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