Is Marx’s Cause of Conflict Still Relevant?
“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.