Mmegi Blogs :: Remembering Karl Marx
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Friday 14 December 2018, 17:40 pm.
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Remembering Karl Marx

Since my secondary days, educators and philosophers who subscribe to the Marxist–Leninist school of thought, had always inspired me. Marxist educators whom I went through their hands in academics like the late Dr Elmon Tafa, who was affectionately known as Comrade Moore, have really influenced my love for Marxism or the emancipatory politics of the left in general.
By Solly Rakgomo Fri 11 May 2018, 15:00 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Remembering Karl Marx








This past week, leftists all over the globe commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, the grandfather of leftist politics that have influenced political and academic debates for more than 100 years. I fondly remember in one of his writings when he said, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

In this week’s piece that celebrates the 200 th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, I will focus on Marx as a political activist, rather than what he is best known for, an economist and philosopher who wrote some of the most important analyses explaining capitalism and putting forward an alternative economic model. In the “Communist Manifesto”, Marx wrote, “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” This sentiment shows explicitly that Marx believed that political change stems from the history of conflicts between people who are exploited against the people who are exploiting them. This exploitation leads to conflict and revolt. Marx posited revolution as “the driving force of history.” The root of the political struggle for Marx was the economic system creating a struggle between classes. This conflict has varied throughout history, e.g. the serfs vs. the lords in the Feudal Era, the slaves vs. their owners in the era of slavery and today between workers and their bosses or capitalists.

Another neo Marxian scholar, Emmanuel Wallerstein described Marx’s political activism, noting: “For all his life, Marx was not merely a scholar isolated among the books of London’s British Museum, but always a militant revolutionary involved in the struggles of his epoch. Due to his activism, he was expelled from France, Belgium and Germany in his youth. He was also forced to go into exile in England when the revolutions of 1848 were defeated”.

Wallerstein adds that Marx played a major role in organising people on an international level and that “Marx’s political activity also involved journalism and was always a committed journalist.”

 Other scholars like Reese and Margaret Flowers state that at 24 years of age, Marx was writing fiery articles opposing Prussian authoritarianism. The newspaper he edited was closed in 1842 by the government; he was exiled and moved to Paris from where he was expelled in 1844. In 1848, Marx and Engels published the “Communist Manifesto.” 

“The Manifesto” was written as a declaration of the principles of socialism for the Communist League in Brussels. It remains a statement of the core principles of socialism to this day. At 45 years of age, Marx was elected to the general council of the first international where he was active in organising the International’s annual congresses. Marx’s vision of socialism had nothing in common with one-party dictatorships that declared themselves to be socialist or communist. For Marx, the key question was not whether the economy was controlled by the State, but which class controlled the State. A society can only be socialist if power is in the hands of

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workers themselves. Marx’s critique of capitalism focuses on how it inevitably leads to concentration of wealth. Marxism was wrongly seen as extinct after the Reagan-Thatcher eras and the end of the Soviet Union. But, now  after nearly 40 years of neoliberalism, the inequality of deregulated global capitalism has made the occupy meme of the 99%  versus the one percent a factual reality.

Reese posits that unsurprisingly, several decades of neoliberalism have been the greatest testament to how a deregulated capitalism, red in tooth and claw, siphons wealth to the top one percent or even 0.1 percent. The contradiction between extreme wealth and widespread poverty and economic insecurity, between the efficient production of goods and services and the refusal to share the prosperity created by efficiency, and between the use of natural resources and the destruction of the planet and enormous threats of climate change are leading people to see the failures of capitalism.

In 2014, David Harvey, a top Marxist academic, wrote, that the extreme contradictions are leading to major transformations: “It is in a political climate such as this that the violent and unpredictable eruptions that are occurring all around the world on an episodic basis (from Turkey and Egypt to Brazil and Sweden in 2013 alone) look more and more like the prior tremors for a coming earthquake that will make the post-colonial revolutionary struggles of the 1960s look like child’s play.”

One might ask on how that change will occur. The answer is in part up to what those working for change do.  Youssef El-Gingihy attempts to offer one likely possibility: “The transition of capitalism to an alternative political and economic system will likely play out over a protracted period, even if it is catalysed by revolution. Much in the same way that feudalism evolved into capitalism through the dual industrial (economic) and French revolutions (political), in which the bourgeoisie superseded the aristocratic order preceded by the 17 th-century English civil war.”

Today see the slow transition in process with the development of a myriad of economic democracy projects that give workers control of their employment through worker cooperatives, give communities control over their development through land trusts, give people direct control over budget decisions through participatory budgeting and democratize banking through public banks. These are some efforts to  create an economy that serves the people without limiting control to workers, whose numbers are shrinking due to automation. Many of these new economic models are in their early stages of development.

Marx believed that: “No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.” The lessons of Karl Marx show that our tasks are to heighten class conflict by exposing the reality of abhorrent inequality and create new systems to replace this failing capitalist system.

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