Karl Marx was a well-educated German, the son of Jewish parents who had become Christians. He was exiled from Germany for revolutionary opinions while a young man and lived almost all his later life in London. It is interesting that almost the only paying job he ever had was writing articles about European politics for the New York Tribune.
The socialistic philosophy of Karl Marx may be characterized as historical materialism. All history was viewed by him materialistically. And history to him is the class-struggle which will culminate in a class-less world, when communism will be supreme. In his earliest stage of development man was but a highly developed animal. Private property did not exist. And as long as private property did not exist, this man-animal was relatively happy and tame. But private property was introduced and this constitutes the fall of man. For, the private property owners became great beasts of prey, who desired nothing less than to gain control over all things, and the non-possessors became a mass of slaves groaning under the yoke of oppression. However, these non-possessors could not passively submit themselves to this state of affairs. They rose in rebellion. They struggled for freedom. They demanded equality. War broke out, a bitter war, a war which from earliest days may be traces through history. In the old Asiatic form of this progress to the socialistic state of things Marx trades through history. In the old Asiatic form of society, at the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the husband was even the absolute owner of wife and children, and could dispense with them according to his sovereign good pleasure. In the Roman Empire we do not see this anymore, but the institution of slavery flourished. In the Middle Ages slavery was practically abolished, but only to be replaced by the feudalistic state of things, under which the tenant labored for his feudal lord. And, finally, in our own time the feudalistic state has vanished to make place for the capitalistic form of society. But this cannot be the last stage of historic evolution, for the highest and most perfect form of society has not yet been reached. And, therefore, as inevitably as the Old Asiatic form was replaced by the Roman, the Roman by the Feudal and the Feudal by the Capitalistic state of things, so inevitable will the present give birth to the socialistic age in which all private property will be abolished and men shall have all things in common.
The method by which capital exploits labor under capitalism as well as the law according to which the capitalistic state of things will inevitably give birth to the socialistic form of society is described by Marx in his theory of “surplus value.” This theory implies the following. The eventual value of any commodity, he declares, is measured by the amount of labor necessary to produce it. The workers who actually produce the commodities, however, are paid not for their full share of the production but only a minimum wage determined roughly by their subsistence requirements. The capitalist sets the working day at a number of hours that will return in the market price of the goods not only the amount of wages paid but a surplus fund as well. This surplus is pocketed by the owners of capital in the form of profits, rent, or interest-the worker, in other words, produces more in market value than he is paid for. Now, if we subtract from the real value, the market-price of any commodity, that part which the laborer receives for his works, the remainder is what Marx calls the “surplus value.” This remainder goes to the capitalist. Hence, this surplus which rightfully belongs to the laborer but is pocketed by the capitalist is therefore stolen from the working man. Capital then is simply an accumulation of money that rightfully belongs to the working man. Just because of this, however, the capitalist will in the end accomplish his own destruction. He becomes ever wealthier. Moreover, because of keen competition in the industrial and business world, the smaller capitalist will gradually be swallowed up by the larger and more powerful, so that they will gradually decrease in number. This state of affairs must continue awhile, must become still worse. The oppression of the proletariat must become more unbearable. All this will continue until but few capitalists will be left. Besides, these few capitalists, having grown rich in idleness, will have become morally degenerate and physically weak. But this is the dawn of a new day. For this will be the moment when the toiling and suffering proletarians of all the world will rise as one man, snatch all power and wealth away from the hands of their oppressors, and take the control of the world into their own hands. Then private property shall be abolished forever, and peace and bliss shall reign in the world. It will be the socialistic, communistic millennium.
Therefore, also according to Marx, no great, bloody political revolution is necessary to accomplish the change. All that will be necessary is that the gospel of socialism be preached to all men. The hearts and minds of the people must be prepared for the new and surely coming order. Religion must be silenced (does it not teach men to be content and seek the things above?), and art must take its place to satisfy the desire of man’s inmost heart. Meanwhile we must keep calm and abide the right moment. For the socialistic state of things will surely constitute the climax, the ultimate termination of all history and the consummation of all things. This is the Marxian theory of evolutionary socialism, socialistic state which will be realized evolutionistically—it will surely come according to the inevitable law of historical evolution.
However, it is beyond every doubt that the teachings of Karl Marx also form the basis of what is known as revolutionary socialism, a socialistic state which is realized in the way of revolution. For, on the one hand, it seems to me, the very doctrine of this German philosopher lent itself to revolutionary reaction. Was it not his teaching that government is but an instrument in the hands of the rich to maintain themselves over against the poor working man? Would his description of the rich man’s exploitation of the poor, as set forth in this theory of “surplus value”, not be apt to stir up, arouse the emotions of the laboring classes, make their “blood boil”? And, on the other hand, Karl Marx himself was a revolutionary, banished from three countries because of revolutionary activity. Did he not proclaim unto the proletariat: Workers of the world, unite! And, although it is true that he taught evolutionary socialism, yet he also told the working classes that they must be alert and ready to make most of the opportunity when the moment would strike. Consequently, communism has been characteristically revolutionary thus far. This has surely been true of Russia. Communism is organized Marxism in action. Marx has been the apostle of Russian Communism.
Briefly, we would summarize Marxism as follows. As a political theory it is a description of the class structure of society, in which the political state appears as the ruling instrument of the dominant class. As an economic theory, it is a criticism of the capitalist mode of production, an explanation of how labor is exploited by the owners of capital, and of how this process must inevitably lead to industrial breakdown. Marx defines this exploitation by capital of labor as “surplus value”. And as a revolutionary program, it outlines the tactics of class struggle, leading to the ultimate overthrow of the capitalist state and the establishment of a socialist society. To all this we may also add that Marxism is international, addresses itself without distinction to all the workers of the world, preaches an era of universal prosperity in which classes will be abolished and wherein all men shall share.
What is Nazism? To understand the opposition of Nazism to Marxian Socialism we must emphasize two features of Nazism. Inasmuch as both concepts are equally irreligious and anti-Christian, this opposition cannot be explained from a religious point of view. Besides, Marxian Russia is as violently opposed to the principles of Christianity as is Nazi Germany. Hence, the religious views of Nazism need not be discussed, it seems to me, in this essay.
Of importance is, in the first place, the Nazi conception of the state. Like Italy, the Nazi state is a totalitarian unit. Every phase of the individual and collective life is “coordinated” within a single scheme, animated by a single purpose, and subjected to a single will that of the Fuehrer (leader). In Germany today authority is imposed from the top, with obedience acknowledged from below. Economic interests are subordinated to political ends. Public opinion is shaped in the official mode and even the findings of science must conform to approved doctrine. The state as an organic unity stands above all institutions within it and besides this carries the time-less destiny of the German people.
Dictatorship, we know is inseparable from Nazism. Hitler’s aversion and disdain of Democracy and parliamentary forms of government is well-known. The German fuehrer regards dictatorship as the only sound and workable form of government. By this he understands that the people elect one leader, who, after he is elected, is not responsible to anyone; in whom is vested all power of the state, whose will is absolute and alone the law for all; and who, therefore is also the sole responsible head for all that is done and occurs in the State. In his book “Mein Kampf” Hitler gives clear expression to these sentiments. In this work the German leader speaks of the importance of the person and makes the individual the pillar of the entire edifice. In fact, no voting ever takes place in any chamber or senate. These are “working institutions and not voting machines.” The individual member has an advisory vote but never a deciding one. The latter is the exclusive privilege of the respective responsible chairman, the Fuehrer. And Hitler speaks of the principle of unconditional connection of absolute responsibility with absolute authority.
Moreover, the Nazi conception of the State is that of the Almighty State, alongside of which there can be no room for other spheres of authority, that swallows up all other authority and responsibility, and thus becomes the sole power in all the various domains of life, social, economic, educational, and religious. Every form of life in Germany today is under the absolute control of the Nazi State. The written and spoken word, science anti-art, the press, the university, the theatre and movie, industry and labor are strictly under the control of the State. lit is an essential feature of Nazism, therefore, that authority is imposed from the top, with obedience acknowledged unconditionally from below.
In the second place, we must bear in mind the natural character of Nazism. According to Hitler, the State is a means to an end. Its end is the preservation and promotion of a community of physically and psychically equal living beings. And Hitler emphasizes the importance of breeding and purifying and preserving the pure Aryan or Nordic race, for the Nordic or German race is the noblest and highest, always the bearer of culture in the world. On its preservation depends the preservation of culture, the salvation of the human race. And this task belongs to the State. There can be no doubt that the center of gravity of the Nazi conception lies in the doctrine of German racial supremacy. And it is in the German official program of anti-Semitism that this doctrine finds it most severe application. Jews are denounced as the most degenerate of races and the apostles of all that Nazism despises, such as pacifism, internationalism, Christianity, social equality, communism, personal freedom, the notion of human brotherhood, etc. Consequently, a policy of eradication of the Jews has been pursued by the government. Their personal and civil rights have been abolished, and segregation into ghettos has been decreed for those who remain in the country. The German race is the superior race, and to it all peoples must be subject.
Nazism vs. Marxian Socialism
It will now not be difficult to understand the disdain of Nazism for Marxian Socialism. Firstly, Karl Marx was a Jew. This would be probably reason enough in itself for Hitler to oppose the teachings of Karl Marx.
I see particularly two reasons why Nazism opposes Marxian Socialism. In the first place, German Nazism and Marxian Socialism certainly differ as to the conception of the State. Marxism champions the cause of the people, of the masses, urges the workers of the world 10 unite, views government merely as an instrument of the rich to further and maintain their own cause. Marxism and Communism instill into the beams and minds of men distrust of and opposition to those who are in authority. Marxism advocates a dictatorship of the proletariat, teaches that the will of the people must dominate, and consequently breeds and fosters revolution. Over against this Nazism advocates the absolute authority of the State, which authority, moreover, is vested in one man. Nazism proclaims an unconditional authority which is imposed from the top and obedience from below.
Secondly, the opposition of Nazism to Marxian Socialism must be explained from the Nazi concept relative to the dominance of the Nordic or German race. Karl Marx taught that human rights are universal, that all men are equal. He addresses the workers of the world. He does not claim superiority of the one race over another. Communism, as advocated by Karl Marx, in not national but international. Because of this Hitler violently opposed Marxian Socialism. Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf” repeatedly speaks of international Marxism, presents the issue as if Marx taught universal equality among men only as in the service of his own race. pp. 578, 579. Nazism is national, is German, teaches the superiority of the German race, and the State as means to an end, to serve the development and preservation of the German race, which only can be the preservation of world culture, the salvation of mankind.