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Abolition of Private Property?

Posted: JANUARY 4, 2018
By Scott Hiley /
Sep 7, 2021
Abolition of Private Property?
Image: a street sign in Berlin honors Marx and Engels, authors of the Communist Manifesto and founders of scientific socialism. Creative Commons.


Q:  The father of communism Karl Marx says in his Manifesto of the Communist Party "In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." People are not going to be handing over their private property voluntarily to the communists. This will only happen at gun point once the communists are in power. So why do you say that communism is not violent ? “Political power grows out of the barrel of the gun...” ― A quote from Mao Zedong the father of communist China.

A:  Thanks for writing in.  The phrase from Marx that you cite has been twisted and misinterpreted to serve the ends of the ruling class. The private property that Marx is talking about is private ownership of things like factories, banks, and railroads, which allow their owners to make money from the work of other people.  He has (and we have) no problem with working people accumulating  the sort of stuff needed for a comfortable life.  In fact, making life better for working people is what we're all about.  As Marx says, under capitalism, "private property has already been abolished for nine-tenths of the population." In other words, as long as the economy is run by a few wealthy people in their own interest, the working class won't be able to achieve prosperity.

And he was right!  Look at the Great Recession: banks drove us into an economic crisis by peddling subprime mortgages so that they could repackage the debt as an investment product.  They got rescued by the government, while the working class faced unemployment, foreclosure, loss of retirement savings...  And now, the GOP has passed a tax bill that shifts the tax burden to working families, a form of confiscation.

So abolition of private property doesn't mean that someone comes to your house with a bag and a gun and collects your jewelry, or whatever.   Abolition of private property means stripping billionaire investors of the ability to get rich from our labor (and taking away their political power, as well)--just like the abolition of slavery was the abolition of private property in human beings.

As for the quote from Chairman Mao, it had some truth in his context.  The Chinese Revolution was an armed struggle to transfer power from one class to another.  Just like the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the Bolivarian independence struggle...  It does not describe our vision or our understanding of socialist revolution in the United States.  Violence is the weapon of the capitalist class. We counter it with solidarity, education, mass mobilization, and the struggle to advance democracy and collective participation.

Sorry for the long response.  Hope this helps clarify things a bit.


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