Marx and Smith

Sam Wittmer


Two men sit at the bar, each contemplating his respective drink.  Across from the two, in a booth on the other side of the dark room, a group of factory workers sits down.  It is the end of their day; the workers are tired men, wearing rags and clearly exhausted, but nonetheless making jokes and laughing.

Karl Marx:  This is truly a sad sight.  I know the pain that those ironworkers and smelters must be feeling.

Adam Smith: Why do you say that?  Surely they have jobs and are able to provide for their families.

M:  Ah, but you must see that these men are a broken people.  They are the proletariat of London.  They face constant exploitation from the bourgeoisie, who care for nothing but producing more and more.  The modern Bourgeois, forged in the wreckage of feudal society, now oppress these wage-laborers and treat their personal worth as simply an exchange value.

S:  Well, that is very strange of you to believe.  I think of it as somewhat of a—how do I put this? —Oh, I know—an invisible hand! This new division of labor that we now see greatly stabilizes the economy and increases production and advances technology.  With each one of those factory workers creating a single part of a product, they are able to produce faster, greater quantity and greater quality of products.  Thus, we must allow as much production as the markets will allow.

M:  But this division of labor has made the workingman expendable, and his masters view him as having a low exchange value.  The reason for this is that division of labor creates workers who are easily replaced by others, therefore the factory owners may pay their workers only enough to keep them alive—in this way they survive only to produce more for the bourgeois owners, and have no humanity.

S:  Let me continue on the invisible hand controlling the markets in relation to this previous statement.  Those workers will not work if they are not being given fair compensation.  This is also how the economy works—people will not buy a product if it is not a fair price.  Producers must be fair in their trade, for the market will not allow it to be otherwise.

M:  The people in fact do not have a choice of how they live.  Their sole property is their own physical labor, and this they sell to the bourgeoisie and become commodities.  The proletariat will overthrow these chains of capitalism because conditions will simply be too terrible to bear.  The proletarian revolution will bring about a Communist society where all property is held by the state with centralized production.  All will earn the same.

S:  If all people are to make the same and also have no personal property, then for what will they work?  Innovation will come to a standstill, as incentive is no longer present.  Furthermore, why do you think that these people will be able to get along?  No one will be in charge if they are all equal.

M:  They will in fact all be the proletariat and have an abundance of goods.  When there is no want of food and shelter, there will be no strife.  History is the history of class warfare—the tale of one group oppressing another.  This revolution will effectively eliminate the need for class struggle because there will be no classes.  As for order, it will be a democracy controlled by the people.

Plato: (lurking in a dark corner of the bar) But lead to tyranny, Democracy must!

S:  Who was that?

M:  I do not know but I believe it is our cue to leave.

S:  Indeed.  Well I believe I will see you again next Friday, Karl?

M: Ah, of course Adam, I do enjoy our conversations.

They exit.




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