An anarchist defense of Karl Marx

Karl Marx

Black Sun Gazette

Karl Marx has received a bum rap. Some see him as the godfather of the modern revolutionary movement while others see him as the architect of Stalin’s gulags. I’m in the former camp rather than the latter. This is not to say his he is infallible, his texts are sacred, or his supporters haven’t committed any errors. In fact I think that last point is the cause of most of the controversy. Few people have bothered to read his works and instead point to the horrors committed by his followers mainly Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Well yeah, things did get a teensy bit excessive there, didn’t they? Marxism now just seems so calcified, with much consulting of the sacred texts to determine the Real Meaning and then presumably a course of action. Assuming of course that you don’t spend your time purging members or having vicious feuds with other Marxist grouplets whose views differ from yours by a few millimeters. (Yes, I have been there.)

Our times are very different from when Marx wrote and organized. Back then class structures were obvious and clear – factory workers and factory owners. But class distinctions are much more muddled now. Yet many Marxists still insist the revolution must come from organized labor. So they focus on that and don’t even see other possibilities. Look, organized labor is dwindling in power and is sometimes as corrupt as management. Waiting for the revolution to ignite there is pointless. Instead, look around. Lots of people now are getting increasingly angry at the bankers and at the government for not reigning them in. This populist uprising is just waiting to be organized. But Marxists mostly are ignoring (if not openly contemptuous of) it while waiting for the Real Upsurge to come from organized labor. Why do they believe it must happen this way? Because the sacred texts say so, that’s why.

Also, that whole dictatorship of the proletariat thing? Toss it out the window. Theoretically it is supposed to be a dictatorship of the workers against the bourgeoisie who have just been forced out of power. Then it will wither away, and will never be used against the workers themselves. But things just didn’t quite turn out that way. A few grabbed power, became entrenched, then killed and maimed whoever opposed them. Obviously such a dictatorship will never wither away willingly. It is a huge and gaping error in Marxist thought to think otherwise.

Take a look at the works of the man himself and maybe of the council communists like Rosa Luxemburg. If he has any good ideas use them and throw the rest in the dustbin of history. His ultimate idea of a classless and stateless society still resonates with me. Remember we have nothing to lose but our chains and a whole world to gain.

“I am not a Marxist” — Karl Marx

  • With no gods, no masters it is also a given–no sacred texts. Use history to help analysis but see the problems in their present context. Those who are dead can’t give the answers to the problems of today, it has to those involved that come up with the answers. It is a fast ever changing world, likewise the problems that it throws up.

  • Glad you liked at least part of the article. The problem I have with many Marxists is they are either too dogmatic or are stuck trying to pound square pegs in round holes. Even Marx wasn’t so dogmatic. People mistake class for a caste system. Our class system in this country is getting pretty abysmal – growing gap between rich and poor – but there is some movement. It’s just much easier to fall down the ladder than climb up. In previous articles I said we should worker harder to reach out to the bottom half of the lower class (the unemployed, the underemployed, welfare recipients) as well as the lower middle class (the freelancer, family farmer, small business). The problem with populist rage is the rage is real but the solutions are difficult and they easily buy into demagouges offering scapegoats for their rage – immigrants, blacks, foreigners, welfare queens. They may chant about the evils of government and big business, but big business is bankrolling them to attack business regulation by the state. At the same time their lobbyist have gutted reforms from within – healthcare anyone? How about an insurance bailout! The problem is the system the wealthy want to stay that way and the state wants to maintain the status quo. Some Marxists may have narrow views of what defines the working class but I as anarchist do not. The other problem in this country is every body thinks they’re middle class! It doesn’t matter if your at the yacht club or the trailer park we are somehow the great American middle class. The liberals or progressives or what ever the “responsible” left wants to call itself needs to lose their illusions too. It doesn’t matter how many democrats you elect to the senate, or how liberal they claim to be on the campaign trail once they are in office the quickly become shills for corporate America. Democrats your grand coalition fell apart in the 60s, and since the 90’s you’ve become corporate America’s 2nd favorite party under Clinton. The whole system needs to be reworked. Stop banging your head against the wall and expecting different results. Come join us in building a newer, freer, more just society.

    • Populism doesn’t have to tilt in the wrong directions. The populist revolt of the 1890’s was solid, got some needed changes done, made important political points, and at its peak controlled state legislatures and had a Senator (and then got backstabbed by the Democrats.)

      Populism is American. Unlike socialism here, you don’t have to explain it or face hostility. People know what you are talking about. So, I say, start where the behavior is at, where people are, and that’s an increasing populist sensibility. Organize from there.

      • I like debating with you. There are times that lead to change with populist & socialist groups – Greenbacks & SLP – William Jennings Bryan, Progressives & SPA – Bob La Follette, Labor Party & CPA – Vito Marcantonio. But their is also a dark side of populism George Wallace, David Duke, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan. The problem as I see it is the first group starts demanding change and ends up getting absorbed by and establishment party and their message and “change” gets watered down. The second force has popular sentiments too but brings out the worst in society and often gets courted by the establisment, absorbed, watered down and use to cement the status quo or even take a few steps backwards.

        • Absolutely, populism can degenerate into nasty, racist, zenophobia. But it doesn’t have to, and if the left is engaged with populists rather than mocking them, maybe we can tilt them our way.

          Trying to explain socialism to most here in the States can take a long time and you may have to get past lots of hostility. Populism doesn’t. People here understand it.

    • DJ

      Part of the problem in analyzing class in the U.S. is that on the global scale, we’re almost all royalty. Even the family in the trailer park looks like royalty to the family living in a 3-room mud hut, or an apartment with 20 roommates. Our “lower class” has electricity and telephones (both subsidized by the state!), heat, computers, education, automobiles, running water, hot showers, refrigeration, civil rights, and (usually) plenty of food. It may not be the lifestyle some would choose, but it’s a huge step up for about 3/4 of the world.

      That means the world’s proletariat would need to overthrow US!

      As for corporatism, we can make it irrelevent. Wall Street is only important because they’ve made us believe it’s important. It’s the biggest con job since the invention of Satan. In fact, it is possible to make the entire federal government irrelevent by creating a community-based system of our own. Enough communities can take back a state legislature…

      • The populists did just that in the 1890’s, at least for a while.

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