- Dániel Csuja
Animal Farm from the End of Communism: How Marxism is Portrayed in a late 1980s Hungarian Cartoon
The cats’ society possesses incredibly advanced technology, while mice live oppressed by the cats. However, a Japanese mouse professor has designed a cat-taming machine. The goal is clear: somebody from the oppressed mouse society should travel to Japan to implement the so-called Cat Catcher Robot in Europe. On the contrary, the cats will work with all their might against the realization of the plan. The cartoon called Cat City 1 debuted in a Hungary which was slowly reviving behind the cracks in the Iron Curtain in 1986, and the second part came out in 2006.
Marx forms quite a contradictory figure in the people’s remembrance. The main reason for this is that he worked in several fields which were not entirely consistent with each other. Marx declared objective statements about the functioning of the economy, but – at the same time – he wrote political articles – e.g. the Communist Manifesto – which later created a breeding ground for radical ideologies. The Stalinism of Marxism has in fact very little to do with the author’s original remarks, but it must be acknowledged that the utopian society he visualized as a solution inspired many later vulgar ideologies.
According to Marx, how goods are produced essentially determines the structure of a society. Why does he consider production such a key decision factor in this? Let us see how this happens in reality. People are in need of goods and services, so someone has to produce them. Who is able to start this production? The ones who own something: for example, the necessary financial capital, properties, and factories. Those who own the production have the chance for surplus, those who do not might save from their salaries. Marx calls the propertied class the capitalist class, and the proletarians are forced to sell their labor. Marx explains economic history and defines the main historical stages and their main way of production. The first stage of economic history is primitive society, where undeveloped technology is combined with strong communal production. The opposite, he says, is capitalism, where technology is highly developed, and private property is protected by the law. In the period between these systems, he defined slavery and feudalism, where capitalists owned people directly or indirectly. Marx argues that in the case where capitalists explicitly want to accumulate surplus through cheap labor, the working class is exploited. According to him, the development of economic history is nothing but a class conflict between the exploited ones and the owners, which leads to economic cycles. Marx was visionary in the sense that he could declare some weaknesses of the financial system. He realized that capitalists are interested in producing as much as possible, but if people do not have enough money, nobody will buy the goods, leading to overproduction. He also pointed to the phenomenon that money can be printed infinitely, which sooner or later increases inflation. Indeed, he was right that economic growth does not benefit all sections of society equally. But, he suggested a utopian solution. He gave an identity to the exploited, proclaiming that the proletarians of the world should unite! His solution required a world revolution to replace the institutions of the free market and the government. Interestingly, if neither the market nor the state is recognized as the coordinating force, what institute would the proletarians govern? Moreover, Marx, being a materialist, did not believe in the human soul and its development possibilities, yet he had a naive and idealistic view of human behavior. He believed that every man makes his maximum effort to increase the common goods and only takes from the common good following his actual needs. In his theoretical work, Marx was so busy with the modes of production that he did not think about society shaping human behaviors, which are already discussed in modern economics: trust and envy.
What is repulsive about Marx’s proposed solution is subtly hinted at in a Hungarian cartoon series, The Cat City 1 and 2. This gigantic Cat Catcher dog-robot captures aggressive cats, and then he releases tamed cats with a bow tie. The mice seem to have got their act together and managed to successfully validate their will. The first movie ends here, and the cinema audience finally can feel relief that the oppressed mice have been freed, and the aggressive cats lost their power. This aspect is reasonable, since the cats’ society is pervaded by money and depravity, while the mice just want to live peacefully.
However, in the second movie, we can observe how the Cat Catcher had made the cats harmless. The bow tie decorating the cats’ neck is nothing more than an antenna taking full control of its wearer’s mind and actions. The Cat Catcher has effectively produced brainwashed, incompetent individuals. However, there is an ancient cat-society outside the civilization that was not reached by the Cat Catcher. In this society, mice are still oppressed by the cats. The ancient cats hear the news that their civilized counterparts have been brainwashed, so they summon Satan’s Cat. Satan’s Cat visits the civilization, where he meets the Cat Catcher. They decide to play an epic poker game, which the Cat Catcher wins with a beautiful Royal Flush. However, the movie does not end with the cats being brainwashed again. The leader of the mice offers them a compromise: let’s establish the International Organization of United Rodents and Predators. Sadly, the series has not continued yet, so we still do not know how sustainable the peace is. By all means, the first movie showed the relationship between capitalists and proletarians, and the second movie elaborated on the solution proposed by Marx.
Marx seems to have been unable to deal with the issue of resource allocation. It is reasonable, since this is a social science issue, so it is still blurry what humanity considers to be a fair allocation of resources. Fifty-fifty? Or does everyone receive what they merit? But then what is the basis for merit? Since we cannot define a formula for these things as precisely as we can for the value of pi, we cannot decide these questions without a doubt. As a result, we do not have absolute trust in each other. In any case, it is a fact in the welfare states, that by applying thoughtful economic policies, creating a broad middle class, constructing a social safety net, and financial regulation, economists worked out more functioning solutions to the problems raised by Marx than the author himself.