For certain no man has suffered more outrageous libels and debasement of his record than the unfortunate Karl Marx. The article that appears in your current pages under the authorship of a certain Paul Craig Roberts demonstrates that this elegant figurine, despite his many impressive accomplishments, has never read, or if he did, thereafter remember, a single word wrtten by the feisty old Prussian. This regrettably is a rather common trait of a certain brand of American intellectual indulging in bogus and partisan scholarship on this so frequently distorted topic.
Those of us who have actually read Marx understand that he neither prophesied nor agitated for any kind of violence as a correctional instrument. He devoted his entire life to the analytical dissection of capitalism, as a social scientist and economic philosopher. We see all too clearly the accuracy of his conclusions presently laid bare before us.
What is extremely difficult for any American audience is to understand or recognise is the significance of the class basis of Marx’s work. Yet, if there was any more glaring example of class distortion, then it is to be found in American society today. Thanks to the ruthless pursuit of wild untamed capitalism by a small elite class of aristocratic Aztecs, composed of the super rich, corrupt and debased public representatives, a military caste devoted to perpetual war and the fascist corporatism practised by Wall Street, has siezed control of an American republic wherein a fifth of the population now requires food stamps to survive on a daily basis.
Yet, the commander in chief of the hour will reward these inequalities by expanding tax breaks for the grotesquely already-wealthy. This represents a massive transfer of wealth from the less well rewarded layers of society to the splendidly comfortable upper crust. Let us call this deviant adaptation of American free enterprise ‘Marxism in reverse.’ It is no surprise therefore that the American middle classes, crushed in the vice of inequalities, their jobs shipped to China, their families prey to the Invasion of the House Snatchers, are reduced to an endangered species milling around Wal-Mart.
If that is not a significant statement of class distortion taken to extremes, then what exactly is?
Marx, were he around today, would recognise Mr Roberts as a member of that specialised and well-upholstered class that performs no measurable productive work for the benefit of society, aside from enjoying a comfortable apartment in the ivory towers of academia. He would also recognise that America is indeed a standing testament to his forewarnings that the continual and accelerating cycle of ruptures in the fabric of capitalism would, in all probability, lead to terminal catastrophe, probably related in some manner to globalism. Contrary to the simplistic Disney-like parody of Marxist logic which comes from the keyboard of Paul Craig Roberts, Marx steered firmly away from either utopianism or preaching class warfare.
Rather, he anticipated that the productive classes, which would not include the non-productive petite bourgoisie, would organically re-structure and re-organise society founded on sustainable models of economic management, which would need to recognise nonetheless, as Marx constantly stressed, the necessity to respect the importance of the markets in managing supply and demand. Because Marx died before his endeavours were completed, he left no clear picture as to how society might achieve this fantastic transformation on a lasting basis. And so perfectly obviously, neither he did he instruct the ‘workers’ to seek satisfaction by violent adjustment of the system. To imply he would have basked in the blood of the Romanovs is to indulge in a gross intellectual equivalent of blasphemy. The exhortation in the Manifesto, the famous one concerning the proletariat having nothing to lose but their chains, upon which Mr Roberts so obviously leans to support his distortions of Marx’s legacy, belonged firmly in the context of that great shower of sparks called the 1848 Springtime of the Nations.
It applied to everyone in those times who felt themselves enslaved and enchained by inequality and the political systems which ignored their concerns. Among these restless masses, Marxists represented a very tiny sample.
It is certainly correct that Marx certainly framed all of his work in a revolutionary context. Today, the word ‘revolution’ has been allowed to form in the American consciousness as something which is indistinct from the excesses of such figures as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Of course this is a gross simplification and an absurdity since America herself was forged by revolution. The United Kingdom, my home country, has serial experience in the revolutionary trade. One famous usurper and regicide, Oliver Cromwell, is exonerated as a national hero who sits astride a handsome equestrian memorial outside Parliament. Nearer to present times, the fall of debased communism in 1989 was fully recognised in the context to which it belonged, namely popular revolution.
Paul Craig Roberts bewails correctly I think that little of constructive substance is likely to change in the near future as a result of the revolt in Egypt (or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter). Beyond that his analysis is wrong, because he is unwilling to recognise the class dimension as the ultimately decisive factor. Yet the probability, or even certainty, is that this self same class dimension is about to assume a decisive influence over the future of the United States. Wisconsin may not be America’s Egypt in the making — but California certainly is.
Paul Craig Roberts’ Reply
Not only have I read Marx, but I wrote the definitive work on Marx’s analysis, Marx’s Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis, published in 1973 and republished in 1983. A Spanish language edition was published in 1974. Mr. Cottrell would benefit from reading my book.
To be brief, Marx’s materialist explanation of history eliminates good will as a basis for relations among men and for reforms. Class conflicts are resolved by violence, which Marx’s analysis leaves as the only effective force in history.
Lenin took the implication a step further: violence resolves conflicts between the party and the people. Stalin took the implications another step: violence is what resolves differences between Party and its members.
My book ended for all time the uninformed and idealistic thinking that Marx is a humanist.
Paul Craig Roberts