Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan, Karl Marx and communism

By Jerome Keating

Democratic systems, of course, are not perfect, nor have they solved all their social problems, but still with the concept of “one person, one vote,” they are ironically closer to the ideals of a classless society.

Further, if US President Donald Trump were to die tomorrow, the US could easily carry on. Taiwan could say the same about its president, but that would not be true if Xi or Putin were to pass away.

Looking at Marx in retrospect, he did offer many positive positions that still have merit. For example, he supported free public education, progressive income taxes and the abolition of child labor.

He was also most correct in diagnosing the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. About 200 years later, the same struggle remains; only the names have changed.

Capitalism in its current state is not the answer, and although Marx moved it forward, the dialectic remains. Around the world, the salaries of chief executive officers have grown in great disproportion to those of normal workers.

Marx, of course, with only a materialistic view of history could not have foreseen the next century’s developments from the subjective view of psychology and phenomenology. He could not have seen that in human nature, a dialectic also exists between individual needs and communal needs, just as it exists between workers and businessowners in a materialistic world.

In this human dialectic, the perfectibility of humans would always be an ongoing challenge. Certain things cannot be legislated outright once and for all; they can only be qualified. As the US found with the 18th Amendment, the outright prohibition of alcohol failed, so too the communists found a problem in abolishing private property.

This is where Taiwan can be a contributor to world thought in its post-Marxist dialectic. From colonialism and a one-party state, Taiwan has developed a robust economy in its democracy. Taiwanese might complain about the nation’s economy, but Taiwan’s unemployment rate, which is under 4 percent, makes it the envy of most. Similarly its universal health plan covers 97 percent of the population.

Across the Taiwan Strait, despite having the most billionaires in the world, China lags behind Taiwan in so many ways. It even teeters on the brink of collapse as it seeks to resolve issues through extreme micromanagement, which is too often a sign that a one-party regime’s decay has already reached its final stages.

This is what Taiwanese and others need to reflect on as they look to how they can contribute to the world dialectic.

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.

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