.
If we try to understand the recent events in India, such as the proposed labor code bills, the three agricultural laws, the suspension of labor rights as a result of the ongoing pandemic, the privatization drive, the new education policy and proposed environmental impact assessment project, etc. ., we can see that even after 150 years since Marx theorized how capitalism worked in the economic and political spheres, his analysis remains true and accurate.
The most significant point that made Karl Marx probably the most hated figure in the capitalism-religion-liberalism triumvirate was not only his acerbic critique of capitalism and religion, but also his theory of workers’ revolution which was on the point of eliminating the economic and religious elite from their privileged position.
Unlike proponents of liberalism-capitalism who like to think of capitalism as the end of history, Marx and Engels conceptualized a more advanced and egalitarian mode of production, namely the socialist mode to denote a higher stage of human society. .
A common criticism against Marxism is that it is a theory of poverty; that Marxism wants everyone to be poor. But this is far from the truth. Marxism is a tool of the working class to end misery and poverty and create a society of plenty. Marxism is not about impoverishing everyone, but about giving everyone the means to live a dignified and fulfilled life. It is a matter of equality with social justice.
The operating principle of Marxism is “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”.
Marx produced the sharpest and most compressive analysis of capitalism. He not only laid bare the economics and politics of capitalism, but also how capitalism dehumanizes humans and creates alienation; how capitalism transforms everything from basic necessities like education, health and home to something as basic as air and water to human emotions and relationships into a commodity.
Marxism, as literary theorist and critic Terry Eagleton put it, “is a critique of capitalism – the most thorough, rigorous and comprehensive critique of its kind ever launched. As long as capitalism is still active, Marxism must be too. Only by retiring his opponent can he retire”.
Marx and Engels and their philosophy of scientific socialism commonly referred to as Marxism will remain relevant until capitalism and private property are abolished.