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Is Marx’s Cause of Conflict Still Relevant?

December 9, 2010

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

This is one of the more famous quotes from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.  By writing this, he declares that all conflict seems to have an economic root, in a broad sense.  While there may be other, more immediate causes to a conflict, Marx is clearly talking about distinctions in wealth when he mentions distinction in class.  While the Communist Manifesto is undoubtedly one of the most influential books of the modern age, its relevancy is questioned these days.  With most of the planet’s communist governments collapsing almost 20 years ago, the question of relevancy has began to plague Marx’s ideas.  Central among these potentially irrelevant ideas is the concept of economic conflict.  With globalization taking flight since the fall of communism, the world economic community has become much more harmonious.  Conflicts have also seemed to take a religious or political tone, especially with multiple civil wars raging in Africa, as well the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The most well know leaders in conflict today are Arab terrorists.  They  represent the war that most people in the Western World today are aware of: the War on Terror.  This is a good war to use.  While there is no actual communist revolution going on, there are economic underpinnings.  Americans wonder why people are persuaded to join or support organizations such as the Taliban, Hizbollah or Al-Qaeda.  Well, the answer is simple.  In remote parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon, these are the only groups with the means to give social services to people.  They provide schools, hospitals, communications and food in exchange for the support of the people.  This causes people to buy in to what these organizations are selling.  Thus, these organizations have turned these people’s economic strife and anguish into a religious conflict.

Even though it doesn’t seem so on the surface, part of the War on Terror is in fact economic.  While it is not necessarily a “class struggle” in the purest sense, there is the sense that poor people are trying to rise up and live under better standards.  While communism itself may be past its prime, some of Marx’s work is most definitely still relevant, as shown by this example.


  1. December 9, 2010 3:35 PM

    I really like the idea you presented here and I think its very creative that you used such a relatively small community of people to draw connections to communism and marx’s theories, that usually apply to whole countries. Your post made me imagine a communist society in the United States today, and, in addition, a communist run nation overseas. I think the idea of a communist revolution in the United States today is irrelevant and essentially impossible. We represent the term “Capitalism” and we promote it in every corner of the world. Capitalism defines the Untied States and because it is so imbedded into our culture, our society, and in our government there will never be a day when we have a communist run government. On the other hand, I believe that communism overseas is not an irrelevant topic. Communism, for many underdeveloped countries, is very appealing. In countries where there is extreme poverty and a corrupt or destroyed government, capitalism is a difficult way to run a country. A capitalistic system requires money, education, and a demand for jobs in a plethora of areas. In countries where the majority of the population are fishermen, there’s not much competition to climb the economic latter. Only when a country develops and has a relatively successful government, will that country be able to practice capitalism

  2. December 9, 2010 5:34 PM

    While there aren’t many communist societies left, the ideas are still relevant. The ideas in the manifesto are well thought out and very intelligent. I don’t advocate that we follow them exactly and turn America into a communist society, but there are certain things that we can pull out of it to better our country and the world. Communism is impractical, it is more of an ideal. But we can look at the goals it tries to create, and specific ways ways it says to go about achieving those goals, and use them to influence our own understanding of government. As an opposite to that, the manifesto can still be useful in that it shows us a system that may also not work. We can look at the documents and communist societies that have failed and learn from that.

  3. ann900 permalink
    December 9, 2010 11:02 PM

    This way of life seems to work in the Middle East at times, but is that what is right for the super power of the world? Joining any groups, no matter what they do, in order to gain some sort of social or economic stance? This method seems to be the easy way out and the ticket to a good life, and if there were no such thing as war I think we could join groups in order to help ourselves. But in the world we live in, we need people to be strong. And to stand up for what is right no matter what the consequences are to them. Because if more people start doing this, the world will be an overall better place.

  4. Eric Tellem permalink
    December 10, 2010 12:46 PM

    Whether Marxism is relevant depends not only on whether the set of ideas helps us explain the world today, but whether it helps us to understand and set up something to change it. As Marx put it: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

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