Marxist Theory and International Conflict and Security

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Marxist Theory and International
Conflict and Security
• Why include Marxist theory as a valid theory of
international security when it has proved a failure?
– Soviet Union, a Marxist model states, organized as a
centralized political and economic system, selfdestructed
– The Chinese Communist state abandoned the Maoist
model of Marxist central political and economic control,
in favor of a market economic system, linked to global
markets around the globe, and Chinese membership in
the World Trade Organization.
Two Forces Underlying Marxist Theory Qualify
Marxism as a Theory of International Security
• First, the Marxist prediction that capitalism and capitalist
markets will distribute wealth and income unequally will
be a constant source of conflict
• Second, Marxism, viewed as a political ideology, has
mobilized the populations around the globe under
European imperial rule to revolt and create their own states
– Marxism as an ideology is still strong, notably once again
justifying the centralization of political and economic power: e.g.
Venezuela and Cuba and to a lesser extent in Bolivia, Ecuador
– Many critics of globalization also rely on Marxist ideology to
justify their opposition to global capitalistic markets and corporate
power
What Are Key Concepts of Marxism As a
Theory of International Conflict and Security?
• Realists and Liberal Institutionalists identify the
state as the principal actor in international
relations and global politics
• Liberal theorists identify the individual as the
principal actor and source of political and
economic legitimacy of state and markets systems
• But Marxism identifies the creation of classes as
the principal actor in international relations
How Does Marxism Arrive at Class Struggle as the
Central Actors in International Relations?
• 1) Marx and Marxists state that humans are fundamentally
material entities
– Frederick Engels: “Mankind must first off eat, drink, have shelter
and clothing before it can pursue politics, science, and religion”
• 2) The modes of production to meet human material needs
creates a power structure that rules humans who depend on
this production system
– Under feudalism (European and Japanese), agriculture was the
dominant mode of production of wealth
• Those who owned land controlled the workers and serfs that were the
labor for agriculture which they exploited
• They also controlled political authorities and military forces to impose
their rule on others
The Industrial Revolution and
Capitalist Destroys Feudalism
• 3) The Industrial Revolution and global capital markets
that facilitate mass production and economies of scale
create a capitalist class, opposed to feudal land owners
– Capitalists and corporations which own and control the means of
industrial production capture most of the wealth of the capitalist
system
– Workers are exploited by being paid low or subsistence wages
– Traditional home industries, like Indian cotton manufacture, are
destroyed
– The state and its military and police forces are controlled by
capitalists and corporations
– Thus, the struggle between a capitalist class and a worker or
proletariat class is what is “real” about international politics, not
the state (realists) or individuals (liberals)
Marxism and the Cold War
• Marxism as ideology helps explain the Russian
and Chinese revolutions
– A socialist state and economy claimed to end the
alleged injustices (unequal power and wealth to
capitalists) and to be a superior system for the
production and equitable distribution of wealth
– The state seized the private land and destroyed the
landowner class
– Collective farms were were created as the foundation of
a socialist state and society
Marxism and the End of Europe’s
Empires
• Marxist doctrine of exploitation by the West
and capitalism rationalized the revolt of the
developing world
• The Soviet Union and Communist China
aligned with these movements for selfdetermination in their struggle with the
West and, especially, with the United States
Marxism and the Cold War
• The socialist model that combined political and
economic power in the state proved fatal to the
Soviet Union
• China abandoned the Maoist socialist state both on
political and economic grounds
– The cultural revolution was directed at the elites of the
Communist party
– The state controlled economic system produced famine
and massive economic dislocation and losses
Marxism and Identity Politics
• Marxism is not able to explain
– Why the peoples of the developing world created their
own states instead of joining a global socialist order
– Why the Soviet Union was destroyed by
• The demand of its East European satellites for national selfdetermination
• The demand of Russian elites to abandon a socialist system
that impoverished the Soviet Union
• The demand of the peoples of the Soviet Republics for selfdetermination and their own state
Can Marxism Still Explain
Conflict?
• The unequal distribution of wealth through
globalization and global markets within and
between states remains a flaw within the global
system and a source of conflict
• The ideology of Marxism, based on the unequal
distribution of economic wealth and political
power as the product of capitalism, has created a
backlash against global markets and the power of
the Western liberal market democracies
• Marxist theory still has some explanatory power
along these two dimensions of inequality and
ideology.

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