This post may be taken as a follow-up to its direct predecessor.
The hippest reading material you could possibly thrust before your eyeballs right now is this piece by Dakinikat of Skydancing
, on the modern economy's macabre insistence on fulfilling the predictions of Marx. Simultaneously, the Tea Partiers and many conservative writers insist that Marxism is on the rise (a laughable proposition) and that all liberals, such as yours truly, are not-so-secret Marxists (another laughable proposition). According to the current crop of right-wingers, if you ain't enamored with Ayn, you must be crazy for Karl; there simply ain't
no Mr. In-Between.
In short and in sum: Marxism is on the table again, and the far right is placing it there. They place it there whenever the one percenters get up to appalling antics that make Marx look like a prophet. And they place it there whenever their libertarian apologists insist on making Marx the new bogeyman.
The problem with bogeymen is that a myth can become real if you treat
it as real.
I know that any teapartiers stumbling onto this blog will presume that I myself must be a secret bolshie in liberal sheepskin. But honest-ta-gawd, I think Marx offers no solutions to our present problems. Too much has changed since the 19th century. I don't recommend Marx for the same reason I would not recommend reading a chemistry textbook published in 1860.
Beyond that, I don't want to see his works become the hot new topic of debate because they're just plain hard to read and I'd rather eat glue than crack open those books again. Perhaps it is wrong to focus on matters of literary style, but let's admit an important truth: Marx exemplifies everything wrong with German academic writing. All of those unending sentences that go on for page after page with nary an active verb in sight! All of those endless otiose debates with other writers of his time who are now (deservedly) forgotten!
The only bits of Marx that everyone knows are the opening and closing of The Communist Manifesto
. Why? Because on those occasions, he actually managed to compose direct, comprehensible statements. "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.
They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!"
You may hate the sentiment, but in terms of style, that's
how to write.
Here's Dakinikat on the modern misuse of the Marxist bogeyman:
We have many anti intellectual red-baiters these days. There’s “Rush Limbaugh accusing Pope Francis of promoting “pure Marxism” to a Washington Times writer claiming that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is an “unrepentant Marxist”.” The problem is that very few people really understand the Marxist critiques and study of capitalism let alone those of Lenin and the early Bolsheviks. I was also surprised to see this headline as obit in The Economist :Bolshie with a banjo. For some, the paranoia never ends when the rich feel threatened.
So, this is my my hypothesis. We’ve suddenly seen an increase in discussions about income inequality and how billionaires and huge corporations have gotten huge subsidies, tax breaks, and political power. Is what we’re seeing basically a red scare made so that we’ll back off their over the top rent seeking and greed?
Yep. When 85 people own half of everything, the only way to keep the pillage going is to convince the populace that the only conceivable alternative involves gulags.
And so we're back to where we were a hundred years ago, with Marx providing a more-or-less accurate diagnosis of what ails us, but failing utterly to come up with an effective cure.
As indicated above, I read me some Marx and Engels, back inna day. As a 20-something, I must have had some sort of natural Adderall coursing through my veins.
Both M and E were at their best when discussing the exploitation of the working class. If ever you want to tackle Capital
, take the author's advice and start with Chapter 10, "The Working Day."
Better still, head on over to Casa Engels and grab The Condition of the Working Class in England
, which now looks less like a history text and more like a vision of our potential future
. Such works give you insight into what went wrong then, what is
wrong now, and even why things always tend to go wrong.
But when it comes to the all-important question of (you should pardon the expression) "What is to be done?", the works of Marx and Engels are the biggest failures in history -- idealistic, ill-considered, and so vague as to leave room for much mischief.
Keynes provided a workable answer. Some say that he did no more than to provide a patch which allowed the engine of capitalism to keep running. Fair enough -- but sometimes a good patch is all you need.
Nowadays, alas, Keynesianism is considered an even dirtier word than Marxism. Obama's primary historical function has been to convince that public that Keynesian solutions have been tried and have failed. In fact, he never made the attempt.
And so...what now
It's time, once again, for some truly original thinking. And by original, I mean original
. We need a thought so new, it hits the back of your skull like a whiff of pure ammonia. What is to be done?