Friday, May 16, 2008

Marx Vs. Tocqueville on revolutions?

"How did marx and tocqueville differ in their views of revolution?"
This question was asked by a person going by the moniker/screen name of "Sherry S" on "Yahoo Answers", a question-and-answer community. This question so intrigued me that I decided to answer. In the process of doing my research, which amounted to eyeballing through "Democracy in America", by Alexis de Tocqueville, and "the communist manifesto" (commonly attributed to Karl Marx) for some appropriate quotes, I became even more interested in the subject. The more I learned, the more interested I became. Here is the answer i gave:


According to "the communist manifesto", as put together by Karl Marx at the behest of "the Communist League"(*1), it considers a starting condition in which it assumes that individuals do not transcend the boundaries of their class; the only means of change is by class revolution. the result of any successful revolution, in the opinion of that writing, is a state somehow run by "the working class".

"...the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.
The proletariat will use its political supremacy, to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible."(*2)

It also states that capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction, and will inevitably be replaced by a communist state.
"But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons - the modern working class - the proletarians."(*3)

tocqueville considers that in a democracy, or a society in which the "equality of conditions" is widespread, people are economically mobile: they can either rise or fall. it is the love of property and the threat of losing that property that makes people form their opinions of revolution.
"Not only are the men of democracies not naturally desirous of revolutions, but they are afraid of them. All revolutions more or less threaten the tenure of property: but most of those who live in democratic countries are possessed of property..."
although not strictly a revolution, concentration of power is considered by toqueville to be a notion in democracies.(*5)
and in contrast to marx's classism:
"...all who shall attempt to draw and to retain authority within a single class, will fail."(*6)
finally, tocqueveille writes:
"The nations of our time cannot prevent the conditions of men from becoming equal; but it depends upon themselves whether the principle of equality is to lead them to servitude or freedom, to knowledge or barbarism, to prosperity or to wretchedness." (*7)

(*1) The communist manifesto was commissioned by the Communist League, a secret society operating out of London. At least two other people submitted material, Moses Hess, who was replaced by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels( who wrote a preface to the communist manifesto). Furthermore, as in any work written at the behest of an organization, we must remember that the words of the text do not necessarily reflect the views of the author. Because of these two reasons, it is inaccurate to say this is the opinion of Marx. I might also add that the Communist Manifesto was explicitly produced as a form of propaganda by the League, and so the logical framework of the arguments is fragmented and full of errors and false conclusions, as one might expect of any form of propaganda. Finally, although I have not found it written anywhere, it seems absolutely clear to me (because i have a brain), that the forces behind the Communist League were not a disordered lot of poor people. No. The money and direction came from a monied source. It is clearly a tool of some band of kleptocrats who saw it as a means of using governments as a tool for personal power. The fact that many people, including academics, do not immediately see through this ruse can only be a source of amusement. If marx was a true believer in the cause for which he wrote, he is surely one of the biggest dupes in history. see the developing blog for more information:

(*2) Chapter II(Proletarians and Communists). page 54.
(*3) Chapter I (Bourgeoisie and Proletarians). Page 26.

1(the parts not representing my opinion),2,3 from:
Front Cover:"Karl Marx; the communist manifesto;With an introduction by Stefan T. Possony; gateway edition".
Copyright 1954 by Henry Regnery Company, 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Illinois. Copyright under International Copyright Union. Manufactured in the United States of America. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 54-8138.
Translated by Samuel Moore.

Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqueville. Volume II, Third Book, Chapter XXI (why great revolutions will become more rare).

Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqueville. Volume II, Fourth Book, Chapter II (that the notions of democratic nations on government are naturally favorable to the concentration of power).

Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqueville. Volume II, Fourth Book, Chapter VII (continuation of the preceding chapters).

Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqueville. Volume II, Fourth Book, Chapter VIII (general survey of the subject).

(4-7) From Democracy In America by Alexis de Tocqueville, The complete and unabridged Volumes I and II, with an introduction by Joseph Epstein. Published April 2000, "A Bantam Classic Book" Publisher.

I felt my answer to be of good quality(at least in comparison to the usual yahoo answer), however it was not sufficient to satisfy my desire for a better answer to the question, and to answer the other questions that seemed to branch off of this one. That is where this blog begins.

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