There is no denying that Karl Marx (1818-1883), German political theorist and revolutionary, is one of the most important and influential thinkers ever lived. He is the founder of communism and “dialectical materialism”. Marxism is not a simple ideology, it has its own understanding of religion, sociology, politics and economics. Marx was a very productive writer; he wrote many books but one of these books became the symbol of him, communism and also socialism: Das Capital (The Capital). Another important work of Marx was the Theses On Feuerbach in which Marx criticized Feuerbach, a German philosopher of the 19th century that affected some of his ideas. This manifesto consisted of 11 theses now; I will try to explain the third thesis of this book.
In this short passage, Marx tries to explain that human beings are not only shaped by their environment and the conditions arising. We should not forget that humans themselves prepare these conditions and environment. So, if human beings use their minds, become aware of their conditions and educate other people who have same conditions, they can change their environment and the society by making revolutions. This is the main point of Marx’ criticism towards Feuerbach who considered man as only a product of environmental effects. This is called in philosophical era as “mechanistic determinism”. Determinism briefly claims that all the events occurring in this world are completely determined by previously existing causes, conditions and humans always act according to these previous conditions’. Marx rejects this kind of complete, mechanistic determinism but he also believes in the importance of determinism. When we look at his methods we can easily distinguish that he profits from determinism too but in his understanding, being a historical determinist does not mean to defend that humans cannot change the conditions. Humans can make sudden changes through sharing class-consciousness, organization and thus making revolution profiting from conditions that facilitate the necessary jump in the history. Marx’s method is called dialectical materialism rather than determinism because in his ideology contrary to idealistic Hegelian view, substructure determines superstructure and this substructure is based on material conditions of classes during the history.
Now, I will try to summarize Marx’s explanation about the development of societies from slavery system to capitalism. As a requirement of dialectical materialism Marx in each stage provides us a thesis, an anti-thesis and the new concept appearing from the synthesis of them. This thesis and anti-thesis show us the conflict, the problem arising. At the beginning in Ancient Greece and in Rome for example, there were the class of rulers and citizens (thesis) and the class of slaves (anti-thesis). Rulers and citizens had all the rights whereas slaves had not got any rights. From the conflict between these two contrary powers there appeared a new class of freemen (synthesis) who had some privileges (e.g. 12 Tablets of Rome). Likewise, during the Middle Age there was the class of landowners (thesis) and the class of peasants (anti-thesis) as two contrary powers conflicting. After the development of economic relationships, a new middle class of bourgeois people appeared (synthesis). This middle-class struggled for obtaining their rights, first gained some rights (Magna Carta Libertatum) and limited the governmental authority. Later, they won this struggle on 1789 with the French Revolution by taking help from workers class and acquired governmental power. According to Marx, the new conflict appeared after French Revolution was the conflict between class of capitalists (thesis) and proletariat (anti-thesis). According to Marxism, the communism should be the synthesis of this conflict and finally workers obtain governmental power, which is very important in directing and organizing the production.
Another criticism of Marx towards the capitalist regime is that its use of some tools to keep them away from class-consciousness. People who are affected by these tools such as media or commodities (private property) could not be able to feel class-consciousness and have revolutionary ideas. So, in order to wake up people we should educate the educator -the state- and its tools. Marx asserts that there is an inherent conflict between these two classes because the profit one side is based on the non-profit of the other side. For example when we think of a capitalist factory owner, it is more economical for him to give less wages to workers because wages increase costs. In addition to his exploitation, capitalist system creates alienation and spoils human nature. Marx explains his ideas through his method of dialectical materialism that uses the struggle of opposites as main point and historical determinism that focuses on the effects on environment and conditions. We can say that his method is a combination of these two approaches.
Finally, in my opinion Marxism is a very consistent and comprehensive ideology that achieves to give rational answers to all questions from its own perspective. This is very logical to profit from determinism in order to explain historical events at the same time using dialectical materialism for explaining class struggles on material basis. To sum up, Marx wants to tell us that conditions and environment always force us to think according to them and the only way to escape from them is to make revolution and changing conditions by making a sudden jump. Marxism will always survive as a strong ideology and continue to impress people.