In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels outlined their ideas for the communist state. Among these are the abolition of private property, state ownership of the means of production, and the “equal liability of all to labor.” In America, we have always had an aversion to communist ideas, yet they still find their way into certain facets of society. There have always been socialist ideas present in government, and even in our schools. In the case of schools, the group project can be seen as an example of Marxism in action.
In this class, one of the assignment options is the group project. Many of our classes assign group projects as a preview to working in the professional world, where working in groups is essential. In many ways, the group projects we are assigned in classes fit Marx and Engels’ ideals outlined in their Manifesto. When given a group project, students will often divide the tasks between the members of the group, just like the division of labor that is central to Marxism. They all are working together for a common grade, just like laborers under Marxism work for their common sustenance. In Marxism, the means of production are controlled by the government, similar to how a teacher controls the objectives for the project. Group projects also establish a single grade for all members of the group, getting rid of private grades just like private property.
The group project can be seen as a microcosm for the failures of modern Marxism. One of the biggest fears that come with it is that the other members of the group will not carry their weight, causing everyone’s grade to suffer. One of the biggest shortcomings of Marxism in practice is that the separation of labor is not always efficient, just like the group project. Because each member of the group is usually made responsible for their own part of the project, it is essential for everyone to do their part in order to have success.
Critics of Marxism often say that it cannot work in practice because there is no incentive for workers to do anything. There is also little incentive for students to do their work in a group project, because those who are less motivated may expect the others to pick up the slack for them. They will still reap the benefits of the group grade, but without doing any actual work.
After the Soviet Union formally collapsed in 1991, Marxism was considered a failure in practice. While we cannot expect the downfall of the group project anytime soon, it highlights many of the same problems that brought down the Communist Bloc.