Social class, Marxism and twenty-first-century socialism: Mike Cole
It is possible, though difficult, to imagine a capitalist world rid of the inequalities of gender, ‘race’, sexuality and disability analysed in Chapters 1 to 8 of this volume. However, without social class exploitation, capitalism could not exist. This is because it is underpinned by and depends for its very existence on the exploitation of one class, the working class, by another, the capitalist class. In this chapter, I begin by addressing the unique strengths of Marxism, as both an analytical framework, and as a harbinger of a non-exploitative future world. In so doing, I look briefly at some historical challenges to it. I then outline two central tenets of scientific socialism (how Marx’s co-writer Friedrich Engels described Marxism).The first is Marx’s Labour Theory of Value,which provides an explanation of the pivotal position of social class as the basis of surplus value and profit under capitalism.The second is the materialist concept of history, which stresses how deeply the processes of production affect our lives. I then raise some common objections to Marxism and respond to them, concluding with a brief discussion of twenty-first-century socialist developments in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.