A Christian View of Marxism

From Karl Polanyi
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  1. What Marx attempted to do. In how far is his ”whole view” all inclusive, how far fragmentary
  2. Marx's definition of society (cite references)
  3. Marx's definition of socialism
  4. Marx's interpretation of history: the assessment of the importance of the production factor in determining the structure of a society. (Because of the use of the word “materialistic” in translating a whole idea, those cannot face Marx objectively, have completely misrepresented his theorem by saying that philosophical materialism was the basis of Marxism)
  5. The historical fact of the partition of humans on a class basis. Not so much a class-society as a classed society. It could be nothing else under capitalism, so that the reconciliation of classes as a task illusory.[1]
  6. The rise of capitalism:
    1. (a) the increase of goods in the world, due to rapid technological improvements, diverted people's minds from the distribution of them. Liberal idea that providence had ordained that lots of goods should be produced and not be limited.[2] The more far-sighted joined in the production, which they found to be profitable if scarcity prevailed.
    2. (b) Labour became a commodity. In return for it employers gave just enough to induce people to work in order to buy the novelties of the new age; just as the far traders gave the indians worthless intriguing trinkets for valuable furs.[3]
    3. (c) Capitalism cut loose from all responsible relations with the individuals in society, dropped all concern for living and welfare. The institutions of society underwent a high-pressure transformation, so that in one generation the forms of capitalism became the recognized forms of human society.[4]
    4. (d) The fetishisation which made the attributed of this colossal racket respectable, and unassailable by professors or by statesmen, on pain of imprisonment for trying to overthrow the constitution (USA). The growth of the idea that capitalists functioned in a domain far more sacred than that in which humans lived. The church paid hush-money to perpetuate this sanctification of organized brigandry. The creation of the myth of “State” as a “neutral” tool of jungle-minded “leaders”. The market as the measure of all values, not just of commodities.[5] The debasing of the social sciences, and the endowment of "safe” fields in the natural sciences.
  7. The firm establishment of the master-slave relationship in production once capital, as the parasitic pinchings from pay-checks, began to accumulate. In a society whose frontiers had ceased to expand, the challenge “Go west, but take up a gun to “protect your heritage” i.e. bondage. Children born without access to a machine job, treated as trained refuse.
  8. If capitalism in the 19th century survived only through minimizing the “human” element in the term “human being”, it now, in the 20th century has come to demand the eradication of any humanity whatever. In fact God is not doing his share unless he provides a pair of hands, two supports, a frame, and a control box with sights, listeners, and tasters, not all co-ordinated and implicitly obedient, with no mouth to feed, or skin to wash, or life to live.
    Marginal inscription on the left of point 8. without other corresponding symbol
    It would appear that God has not correctly understood the messages which the Divine Order Company's executives have been sending him. They are most annoyed that children still arrive in the world with troublesome souls imbedded in their chassis. However, until this “matter has been adjusted” the capitalists must do the next best thing, they must divert the human element of the workers away from their hope of self-realization or of community, by creating dragons and monsters for them to fight. They must paint spectres hovering over their broken-down homes during the night. They must get men to go off to train for combat with the dragons, and some must be allowed to volunteer to fight the demons in strange lands. And after they have crushed the human life out of their pseudo-men, they will have to blot out their competitors across the seas. And the monopolies which 19th century liberals haled as the advent of true internationalism, will dispute the monopoly of the world, and will clash on a truly international scale. All other things are secondary to the defence of the now sanctified principle of keeping man's soul in its proper place, i.e. in another world than this, while allowing his “kept fit” body to contribute to our great western civilization and its glorious future.
  9. “Price” and “scarcity value” as the real “dictators” in our economy today. The domination of society by the institutional forms of capitalist production. The endowment of these forms with an intrinsic integrity. The means to living have to pass through the bottle-neck of the system, i.e. the market. The means to living are denied to a large part of the human population, because they are only profitable if scarce. “Science has threatened us with abundance, but in plenty there is no profit”.[6] In other words, most people have been denied the practical opportunity to begin living.
  10. The nature of "life” within the capitalist system. We can have "education in the elbow room”, or “culture in the corner” but no further. If a man decided that because he had a decent home, every man should have an equally good one, he would have to be locked up, as either insane or subversive. To share your produce with your neighbour is to put others out of business and finally yourself.
  11. Need has no meaning in this society. This is a fact, not an ethical judgement. And all the angels could not administer capitalism and change that Fact one iota. The “social responsibility” of the community is to provide sufficient police and strike-breakers to protect the present order. The suggestion of “more business in government” if taken literally and seriously would bring the captains of industry to their feet in a hurry.
  12. Marx's society of “a relationship of human beings”, as contrasted with the present conception of “human tools in equally helpless association”.[7]
  13. Is Marx's interpretation “religious” or is it philosophically materialistic (economically mechanistic, etc…)?
  14. The reactions of the different bodies in our society today towards any attempted religious interpretation of its realities. A capitalist society is automatically a classed society. The mission of each class is just as definitely defined by the logic of the ca[u]se, but better understood by the owner-producer class. The reflection of upper class realism in domestic and international affairs. “Collective security” as the policy of the upper class in domestic affairs, and “empire solidarity” in the international jungle.
  15. The logic of this system choking itself off. The merciless drive to a more efficient capitalism. The pressure on governments for subsidies, tariffs. No longer “capitalism without tears”; the usefulness cannibalism. Human labour now becomes a commodity with no strings attached, and devoid of all attributes of life. Sacrifices must be made, or profits can't go on increasing. Pseudo-men are demanded in greater quantities. Capitalism is “going nudist”. Disguise of “democracy” not only torn, but thrown off. Students “spit on freedom”. Voting becomes a travesty. Those vocal in their disagreement declared subversive and imprisoned as soon as elected to parliament. As men become pseudo-men, so community becomes pseudo-community. This is rationalized and welcomed by organizations which always stood for community among pseudo-men. Community for universal community's sake vanishes completely, and personal self-realization in relation to reality is branded as communism and treason to “the state”. There is a total frustration of everything above man's breathing center. His cerebral cortex cannot conform and he goes crazy. All who used to be normal, now go crazy. The world takes on the atmosphere of an asylum. But a more advanced neurotic arises to lead the mildly neurotic mass. A pleasant feeling of releases suffuses the country as men find their neighbours have gone crazy too. In fact they soon discover that they are not crazy at all. It's the rest of the world that is off. Crusades develop to slay dragons all over the globe. Wotan worship becomes the state religion.
  16. The Alternative to this is democracy, organized [t]o be perpetual democracy, i. e. socialism.
    Marx 's theory of revolution. The place of prophecy.
  17. Marxists to build perfect society for its own sake. Yet Marx recognized that present society was being destroyed because it denies community.
  18. Marx would build a society whose institutional forms would allow men the opportunity to community, but he believed that then the world will have achieved community. He would erect the means to living. Then living would begin. What kind of living?
  19. Consideration of the “system” to be set up. It must make provision for the greatest fulfillment of human community. Any system which does not, will eventually destroy itself. Building a society to rectify present frustrations is in some ways simpler than building one which will not only do that, but will open the nearest door to the richest possible human community.
    Opposition to the creation of these forms is opposition to the eventual fulfillment of community on this earth. Willingness to determine the nature of those forms, while their composition is still being considered, is the test of one's sincerity about human community.
    To refuse to set up these forms as a minimum, because they would not automatically guarantee human community, is to take a non-religious view of man. That view implies that there ought to be forms which would guarantee (if not compel) community. This is an extension of the pagan and perverted view about man, taken today by all those who want all men changed before society can be changed. That is one of the most diabolical forms of irreligion parading today in the cloak of orthodoxy. It not only debases man as a potential personality, or person-in-community, but it implies that a “changed” populace would cure the world's troubles within the present structure of society. “A flock of angels” could not administer capitalism in such a way as to bring human justice and community to this earth. The proponents of this view ("change men and you change society") are again the emissaries of the devil - perhaps unconsciously, but none the less perfectly. Surely they know by now the falsity of their statement, as well as their inability to change all men. Perhaps that is why the propound the formula they do, because they realize its impossibility, and therefore its insipidness. If they really value life why do they not work for a system which will safeguard its sacred character, not for us alone, but for generations to come? Or do they wish to perpetuate capitalism by attacking it with cotton wool, and thereby secure the continuance of their present luxuried ease? No religious person goes out to attack the devil in this world with a prayer book.

Marginal notes

We don't know whose note are (probably Karl Polanyi himself but it is difficult to see it since there so few notes) and when these hand-written notes were added.

  1. At the margin of all point 5: a big “!” (Hand-written)
  2. At the margin: “scarcity?
  3. At the margin of the last sentence: “incorrect
  4. At the margin of the last sentence: a big “!” (Hand-written)
  5. At the margin, a big “!” (Hand-written)
  6. At the margin, hand-written: “?”(, probably asking whose quote is.)
  7. At both left and right margins, hand-drawn stresses.

Text Informations

KPA: 21/19, 6-10
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