The Writings of Bertell Ollman
Marxist Theory   ~   Dialectics   ~   Alienation   ~   Class Consciousness
Ideology   ~   Class Struggle   ~   Communism   ~   Political Science (sic)
Socialist Pedagogy   ~   Radical Humor
Home Books Articles Interviews Letters
to the Editor
Class Struggle
Board Game

Printable version of this page

Search articles and book chapters

Latest book
Latest book -
Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's Method

Reviews of Ollman's Books

Featured article -
America Beyond Capitalism: A Socialist Stew Prepared for Liberals and Conservatives

Featured speech -
McCoy Award Acceptance Speech

Video: Marxism and Progress

Marxism (the cartoon version)

From Theory to Practice

Radical Jokes


Recommended Web Sites

NYU Course Bibliographies


ETF Site


Not To Dare
Butcher Shop




Kiki & Bubu explain the neoliberal shift in labor relations

Marx's Vision of Communism < DIALECTICAL MARXISM: The Writings of Bertell Ollman
Marx's Vision of Communism
By Bertell Ollman


Marcuse argues that, in the middle of the twentieth century, utopia remains an impossible dream only to those theorists who use "the concept of 'utopia' to denounce certain socio-historical possibilities."1 Every significant advance in wealth, technology and science extends the boundaries not only of the real but of the possible, of the ways this newly won potential can be realized. Today's production of goods and knowledge, together with accompanying skills, have transformed the utopias of an earlier time into practical alternatives to our everyday existence. Recognition of these trends and their meaning has led to a renewed interest in Marx's vision of the communist society.

Marx constructed his vision of communism out of the human and technological possibilities already visible in his time, given the priorities that would be adopted by a new socialist society. The programs introduced by a victorious working class to deal with the problems left by the old society and the revolution would unleash a social dynamic whose general results, Marx believed, could be charted beforehand. Projecting the communist future from existing patterns and trends is an integral part of Marx's analysis of capitalism, and analysis which links social and economic problems with the objective interests that incline each class to deal with them in distinctive ways; what unfolds are the real possibilities inherent in a socialist transformation of the capitalist mode of production. It is in this sense that Marx declares, "we do not anticipate the world dogmatically, but rather wish to find the new world through the criticism of the old."2 Like the projections Marx made of the future of capitalism itself, however, what he foresaw for communism is no more than highly probable. Marx, whose excessive optimism is often mistaken for crude determinism, would not deny that some for of barbarism is another alternative, but a socialist victory—either through revolution or at the polls—is considered far more likely.3

Marx's communist society is in the anomalous position of being, at one and the same time, the most famous of utopias and among the least known. And, while no one disputes the importance of Marx's vision of communism to Marxism, the vision itself remains clouded and unclear. Responsibility for this state of affairs lies, in the first instance, with Marx himself who never offers a systematic account of the communist society. Furthermore, he frequently criticizes those socialist writers who do as foolish, ineffective, and even reactionary. There are also remarks which suggest that one cannot describe communism because it is forever in the process of becoming: "Communism is for us not a stable state which reality will have to adjust itself. We can call Communism the real movement which abolished the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from premises now in existence."4

Yet, as even casual readers of Marx know, descriptions of the future society are scattered throughout Marx's writings. Moreover, judging from an 1851 outline of what was to become Capital, Marx intended to present his views on communism in a systematic manner in the final volume. The plan changed, in part because Marx never concluded his work on political economy proper, and what Engels in a letter to Marx refers to as "the famous 'positive,' what you 'really' want" was never written.5 This incident does point up, however, that Marx's objection to discussing communist society was more of a strategic than of a principled sort. More specifically, and particularly in his earliest works, Marx was concerned to distinguish himself from other socialist for whom prescriptions of the future were the main stock-in-trade. He was also very aware that when people change their ways and views it is generally in reaction to an intolerable situation in the present and only to a small degree because of the attraction of a better life in the future. Consequently, emphasizing communism could not be an effective means to promote proletarian class consciousness, his immediate political objective. Finally, with only the outline of the future visible from the present, Marx hesitated to burden his analysis of capitalism with material that could not be brought into focus without undermining in the minds of many the scientific character of his entire enterprise.

Notwithstanding Marx's own practice and contrary to his implicit warning, in what follows I have tried to reconstruct Marx's vision of communism from his writings of 1844, the year in which he set down the broad lines of his analysis, to the end of his life. Assembling these varied comments the communist society falls into place like the picture on a puzzle. It is a picture in which many pieces are missing and other so vague as to be practically undecipherable. Yet, what is left is a more complete and coherent whole than most people have thought to exist. Despite some serious temptations, I have not gone beyond Marx's actual words in piecing together the components of the communist society. Gaps and uncertainties are left untouched. On occasion, however, when all the evidence points to a particular conclusion, I am not averse to stating it.

It is this effort to reconstruct Marx's vision of the future open to the same criticism that kept Marx from presenting his own views on this subject in a more organized manner? I don't think so. No one today is likely to confuse Marxism, even with the addition of an explicit conception of communism, with other socialist schools whose very names are difficult to recall. Whether describing communism can help raise proletarian class consciousness is a more difficult question. There is no doubt in my mind that getting works to understand their exploitation as a fundamental and necessary fact of the capitalist system, the avowed aim of most of Marx's writings is the "high road" to class consciousness. It seems equally clear to me that the inability to conceive of a humanly superior way of life, an inability fostered by this same exploitation, has contributed to the lassitude and cynicism which helps to thwart such consciousness. Viewed in this light, giving workers and indeed members of all oppressed classes a better notion of that their lives would be like under communism (something not to be gleaned from accounts of life in present day Russia and China) is essential to the success of the socialist project.

As for only being able to know the broad outlines of communism, this is as true now as it was in Marx's time. But whereas presenting this outline then could only reflect negatively on Marxism as a whole, this is no longer the case, for the intervening century had brought pieces of Marx's horizon underfoot and made the most of the rest—as I have indicated—easier to see and comprehend. Still general and incomplete, the secret of the future revealed in Marx's masterly analysis of capitalist society is a secret whose time has come, and publicizing it has become another means of bringing the human fulfillment it portrays into existence.


Marx divides the communist future into halves, a first stage generally referred to as the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and a second stage usually called "full communism." The historical boundaries of the first stage are set in the claim that: "Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."6

The overall character of this period is supplied by Marx's statement that "What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society: which is thus in every respect still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges."7 This first stage is the necessary gestation period for full communism: is it as time when the people who have destroyed capitalism are engaged in the task of total reconstruction. As a way of life and organization it has traits in common with both capitalism and full communism and Marx never indicates how long this may take—the first stage gives way gradually almost imperceptibly to the second.

Our main sources of Marx's views on the dictatorship of the proletariat are the Communist Manifesto, the "Critique of the Gotha Program," and "Civil War in France," in which he discusses the reforms of the Paris Commune. In the Communist Manifesto, there are ten measures that workers' parties are urged to put into effect immediately after their victory over the capitalists. By viewings these measures are already accomplished, we can use this list as a basis for our picture of the first stage.

What Marx asks for are: "1) Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. 2) A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. 3) Abolition of all right of inheritance. 4) Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. 5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly. 6) Centralization of communication and transport in the hands of the state. 7) Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state, the bringing in cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. 8) Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture. 9) Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of population over the country. 10) Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc."8

It is conceded that "these measures will of course differ in different countries," but in the most advanced countries they "will be pretty generally applicable." No matter the variation in means, and it appears these variations would be modest ones, the goals remain the same: "to wrest... all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state... and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible."

These demands will be examined singly in order to reveal the full measure of change projected by each one: 1) "Abolition of property in land and application of all rents on land to public purposes." Rather than parceling out estates and giving land to the people who work on it—the reactionary dream of all peasants—land becomes the property of the state, which uses the rent it receives for public purposes. Judging from Marx's treatment of the land in question in "Civil War in France," farmers would pay less rent to the state than they paid to their former landlords.9 Later in his life, faced with Bakunin's criticism, Marx qualifies this demand: "the proletariat," he now says, "must take measures, as a government, through which the peasant finds his position directly improved, which thus wins him for the revolutions; measures, however, which facilitate in nucleus the transition from private property in the soil to collective property, so that the peasant comes to it of his own accord, economically. But it must not antagonize the peasant, by, for instance, proclaiming the abolition of the right of inheritance or the abolition of his property: this is only possible where the capitalist tenant has ousted the peasant, and the real tiller of the soil is just as much a proletarian, a wage worker, as is the urban worker, and hence has directly, and not only indirectly, the same interests as he. One has even less right to strengthen small peasant property by simply enlarging the plots by the transfer of the larger estates to the peasants, as in Bakunin's revolutionary campaign."10

This apparent contradiction can be explained by the fact that here Marx is primarily concerned with tactics and with those peasants who work their own plots of land, while in the Communist Manifesto he was speaking mainly about non-owning peasants. The two positions can be reconciled as follows: before, during and immediately after the revolution care should be taken not to frighten the small land-owning peasants, while the landless peasants are to be collectivized at once on the estates of their former landlords and employers. Marx never wavered in his belief that if socialism is to "have any chance whatever of victory, it must at least be able to do as much immediately for the peasants, mutatis mutandis, as the French bourgeoisie did in its revolution."11

For Marx, the peasant, despite his numerous delusions, is "above all a man of reckoning."12 He could not fail to be attracted by the tax benefits and material comforts, work conditions and cultural life available on collectives. All this, it would appear, without depriving the small-holding peasant of anything he already has, are the arguments that will convince him to communize his property Marx did not envision great difficulty in makings this transition, nor that it would take much time.

2) "A heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Apparently, significant differences of income still exist at this stage, or, at least, at the start of it. Many enterprises are privately owned, and their owners probably make more than they would working in a factory. Moreover, in a full employment economy with a scarcity of many essential skills, there are still occupations that have to pay high wages in order to attract workers. The inequality of incomes, therefore, is economically necessary, but because it is also socially undesirable an attempt is made through the income tax to render the real gap as narrow as possible. With the increasing equalization of incomes, the progressive income tax soon becomes outmoded.

3) "Abolition of the right of inheritance." Differences between personal incomes are deplored but accepted as necessary. The disparity in family fortunes, however, is not acceptable, and is to be eliminated at the death of those who currently hold them. Even those modest fortunes which result from wage differentials cannot be bequeathed to one's children. How this is reconciled with the intention, stated earlier, of letting small0holding peasants retain their land until they themselves decide to join collectives is nowhere made clear. Nor do we know for sure what Marx includes among the things which cannot be inherited.

While discussing wages, Marx declares "nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals expect individual means of consumption."13 Something similar, no doubt, would be used to distinguish between what can and cannot be inherited. The purpose of the no-inheritance principle is to achieve wealth equality after the death of those now living. From this time forward, everyone beings life with the same material advantages, and equality of opportunity—an impossible dream under capitalism—is finally realized. What people acquire over and above this will be what they have earned through their own activity.

4) "Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels." This is a practical step intended not so much to aid the state in its drive towards public ownership as to serve as a warning to the bourgeoisie not to engage in counter-revolutionary activity. The proletariat's victory is not completed with the revolution, but must be fought over and won again with all those left-overs of the old society whose hostility impairs the process of social reconstruction. It is indicative of the humanity with which Marx confronts counter-revolutionaries that confiscation is the most severe punishment ever mentioned.

5) "Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and exclusive monopoly." Carrying this measure into effect will deprive financiers of both their wealth and their power to direct the economy. With exclusive control of credit facilities, the state can decide what parts of the economy should be expanded and by how much. It will also enable the state to finance the "national workshops" that Marx calls for elsewhere.14 Meanwhile, what are considered useless or socially harmful enterprises will be squeezed out of existence by withholding funds.15 What is particularly striking about his demand is that it shows the degree of independence to be allowed individual enterprises, whether private or public. If all major decision were made by some central authority, there would be no need for the state to use credit as a means of control.

6) "Centralization of communication and transport in the hands of the state." Like the previous one, this measure aims at depriving a few capitalists of their power to control the nation's economy, and allows the state to develop its internal communication system on the basis of social need. Another immediate result is that all transpiration is made free to the poor.16 Again, the need to specify that communication and transport are taken over by the state suggests that most fields of endeavour are not.

7) "Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state, the bringing in cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan." The involvement of the state in the economy is not concluded when it takes over enterprises and gains control of others though its monopoly of credit facilities. The state cannot sit on the production laurels of the capitalist economy which preceded it, as imposing as these may be. With the aid of a plan, every effort is made to increase nature's bounty by increasing and perfecting the means by which it is produced.

8) "Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture." The new order brings to an end the parasitic situation existing under capitalism, where the few who don't work are supported by the many who do. Everyone works in communism. Those who don't work don't eat: "Apart from surplus0labor for those who on account of age are not yet, or not longer able to take part in production, all labor to support those who do not work would cease."17 The freedom to choose one's work is not affected, as some critics assert; just the privilege of choosing not to work is abolished. With everyone working, "productive labor ceases to be a class attribute," allowing Marx to claim that communism "recognizes no class differences because everyone is a worker like everyone else."18

In calling for the establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture, Marx is as concerned with changing the personalities of the people involved as he is with promoting greater economic efficiency.

9) "Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country." One of the least known of the harmful divisions Marx sees in the human race is between man the "restricted town animal" and man the "restricted country animal."19 We must remember that, for Marx, peasants are a "class of barbarians," whose way of existence he labels the "idiocy of rural life."20 People in the country, therefore, need the city and all that it represents in the way of advanced technology and culture, just as people living in the city need the country, its fresh air, inspiring scenery, and toil on the land itself in order to achieve their full stature as human beings. The first stage of communism sees an attempt to create new economic arrangements which will allow people to spend time in cities as well as in the country. The importance Marx attaches to this development can be gathered from this claim that, "The abolition of the antagonism between town and country is one of the first conditions of communal life."21

Marx believes that the necessary means for healing the split between town and country have already been provided by the preceding mode of production: capitalism, he says, "creates the material conditions of a higher synthesis in the future, namely, the union of agriculture and industry on the basis of the more perfected forms they have each acquired during their temporary separation."22 We are left to guess what this "higher synthesis" actually looks like, but it appears to involve moving some industries to the country as well as greatly expanding the amount of unencumbered land inside cities for parks, woodland, and garden plots. I suspect, too, that Marx would like to see the number of people living in any one city reduced, and more small and medium size cities set up throughout the countryside, resulting in "a more equable distribution of population over the country" and making possible the establishment of industrial armies for agriculture.

10) "Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc. etc." In 1848, even elementary education had to be paid for in most countries, so we can easily understand why public education was not a major reform.

By "public schools" Marx did not mean "state schools" as this expression is commonly understood. In his "Criticism of the Gotha Program," Marx opposes the Socialist Party's demand for control of "elementary education by the state." He says, "Defining by a general law the expenditure of the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc. and, as is done in the United States, supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing form appointing the state as the educator of the people. Government and church should rather be totally excluded from any influence on the schools."23 The people themselves, directly or through social organs still unspecified, will supply the guidelines of their educational system.

In Marx's time, working class children spent the greater part of each day slaving in factories. Clearly, this had to cease immediately. However, Marx did not believe that all this time was better devoted to classroom learning. This, too, would stunt the child's development.24 Instead he favors an education that "will in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labor with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of production but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings."25


Not all of the information Marx supplies on the first stage of communism fits neatly into the list of demands found in the Communist Manifesto: the state, conditions and hours of work, planning for production, and the distribution of what is produced remain to be discussed. As an instrument of working class rule, the state in this period is labeled, in what has proven to be an unfortunate turn of phrase, the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Hal Draper has demonstrated that "dictatorship" meant something very different to Marx and his contemporaries than it does to most of us.26 Marx did not use this concept to refer to the extra-legal and generally violent rule of one man or a small group of men. Before Hitler and Mussolini, the meaning of "dictatorship" was strongly influenced by its use in ancient Rome, where the constitution provided for the election of a dictator to carry out certain specified tasks for a limited period, generally in times of crisis. It was in opposition to Blanqui's elitist views on the organization of the coming workers' state that Marx first introduced the expression "dictatorship of the proletariat," and by it he meant the democratic rule of the entire working class (including farm laborers), which made up the large majority of the population in all advanced countries.

In capitalism there is the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" (political power is in the hands of the capitalists) and, despite the façade of popular rule, the mass of the workers have no real change to participate in and affect government. In the dictatorship of the proletariat, on the other hand, political power is held by the great majority, and once the former capitalists and landlords get production jobs they become workers and take part in the political process with the rest of the population. The dictatorship of the proletariat, therefore, is actually more democratic than democratic governments in capitalist societies, even by the latter's own definition of "democracy."

The dictatorship of the proletariat comes in the wake of the revolution and exists until the onset of full communism. Broadly speaking, its task is to transform the capitalism left behind in all its aspects, material and human, into the full communist society that lies ahead. It functions as a "permanent revolution."27 As a government, it has a singleness of aim as regards both the past, out of which old enemies are constantly reappearing, and the future, which it works for in a highly systematic way. Marx says, "as long as other classes, especially the capitalist class, still exist, as long as the proletariat is still struggling with it (because with its conquest of governmental power its enemies and the old organization of society have not disappeared), it must use coercive means, hence governmental means: it is still a class, and the economic conditions on which the class struggle and the existence of classes rest have not yet disappeared and must be removed by force, or transformed, their process of transformation must be speeded up by force."28

Where, remnants of the old order remain, they are to be removed, the state using all the force necessary for this purpose. Marx's comments elsewhere on the abolition of inheritance, the confiscation of the property of rebels, etc., give an indication of the kind of measures he favored to do away with capitalists as a class. Should individual members of this class prove incorrigible, his statement on the role of the proletarian dictatorship seems to provide a justification for using more extreme means. Marx, however, apparently believed that the economic and social measures introduced by the new regime would be sufficient to transform most capitalists, and that physical violence would only be used against those who resorted to violence themselves.

Most of our details on the workers' government come from Marx's laudatory account of the Paris Commune. The Commune was not a true dictatorship of the proletariat, but it was a close enough approximation to allow us to abstract the general lines, if not the exact configurations, of the workers' state. Marx says the "true secret" of the Commune is that "It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing class against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labor."29

How, then, was the Commune organized? "The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms... The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible and at all times revocable agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration."30 The long arm of popular rule extended into the chambers of the judiciary, ending what Marx calls their "sham independence": "Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible and revocable."31 We also learn that a clear line was drawn between church and state, and that the army, like the police, was disbanded and replaced by the armed people.32

The organization of the Paris Commune was to serve as a model not only for the other cities of France, but for small towns and rural districts as well. Marx says, "The rural communes of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were a again to send deputies to the national Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandate imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents. The few but important functions which still would remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by Communal, and therefore strictly responsible agents... While the merely repressive organs of the old government were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society. Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in search for the workmen and mangers in his business. And it is well known that companies, like individuals, in matters of real business generally know how to put the right man in the right place, and, if they for once make a mistake, to redress it promptly."33

Marx's defense of the Commune's vision of frequent elections for all government functionaries, mandated instructions from their constituents, and their recall reflect his belief that people of all classes recognize, or can be made to recognize where their interests lay and to act upon them. But is it really obvious that people usually know or can come to know who will represent their best interests in Parliament? Marx thought it was, and that to open up the channels for popular control, in the absence of capitalist brain-washing techniques, is enough to insure that these interests would be properly represented.

The citizens of the proletarian state, Marx believes, will be able to choose their leaders wisely, but what of the leaders chosen? In marginal notes he wrote into his copy of Bakunin's State and Anarchism, Marx gives us his answer to the kind of criticism of Marxism and Russian communism now associated with Milovan Djilas' New Class. Far ahead of his time, Bakunin warns that workers, "once they become rulers or representatives of the people, cease to be workers." Next to this comment, Marx writes, "No more than a manufacturer today ceases to be a capitalist when he becomes a member of the municipal council." Bakunin continues "And from the heights of the State they being to look down upon the toiling people. From that time on they represent not the people but themselves and their own claims to govern the people. Those who doubt this know precious little about human nature." Beside this, Marx writes, "If Mr. Bakunin were au courant, be it only with the position of a manger in a worker's cooperative, he would send all his nightmares about authority to the devil."34

Two significant conclusions emerge from this exchange: first, Marx believed people in the government do not have important interests which conflict wit those of the class from which they come. Consequently, the elected leaders of the proletarian dictatorship will want to represent the workers correctly. Should the electors make a "mistake," which in this context would only refer to the faulty character of an individual office holder, it will be quickly rectified through the instrument of the recall. Second, to believe that workers elected to government will use their authority to advance personal ends is to have a "nightmare," which I understand in this context as a foolish and impossible dream. Marx is asserting, in effect, "The workers are not like that," or, to be more precise, "will not be like that when they come to power." Evidence that this is what has happened in present day communist countries cannot really be used to settle this dispute since the social, economic and political pre-conditions which Marx thought necessary have never existed in these countries.

So far we have been discussing the dictatorship of the proletariat as if it were the government of a single country. This may be the case immediately after the first revolution, but it is evident that Marx expects this government, within a short space of time, to become world wide. Capitalism establishes a "universal intercourse" between people, creates the same classes with identical interests in each country and connects them in such a way that no ruling group, whether capitalist or socialist, can succeed on less than a universal basis. Marx states, "Empirically, communism is only possible as the act of the dominant people, 'all at once' or simultaneously."35 There is no need, therefore, to advise the workers' government on how to deal with the remaining capitalist powers, nor is there any need to provide for a standing army. Marx believed that all the people and means of production currently going to waste in military ventures would become available for useful work. Probably nothing is more responsible for the distortion Marx's vision of communism has undergone in Russia than the fact that the "world revolution" of 1917 succeeded only in a small part of the world.


Marx's description of economic life in the new society is as general in incomplete as his discussion of its political forms. Still, the basic outline of what to expect is there. Inside the factory, and immediate result of the revolution is an improvement in working conditions. Marx attacked the capitalist system for "the absence of all provision to render the productive process human, agreeable, or at least bearable," and it is clear that the dictatorship of the proletariat gives top priority to correcting this situation.36 As well as an indictment of existing evils, the description of working conditions in Capital can be taken as a roll call of needed reforms. The aim of all action in this field is, first, to make work bearable, then agreeable, and finally, human.

Hand in hand with the "amelioration" of working conditions goes the shortening of the working day.37 This is accomplished without any decrease in the total social product. In the only instance where figures are given, it appears that the working day will be cut in half. Marx explains how this is possible: "If everybody must work, if the opposition between those who do work and those who don't disappears...and moreover, one takes count of the development of the productive forces engendered by capital, society will produce forces engendered by capital, society will produce in 6 hours the necessary surplus, even more than now in 12 hours; at the same time everybody will have 6 hours of 'time at his disposition,' the true richness..."38 In communism, it is not material objects but free time that is the substance of wealth. Another basis for Marx's optimism is seen in his claim that shorter work days will mean greater intensity of labor for the time actually at work.3

The very enormity of the cut in hours Marx proposes indicates how great, he believes, is the number of people not working or engaged in useless activity, (9/10 of the labor in the circulation process, for example, is said to be necessary only under conditions of capitalism), and also the extent to which capitalism has not taken advantage of its opportunities for technical progress.40 How else could the revolution cut each worker's day in half while enabling society to produce more than before? In any case, it is clear that Marx's proletariat, unlike Lenin's, does not have to build the industrial base of capitalism before it sets out to build communism. The factories, machines, skills, etc., have been provided in abundance by the preceding era.

Also in the area of production, Marx's views on planning occupy a key position. The immediate aim of all communist planning, he claims, is the satisfaction of "social needs."41 In deciding how much of any given article to produce, the planners have to strike a balance between social need, available labor-time and the existing means of production.42 Although Marx recognizes that demand is elastic he never doubts that his proletarian planners—whose actual planning mechanism is never discussed—will make the right equations.

As regards distribution in this period, Marx says, before each individual gets his/her share of the social product, society must deduct "cover for replacement of the means of production used up. Secondly, additional portions for expansion of production. Thirdly, reserve or insurance funds to provide against accidents, dislocations caused by natural calamities, etc."43 These inroads into the social product will probably be much larger than their equivalents under capitalism. After society has taken this much out, it must again subtract, "First, the general costs of administration not belonging to production. This part will, from the outset, be very considerably restricted in comparison with present-day society and diminished in proportion as the new society develops. Secondly, that which is intended for the common satisfaction of needs such as schools, health services, etc. From the outset this part grows considerably in comparison with present-day society and it grows in proportion as the new society develops. Thirdly, funds for those unable to work, etc. in short, for what is included under so-called official poor relief today."44

Marx's belief that the costs of administration will diminish does not necessarily imply that there will be less government in the short-run, though his claim that these costs diminish "in proportion as the new society develops" does imply just this for the long-run. The transformation of the professional army into a people's army and the low wages paid to all government functionaries (the example for this was set by the Commune) offer sufficient reason for the immediate drop in expenses of running a government.45

Despite all these inroads into the social product, the portion which goes to each individual is still larger than a worker's portion under capitalism.46 Besides rapid economic growth, this new prosperity is explained by the fact that the outsized shares of the product which went to capitalists, landlords, army officers, bureaucrats, and many industries now considered wasteful are divided among everyone. What each person receives directly as his/her share in the total product plus the welfare, etc. he/she gets as a citizen gives him/her a material existence that is both secure and comfortable.47

So far we have spoken as if all the people living in the first stage of communism receive equal shares of the social product. But this is only true if they work the same amount of time, since the measure guiding distribution for most of this period—it is introduced as soon as it is feasible—is labor-time. Marx claims that each person "receives back from society—after the deductions have been made—exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor... He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such and such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as constitutes the same amount of labor. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form he receives back in another."48 The Commune's practice of paying everyone in government service, from members of the Commune downwards, the same worker's wages is declared to be a practical expression of the principle, "equal pay for equal labor-time."49

The uses of money are so limited in this period that Marx prefers to speak of "certificates" and "vouchers." Instead of money, what we have are pieces of paper which state how much labor-time one has contributed to the social fund. These simply entitle the individual to draw an equivalent from the fund in the form of consumption goods; means of production and social means of consumption—such as scenic land and trains—are not for sale. As Marx says elsewhere, "These vouchers are not money. They do not circulate."50 Its circulation between all sectors in the economy has always been a major defining characteristic of money. Such limitations on the power and function of wage payments puts an end to the money system as we know it.

After defending the principle of "equal pay for equal work time" as marking a notable advance on ideas governing distribution in capitalism, Marx buds it a "bourgeois limitation." In the first stage of communism, "The right of producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor." But he points out, "one man is superior to another physically or mentally and so supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labor. It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment and thus productive capacity as natural privileges. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right."51 The ideal system of distribution, which is foreshadowed in these remarks would neither punish nor reward people for their personal characteristics.

Marx's picture of life and organization in the first stage of communism is very incomplete. There is no discussion of such obviously important developments as workers' control. We can only guess how much power works enjoy in their enterprises and through what mechanisms they exercise it on the basis of the democratic processes Marx favors for politics.52 Cultural institutions and practices are hardly mentioned. Nor is there much said about how conflicts between individuals, between groups, or between the masses and their elected leaders are resolved.

Perhaps more significant is the absence of a list of priorities for the measures favored. Politics is to a large extent the art of arranging priorities, but in what order are Marx's reforms to be tackled? Pointing out that this order is seriously affected by conditions in each country only serves to qualify the question; it doesn't answer it. One would be mistaken, therefore, to view what has been pieced together here as a blueprint of what to do and how to do it. It is but a vision, only one of the ingredients from which blueprints are made—and Marx would not have wanted it otherwise.


With the intensification and completion of the various aspects of life and organization associated with the first stage, the second stage of communism gradually makes its appearance. Communism, for we may now drop all qualifying prefixes, is unlike its immediate predecessor as that society differed from capitalism; yet, the heritage of the first stage is present everywhere. As a framework structuring all other communist conditions and relations is the social ownership of the means of production. It is some time since this has been achieved, though it is not so long since it has been completely accepted. Remnants of capitalism no longer exist, neither in the mentality of the people nor in their conduct, depriving the political dictatorship of its main raison d'être.

The wealth which capitalism left and which the first stage of communism multiplied many times over starts communism on its way with a super abundance of all material goods. Wide-scale planning has been enormously successful. Technology has developed to a plane where practically anything is possible. Wastelands have been brought under cultivation; a multitude of modern towns have sprung up in the countryside; large cities have been renovated; the communication and transportation systems are as advanced as anything we now have (without actually picturing modern inventions in these fields, it is approximately this high degree of development which Marx had in mind); factories have become pleasant places in which to work. At work, where undoubtedly the hours have been shortened once again, people have gotten used to putting in the same amount of time and receiving equal pay. Elsewhere in society, the education of the young has proceeded to the point where everyone had been trained in factories as well as in classrooms.

All such developments are best viewed as constituting the foundations of communism. What, then, is communism? Marx's comments on the life and organization that come into being on these foundations, though even more general and less systematic than his comments on the first stage, offer a description of communism that can be summarized in six main points: 1) The division of labor, as Marx understands it, has come to an end, and with it the subjection of individuals to a single life task. People now feel the need and have the ability to perform many kinds of work. 2) Activity with and for others, at work, in consumption, and during free time, has become a prime want, ownership has been extended to cover all of nature from the land and the sea to the food each person eats and the clothes he or she wears. Individual ownership, private property in all its guises, has been abolished. 4) Everything with which as person comes into contact, which at this time means the entire world, becomes the product of his/her conscious efforts to bend things to his/her own purposes. Instead of submitting to chance as formerly, people, through their knowledge and control over natural forces, make their own chance. 5) People's activities are no longer organized by external forces, with the exception of productive work where such organization still exists but in the manner of an orchestra leader who directs a willing orchestra (the example is Marx's). As a part of this, restrictive rules are unknown; nor is there any coercion or punishment. The state too withers away. 6) The divisions we are accustomed to seeing in the human species along lines of nation, race, religion, geographical section (town dweller and country dweller), occupation, class, and family have all ceased to exist. They are replaced by new and, as yet, unnamed divisions more in keeping with the character of the people and life of this period.

The individual's victory over the division of labor is, without a doubt, the central feature of communist society, just as it is the most difficult one for the uninitiated to grasp. In previous periods, the necessities of the production process as well as the social relations of production presented each person with a single job for life. He or she was either a worker, farmer, a businessperson, an intellectual, etc. This was so even in the first stage of communism, where the amelioration of this condition had already begun. The realities of one's class position made it impossible, both physically and from the point of view of opportunities and attainments, to do work which lay in the dominion of another class. A striking exception to this rule is found in the ancient world and Marx quotes Lemontey which obvious approval: "We are struck with admiration when we see among the Ancients the same person distinguishing himself to a high degree as a philosopher, poet, orator, historian, priest, administrator, general of an army. Our souls are appalled at the sight of so vast a domain. Each of us plants his hedge and shuts himself up in this enclosure. I do not know whether by this parcellation the world is enlarged, but I do know that man is belittled."53

If such varied activity was possible for a small privileged class in the ancient world, by the time of capitalism each class is shut up in its own enclosure; and inside each enclosure parcellation has continued unabated. The final turn of the screw is applied by "modern industry" where machines usurp the few human skills that remain leaving most men with the minute and highly repetitive operations involved in machines minding. In this situation, leisure activities can only be the kind that come naturally, men having neither the time nor the opportunity to acquire special talents and tastes.

Life in communism is at the opposite extreme from what exists in capitalism. In the new society, people do many kinds of work where their ancestors used to do one. Both manual and intellectual activity for a part of every working day, for, according to Marx, "the antithesis between mental and physical labor has vanished."54 Human kind is no longer divided into sheep and goats, and given their work tasks accordingly. The individual is declared rich in communism because he/she needs the "totality of human life activities."55 And he/she enjoys them, to a large extent, just because they are so varied.

But the break with the parcellation of the past is more radical still. For in the new society, there are no more weavers, metal workers, coal miners, plumbers, farmers, factory managers, engineers, or professors. These labels are used to categorize people who are tied down to a particular occupation for life. In communism, the tie is unknotted, and each person takes part, at one time or another, in many if not most of these activities. Perhaps Marx's best known statement on this subject is his claim that "in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wished, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic."56 These are unfortunate examples to show how diversified a person's endeavors become, for they have led some to believe that life in communism is all play and no work—anyway, no factory work. But factory work, in the new social form which it takes in this period, is an activity to which all people devote some time. It is something which everybody, without exception, wants to do.57

Besides contributing to production, each individual also participates in cultural and scientific life, and not just as a consumer of other people's products but as a creator. We have met communist men and women as workers, farmers, hunters, and critics, and Marx now introduces us to the same persons as artists: "The exclusive concentration of artistic talent in some individuals and its suppression in the grand mass which springs from this, is a consequence of the division of labor... In a communist society, there are no painters, but men who among other things do painting."58 Being a painter is to be subjected to the division of labor as much as if one only did weaving. Every person in communist society is relieved of the burden of narrowness which plagued his or her ancestors, weavers and painters alike, and given the opportunity to express him or herself in all possible ways.

What applies to painting also applies to science. The scientist, as someone who devotes his/her entire working life to science, is replaced in this period by the whole citizenry, who spend part of their time doing theoretical as well as practical scientific work. People in communism relate to other activities ranging from athletics to courting to musing on one's own in the same way.

Marx not only ascribes a world of activities to the communist person, but believes they will be very proficient in their performance. To achieve this is the aim of communist education.59 At the same time, Marx recognizes that not all people will be equally good in everything they try. As regards painting, for example, he admits that only a few will rise to the level of Raphael. On the other hand, the quality of other people's work will be extremely high; and he maintains, all paintings will be original.60 By "original" I take him to mean that each person's creative efforts will be a true expression of his/her unique qualities. Marx would probably be willing to make a similar distinction between average and exceptional ability in science, farming, material production, etc., always with the proviso that those who lag behind are still extraordinarily good.

Even in communism, people do not have the time to become equally skilled in all tasks. There is just too much to do. Hence, those who spend more time learning surgery will be better surgeons in any social system. Furthermore, people will always posses different intellectual and physical capacities.61 Marx does not dismiss heredity, though the nature of its effect is never revealed to us beyond the generalities of more and better. Yet, despite these admissions, the least gifted people in communism are spoken of as if they are more accomplished than Lemontey's heroes, and do each of their tasks with a high degree of skill.

To those who argue that skill is invariably a function of specialization, Marx would probably reply that, in so far as specialization involves learning a body of data and technique, communist people are specialists in many tasks. The exclusive quality which we associate with specialization is viewed as a social side effect that is destined to disappear. In the past, outstanding contributions to civilization were often the work of one-sided "geniuses," who—compared to their no-sided contemporaries—realized at least some of their potential. The difference is that the many-sided people living in communism are able to learn a great variety of skills quickly and, hence, to develop a wide range of powers. Everything in their society is bent to facilitate these efforts and the character of each individual—itself the product of communist conditions—insures that he/she is able to make the most of his/her opportunities.62


Another major characteristic of communist society is the high degree of cooperation and mutual concern which is discernable in most human activities. One indication of this development is simply the increase in the number of things people do in common. Reference has already been made to the "industrial armies" which to the work formerly done by peasants on their own plots. Beyond this, Marx claims, "communal activity and communal consumption—that is activity and consumption which are manifested and directly confirmed in real association with other men—will occur wherever such a direct expression of sociality stems from the true character of the activity's content and is adequate to the nature of consumption."63

We are not told which activities have a "character that requires they be done communally. Nor do we learn what types of consumption have a "nature that requires communal consumption. Consequently, we don't really know how far Marx would extend his principle in practice. All we can be certain of is that cooperation will cover far more than it does today. Marx speaks, for example, of new "social organs" coming into existence which are the institutional forms of new social activities as well as new forms adapted for old ones.64

Of greater significance than the spread of cooperation is the fact that it is qualitatively superior to what goes by the same name in earlier periods. Marx believed that production is social in any society since it is always carried on inside some relationship with other people. However, the cooperation involved varies from tenuous, unconscious and forced, to close, conscious and free. In communism, interdependence becomes the recognized means to transform the limitations set by what was until now unrecognized interdependence.

Because people at this time are "brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world," interdependence is world-wide and grasped as such.65 These relations lead each individual to become conscious of humanity as part of him/herself, which is to say of him/herself as a "social being."66 This is not only a matter of considering social interdependence as a facet of one's own existence, but of thinking (and therefore, treating) the needs of others as one's own, experiencing happiness when they are happy and sadness when they are sad, and believing that what one controls or does is equally theirs and their doing and vice-versa. Perhaps nothing in the communist society helps explain the extraordinary cooperation which characterizes this period as much as the individual's new conception of self, which, in turn, could only emerge full blown as a product of such cooperation.67

In discussing the first stage of communism, we saw that the satisfaction of social needs had become the accepted goal of material production. By full communism, this goal has sunk into the consciousness of each individual, determining how he or she views all the products of his or her work. Besides the sense of devotedness which comes from feeling oneself a part of a productive unit (and the productive unit a part of oneself), each person gives his best because he is aware of the needs of those who use his products (and because he conceives of those needs as his own). He realizes that the better he does the more satisfaction he gives.68 Communist peoples' concern for their fellows as co-producers is matched by their concern for them as consumers of what they have helped to produce.

This desire to please is not associated with any sense of duty, but with the satisfaction one gets at this time in helping others. Assuming the role of communist, Marx proclaims, "in your joy or in your use of my product, I would have the direct joy from my good conscience of having, by my work, satisfied a human need... and consequently, of having procured to the need of another human being his corresponding object."69 We can approximate what takes place here if we view each person as loving all others such that he or she can get pleasure from the pleasure they derive from his or her efforts. This should not be so hard to conceive when we think of how close friends and relatives often get pleasure from the happiness they give each other. Marx is universalizing this emotion, much enriched, to the point where each person is able to feel it for everyone whom his/her actions affect, which in communism is the whole of society. Everywhere the individual recognizes and experiences the other as the "complement" of his/her own "nature" and as a "necessary part" of his/her own "being."70 Aside from considerations of getting something done, people at this time also engage in communal activities for the sheer pleasure of being with others. Human togetherness has become its own justification.71

A third characteristic distinctive of the communist society is the replacement of private property by social ownership in personal as well as public effects.72 Communism is spoken of in one place as the "positive transcendence of private property."73 We have already seen the role social ownership of the means of production plays in the first stage of communism in enabling wide-scale planning, promoting equality and securing better working conditions. Small businesses, however, still existed at least at the beginning of the first stage, and articles subject to direct consumption were still owned as private property. Most people attached great value to the particular objects they used for these were not easy to replace, and, in any case, cost money (labor vouchers) which could be spent on something else. Under such conditions, cooperation did not extend to sharing all that one had with others, and the grasping attitude so prevalent today still had to be reckoned with, though probably less among the proletariat who had fewer material possessions to begin with, than among the small-holding peasants and the remnants of the bourgeoisie.

Private property, by its very nature, secures the owner special rights over and against all non-owners. It is essentially a negative notion, an assertion, backed by the full coercive force of society, that one person may exclude others from using or benefiting from whatever it is he/she owns, if so desired. It assumes the possibility—no, the inevitability—of a clash between what he/she wants to do with his/her objects and what others want to do with them. What happens, then, to the notion of private property in a society where no one ever claims a right to the things he/she is using, wearing, eating, or living in, where instead of refusing to share with others he/she is only too happy to give them what they want, where—if you like—all claims to use are considered equally legitimate? This is the situation in communism; the clash of competing interests has disappeared and with it the need to claim rights of any sort.

We have just seen how aware each communist person is of the effect his actions have on others and how concerned he is with their obtaining satisfaction, both because his own personal needs require it and because he has conceptualized himself as a social being of which they are integral parts. It is this which allows him to say, "The sense and enjoyment of other men have become my own appropriation."74 Consequently, if one person has something another wants his first reaction is to give it to her. Of private property in land, Marx says, "From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another."75 In full communism, with human relationships as I have depicted them, private ownership of anything will appear equally ridiculous. It should be clear that it is never a matter of people depriving themselves for the sake of others. Consumption for all citizens is that which "the full development of the individual requires."76 The community stores are complete with everything a communist person could possibly want. "To each according to his need" is the promise communist society makes to all its members.77

Private property has always been based, in a fundamental sense, on the existence of material scarcity. This applies to the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as to earlier periods. What one man or a few had could not be acquired by the many, because there simply was not enough to go around. Demand exceeds supply; those who Have use the idea of private property and the coercive power of the state to reinforce their position; those who Have Not compete for the social product with every means at their disposal from beggary to revolution. But, when supply is so plentiful that everyone can have as much of anything as he wants just for the asking (and where the things wanted in earlier class societies because of the power and status they represent are no longer wanted), the social relationships that rest on existing scarcity are turned upside down. Who today would begrudge another person a drink of water, or, for that matter, all the water he wants? If water were scarce, however, those who had it would board it, or would charge a price for what they let others use. Water would become an item of private property. In communism all material goods have become as abundant as water is today. Only on this foundation, can people view whatever they happen to be using at the moment as social objects, as products made by everyone for everyone. There is no longer "mine," "yours," "his," and "hers" but only "ours."


Another unique attribute of communist society is the masterly control which human beings exercise over all the forces and objects of nature. Previously, people were chiefly objects of nature, and their happiness and often their lives depended on their mechanical power and skills, the demand for their work or products, and many other events and processes whose effects were equally uncertain. In communism, Marx declares the task "is to put in place of the supremacy of exterior conditions and of chance over individuals, the supremacy of the individuals over chance and objective conditions."78 This is also referred to as "the casting off of all natural limitations."79 These are limitations placed on people's activities by the sum of the non-human circumstances in which they find themselves, and what formerly, through ignorance, was labeled "natural law."

For Marx, the "laws of nature" which are said to govern us are "founded on the want of knowledge of those whose action is the subject to it."80 There is no want of knowledge about nature in the new society. People understand their total environment, how it functions and what its possibilities are. Implicit in Marx's view is the belief that when communist people fully comprehend nature they will not desire anything which stands outside their effective reach. This belief, in turn, is based on his conception of how far people's reach actually extends in communism and accompanying assumptions regarding the creative potential of their cooperation. Marx is saying, in effect, that much of what people today want to do but cannot will be done under the ideal conditions of communism, that what remains are things which the extraordinary people of this time will not want to do, and most important, that what they will want to do which we do not (we caught a glimpse of what this might be in presenting the material prerequisites of communism) they will easily accomplish.

Yet, so complete is their grasp of the interconnected parts which constitute communist reality that Marx foresees natural science and human science will become one.81 It is in this sense too that he later says man "becomes able to understand his own history as a process, and to conceive of nature (involving also practical control over it) as his own real body."82 What is involved here is becoming conscious of the internal relations between what are today called "natural" and "Social" worlds, and treating the hitherto separate halves as a single totality. In learning about either society or nature, the individual will recognize that he is learning about both.

Communist people cannot change the climate (or can they?) but they can take all its effects into consideration and make their broader plans accordingly. As for the rest, Marx seems to believe that a united and cooperating humankind can dominate nature directly, and his conception o the productive potential of industry seems closer to the reality we expect for tomorrow than the one we have today. We are told that "The reality which communism is creating is precisely the real basis for rendering it impossible that anything exist independently of individuals, in so far as things are only a product of the preceding intercourse of individuals themselves."83

As for those objects and processes not already a part of human intercourse, Marx declares man, "for the first time, consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of individuals united."84 Thus, the whole world is regarded through the eyes of a creator; everything people come into contact with is altered to suit their wide-ranging purposes; former barriers have been transformed into freeways; nothing is allowed to block their fulfillment, and nothing which can contribute to it is permitted to remain neutral. Viewing people's ties with nature as logically internal relations over which each person in conjunction with his or her fellows has now gained conscious mastery, Marx can claim that in communism "nature becomes man."85

Marx does not supply us with a map of communist topography, so we are left with the notion that physical changes are enormous without knowing in much detail what they are. We have already come across some of them, such as the spatial reorganization of town and countryside. Probably nothing shows the extent to which Marx foresaw human domination over nature better, however, than his comment that language will "submit to the perfect control of individuals."86 I interpret this to mean that one language will replace the thousands now in existence (whatever limited cultural role many languages may continue to play), and that it will be specially adapted to permit clear expression to the extraordinary experiences, understanding, and feelings of the people of this time.

The key to the individual's newly arrived at domination over nature lies in the peculiar quality of communist cooperation. Marx labels cooperation in any historical period a "productive force," which is a way of saying that the form of social interaction as such is partly responsible for the quantity and quality of its products.87 The difference is that in communism, where work in common is the rule and everyone gives himself fully to all his tasks, cooperation is a productive force of practically limitless potential. According to Marx, "It is just this combination of individuals (assuming the advanced stage of modern productive forces, of course) which puts the conditions of the free development and movement of individuals under their control."88


A fifth striking feature of communism is the absence of external rules and with it of all forms of coercion and discipline. Aside from work in factories and on farms, none of the activities people engage in at this time are organized by others, from outside; that is to say, there is nothing they must do and no predetermined manner or time restrictions they must follow in doing it. On the other hand, coordination is the minimal demand which social production, per se makes on all its participants. Hence, some organization, headed by someone whose job it is to coordinate productive tasks, is required of every society. According to Marx, "in all kinds of work where there is cooperation of many individuals, the connection and the unity of the process are necessarily represented in a will which commands and in functions which, as for the leader of an orchestra, are not concerned with partial efforts, but with the collective activity. It is therefore a productive work which must be accomplished in any mode of combined production." He calls this "the work of general supervision and direction."89

However, even in production, the organization which Marx foresees in communism is a far cry from what exists today. Though factories and farms still possess managers, their duties are simply to coordinate the efforts of those who work under them; they act as leaders of an orchestra. Since people in communism are frequently changing jobs, we can assume that at one time or another almost everyone will serve as a manager. The orchestra which is being directed is always willing and enthusiastic, since its goals and those of the manager are the same, viz., to produce articles which satisfy social needs to produce all that is required, of the best quality, in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of waste. In capitalism, workers do as little and as shoddy a job as they can get away with and their bosses are constantly after them to work even more and harder than they could if they were really trying. In communism, laziness, which Marx views as an historically conditioned phenomenon, would die a natural death.90 "From each according to his ability" is a promise that no one at this time would think of breaking.91

In production where each individual works to the best of his/her ability, factory discipline with all its paraphernalia of fines, dismissals, threats, etc., has become obsolete. Marx claims fines, dismissals, threats, etc., has become obsolete. Marx claims such discipline "will become superfluous under a social system in which laborers work for their own account, as it has already become practically superfluous in piece-work."92 Whenever workers recognize that by exerting themselves they can increase their share of the product, they do not have to be coerced to work. In communism, each worker-musician does his/her best to keep time with the rest of the orchestra.

What have we learned about work in communism? Without coercion and full of mutual concern, in pleasant surroundings and for relatively short periods each day (week?), people use the socially owned means of production to control and transform nature to satisfy human needs. Frequently changing tasks, they find both joy and fulfillment in their cooperation ands its momentous achievements. Unlike Fourier, however, who compares work in communism to play, Marx says it will be earnest and intense effort as befits any truly creative activity.93 Still—in an oft quoted phrase—Marx refers to production in communism as the "realm of necessity" and contrasts it with the "realm of freedom," or non-work activity, where the "development of human energy... is an end in itself."94 The fact is that whether communist people want to or not they have to do some work just in order to live: that they invariably want to is beside the point. If this qualification places work in the realm of necessity, however, it doesn't follow that work is an un-free activity. In his most forthright statement on this subject, Marx calls human freedom "the positive power to assert his true individuality."95 Given the character of work in communism, including the degree of control over nature exercised in work, it is the equal of any other activity in bringing out and developing the unique potential in each human being. Consequently, Marx can speak of work in this period as the "activity of real freedom."96

If people in communism are so cooperative that the only productive organization is that minimum required by economic efficiency, then, we may expect that even this minimum will disappear in the non-work areas of life. In one listing, we learn that soldiers, policemen, hangmen, legislators, and judges are equally unnecessary "under proper conditions of society."97 Without any need for coercion, the institutionalized means by which it is exercised can be eliminated.98 This victory over external authority is a victory of the accusers as well as of the accused, for as Marx says, "punishment, coercion is contrary to human conduct."99

With the sole exception of production, all forms of organization adopted in the dictatorship of the proletariat serve in the role of Wittgenstein's ladder for communist people; they enable them to climb into communism, only to be discarded then they get there. Restrictive rules, coercion of all kinds, become worse than nuisances—they constitute actual obstructions—in a society which knows no clash of basic interests.

Perfect success is too much to ask from the full-time job Marx gives each communist person of being his brother's keeper. Consequently, whenever an individual fails in one of the tasks he has set himself or, through carelessness—we cannot conceive of any more wicked motive operating on him—breaks a norm or causes harm to others, he himself administers the punishment. Marx declares that, "under human conditions, punishment will really be nothing but the sentence passed by the culprit on himself. There will be no attempt to persuade him that violence from without, exerted on him by others, is violence on himself by himself. On the contrary, he will see in other men his natural saviors from the sentence which he has pronounced on himself; in other words the relation will be reversed."100 Given the social mindedness referred to earlier, any significant lapse in a person's cooperative behavior will provoke feelings of guilt. Guilt is a burden that can only be removed by others. In communism, society's role has changed from punishing wrong-doers to reassuring and soothing them to help relieve their self-inflicted anguish.

We should not be surprised to learn that in these conditions there is no place for a state. Simply put, the state withers away because there is nothing further for it to do. The main work of the dictatorship of the proletariat was to destroy all remnants of capitalism and to construct the foundations for full communism. Laws, organization, discipline, coercion, etc., were all necessary to accomplish these ends. But now communism is the reality, and capitalism is history. Marx says, "When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of associated individuals, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another."101 What does a state without a "political character" look like? Marx rephrases this question to read, "What social functions will remain in existence there that are analogous to present functions of the state?"102 Though he never gives a full answer, it is clear what his answer would be.

The three main functions of any state are legislation, adjudication, and administration. Of legislation, Marx says, in communism all forms of parliamentarism will be "ranged under the category of nuisances."103 Legislatures are political expressions of the principle of majority rule which, in turn, is based on the assumption that on important matters people's opinions are bound to clash. They are battlefields of the class struggle, battlefields on which the ruling economic class, obtaining its majority by means fair and foul, legislates repeated defeats for the opposition. But the people of communism are agreed on all the subjects which could possibly come before a parliament. Where interests merge and decisions are unanimous it is not necessary to go through the formality of counting hands. Further-more, all really major decisions, those bearing on the structure of communism itself, have already been taken by this time. People have what they want, that is, communism, and there is nothing for a legislature, whose main function is to make changes, to change. Whatever minor adjustments are required are at best undertaken by the people on the spot, directly.

The judicial arm of government, too, is based on an assumption of necessary conflict between people. From the quasi-sanctification of a raised bench, the ruling class, in the person of some of its more pompous representatives, renders biased interpretations of one-sided laws. But if this conflict doesn't exist...? A typical case which comes before courts everywhere is a suit for injuries. In the communist society, a person who is harmed by another suffers no economic disadvantages because of it (he/she continues to take from the social stock whatever he/she needs), moreover, he knows that the person who struck the blow did not do it on purpose, and that the pain of a guilty conscience is as great or greater than the pain coming from the injury. Rather than insisting on revenge or compensation, our victim would probably join with co-workers and neighbors to east the guilt of the person who injured him. All "claims for damages" will be dispensed with in this way, by the people concerned directly. The other cases which come before our courts today, those involving murder, robbery, kidnapping, forgery, etc., simply do not exist. They have been made either impossible, since everything people want is free and legal papers which secure special rights and powers don't exist, or unnecessary, since there is nothing people want that requires such anti-social measures. What, then, is the need for the courts?

The case of the administration is a bit more complicated. One main function of the administrative branch of government is to enforce the laws. In communist society, where there are no laws and where social norms are accepted and heeded by all, this function no longer exists. But another task remains which is comparable to the coordination provided by factory managers. In the area of production, communist society as a whole, like its individual enterprises, will require the general supervision of managers. Duplication was well as gaps in production and services have to be prevented. Coordinating efforts, therefore, will be needed at all the major crossroads of social life, wherever, in fact, a traffic director is useful in helping people get where they want to go.

Some might argue that this coordinating function conceals acts of legislation and adjudication, and that administrators are the new law-givers and judges of this period, but communism is unique in having administrators and administered who are striving to achieve the same ends. Their mutual trust and concern with one another are likewise complete. Consequently, the minor alterations and judgements required are accepted as expression of a common will. Recall, too, that each individual has come to conceive of his fellows as parts of himself, as extensions of his nature as a social being, so even when he is not directly involved in administration he feels himself involved through his relations with those who are. Furthermore, since the activity of coordinating social life at its various levels is something everyone will undertake at some time or another, there is no special strata of administrators. To describe this state of affairs in terms of "legislature," laws," courts," etc., is extremely misleading. This work of administration, more properly of coordination, is the only function in communism which is analogous to the duties of a modern state.

Distributing these administrative tasks takes place through an election which Marx describes as a "business matter." Since everyone agrees on matters of policy, elections are probably uncontested. In any case, victory does not "result in any domination." We are assured that an election in communism has "none of its present political character." Elections are merely a way of passing administrative jobs around to people who are more or less equally equipped to carry them out. In these conditions, Marx is able to claim, "The whole people will govern; there will be no one to be governed."104 Marx, however, prefers to play down the role of coordinating authority in the new society, emphasizing instead the power which comes through direct cooperation.

Could a complex industrial society by run in this manner? Marx believed it could not be run as effectively in any other. After all, many of the worst administrative complexities are byproducts of present social organization and its accompanying attitudes. Most records, for example, are only kept to secure a limited number of people—the young, the old, the sick, veterans, etc.—rights which in communism are universal (or, as Marx would prefer, which have disappeared for everyone because they are no longer necessary for anyone. The extensive red-tape bureaucracies for which modern day "socialist" countries are noted do not offer any indication of what to expect when the special conditions Marx lays down for communism have been fulfilled. Likewise, a great deal of administrative calculation in government as elsewhere is devoted to getting people to obey rules they don't like, deciding what incentives to offer and how to punish slackers; manipulations connected with improving the position of privileged segments of the ruling class or trying to harmonize competing social interests are other components of existing complexity. With new aims and standards, and, above all, new communist people, most of what makes social administration an unfathomable labyrinth will disappear. Simple cooperation within each functional social unit together with single purpose coordination between them provides communism as an advanced industrial society with all the "administration" it requires.


Sixth and last, communist society is also unique in the kind of human groups it has and doesn't have. The humankind we know is divided into various nations, races, religions, geographical sections (town dweller/country dweller), classes, occupations, and families. No doubt, for many people a world where these distinctions cannot be made is inconceivable. Yet, this is just the situation Marx introduces us to in communism. First of all, our glove is no longer divided into countries.105 An approach to grasping what has occurred may be had by viewing the whole world as one nation. One should recognize, however, that the term "nation" has been imported from the vocabulary of another time. The world as a nation performs none of the functions associated with the nations of old. We have just now seen how the state has withered away, there is no world parliament, world court, or world army, and—aside from some world managers to coordinate production on this macrocosmic scale—there is no world executive.

Both as a producer and as a consumer, the individual is profoundly affected by the disappearance of the sate. Marx tells us that in their artistic endeavors—and everyone at this time engages in some type of artistry—communist people are no longer subjected to national limitations.106 No longer bound by the experience, tastes, and tools of his locality, each person is able to express his emotions and thoughts in a universal manner. If art can free itself of the limiting effect of customs, so can material production and indeed everything else people do once the constraints of nationhood and nationalism are removed. I have already noted Marx's belief that everyone will eventually speak a single language.107 The existence of such a language does not mean that lesser local languages and the distinctive cultures which accompany them will all disappear. Latin and Latin culture have enriched the lives of millions long after the decline of the Roman empire, and I expect the same fate awaits most other tongues and traditions which are now widespread.

The cosmopolitanism of people as producers is matched by their new cosmopolitanism as consumers. People are able to use and fully appreciate all manner of products. Of this period, Marx says, "Only then will the separate individuals be liberated from the various national and local barriers, be brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world and be put in a position to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man)."108

Religious divisions between people have also ceased to exist in communism with the demise of all mystical beliefs. Superstition has given way to science, and individual fear and weakness to the power of the community. What Marx calls "the witchery of religion" is no more.109 Communist people are not atheists; this is a term Marx avoids because of its suggestion of being anti-religion. The truth is that religion has stopped being a matter of concern. People are neither for nor against it; they are disinterested. As with the state, religion simply withers away as its functions, particularly of explanation and compensation, disappear.

The distinction between city-bred and country-bred people also falls by the wayside in communism where the whole countryside is spotted with cities and cities are equally invaded by the countryside.110

Divisions between people on the basis of class were practically non-existent in the first stage of communism, where everyone was already a worker. In one place, Marx goes so far as to claim that with everyone engaged in productive work classes cease to exist.111 Yet, we also know that a major task of the dictatorship of the proletariat is to control and convert remnants of the capitalist class, so not every "worker" in this transition period is an equal member of the proletariat.112 Marx uses several criteria to asses class membership, and it is simply that the dictatorship of the proletariat is classless in some senses and not in others.113 By full communism, all of Marx's criteria for a classless society have been met.

As for setting people apart because of their occupations, this went out with permanent occupations. Each person in communism engages in a variety of productive tasks.

Probably the least known of Marx's projections for communism has to do with the end of racial divisions. Marx did not enjoy floundering so deeply in the unknown; nevertheless, his single expression of opinion on this subject is very forthright. While discussing the effect of environment, Marx says, "The capacity for development of infants depends on the development of parents and all the mutilations of individuals, which are an historical product of ancient social conditions, are equally capable of being historically avoided. Even the natural diversity of species, as for example the differences of race, etc., are and must be checked historically."114 Marx is not just referring to a few racial characteristics; his words are "the differences of race." No doubt, he saw some differences as easier to change than others, but if so this is nowhere stated. When we consider the quality of the cooperation which exists between all people in communism and their ready access to one another, it is not surprising that Marx envisioned at a time—perhaps thousands of years hence—when all the world's races have blended into one.

If the least known of Marx's projections for communism is the end of racial divisions, probably the best known—and maybe for that reason the most distorted—is the abolition of the family. Marx spoke of the "earthly family" being destroyed "both in theory and practice" in communism.115 Some people have taken this to mean the end of all intimate relationships, free love, forced separation from children, and many other "immoralities," each more gross than the one before. Marx is guilty of none of these sins. To begin with, the form of the family that he claims will disappear is the bourgeois family. According to him, this is a form based on capital and private gain, in which economic advantage is the main reason for entering marriage, in which the male has practically all the rights, in which parents have almost totally power over their children, and in which the stifling closeness between members of the family excludes most kinds of intimacy with other people.116 The task of abolishing this form of the family had been begun by the bourgeoisie themselves when they forced conditions of life upon their workers which made it impossible for them to spend much time with their wives and children, and destroyed all privacy when they were together. It is in this sense that Marx maintains the family had practically ceased to exist among the proletariat.117

The communist alternative to the family is never stated very clearly, but it can be pieced together from Marx's scattered comments on this subject. Its main features appear to be group living, monogamous sexual relationships, and the communal raising of children. The group living aspect is apparent from Marx's contrast of the family with what he calls a "communal domestic economy."118 All the advances of modern science are used to make living together as comfortable and harmonious as possible. Whether people eat in communal dining rooms, sleep in the same building, share household tasks, etc., is not disclosed, though I suspect this is the kind of thing Marx had in mind.

A great deal of the abuse leveled against communism has been directed at what is really a phantom of the bourgeois imagination. The abolition of the family and free love, that is indiscriminate sexual activity by both sexes, are almost always joined together in the minds of those who criticize communism. Marx, however, opposes sexual promiscuity (at least for adults) both for the society in which he lives and for communism. His hostility to the sexual antics of the bourgeoisie and the sarcasm with which he treats charges of the same in communism are clear evidence of this.119 He also attacks the school he calls "crude communism" for having as one of its goals "the community of women."120 Sex in his ideal society is always associated with love, and love of this kind appears to be an exclusive if sometimes temporary relationship between one man and one woman. The universal love which was alluded to in our discussion of cooperation in communism odes not include engaging indiscriminately in the sexual act, for Marx acknowledges there will continue to be something like unrequited love and calls it a misfortune.121

To grasp Marx's views on this subject, it is necessary to see that he is wholly on the side of love and lovers, that he demands a full quality for both partners, and that he views sexual love in communism as the highest expression of the new kind of relationship which exists between all people in this period. In The Holy Family, that extended review of Eugene Sue's novel Mysteries of Paris, Marx sides time and time again with the most sensual characters, with those who can and want to love.122 And in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 we learn that women have become men's equals in love as in all else, and that the type of mutual consideration which characterizes sexual love in communism has become the measure of perfection for all contacts with other people.123

The communal raising of children is never mentioned explicitly, but can be deduced from other aspects of communist life which seem to require it. For Marx, aside from minor differences due to heredity, a child's development is determined by his or her environment, an important part of which is the parental home. In capitalism, parents have considerable control over their children's health, education, work, marriage, etc., but, given the parents' own problems and limitations, this power is seldom used wisely. In communism, parents will no longer be allowed to exercise a destructive influence on their children. This does not mean that they will be forcibly separated form their young. Given communist sociality, that is without the pervading selfishness and emotional insecurity which characterize current parent-child relations, communist parents will want a community no less perfect for their children than the one they construct for themselves.

Not only children, of course, but adults as well require special conditions to realize their full human potential. We have already seen the importance Marx attaches to free time. Though he never deals with the drain children are on their parents, particularly on mothers, he surely was aware of it. Already living in the "communal domestic economy," the arrangement which seems best suited to permit self-realization of young and old alike is some kind of communal raising of children. Parents and children simply spend as much time together and apart as their respective development requires. Unlike today, however, the time together is no longer rooted in necessary work and customary duties, but in the same desire to satisfy common needs which characterizes all social contact in the communist society.124

It should be clear by now that Marx is far more precise about the social and other division which will disappear in communism than about what will replace them. Nations, religions, geographical sections, classes, occupations, races and families are to disappear, but what new social categories will emerge? Before attempting an answer it is important to specify that Marx viewed all such division as barriers to the direct contact between people and, therefore, to the fulfillment of human potential in so far as it requires this contact. With the overturning of these barriers, people can see, appreciate, and react to each other as individuals, rather than as members of the groups into which they were either born or educated. People can no longer be treated as instances of a kind when the kinds of which they are instances themselves disappear. Erasing social lines per se, then, is a major task of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and fusion of the once separate and distinct social categories is one of the surest signs that communism has arrived.

However, even communism contains boundary lines of a sort which allow some distinctions between people to be made. From what has been said, it would appear that these new subdivisions, like the social organs they contain, are consciously designed functional units which merely express the most efficient and human ways of getting things done. The factory, the communal domestic economy, and the industrial army for agriculture are examples of the functional units into which communist society is divided. With people changing jobs as often as they do, however, it is unlikely that a person will carry one work place label for very long. I suspect that distinctions based on membership in communal domestic economies are of a more durable nature, since home groups are likely to be more permanent than work groups.

These boundary lines in communist society are never barriers to direct human contact. For though they aid us in making passing distinctions between individuals, they do not really substitute for our understanding of them as people, as the corresponding attributes do in earlier periods. The difference is that everyone at this time possesses or could easily acquire the credentials for membership in any group. Thus, when discussing communism, Marx dismisses its particular associations and directs all his remarks to the species, to human beings who are forever dividing and re-dividing society in pursuit of human goals.125


Our reconstruction of communism is now complete, or as complete as Marx's diverse comments permit. As a way of life, communism develops in people extraordinary qualities which are themselves necessary for this way of life to operate. What are these qualities? On the basis of the foregoing account we can say that the citizen of the future is someone who is interested in and skillful in carrying out a variety of tasks, who is highly and consistently cooperative, who conceives of all objects in terms of "ours," who shares with others a masterful control over the forces of nature, who regulates his/her activities without the help of externally imposed rules, and who is indistinguishable from other person when viewed from the perspective of existing social division. She (he) is, in short, a brilliant, highly rational and socialized, humane and successful creator. In a terminology preferred by a younger Marx, this is the accomplished figure who "brings his species powers out of himself" and "grasps the human nature of need," the same who "appropriates his total essence... as a whole man."126

Each part of this description of people in communism can serve as the full account once its relations with the whole are recognized. An individual could only engage successfully in so many activities if he cooperates with his fellows at every turn, treats all material objects as belonging to the group, enjoys the requisite power over natures, etc. In the same way, he can only exercise communist sociality if he is able to do a variety of tasks with the ease of an expert, treat objects as "ours," and the rest. Just as no aspect of communist life can arise independently, none of the qualities ascribed to communist people can emerge alone. As internally related parts of an organic whole, each assumes and is based on the presence of all. Marx's best known description of communism—that is a classless society, a time when the division of labor has disappeared, and when private property has been abolished, are all to be viewed in this light.127 Rather than partial, one-sided alternatives, these descriptions of communism (including each other as necessary conditions and/or results) are equally complete, the only difference being one of focus and emphasis within the totality.

The qualities and life Marx ascribes to the people of communism represent a complete victory over the alienation that has characterized humanity's existence throughout class society, reaching its culmination in the relations between workers and capitalists in modern capitalism. At the core of alienation is the separation of the individual from the conditions of human existence, chiefly his activities (particularly production), their real and potential products, and other people. As a result of class divisions and accompanying antagonisms, people have lost control over all social expressions of their humanity, grossly misunderstanding them in the process, coming eventually to service the "needs" of their own creations. Viewing whatever people do and use to satisfy their needs and realize their powers as elements of human nature, the progressive dismemberment of human nature (alienation) becomes identical with the stunting and distortion of potential in each real individual. The bringing together or reunification on a higher technological plane of the elements of human nature that earlier societies had torn asunder begins with the revolution, gains momentum in the dictatorship of the proletariat, and is only completed in full communism. To the extent that social life remains split up (separated by barriers of occupation, religion, family, etc.) and misunderstood in the first stage of communism, the people of this period can still be spoken of as alienated (which is not to say that the theory of alienation with which Marx captures the dynamics of a market society is still useful in explaining social change).

As opposites, alienation and communism serve as necessary points of reference for each other. A theoretically adequate description of communism, therefore, would have to include an extended account of alienation. I have offered such an account elsewhere.128 In the present essay, I have been content to sacrifice some theoretical adequacy to the demands of a simpler, more coherent version.

The question that remains is how to evaluate Marx's vision of communism. Experience is not a relevant criterion, though the history of the species should make us sensitive to the enormous flexibility of human needs and powers. It is no use to say (though people continue to say it) that such a society has never existed and that the people Marx depicts have never lived. The communist society is the ultimate achievement of a long series of developments which begin with the socialist appropriation of the capitalist mode of production. Its distinctive characteristics evolve gradually out of the programs adopted in the dictatorship of the proletariat and the new relationships and possibilities established. These characteristics cannot exist—and one should not expect to find them—before this context itself has developed in ways that the world has yet to experience. Likewise, the extraordinary qualities Marx ascribes to the people of communism could never exist outside of the unique conditions which give rise to them, and given these conditions the development of other qualities, certainly of opposing qualities, simply makes no sense. One can only state the unproven assumptions on which this expected flowering of human nature rests. These are that the individual's potential is so varied and great; that people possess an inner drive to realize all this potential; that the whole range of powers in each person can be fully realized together; and that the overall fulfillment of each individual is compatible with that of all others. Given how often and drastically the development and discovery of new social forms has extended accepted view of what is human, I think it would be unwise at this time to foreclose on the possibility that Marx's assumptions are correct.

There is really only one way to evaluate Marx's vision of communism and that is to examine his analysis of capitalism to see if the communist society is indeed present within it as an unrealized potential. If Marx sought, as he tells us, "to find the new world through the criticism of the old," then any judgment of his views on communism rests in the last analysis on the validity of his critique of capitalism. This is not the place for the extensive examination that is required but I would like to offer three guidelines to those who would undertake it: 1) capitalism must be conceptualized in terms of social relations, Marx's way of incorporating the actual past and future possibilities of his subject into his study of its present forms (this is the logical basis of Marx's study of history, including future history, as a process); 2) a Marxist analysis of today's capitalism should be integrated into Marx's analysis of late 19th century capitalism (the social relations from which projections are made must be brought up to date); and 3) one should not try to show that communism is inevitable, only that it is possible, that it is based on conditions inherent in the further development of our present ones. After all, communism is hardly ever opposed because one holds other values, but because it is said to be an unrealizable ideal. In these circumstances, making a case for communism as a possible successor to capitalism is generally enough to convince people that they must help to bring it about.129

  1. Herbert Marcuse, Five Lectures: Psychoanalysis, Politics and Utopia, trans. J.J. Shapiro and S.M. Webber (Boston, 1970), p. 62.
  2. Karl Marx, "Letter to Ruge," Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, trans. And ed. L.D. Easton and K.H. Guddat (N.Y., 1967), p. 212.
  3. Though Marx considered revolution the most likely possibility, he lists England, the United States and Holland as countries where socialism might be attained by "peaceful means," H. Gerth, ed., The First International: Minutes of the Hague Congress of 1872 (Madison, 1958), p. 236
  4. Marx and Engels, German Ideology, trans. R. Pascal (London, 1942), p. 26. Engels, in a letter written shortly before his death goes so far as to say that it is impossible to provide details on communism "without falling into utopianism or empty phrasemaking," Marx and Engels, Werke XXXIX (Berlin, 1968), p. 195. Such a view of attempts to describe the future was also a part of Marx's Hegelian heritage. Hegel had said, "since philosophy is the exploration of the rational, it is for that reason the apprehension of the present and actual, not the erection of a beyond, supposed to exist, God knows where, or rather which exists, and we can perfectly well say where, namely in the error of a one-sided empty ratioacination." G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, trans. T.M. Knox (Oxford, 1942), p. 10.
  5. Marx and Engels, Briefwechsel I (Berlin, 1949), p. 348.
  6. Marx, "Critique of the Gotha Program," Selected Writings II (Moscow, 1951), p. 21
  7. Ibid., p. 21.
  8. Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, trans. By S. Moore (Chicago, 1945), pp. 42-3.
  9. Marx, "Civil War in France," Selected Writings I, p. 476.
  10. H. Meyer, "Marx on Bakunin," Etudes de Marxologie (October, 1959), pp. 108-9.
  11. Ibid., p. 109.
  12. "Civil War," Selected Writings I, p. 476.
  13. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 22.
  14. Marx, Engels and others, "Forderungen der Kommunistischen Partei in Deutschland," Werke V (Berlin, 1959), p. 4.
  15. According to Marx capitalism created a "vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous." Advertising, insurance, and the stock exchange are obvious cases of "industries" which would disappear in what Marx calls, "the avoidance of all useless labour," Marx, Capital I, trans. S. Moore and E. Aveling (Moscow, 1958), p. 530.
  16. "Forderungen der Kommunistischen Partei," Werke V, p. 4.
  17. Marx, Capital III (Moscow, 1959), p. 826.
  18. "Civil War," Selected Writings I, p. 474; "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 22.
  19. German Ideology. p. 44. Marx goes on to explain that "The town in actual fact is the concentration of the population, of the instruments of production, of capital, of pleasures, of needs, while the country demonstrates just the opposite fact, their isolation and separation."
  20. Capital III, p. 793; Communist Manifesto, p. 18.
  21. German Ideology, p. 44.
  22. Capital I, p. 505.
  23. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 32.
  24. John Bellers a 17th century English writer, is allowed to express their common view on this subject: "An idle learning is being little better than the learning of idleness… Bodily labor, it's a primitive institution of God... Labor being as proper for the body's health as eating is for its living; A childish silly employ... leaves the children's minds silly." Capital I, pp. 488-9.
  25. Ibid., p. 484. He also says that "technical instruction, both theoretical and practical, will take its proper place in working class schools." Ibid., p. 488.
  26. H. Draper, "Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat," Etudes de Marxologie (September, 1962), p. 30.
  27. Marx, Engels and others, "Weltgesellschaft der Revolutionaren Kommunisten," Werke VII (Berlin, 1960), p. 553.
  28. Meyer, "Marx on Bakunin," Etudes de Marxologie (October, 1959), p. 108.
  29. "Civil War," Selected Writings I, p. 473.
  30. Ibid., p. 471.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid., p. 470.
  33. Ibid., p. 472.
  34. Meyer, "Marx on Bakunin," Etudes de Marxologie (October, 1959), p. 112.
  35. German Ideology, p. 25.
  36. Capital III, p. 86. Marx strongly approved of the factory laws passed by the Paris Commune. "Civil War," Selected Writings I, p. 478.
  37. Capital, p. 530.
  38. Marx, Theorien uber der Mehwert III, ed. K. Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1910), pp. 303-4.
  39. Capital I, p. 530.
  40. Theories of Surplus Value III, p. 505.
  41. Capital III, p. 854; Marx, Poverty of Philosophy (Moscow, n.d.), p. 70.
  42. Capital III, p. 184.
  43. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 20.
  44. Ibid., pp. 20-21.
  45. "Civil War," Selected Writings I, p. 471.
  46. Capital I, p. 530.
  47. Marx says, "What the producer is deprived of in his capacity as a private individual benefits him… in his capacity as a member of society." "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 21.
  48. Ibid., pp. 21-2.
  49. "Civil War," Selected Writings I, p. 471.
  50. Capital II, p. 358.
  51. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 22.
  52. For an interesting debate between those who see extensive worker's control operating at this time and those who believe Marx favours centralized state ownership and control of industry, see the articles by R. Selucky and H.H. Ticktin in Critique (Autumn, 1974). Marx's actual comments on this subject make it difficult to come out strongly for either view. Typical is his claim that to say workers own their own means of production is to say "these belong to the united workers and that they produce as such, and that their own output is controlled jointly by them." Theories of Surplus Value III, p. 525.
  53. Poverty of Philosophy, p. 161.
  54. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 23.
  55. Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans. M. Milligan (Moscow, 1959), v. III.
  56. German Ideology, p. 22.
  57. In communism, work is "not only a means of life, but life's prime want." "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 23.
  58. Marx and Engels, Deutsche Ideologie in Werke III (Berlin, 1961), p. 378.
  59. Marx approvingly quotes Hegel that, "By well educated men we understand in the first instance, those who can do everything others can do." Capital I, p. 363. I hasten to add that for Marx this includes much more than it does for Hegel. This statement was not quoted by Marx for the purpose to which it is being used here, but I consider the inference to communist education a legitimate one.
  60. Duetsche Ideologie in Werke III, p. 378.
  61. German Ideology, p. 189; "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 22.
  62. This marvelous versatility of communist "man" is generally taken for granted by Marx; he never presents us with a brief. In his works, however, he gives several instances from his own time which are meant to indicate the festival of talents to come. Marx tells us that "the workers, in their communist propaganda, affirm that it is the vocation, the destination of each man to develop himself in many ways, to realize all his dispositions, including the ability to think." Deutsche Ideologie in Werke III, p. 273. Marx opposes this claim to Stirner's view that to strive for such multifaceted development is foreign to man's nature. And even in capitalist society, when extraordinary conditions allow it, individuals surprise themselves and contemporaries with their capacity for varied work. Marx quotes a French worker of his day who writes, after returning from a stay in the New World, "I never could have believed, that I was capable of working at the various occupations I was employed on in California. I was firmly convinced that I was fit for nothing but letter press printing... Once in the midst of this world of adventurers, who change their occupation as often as they do their shirt, egad, I did as the others. As mining did not turn out remunerative enough, I left it for the town, where in succession I became typographer, slater, plumber, etc. In consequence of thus finding out that I am fit for any sort of work, I feel less of a mullusk and more of a man." Capital I, p. 487. In the ideal conditions of communism, this sense of accomplishment would be far greater and apply to everybody.
  63. 1844 Manuscripts, p. 104.
  64. Ibid.
  65. German Ideology, p. 27.
  66. It is in this sense, that Marx declares, "Society... is man himself in his social relations," and "Not until man has recognized his own capacities as social capacities... will human emancipation be achieved." Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik des Politschen Okonomie (Berlin, 1953), p. 600; Werke I, p. 370.
  67. Marx claims that in production, "the labor power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labor power of the community." Capital I, p. 78.
  68. On one occasion, this recognition is expressed as follows: "You are placed in a human relation with my product, you have need of my product. This exists for you then as an object of your desire and of your will." Marx and Engels, Gesamtausgabe I, 3, ed. V. Adoratsky (Berlin, 1932), p. 544.
  69. Ibid. pp. 546-547. Marx continues, "I would also have the joy of having been the mediator between you and the human species, therefore of being recognized and experienced by you yourself as a complement of your own nature and as a necessary part of your being, therefore of knowing myself affirmed in your thoughts as in your love. Finally, the joy of having produced in the individual activity my true nature, my human nature, my social being." And, again, "Insofar as man, and hence also his feelings etc., are human, the affirmation of the object by another is likewise his own enjoyment." 1844 Manuscripts, p. 136. This idea is also expressed in the claim that, "Need or enjoyment have consequently lost their egotistical nature." Ibid., p. 107.
  70. Gesamtausgabe I, 3, p. 547.
  71. Marx gives us some indication of what this is like in a passage where he describes socialist workers of his own time and the new need they have acquired for "society:" "what appears as a means becomes an end. You can observe this practical process in its most friendly results wherever you can see French socialist workers together. Such things as smoking, drinking, eating, etc., are no longer means of contact or means that bring together. Company, association, conversation, which again has society as its end, are enough for them." 1844 Manuscripts, p. 124. The tendencies of an advanced section of workers in capitalism are firmly and fully established among everyone in communism.
  72. Communist Manifesto, p. 36.
  73. 1884 Manuscripts, p. 102.
  74. Ibid., p. 107.
  75. Capital III, p. 757.
  76. Ibid., p. 854.
  77. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 23. A typical criticism of this principle which shows how far most commentators are from grasping the people and conditions of communism is O.D. Skelton's claim that the individual's desire is limited, and if he himself decides his needs, "The socialist treasury would be bankrupt in a week." Yet, he claims, if there is an official estimate, the opportunities for tyranny and graft are enormous. O.D. Skelton, Socialism (Boston, 1911), p. 203.
  78. Deutsche Ideologie in Werke III, p. 424.
  79. German Ideology, p. 68.
  80. Capital I, p. 75. Marx is quoting here from Engel's early essay, "Outline of a Critique of Political Economy."
  81. 1844 Manuscripts.
  82. Grundrisse, p. 440.
  83. German Ideology, p. 70.
  84. Ibid.
  85. 1844 Manuscripts, p. 104. Thus, too, Marx can declare that "communism as fully developed naturalism equals humanism," and that "it is the genuine resolutions of the conflict between man and nature." Ibid. p. 102.
  86. Deutsche Ideologie in Werke III, p. 411.
  87. German Ideology, p. 75.
  88. Ibid., p. 75.
  89. Capital III, p. 76.
  90. Communist Manifesto, p. 36.
  91. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 23.
  92. Capital III, p. 83.
  93. Grundrisse, p. 505.
  94. Capital III, pp. 799-800.
  95. Marx and Engels, The Holy Family, trans. R. Dixon (Moscow, 1956), p. 176.
  96. Grundrisse, p. 505. Marx also says, "Really free labor... gives up its purely natural primitive aspects and becomes an activity of a subject controlling all the forces of nature in the productive process." Ibid.
  97. Capital III, p. 799.
  98. Holy Family, p. 288.
  99. Ibid.
  100. Ibid., p. 239.
  101. Communist Manifesto, p. 43. "Associerten Individuen" has been seriously mistranslated in most English editions of the Manifesto as a "vast association of the whole nation" (as opposed to "associated individuals") lending a statist tone to this popular quotation which it does not have. I am thankful to Peter Bergman for pointing this out to me.
  102. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 30.
  103. Colonialism, p. 126.
  104. Meyer, Etudes de Marxologie, p. 112.
  105. Communist Manifesto, p. 39.
  106. Deutsche Ideologie in Werke II, p. 30.
  107. Ibid., p. 411.
  108. German Ideology, p. 44.
  109. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 22.
  110. German Ideology, p. 44.
  111. "Gotha Critique," Selected Writings II, p. 22.
  112. Meyer, Etudes de Marxologie, p. 108.
  113. For a fuller treatment of class, see my article, "Marx's Use of 'Class'", chapter two of this book.
  114. Deutsche Ideologie in Werke III, p. 198.
  115. "Theses on Feurbach," German Ideology, p. 198.
  116. Communist Manifesto, pp. 37-39.
  117. Ibid., p. 37.
  118. He says, "The setting up of a communal domestic economy presupposes the development of machinery, of the use of natural forces and of many other productive forces, for example, of water, of gas lighting, steam heating, etc., the removal of the antagonism of the town and country. Without these conditions a communal economy would not in itself form a new productive force: lacking any material base and resting on a purely theoretical foundation, it would be a mere freak and would end in nothing more than a monastic economy. What was possible can b e seen in the formation of towns and the erection of communal buildings for various definite purposes (prisons, barracks, etc.). That the abolition of individual economy is inseparable from the abolition of the family is self-evident." German Ideology, pp. 17-18.
  119. Communist Manifesto, pp. 38-39.
  120. 1844 Manuscripts, pp. 99-100.
  121. Ibid., p. 141.
  122. See Holy Family, pp. 88-89, 91, 93, 102. Cecily, Rigollette, and Fleur de Marie are the positive characters in the novel for Marx.
  123. 1844 Manuscripts, pp. 100-101.
  124. The tempting though dangerous comparison between the communist version of the family and the Israeli kibutz may have crossed the minds of some readers. Though the people living in kibbutzim exercise considerable primary democracy, eat in communal dining halls, share some household tasks, and raise their children in common, I find the comparison dangerously misleading for the following reasons: 1) The kibutz operates in an economy of scarcity, which necessitates that women work, that people eat in a communal dining hall, that children are raised in common, etc. This gives a Spartan character to all these activities which is decidedly non-communist. 2) The kibutz is set in the countryside, which setting and its accompanying mode of existence is glorified in a sort of Tolstoyan agrarian mystique; as a result, its inhabitants have too little contact with city work, technology, and culture, all of which reflect on family relationships. 3) The kibutz exists in a specific state, Israel, and must abide by the laws of that state on all matters relating to marriage, divorce, children, etc. This is a straitjacket communist people do not wear. 4) The kibutz has too many restrictive rules for family life as for all else, especially when compared to a society which has none. 5) Finally, people living on the kibutz, like all other groups in the world today, are of another genre than the people of communism. The same activity or form of organization becomes something else when the people involved act from widely varying motives, achieve other kinds of satisfaction, understand their actions differently, and so on.

  125. Marx says that in communism the evolution of species man finally coincides with the evolution of each individual. Marx, Theorien uber Mehwert II, ed. K. Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1921), p. 309.
  126. 1884 Manuscripts, pp. 151, 101, 105.
  127. For an account of capitalism which stresses the internal relations between all its components, see my book, Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society (Cambridge, 1976).
  128. Ibid., Parts II and III.
  129. A final word on the sources of Marx's vision of communism: having as my main purpose to reconstruct this vision and believing that it is internally related to Marx's analysis of capitalism, I have purposely omitted all mention of the Utopian socialists. Yet, there is no question but that Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Owen in particular exercised an important influence on Marx. They have been left out of this paper because I distinguish between those ideas which brought Marx to that analysis of capitalism and history we call 'Marxism' and the somewhat similar views which exist as a part of this analysis. The Utopians' vision of the future, operating as some kind of ethical ideal because it stands outside of what is understood of man and society, contributed to Marx's early political stance and clearly influenced the direction of his studies. Once Marx's analysis reached the point where he could project the real possibilities inherent in capitalist society, however, the logical status of such views changed from being the independent principle or ideal in an ethical system to being an integral (if still to be realized) part of the real world. The same analysis resulted in a sifting and refocusing of whatever notions Marx inherited on communism in line with newly discovered possibilities. Lacking such an analysis, the Utopians could only serve up a mixture of dreams, intuitions and fond hopes. If it is necessary to study Utopians, therefore, in order to understand how Marx came to Marxism, including its vision of the future, the same study may actually distort what these ideas are and confuse rather than help our efforts to judge them.

    Other useful discussions of Marx's vision of communism can be found in Ralf Dahrendorf, Marx in Perspective (Hanover, 1952), particularly pp. 72-117; Thilo, Ramm, "Die Kunstige Gesellschaftsordnung nach der Theorie von Marx und Engels," Marxismusstudien, ed. Irving Fetscher (Tubingen, 1957), pp. 77-119; J.Y. Calvex, La Pensée de Karl Marx (Paris, 1956), pp. 504-554; K. Axelos, Marx, penseur de la technique (Paris, 1970), Part V; and the various articles in Etudes de Marxologie (November, 1970). For the fullest selection of Marx's comments on communism, see M. Rubel, ed., Pages choisies pour une éthique socialiste (Paris, 1948). The extent to which Russian Marxists and their Western followers have pared down Marx's vision can be seen from the articles in Recherches internationales a la lumière du Marxisme, vol. 18 (Paris, 1960).