Front Page Titles (by Subject) 5: Class War as a Factor in Social Evolution - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
5: Class War as a Factor in Social Evolution - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Class War as a Factor in Social Evolution
From the theory of the class-war, Marxians argue that the socialist order of society is the inevitable future of the human race. In any society based on private property, says Marxism, there must of necessity be an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of separate classes: exploiters oppose the exploited. This contrast of interests, it is assumed, determines the historical position of the classes; it prescribes the policy they must follow. Thus history becomes a chain of class struggles, until finally, in the modern proletariat, there appears a class which can free itself from class rule only by abolishing all class conflicts and all exploitation generally.
The Marxist theory of class war has extended its influence far beyond socialist circles. That the liberal theory of the solidarity of the ultimate interests of all members of society has been thrust into the background was, of course, not due to this theory only, but also to the revival of imperialist and protectionist ideas. But as the liberal idea lost its glamour, the fascinations of the Marxian promises were bound to be more widely felt. For it has one thing in common with the liberal theory which the other anti-liberal theories lack: it affirms the possibility of social life. All other theories which deny the solidarity of interests deny also by implications social life itself. Whoever argues with the nationalists, the race dogmatists, and even the protectionists, that the conflict of interests between nations and races cannot be reconciled, denies the possibility of peaceful co-operation between nations and thereby the possibility of international organization. Those who, with the implacable champions of peasant or petty bourgeois interests, consider the unflinching pursuit of class interests as the essence of politics, would be only logical if they were to deny all advantages of social co-operation. Compared with these theories, which necessarily lead to very pessimistic views of the future of society, Socialism seems to be an optimistic doctrine. At least for the desired coming social order, it claims the solidarity of the interests of all members of society. The desire for a philosophy, which does not altogether deny the advantages of social co-operation is so intensive, that many people have been driven into the arms of Socialism who would otherwise have avoided it altogether. The only oasis they find in the desert of anti-liberal theories is Socialism.
But in their readiness to accept the Marxian dogmas, such people overlook the fact that its promise of a classless future for society rests entirely on the assertion, presented as irrefutable, that the productivity of socialistically organized labour would be higher—indeed, limitless. The argument is well known: “The possibility of giving all members of society, by social production, an existence which shall be not merely materially adequate, increasing in wealth from day to day, but which shall guarantee them also the complete freedom to develop and practice their physical and mental abilities—this possibility now exists for the first time, but it exists.”73 Private ownership in the means of production is the Red Sea which bars our path to this Promised Land of general well-being. From being an “evolutionary form of the forces of production” it became their “chains.”74 The liberation of the productive forces from the shackles of capitalism is the “sole presupposition to an uninterrupted development at an ever-increasing pace of the productive forces and, thus, to a practically unlimited increase in production itself.”75 “As the development of modern technique makes possible a sufficient, even abundant, satisfaction of wants for all, on condition that production is directed economically by and for the country, the class conflict now appears, for the first time, not as a condition of social development but as the obstacle to its conscious and planned organization. In the light of this knowledge the class interest of the oppressed proletarians is directed towards abolishing all class interests and setting up a classless society. The old, apparently eternal law of the class struggle practically necessitates by its own logic, by the interest of the last and most numerous class—the proletariat—the abolition of all class contrasts and the creation of a society in which interests are unitary and which is humanly solidary.”76 Ultimately, therefore, the Marxian demonstration is this: Socialism must come, because the socialist way of production is more rational than the capitalist. But in all this the alleged superiority of socialist production is simply taken for granted. Except for a few casual remarks no attempt to prove anything is made.77
If one assumes that production under Socialism would be higher than under any other system, how can one limit the assertion by saying that it is true only under certain historical conditions and has not always been so? Why must time ripen for Socialism? It would be understandable if the Marxians were to explain why, before the nineteenth century, people did not hit upon this happy idea or why even if it had been conceived earlier, it could not have been realized. But why must a community, to attain Socialism, go through all the stages of evolution, although it is already familiar with the idea of Socialism? One can understand that “a nation is not ripe for Socialism as long as the majority of the masses oppose Socialism and want to have nothing to do with Socialism.” But it is not easy to see why “one cannot say definitely” that the time is ripe “when the proletariat forms the majority of the nation and when the latter in its majority manifests the will to Socialism.”78 Is it not quite illogical, to maintain that the World War79 has put back our evolution and thus retarded the coming of the right moment for Socialism? “Socialism, that is, general well-being within modern civilization, becomes possible only through the enormous development of the productive forces brought about by Capitalism, through the enormous wealth Capitalism has created and concentrated in the hands of the capitalist class. A state which has wasted this wealth in senseless policy, such as an unsuccessful war, offers no favourable opportunity for the quickest spread of well being amongst all classes.”80 But surely those who believe that Socialism will multiply productivity should see in the fact that war has impoverished us one reason more for hastening its coming.
To this Marx answers: “a social order never succumbs until all the productive forces of which it is capable are developed, and new and higher conditions of production never replace it until the old society itself has conceived within its womb the material conditions of their existence.”81 But this answer assumes that what needs to be demonstrated is proved already: that socialist production would be more productive and that socialist production is a “higher” one, that is, on a higher stage of social development.
[73. ]Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, p. 305. Publisher’s Note: In English translation p. 392.
[74. ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, ed. Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1897), p. xi. Publisher’s Note: The quote cited in Marx’s Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie(A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) may be found on p. 11 of the Eastman anthology; p. 12 of the Kerr edition.
[75. ]Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, p. 304. Publisher’s Note: In English translation, p. 391.
[76. ]Max Adler, Marx als Denker, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1921), p. 68.
[77. ]On Kautsky’s attempted proofs, pp. 159 ff.
[78. ]Kautsky, Die Diktatur des Proletariats, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1918), p. 12.
[79. ]World War I (Pub.).
[80. ]Ibid., p. 40.
[81. ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, p. xii. Publisher’s Note: In English, p. 11 of the Eastman anthology; p. 12 of the Kerr edition.