Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Marxism Making A Comeback?

It has no chance in America, but might it still influence world politics?
    Today, 164 years after Marx and Engels wrote about grave-diggers, the truth is almost the exact opposite. The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, are keeping it on life support. Overworked, underpaid workers ostensibly liberated by the largest socialist revolution in history (China's) are driven to the brink of suicide to keep those in the west playing with their iPads. Chinese money bankrolls an otherwise bankrupt America.

    The irony is scarcely wasted on leading Marxist thinkers. "The domination of capitalism globally depends today on the existence of a Chinese Communist party that gives de-localised capitalist enterprises cheap labour to lower prices and deprive workers of the rights of self-organisation," says Jacques Rancière, the French marxist thinker and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris VIII. "Happily, it is possible to hope for a world less absurd and more just than today's."


"It's an open class war," he says. "Working-class people are going to be worse off in 2016 than they were at the start of the century. But you're accused of being a class warrior if you stand up for 30% of the population who suffers this way."

This chimes with something Rancière told me. The professor argued that "one thing about Marxist thought that remains solid is class struggle. The disappearance of our factories, that's to say de-industrialisation of our countries and the outsourcing of industrial work to the countries where labour is less expensive and more docile, what else is this other than an act in the class struggle by the ruling bourgeoisie?"

There's another reason why Marxism has something to teach us as we struggle through economic depression, other than its analysis of class struggle. It is in its analysis of economic crisis.


    That's the fear: that these nasty old left farts such as Žižek, Badiou, Rancière and Eagleton will corrupt the minds of innocent youth. But does reading Marx and Engels's critique of capitalism mean that you thereby take on a worldview responsible for more deaths than the Nazis? Surely there is no straight line from The Communist Manifesto to the gulags, and no reason why young lefties need uncritically to adopt Badiou at his most chilling. In his introduction to a new edition of The Communist Manifesto, Professor Eric Hobsbawm suggests that Marx was right to argue that the "contradictions of a market system based on no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment', a system of exploitation and of 'endless accumulation' can never be overcome: that at some point in a series of transformations and restructurings the development of this essentially destabilising system will lead to a state of affairs that can no longer be described as capitalism".

    That is post-capitalist society as dreamed of by Marxists. But what would it be like? "It is extremely unlikely that such a 'post-capitalist society' would respond to the traditional models of socialism and still less to the 'really existing' socialisms of the Soviet era," argues Hobsbawm, adding that it will, however, necessarily involve a shift from private appropriation to social management on a global scale. "What forms it might take and how far it would embody the humanist values of Marx's and Engels's communism, would depend on the political action through which this change came about."
Why Marxism Is On The Rise Again (The Guardian)

One thing seems to being borne out: the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

Here's a good comment:

Marxism is on the rise again simply owing to the fact that capitalism has transmogrified into something unqualifiedly sinister, frightening and odious, threatening to undo much of the social progress made in the 20th century. 

Capitalism was allowed to run wild and the so-called 'capitalists', 'wealth-creators' and 'job creators' were allowed to do whatever they like by politicians who'd been bought wholesale. Private loses got socialised and the tax payer was left holding the baby, and said politicians started blaming the very public they're elected to serve for the private sector's misdeeds and blunders, what with 'living beyond our means', being one of the most commonly trotted out lies. Inequality has risen to such horrific levels it beggars description, and while the majority struggle to keep their heads above water, for the capitalists, it's business as usual.

Marxism is on the rise because capitalism as it is being practised today has visited untold misery on millions. Many of the older, more jaded folk tend to view this resurrection of what they see as a moribund alternative with scepticism, as evidenced by their view of the Occupiers as misguided, clueless layabouts, or the French as simplistic fools for having elected Hollande, but if the status quo doesn't change soon enough, it's going to birth a large class of unemployed, depressed, disenchanted underclass, who'll have nothing to lose. And we do know what happens when a large section of the society have neither any stake in the society nor anything to lose...
Of course critics will ignore the fact that capitalism is becoming every bit as authoritarian as communism was, and for the same reasons - the system is working only for the elites.

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