Saturday 'say 7-9-11 "Why Engels Was Wrong"

Why Engels Was Wrong
An Unscientific Assessment by a Dyed in the Wool Capitalist

I have always been a person who lives by the gut - I don't have the education or background to avail myself of the philosophies of the "Great Thinkers" to guide me in my life choices. My philosophy, and the choices I make, are mine and mine alone. That said, I do read. A lot. And my reading often takes me to unexpected regions of thought and experience. I recently read - or started to read - "Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy", written in 1843 by Frederick Engels. I say 'started' because I was so incensed by what I read at the beginning of his article I couldn't finish it - at first. I did go back and re-read several times - just to make sure and get all my thoughts in order.

Frederick Engels was a German philosopher and Industrialist who, with Karl Marx, co-founded Communism. He lived, as a young man in his early twenties, in England, working in a factory in Manchester his father owned stock in. This early experience, during which he made the acquaintance of an Englishwoman with whom he would remain associated for the rest of her life, a woman who showed him the seamier side of English urban life, had a profound impact on Engels, although he came to England with many of his thoughts already formulated. England just reinforced what he had already been thinking.

During these early years of the Industrial Revolution, the plight of the worker was torturous, at best. Like any massive change in society, balance took time to achieve, and at this time and place, things were, what we would now consider, way out of balance. Engels saw the injustice of the worker's position, but rather than blame the individual owners of the factories and shops, he saw it as a problem with "Trade". He saw the "Profit" inherent in "Trade" as evil - the pursuit of "Wealth" as the primary motivation of those in Business, and the accumulation of National Wealth as the primary motivation of Government. He saw all of this taking place at the expense of the 'downtrodden' - the Workers. At least, that was his vision and interpretation of what he saw.

And he was wrong.

The Urbanization of Europe (home of the Industrial Revolution) became possible with the application of good weather and minor technological improvements to agricultural practice in Medieval Europe. And with Urbanization came Trade and the rise of the Merchant Class.

The Merchants performed a service. As 'money' replace barter as payment for goods and services, it became easier to bring good and services from other cultures to the masses of people who were beginning to accumulate in cities. The notion of Profit enters in to life of the Merchant Class because when you sell your goods, you must take in enough money to feed yourself and your family, clothe yourself and your family, house yourself and your family and replace those goods that you've sold with fresh materials for sale - in order to continue to feed, cloth and house yourself and your family.

At its very basic expression, the "Profit Motive" is pure and honest. And that's where Engels was wrong. He saw Profit as the result of perpetrating a fraud. He never considered aggregating goods and services as a service. He saw the horrors inflicted on the Workers in the early Industrial Revolution, the result of the Avarice and Greed of those in positions of wealth and power, and ascribed those motives to the underlying vehicle - Trade. He was wrong.

Trade is good. Employing people to produce goods that others need and charging enough for those goods to pay the Workers a fair wage and keep the factory running, is good. Profit is good. Obscene Profit is not.

And now - an opinion. My opinion. For which I have little proof - just circumstantial stuff.

American business is sitting on its hands. Corporate coffers are stuffed full of money. Read the financial pages of your newspaper. Big Business is sitting on big money. Money which might well be used to put people to work and restore the economy. Because that's the primary and driving force in the structure of American Economics - the buying power of the American Working Person.

American Business is sitting on this money because they don't want President Obama to be seen as the man who rescued our Way of Life. Our Economy. They'll wait until there's a business friendly Republican in the Oval Office and THEN they'll start putting people to work and all our economic problems will appear to be solved.

My opinion. Not supported by strong evidence - just a lot of different circumstantial stuff. But opinions have to start someplace and that's how mine goes right now.



Big Mark 243 said...

*stepping up to the plate... number 9, Mark from 'Grains of Sand...'!

I agree that Engles and Marx were mistaken. BUT I think that the profit motive has led to the creation of the exploited class. And that is the fault of the elite class and the creation of marketable instruments without goods. This is not anything new... been going on since the money changers in the temple.

The continued evolution of the profit motive class, the elites (represented by the insane Koch Brothers today) has stretch the fabric of social connections to the point where the very wealthy have no encounters or understanding of what life is like for those who make their way of life possible.

The Republicans are waiting for the opportunity to put a business friendly President in office... mind is fuzzy but wasn't it Sen. Boehner who said it was their job to make this President fail?

In the end, I think that capitalism in its extreme is not too different from the feudalism that existed in the dark ages. Given the intellectual content of the masses, I think that a brown-out is occurring in the technological age. It has become even easier to manipulate popular opinion and build walls between 'us' and 'them'...

PattiKen said...

I think you are being generous in your opinion. Big business has done everything in its power to maximize and retain profits, with the help of political cronies. I don't see them giving it back, no matter who the President.

You spoke of the Industrial Revolution. We might call this the Greed Revolution. It's pretty easy to trace a lot of our economic problems back to greed. "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine, or soon will be." We are rapidly evolving into a two-class society.

Just sayin...

Nan Sheppard said...

HAHA! You are absolutely right. Bring back the feudal system! I'd soon whip these minions into shape if I were in charge.