Where Marx went right and where Marx went wrong
Whoever dares to break all the neo-liberal, and middle class taboos and ventures to read Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto will ask himself if this is not a post that some blogger wrote one month ago. He will also start to understand why for one hundred and fifty years the words on those pages have been the greatest fear of our “beloved” bankers, industry leaders and heads of state in the Western World.
The one reason for the fear over that text is that it has made perfect sense for a century and a half; Marx’s critique is precise and undeniable and reality keeps on confirming his views. Needless to say, as Christians in the Roman times, the powers of the day have thrown many people to the lions for embracing this forbidden belief.
Before we continue, in order to rebuke the usual attacks, we will have to point out that what existed in the Soviet Union and behind the “Iron Curtain” was not communism. They saw themselves as societies working towards communism; and most ended up as flawed attempts to reach a utopic state of social equality. It is also worthwhile pointing out that they were as flawed as the western attempts to create their utopia; general contentment and optimization of resources through the “invisible hand” of the Market.
Going back to our quest for where Marx went right and where Marx went wrong, we’ll start with what went right. A recent article in nowhere less than the Rolling Stone Magazine states it succinctly in five examples:
The tendency of Capitalism to create crisis: In their need to reduce costs, companies, investors etc… drive down salaries, cut down their workforce to a point where there this affects the consumer market because there is no one left to consume. Even in the best days they come up with schemes to induce more consumption such as credit, but when this money turns into debt it only worsens the crisis in the cycle.
The creation of absurd consumerist desires: to keep the machine alive capitalism induces people to consume industrialized and technological “monstrosities” with absurd values. They become carrots on sticks for the workforce to dedicate their lives to. The examples are out there in abundance; Ferrari’s, the latest iPhones, the latest kindles, overpriced coffee Houses, overpriced holiday locations, the list is long.
Globalization: Capitalism has an insatiable appetite for new markets, not only for more people to consume its products but also to supply them with cheap labour. Could this explain why the west went as far as to finance radical Islam in order to bring those markets into the world order? This may explain why there is no place in the world to escape Capitalism. Une could argue that this just shows that this is the “logic of the world”, the “reality” as it is. But then, why do we need police and armies to back things up and to repress people who go against the system? As the neo-Marxist thinker, Slavoj Zizek, states; people find it easier to imagine a planet without natural resources than to imagine the world without Capitalism,
Tendency towards Monopoly: the logic of maximizing profits and leaving the regulation of the economy to competition leads to the big sharks eating all the other fish in the pond. One doesn’t need to go far to see small stores, small software companies, small everything almost disappearing while, as the economy recovers, it is the big guys who have managed to survive and now are having greater profits than ever.
Low wages and high profits: The essence of Capitalism is to create an “army” of workers who only have their workforce to put on the table when it comes to making a living. The people who do have the means employ them try to pay as little as they can to obtain as much profit as they can. They do this not because they are evil; it is just the logic of the system, if they do not, some ruthless competitor will end up forcing them out of business.
There are many other points that the article could have added, the main one being the founding stone of Marx’s thought: placing profit as the central motor of a society will never work. Contrary to what Wall Street, the City and their lackeys say, greed is a very bad policy maker, simply because it is self-serving. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you allow big profit oriented conglomerates to drive politics they will act in no one else’s interest but their own. One just needs to look at the trillionaire Bank bailouts in 2008 and their current “social responsibility” to understand why.
Until now, we have only seen where Marx went right, where did he go wrong?
The problem lies in his solutions. Actually, not in his solutions but in his lack of proposals. This is where both Marxist radicals and hysterical anti-Marxists fall into a realm of mystification and lack of understanding. Throughout his work except for some rare opinions and hints, he never really stopped to write about how a communist state would be nor how humanity would ever get there.
As we all know, his opinion was that communism is an inevitable state that we will all end up in, regardless of the route we choose. For him, communism is a utopian state of affairs where the means of production will be aimed at the community (hence the name) and not at private profit. Again, we have to mention that the mainstream theories also have their own utopia where, if left to their own devices, the selfish agents of the economy will optimize the resources available to humankind and will create generalized wealth in the most optimized way possible.
Both utopias stem out of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim messianic belief that history has a goal. For both, intelligence or the God-like qualities blown by the Almighty into mud to create Adam will eventually flower into a world of mutual understanding that will be fair for all. This is a very powerful concept that has kept not only religions, but the entire political debate alive.
For Marxists, the good days will come through a revolution, for the Monetarists they will come through the general acceptance of the Market, for the Christians they will come through the universal acceptance of Christ, for the Muslims through the universal acceptance of the prophet and for the Jews through the coming of the Messiah. There are different versions and for each of these myths but they are all saying the same thing.
It is our opinion that Marxism is the latest step of the utopian tradition, it is a natural follow up to the revolutionary Christian concept of the holy Ghost: forget all dogma, forget the laws, get along with each other and create something sacred. The problem here, as with all other Messianic views is that it privileges the future rather than the present.
As a revolutionary in Tahrir square sais at the end of the fabulous documentary The Square, after seeing his struggle being kidnapped by the Egypt’s military and by the Muslim Brotherhood, “We fought for a new way for people to relate to each other, the people have taken over the streets and now we know our strength.”
Our opinion is that he nailed the issue; the key is the here and the now, not the future not the past. The possibility for change comes to us every day and in every situation and it comes from within, it lies in the way we relate to each other, it lies is in doing the right thing, it stems from the courage of standing up against what is wrong. If people see themselves personally responsible for improving the world and their lives things can change. We all know deep inside what is wrong and it is within our reach to change them. This is not about a takeover revolution with parties, armies and new leaders but about an enormous pressure on the institutions where we work, on the organizations who make products that are vital for us, on what the state gives back to us as tax payers and on the way we relate to each other. This is about ending the “us and them” stalemate, a macro revolution based on an infinitude of micro revolutions.