Today we live in a capitalist world and we can be satisfied with our lives. However, some may ask how our society would be with communism, and how it would look like if Karl Marx had been successful a hundred and fifty years ago.
Another question that came to mind when we read the novel ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley, is, whether we can compare Karl Marx the communist to the character Bernard Marx from the book.
In the following essay we will share some facts about Karl Marx, the communist, and then compare Karl Marx with Bernard.
Karl Marx has played a big role in German history. He was born in 1818 in Trier, went to a grammar school there and studied law in Bonn. After that he went to Berlin to study Law and Philosophy. In 1848 he wrote his most important work, ‘Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei’ with Wilhelm Engels. He wanted to have a classless society without differences in capital. He was against a government of the rich and the nobility, and believed the working-class shouldn’t be oppressed and discriminated anymore. The aim of communism is to get the same rights for everybody and that the money of the state is distributed equally to all citizens, no matter if the citizens are rich or poor, men or women, noblemen or workers.
All these demands from Marx caused the Labor Movement of the 19th and 20th century. Through this the working class recognized their disadvantages and oppression, and wanted to fight against these. They held demonstrations and went on strike. The basis that they took for their movement was the Communist Manifesto of Marx.
If we compare this structure with the state of Brave New World, one can see that the society is divided into classes on one side, but on the other side the people in one class are equal, even in their lifestyles and salaries, and that they are all satisfied.
The character of Bernard Marx in particular gives us a clue that there is a connection to Karl Marx and communism in the book. This can be seen in the fact that Bernard is like a revolutionary in the novel. He wants to be different from the others and he wants to do something for the lower classes in his society, so that they have more rights and a more humane life. Karl Marx also fought for the poor and disadvantaged people. He wanted to achieve something completely new and he was convinced that his idea of the communist state was better than the government in his time (the 19th century).
Bernard is shy indeed, but nevertheless he is sure that the structure of the ‘World State’ is not good and fair, and even less humane. That is why he wants to convince the people with his ideas. The statement of Bernard that Lenina is seen and sees herself ‘as she were a bit of meat’ (page 42), shows that he is totally shocked that somebody is treated so inhumanely, and that he wants to do something against it. However, Bernard’s interest in poorly treated people comes from the fact that he is also an outsider. In this way, there is a big difference between Bernard and Karl Marx. Bernard wants to change something, but what he wants to change most is his own situation. He is an outsider and that’s why he hates his life; he wants to fit in society and he wants to be liked by others. Bernard is isolated because of his appearance and the people in Brave New World are really cruel to him (for example Henry Foster). However Bernard also becomes cruel when he is threatened or annoyed, and fights with unfair and infantile tools.
All in all, we are determined that Bernard Marx hast just a few similarities with his namesake. These similarities are that they both were revolutionary and that they wanted to change something. Fundamentally, however, they are really different from each other, because Bernard is not really self-confident and just wants to help himself.
The World State from the novel is also different from communism in its structure - it is divided into 5 classes, which is totally contrary to a communist state.
Moreover, we have to say that we don’t think that Karl Marx’s concept of a state would have had a chance to survive, because humankind is always in competition, and if everyone gets the same and means the same, the people are not motivated to do anything anymore. In addition, it is also not really fair to give everyone the same salary and so on, because everyone is different and deserves what s/he works for.
Thus, our personal opinion is that a communist Germany would not fit in today’s world and time. We are all individuals and we all want to work for what we earn. Karl Marx just wanted justice and equality, but the way he wanted to achieve that was definitely not right, and still isn’t right today.
By Ann-Kathrin Riethmüller and Julia Raaf
- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, Cornelsen Verlag 2007, Berlin