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Try These "Marxist IQ" Questions Just for Fun

Political Affairs magazine sometimes runs a few "Marxist IQ" questions. I'm adapting these to the web. Nobody evaluates them. If you aren't sure of your answers, click the reading material. Or just click on the answer you like best:

1. (CLICK HERE FOR BACKGROUND READING) Marxists see the working class as:

a. unified in its class consciousness

b. a class defined essentially by its relationship to or lack of ownership of the means of production

c. a class stratified along job lines without any class consciousness

d. a class that is no longer of any importance in postindustrial society

2. (BACKGROUND READING) Marxist see the capitalist class as:

a. a class of stakeholders in an ownership society

b. a class united by greed and divided by groups that support different political parties

c. a class that owns the means of production and the profit produced by the production and exchange of commodities

d. a class that is no longer important in postindustrial society

3. (BACKGROUND READING) Marxists see the "middle class" as:

a. the foundation of society

b. the only important class in modern society

c. a revolutionary class that can lead the working class to socialism

d. a class of small business owners, managerial supervisors, and self-employed professionals whose numbers tend to decline as capitalism develops


4. (READING MATERIAL) Marxists see the capitalist class as different from previous ruling classes:

a. because it is divided between liberals and conservatives

b. its production of goods for exchange in markets rather than for use for themselves as tribute makes its exploitation potentially global and unlimited

c. it seeks to raise living standards so it can sell more goods

d. it supports democracy to advance free markets

5. Marxists see Marxism itself as:

a. a broad science of society that offers both a framework and guidelines to understanding past, present, and future and changing present and future.

b. a set of immutable principles which can be applied at all times and in all places.

c. a discourse or conversation whose purpose is to advance and understand communication, not to provide answers to social questions.

d. a blueprint for socialist revolution and construction.

Below is a short essay created from the questions above. One could read it, or just work the questions and read the linked material.


A Few Marxist Ideas

Any study of social change must take into account the fact that people's outlooks are greatly affected by their economic circumstances. Marxists recognize that great categories of people have similar outlooks and interests. They are economic classes.

In our present situation, the two classes of most interest are the workers and the capitalists. Their outlooks and interests are different, and often strongly opposed. For example, workers are nearly unanimous in desiring good wages, while capitalists will do almost anything to keep wages low.

The working class is defined by not owning the means of production. Workers may own a few tools, but they essentially have nothing to sell except their ability to work.If they were all unified, social change would be simple, but they aren't. However, there are varying degrees of understanding of the system that exploits them, or "class consciousness." The working class is large, strong, and organizable; therefore, it is the class of paramount interest to anyone contemplating social change. Those who attempt to dismiss the working class are confused and will confuse others.

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Under capitalism, the workers are employed by those who do own the means of production, the capitalist class. Capitalists organize resources, machinery, and labor power to produce profits, or "excess values" for themselves. Under the fairly recent economic system known as "capitalism," they also control the state apparatus and use it to further exploit the workers and others. Different capitalists may seem to support different political parties, but they support only those parties who accept the capitalist class as rulers. In all of American history, capitalists have been the ruling class.

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It is not necessary, in modern society, to rigorously define the "middle class," as long as we understand that they are neither capitalists nor workers and tend to vacillate between. Owners of small businesses, small farmers who own their properties, supervisors, and self-employed professionals tend to fall into this class. A great deal of modern culture is produced by middle class people, and many cultural themes tend to revolve around them. But, because their ideology is indeterminate and constantly shifting, they cannot lead nor maintain a social system. Individually or in small groups, they follow one of the two dominant American classes.

It may be interesting or fun to try to decide if a person or a vocational category is "middle class" or "workers," but the important thing is to determine which of the two major classes they are following. Middle class orators tend to inflate their importance, but their actual importance exists mainly in terms of whether they follow the workers or the capitalists.

Today's orators often confuse "middle class" with "middle income." Even union leaders mistakenly refer to their better-paid members as "middle class." As one can see from the definitions above, one's class is determined by their relationship to the means of production, not by their income.

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Capitalists organize the production and exchange of commodities and services. They were doing it for a long time before they accumulated enough power to replaced the aristocracy, but it was inevitable that they would. Capitalist rule, which asserted itself between the 16th and 19th centuries all over the world, represented a big improvement over the kings and queens they defeated. Capitalism virtually ended slavery, and its tremendous productive capability brought much higher living standards than the serfs ever enjoyed. Raising living standards was not the capitalists' purpose, which is to increase their wealth, but was a historically significant by-product.

Capitalist political parties may have "right," "left," "liberal," or "conservative" wings, but their projects and proposals are fixed within the capitalist structure. In America, we are often tricked into confusing "democracy" with "capitalism," but, in fact, capitalists will use any government structure to maintain and extend their profits. Some of the worst dictatorships were created and maintained by capitalists.

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Karl Marx and Frederick Engels claimed their place in history by using scientific methodology in the study of economic, historical, and social questions. The scientific method, often associated with Galileo Galilei, uses measurable scientific facts to draw conclusions, rather than constructing pyramids of idealistic, but logical sounding, assertions. No Marxist claims to have a blueprint for all the answers, but rather uses Marxism, or scientific method, to understand what has happened, what is happening, and what is likely to happen.

Although many people would like to limit their "Marxism" to discussion groups, real Marxists are using the methodology as guidelines to action. The purpose is much more than understanding the world; the purpose is to change it for the better!

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