Marx developed multifaceted approaches to the same utopian end of a classless, stateless society. I have used the ideas of Alexander Rustow often on this blog, because much in his book Freedom and Domination is so pertinent to many of our current dilemmas. The story of freedom and domination is played over and over in history. The section on Marx and Marxism is brilliant in its insights, so I'll use them to explain modern liberalism and the progressive influence which leads modern liberals astray.
But first I will quote from Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty:
There were two critically important changes in the philosophy and ideology of classical liberalism which both exemplified and contributed to its decay as a vital, progressive, and radical force in the Western world. The first, and most important, occuring in the early to mid-nineteenth century, was the abandonment of the philosopy of natural rights, and its replacement by technocratic utilitarianism...and equally important, it is rare indeed ever to find a utilitarian who is also radical, who burns for immediate abolition of evil and coercion. Utilitarians, with their devotion to expediency, almost inevitably oppose any sort of upsetting or radical change.
Murray explained how the utilitarian "only values freedom as an ad hoc expedient" and that expediency shifts with such information as cost/benefit analysis, so that the utilitarian will "plump for statism in ad hoc case after case, and thus give way to principle." In other words, freedom is supported when it has utilitarian value, and a statist/illiberal approach will be taken when the cost/benefit analysis declares it the best approach. I'll come back to this aspect of modern liberalism later.
Marx had a great mind, even though most of his theoretical construction is based on nonsense inspired by an envy and hatred of what he thought was base, unearned success which deserved no less than destruction and subjugation. To Marx, the proletariat were the muscle and energy someone great like himself needed to bring down the bourgeoisie. The salvation aspect of Marxism, coupled with revenge against the "unearned" power and control of the upper class, was emotionally powerful enough for future followers to pretend the rest of his theory was profound beyond explanation -- the goals were so important that logic didn't matter. Righteousness of intent and social justice are the remnants motivating the modern liberal and progressivism. It matters little if Marx's economic teachings regarding labor don't take into account the vital contribution of management and entrepreneurial risk-taking and vision, the class struggle between laborer and profit-takers is still a righteous reason to expropriate the expropriators.
Quoting from Freedom and Domination:
Here one may note the influence of the addiction to planning of that megalomaniac, organizaton-mad project-mongerer and speculator Saint-Simon, whose fantasies ran to an enormous increase in productivity. But socialization leads not only to utopian opulence and bliss; behind this demand stands justice, as well as new enthusiasm for progress: socialization, as "expropriation of expropriators" is designed to repair the old injustice of the "expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers"; of the "expropriation of the immediate producer," of the "laborer working for himself"...
Would this be like the old ideology of the past decade? Bush's "free market" madness which destroyed the middle class and enriched his powerful corporate cronies? Sounds familiar, and if we are talking about State Capitalism, then I have to agree -- but if we're talking about a truly free market, I vehemently disagree.
The working class believed they would would share wealth and create a brotherhood whereas the self-interest of the capitalist thieves was irredeemably corrupt with greed and power-hunger. The present leaders of the working class have been no less cynical and manipulative than the Great Marx himself, although the most idealistic among them still rationalize the achievement of "justice".
When it comes to the relationship between powerful corporations and the State, I'm in agreement and would love to see the State wither away -- the power and control is unearned, but Marx's influence which has led to the denigration of a free market - Marx denigrated free markets -- is misguided. The naive assumption that the working class will rule with purity and community spirit in a wonderland of brotherhood and sisterhood is just as fantastical as a free market where perfectly rational actors bring about the perfect order, but there are huge differences in these two utopias.
Any utopian theory which postulates a classless society of equality and justice, sharing the wealth and disregarding the differences in contribution, value and reward is destined to end in brutal despotism, because it ignores freedom, natural rights, human nature and necessitates forcing its wish-dream on a stubborn reality. Marx and Engels never explained the "leap" to such a society, mainly because they couldn't without revealing the brutality and force necessary to even approach a semblance, which is an admission of its impossibility. All that can be achieved is a brutal despotism which ensures no one rises above anyone else, except the Guardians of Justice and Equality, and what they produce will be shared whether those who produce like it or not -- utopia at gunpoint -- communism by command.
But, still, among most modern liberals the remnants of the class struggle remain and the righteous goals remain impervious to logic, because logic is a puny resistance to collective salvation and social justice. The modern liberal doesn't dare claim Marxism as a guiding ideology or faith, but the spirit of Marxism is still alive, coupled with a technocratic rationalization of the utopian vision, i.e. social engineering and central planning through regulation and executive powers, and, last but not least, a realist's acceptance of market forces governed appropriately to ensure wealth is produced and distributed fairly to fund the new order.
If any three aspects are threatened with logic and facts, the emotional and spiritual appeal of the salvation vision can be used to avoid the inconsistencies -- we must act -- the goals are too great and righteous to quibble over factoids and inconsistencies, methods, or even results -- the needy have needs, the powerless require protecton, capitalism must be managed, minorities hunger for empowerment, the enviroment demands our love and care, the old and infirm must be sheltered and fed and attended to, on and on, the goals are great, and anyone who questions them is a defender of the "failed policies of the past" (the language now is tamed and no one would say "the capitalist expropriators).
Marx attempted and failed to achieve the revolution through the political route, then he went into subsidized isolation to plan his revenge.
From Freedom and Domination:
"Denunciation" is an expression which he was fond of applying in his own polemical writing: "Its essential pathos is indignation, its essential work is denunciation." Arthur Prinz, in a unpublished dissertation on Marx's system viewed psychologically, calls "the will to dominion" the basic feature of Marx's being, next to "hate and revenge towards his enemies, envy and jealousy towards rivals, defiant lordliness towards his followers and deep contempt of men in general."
This also has a familiar ring among the modern liberal/progressive faux-elite. The arrogance and vicious denunciation of common people has been evident among defenders of statism as the public becomes more and more vocal regarding political issues -- the progressive leadership takes its followers for granted, as if they would or should never question their enlightened masters.
No, liberals and progressives will not campaign as new-age Marxists, and they aren't Marxists, but ideas are powerful, and the ideas of Marxism have influenced modern liberals, along with the Saint-Simon technocratic dream of enlightened management and the manipulation of market forces to support a powerful State -- this combination leads in a dangerous direction. Not even the Constitution is acknowledged as a limiting factor. If the technocratic/statist approach is criticized because of insufficient knowledge and competence to centrally plan, and the results of planning are held up as evidence, the modern liberal is released from the logical conclusions because salvation and social justice are too important -- this serves to strengthen the dogmatic aspect of modern liberalism and elevate emotion over intellect. If the modern liberal is accused of being anti-free market, they respond with their support of markets, but add that regulation is required to enable markets to work for everyone -- they have their cake and eat it too, or at least they try.
It doesn't really matter how many modern liberals are sincere in their salvation and social justice mindset, strong resistance to a free market and limited government has more to do with powerful State interests protecting their power, ensured advantage and control -- otherwise, these sincere liberals would be searching for better ways to accomplish their goals, but statism appears to be the stuck position, in spite of myriad viable ideas emanating from the private sector. The problem is the private sector and free market principles are considered rivals to power by the State power-players, and much protected privilege and advantage are jealously guarded. Liberals have been hoodwinked by a propaganda campaign which has gone on for years and is propagated by the State machine -- government, media, universities, subsidized and co-opted intellectuals and even Hollywood. The narrative of modern liberalism and its statist modus operandi, influenced by the marxist, theological spirit of collective brotherhood, salvation and social justice, have infiltrated and perverted the Spirit of 1776.
We can no longer ignore the ramifications. Just as Marx never intended a stateless, classless society, just a different form of State where aristocratic geniuses manage the common people and a different kind of class distinction where capitalism is subjugated to serve the needs of all who have needs, the modern liberal is patiently and gradually building a different form of State -- one that's very similar to the State of Marxism.