Guest Post: Is Marxism Coming Back?

Tyler Durden's picture

 

Submitted by John Aziz of Azizonomics

Is Marxism Coming Back?

It is true that as the financial and economic crises roll on, as more and more disasters accumulate, as more people are thrown into unemployment and suffering that more and more of us will question the fundamentals of our economic system. It is inevitable that many will be drawn to some of the criticisms of capitalism, including Marxism.

The Guardian today published a salutary overview of this revival:

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.”

Marxism is a strange thing; it provides a clean and straightforward narrative of history, one that irons out detail and complication. It provides a simplistic “us versus them” narrative of the present. And it provides a relatively utopian narrative of the future; that the working classes united will overthrow capitalism and establish a state run by and for the working classes.

Trouble is, history is vastly more complicated than the teleological narrative provided by dialectical materialism. The economic and social reality of the present is vastly more complicated than Marx’s linear and binary classifications. And the future that Marx predicted never came to fruit; his 19th Century ideas turned into a 20th Century reality of mass starvation, failed central planning experiments, and millions of deaths.

Certainly, the system we have today is unsustainable. The state-supported financial institutions, and the corporations that have grown up around them do not live because of their own genius, their own productivity or innovation. They exist on state largesse — money printing, subsidies, limited liability, favourable regulation, barriers to entry. Every blowup and scandal — from the LIBOR-rigging, to the London Whale, to the bungled trades that destroyed MF Global — illustrates the incompetence and failure that that dependency has allowed to flourish.

The chief problem that Marxists face is their misidentification of the present economic system as free market capitalism. How can we meaningfully call a system where the price of money is controlled by the state a free market? How can we meaningfully call a system where financial institutions are routinely bailed out a free market? How can we meaningfully call a system where upwards of 40% of GDP is spent by the state a free market? How can we call a system where the market trades the possibility of state intervention rather than underlying fundamentals a free market?

Today we do not have a market economy; we have a corporate economy.

As Saifedean Ammous and Edmund Phelps note:

The term “capitalism” used to mean an economic system in which capital was privately owned and traded; owners of capital got to judge how best to use it, and could draw on the foresight and creative ideas of entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. This system of individual freedom and individual responsibility gave little scope for government to influence economic decision-making: success meant profits; failure meant losses. Corporations could exist only as long as free individuals willingly purchased their goods – and would go out of business quickly otherwise.

 

Capitalism became a world-beater in the 1800’s, when it developed capabilities for endemic innovation. Societies that adopted the capitalist system gained unrivaled prosperity, enjoyed widespread job satisfaction, obtained productivity growth that was the marvel of the world and ended mass privation.

 

Now the capitalist system has been corrupted. The managerial state has assumed responsibility for looking after everything from the incomes of the middle class to the profitability of large corporations to industrial advancement. This system, however, is not capitalism, but rather an economic order that harks back to Bismarck in the late nineteenth century and Mussolini in the twentieth: corporatism.

The system of corporatism we have today has far more akin with Marxism and “social management” than Marxists might like to admit. Both corporatism and Marxism are forms of central economic control; the only difference is that under Marxism, the allocation of capital is controlled by the state bureaucracy-technocracy, while under corporatism the allocation of capital is undertaken by the state apparatus in concert with large financial and corporate interests. The corporations accumulate power from the legal protections afforded to them by the state (limited liability, corporate subsidies, bailouts), and politicians can win re-election showered by corporate money.

The fundamental choice that we face today is between economic freedom and central economic planning. The first offers individuals, nations and the world a complex, multi-dimensional allocation of resources, labour and capital undertaken as the sum of human preferences expressed voluntarily through the market mechanism. The second offers allocation of resources, labour and capital by the elite — bureaucrats, technocrats and special interests. The first is not without corruption and fallout, but its various imperfect incarnations have created boundless prosperity, productivity and growth. Incarnations of the second have led to the deaths by starvation of millions first in Soviet Russia, then in Maoist China.

Marxists like to pretend that the bureaucratic-technocratic allocation of capital, labour and resources is somehow more democratic, and somehow more attuned to the interests of society than the market. But what can be more democratic and expressive than a market system that allows each and every individual to allocate his or her capital, labour, resources and productivity based on his or her own internal preferences? And what can be less democratic than the organisation of society and the allocation of capital undertaken through the mechanisms of distant bureaucracy and forced planning? What is less democratic than telling the broad population that rather than living their lives according to their own will, their own traditions and their own economic interests that they should instead follow the inclinations and orders of a distant bureaucratic-technocratic elite?

I’m not sure that Marxists have ever understood capitalism; Das Kapital is a mammoth work concentrating on many facets of 19th Century industrial and economic development, but it tends to focus in on obscure minutiae without ever really considering the coherent whole. If Marxists had ever come close to grasping the broader mechanisms of capitalism — and if they truly cared about democracy — they would have been far less likely to promulgate a system based on dictatorial central planning.

Nonetheless, as the financial system and the financial oligarchy continue to blunder from crisis to crisis, more and more people will surely become entangled in the seductive narratives of Marxism. More and more people may come to blame markets and freedom for the problems of corporatism and statism. This is deeply ironic — the Marxist tendency toward central planning and control exerts a far greater influence on the policymakers of today than the Hayekian or Smithian tendency toward decentralisation and economic freedom.

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economics9698's picture

Marxism appeals to all the lazy fucks that don’t want to work and are willing to kill other people to get out of working for a living.  Usually the under 100 IQ class but also lots of appeal to the over 130 IQ crowd who think other people should give them all their wealth.

jus_lite_reading's picture

Amerikkka is being decimated by Marxism and Fascism. Read my post about MonSatan and the corruption they are pulling off right in front of your eyes! THIS SHIT HAS GOT TO END!!

Precious's picture

Yes.  Marx went to hell, and the devil said "There is a God, so get your ass back out there and finish the job."

Nothing To See Here's picture

After socialism was defeated both on scientific grounds and on empirical grounds, all socialists turned to fascism in a way or another. Fascism is much more insidious and is winning. It already has the support of socialists, and is winning over lots of non-socialists only because it promises so much stuff without the responsibilities, and still gives the illusion that people can get rich. The 'right people', that is...

economics9698's picture

The main economic problem with Marxism is the whole theory is based on the trading of one unit of capital for one unit of labor.  Any poor slop on ZHers will tell you the trade off have an infinite amount of possibilities depending on the industry, economy, country, even the local store. 

Just another “economist” who never had a clue about economics.  He belongs with Keynes, Samuelson, Krugman, and all the other crackpot “economists” who are clueless.

francis_sawyer's picture

sooner or later you run out of other peoples money to spend... (even & especially as it applies to future generations of other peoples money)...

12ToothAssassin's picture

If it means rocking mega awesome facial hair then I for one welcome our new Marxist overlords!!

nmewn's picture

I dunno, Marx always reminded me of a baboon with that beard.

Odd fact of the day (well, not so odd at all) Engels was Marx's financial backer. Marx and his family lived in poverty relying on the charity of others as he "worked" on his lunacy.

However, Engels didn't trust Marx with money. He used to cut pound notes in half and send them separately to Marx & his family.

At the core of the Engels-Marx financial relationship, was the understanding of a monetary rationng to a spendthrift welfare client.

How odd is that? ;-)

Nothing To See Here's picture

Marx wasnt dumb. He wrote at a time where all workers were living in poor conditions, working 80 hours a weak for little until they broke their body. He failed to see long term, just as most human beings fail to see above their lifespan. So he did not recognize that this was a necessary step towards greater prosperity for the masses. He saw a relationship between production and exploitation/poverty, instead of production being the source of wealth. He gave words to what most people feel.

Capitalism is hard to grasp. It requires to have faith in the unknown, to have a long term vision, and to accept that we cannot understand nor agree with all its processes. I don't think it stands any chance against the hopium-fueled short-term hope offered by central planning.

economics9698's picture

I am sure his IQ was over 130 but as history shows the most intelligent people in the universe can be completely and totally clueless about the world in which they live in. 

It must suck to have a 130 IQ and have the emotional capacity of a 4th grader.  The times they are a changing. 

Nothing To See Here's picture

We can agree on that, but I fail to share your apparent obsession with IQs...

economics9698's picture

It’s my attempt to be politically correct.  I am really, really, trying to be sensitive.

SAT 800's picture

Well, cheer up bunky; you'll never have to face the "problem" of having an IQ of 130.

economics9698's picture

I bet your boyfriend ask "is it in" every time your intimate.

Spastica Rex's picture

Faith is a required component of capitalism. Well put. I'll go say a prayer to the Most Holy Invisible Hand.

Nothing To See Here's picture

Hello rational socialist. And while you're at it, don't forget to also say a prayer for Mother Nature and her mystical ability to self-organize.

Spastica Rex's picture

So many gods to pray to. I just don't see how anyone has the time to hit them all. Enjoy yours.

Flakmeister's picture

\hattip

This might be one of the pithiest posts ever on the Hedge....

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

At some point society demands justice.  And contrary to what a few people think, new laws won't be needed at all.  Our society hasn't failed due to too few laws, it has failed because of selective enforcement of those laws, two sets of rules, depending on how many lawyers you can or cannot afford.

One new law I would like to see though, is the banning of usury (aka Compound INTEREST).  Simple interest is fine, it can be understood by a large % of the populace, but compound interest just seems to be the bane of humanity, and beyond the reckoning of the average man (esp. politicians, it would seem).

economics9698's picture

Having banks issue currency backed by 100% gold is how you solve the banksters rip of scam.

GeneMarchbanks's picture

So placing fraudulently induced already existing debt onto an inanimate mineral, thereby increasing its 'price', is the solution?

That sounds like justice. You must be, like, grieved at hubris and criminality of those 'banksters'.

 

economics9698's picture

Backed by 100% gold means the end of fractional reserve banking and the monetary expansion of credit.  Banks issuing their own currency means an end to the banking cartel reinforced by central banks.  Banks issuing their own currency also eliminates the government expansion of currency and credit.

Trust me it worked in the past and would work even better today.

SAT 800's picture

People who have simple minds live in simple worlds where there are only simple answers.

ChubbNut's picture

Compound interest is easy to explain and understand....so I don't know what you are talking about.

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

For you and me, yes.  But a look at credit card debt statistics indicates its not the case for the general populace.   The Rule of 72 has made some people rich, and A LOT of people bankrupt.  There's a reason usury was illegal in the Middle Ages.

diesheepledie's picture

THe bleating sheep who runs up all his credit cards, then takes out a 2nd mortgage on his house to buy a new boat, goes bankrupt, and then complains about how the banks screwed him with "complicated things" like compound interest NEEDS TO DIE!!!

Or better, bleed them and make them into slaves until they kill themselves. I don't see why the thinking human beings should not be allowed to exploit those who would otherwise die through natural selection. Harvesting moron orc sheep (a.k.a banking) is an old an noble profession.

GoinFawr's picture

+1 for wearing your soul on your face.

BoNeSxxx's picture

This is all planned.  The Club of Rome, Tri-Lateral Commission, Milner Group, Council on Foreign Relations, Royal Institute of international Affairs, etc... are all Marxist to the core.  An Elite on top and a iron control grid below.  Fold in control of the planet's natural resources, and you have 'everything according to plan'.

Ignore this fact at your peril.

Flakmeister's picture

You would not know a Marxist if he was skull-fucking you....

Based on your avatar, you strapped that collander on your head for too long....

BoNeSxxx's picture

And where do you happen upon this opinion dear sir?  Since I offered absolutely NO editorial on Marxism per se, it is most difficult (if not impossible) to glean my understanding (or lack thereof) of same. SO... please entertain us all with some more parlor tricks of mind reading and other vulgar amusements.

 

Meanwhile, please leave the discussion at hand to the adults.

 

Should you care to take a stab at contradicting me, I suggest you stick to my point, which is (for the hard of thinking): the banking-controlled and financed power circles of NY and London have throughout history embraced Marxism (PER SE) and have made no secret that a blend of the Soviet and American system would be ideal.  Some may call it a Fascist Kleptocracy... I say Tomato you say Tomatoe.  You're still a troll.

Flakmeister's picture

You accused the Cliub of Rome of being Marxist....this statement demonstrates that you do not have clue what you are talking about....

Whatever CoR is, it is not Marxist...

I think you should look up the difference between Statist, Marxist and Fascist...  You might learn something...

I think you are rightfully angry, but your indiscriminate use of word salad only announces that you are easy prey for the propangandists and the people really manipulating the system,,,

Oh, you really do need to loosen the chin straps...

 

BoNeSxxx's picture

http://clubofrome.org/cms/?p=2118

 

See #3.  From there, you can do your own digging (for knowlege, not a bigger hole for yourself to crawl into).  

 

And, to be fair, you have a valid point in that (like everytthing else), the string pullers have subverted classic Marxism to serve their own ends.  So to keep the peace, I will re-phrase my assertion thusly:  "Although not classic Marxists, the string pullers are big fans of Carl Marx"

 

Better?

Flakmeister's picture

Re: #3  You really don't understand what Marxism is, do you?

Or for the at matter,  any awareness of the correlation between GINI ratios and human exploitation and/or violent social upheaval....

You get the last word....

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Clearly you've never heard of Cultural Marxism. That is the state-of-the-art delivery system for Marxism in modern society. The Club of Rome's approach is consistent with Cultural Marxist theory. You might want to educate yourself before casting aspersion on others.

Flakmeister's picture

So that is what narcissist Libertarians refer to empathy, altruism and a respect for the limitiations of this planet as.....

prole's picture

Ah so now I understand comrade! Your god Stalin killed millions of Ukrainian Christians out of "empathy, altruism and a respect for the limitations of this planet!"

Next lesson: "The compassionate leader of the century: Pol Pot"

Flakmeister's picture

See my comment below about "naive and/or brainwashed".... Get back to us when you figure out which one you belong to...

prole's picture

Why would I check out any of your comments? I have yet to see a single comment by you with any meaning or point whatsoever except to defend Communism as an ideal, and Marx as some kind of pure philosopher.

He, along with Lenin, was a bloodthirsty monster who wrecked Russia and half of Europe for the better part of the last century. Actually what he did was probably fatal to Europe and European culture. I salute your victory comrade, you have eradicated my people from the face of the Earth!

 

Flakmeister's picture

Ah... the asshat speaketh...

I'll defend Marx's critique of capitalism. Commumism is clearly a dead end..An idealized socio-economic system based in as much reality as the Liberation wishful thinking that passes as gospel here...I find the irony delicious, the two extremes that both deny basic human nature...

Marx was dead in 1883, I think you need a history lesson. Wrecked Russia? Russia was a disaster waiting to happen, the fact that Lenin, Trotsky et al. took over so easily should give you an idea of how fucked it was....

And if you do think people were killed in the name of Karl Marx and that is a sin to be laid at his feet, you should add Jesus to the list of your bloodthirsty ideologues...

Keep posting, everytime you do, you display a more broad ignorance of history than the last....I'm curious to see how far you can go...

 

nmewn's picture

The communists/socialists/fascists are still trying to get it down to a real science...body counts, cronyism and endless sovereign debt mean nothing to getting "their vision" just right.

Of course "the vision" sets up its own brand of super rich oligarchs and enabling politburos at the state level which never seems to deter them on their quest.

Now to inflame the passions of socialists & statists everywhere ;-)

"The one constant was Keynes' faith in the elite.

He generally believed that almost any problem could be solved by getting together young men who had been schooled at Cambridge and asking them to take over. He even wanted Cambridge men to run America, because he didn't think anyone in the U.S. was smart enough. He also didn't like Jews, the French or the working class.

Keynes wrote that these Cambridge-led government boards should do everything from running individual companies to determining how many babies should be born and, cryptically, of what quality. Keynes was, after all, on the board of directors of the British Eugenics Society."

Now you know.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100018973

economics9698's picture

"The system of corporatism we have today has far more akin with Marxism and “social management” than Marxists might like to admit. Both corporatism and Marxism are forms of central economic control; the only difference is that under Marxism, the allocation of capital is controlled by the state bureaucracy-technocracy, while under corporatism the allocation of capital is undertaken by the state apparatus in concert with large financial and corporate interests. The corporations accumulate power from the legal protections afforded to them by the state (limited liability, corporate subsidies, bailouts), and politicians can win re-election showered by corporate money."

 

I love that quote.

James_Cole's picture

Stating the obvious to economics9698 - neither you nor Aziz have actually read Marx and I don't mean a paragraph here or there.

John "I said dialectical so I know what I'm talking about" Aziz ought to do a tiny bit of research other than copy-pasting British newspapers. Pure drivel..

Precious's picture

Easy boy. The Clozaril is right there on the shelf. 

THX 1178's picture

I agree. I mean, I'm not a fan of Marx even in the slightest-- I want free markets all the way--, and you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be voting for Ron Paul... but seriously, these guys have not read Marx. And they don't understand the situation presented by him. Marx was a fatalist, not a communist: capitalism will turn out a certain way because of how it works. I don't remember any advocation... only analysis. But maybe he was wrong.

Spastica Rex's picture

"capitalism will turn out a certain way because of how it works"

And it pretty much has.

However, Marx wasn't merely a descriptive theorist and Bakunin didn't just go his own way for shits and giggles.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

You need to get smart about Cultural Marxism. It's been the preferred delivery system for Marxist ideology since the 1950s, once it became clear that the traditional methods (Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism) were doomed to failure.

THX 1178's picture

And Marx himself had nothing to do with this. Have a nice day.

Aziz's picture

James.

I've read everything Marx has written, and most of what Lenin has written. When I was eighteen (seven years ago) I used to hang around with a lot of Marxists. 

The thing that began to put me off — and through which I began to understand why Marxism is evil — was democratic centralism. The idea that the party elite would meet, argue about policy, and then act on that policy with one front — no disagreements, no dissent, no further debate. Just dictatorship. No respect for the individual, no concept of individual freedom, or individual civil liberties, or economic freedom.

And that's the problem with Marxist politics. At it's core — even if we ignore all the Hegelian nonsense — it's about centralisation and control and force. 

francis_sawyer's picture

@Aziz

You're exactly right... Especially here "The idea that the party elite would meet, argue about policy, and then act on that policy with one front — no disagreements, no dissent, no further debate. Just dictatorship. No respect for the individual, no concept of individual freedom, or individual civil liberties, or economic freedom."

The other day I was watching a documentary on FUTURE FARMING... If anyone wants to spend an hour on it, here's the link...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhVWNwCRpKg&feature=related

The bottom line (expressed at one point in the documentary), was that MODERN FARMING works exactly in contrast to the laws of nature... That if nature were to work properly, then basically the forest would claim back all of the land and create which was actually a perfectly fertile ec0-balance...

That essentially, all modern farming techniques create DEAD SOIL (which cannot produce crops & in fact, would create DESERTIFICATION), if not primed regularly with man crafted fertilizers from fossil fuels... (But as we speak, humans manage to subsist on this inefficient system due to convenience &/oe perceived abundance or incorrect assumptions as to sustainability)...

The analogy to MARXISM is almost perfect...

 

James_Cole's picture

OK I will take you at your word that you've read Marx, then why mischaracterize him so much? 

First the most obvious: where does Marx propose the system you discuss in your comment "The thing that began to put me off — and through which I began to understand why Marxism is evil — was democratic centralism. The idea that the party elite would meet, argue about policy, and then act on that policy with one front — no disagreements, no dissent, no further debate. Just dictatorship. No respect for the individual, no concept of individual freedom, or individual civil liberties, or economic freedom."

Cite this in any Marx written piece please. 

Marx famously never proposed a specific framework, a lot of his writing was a critique of the current capitalist system and exploitation of labour. Others (after his death generally) took his ideas and used them as an excuse to implement what you write of, but clearly Marx would be strongly against this.

"It provides a simplistic “us versus them” narrative of the present."

Simply not true. 

"The chief problem that Marxists face is their misidentification of the present economic system as free market capitalism."

Clearly a straw man argument with no basis in fact. First you have a big problem right up front, what constitutes a Marxist?

From that you go to:

"How can we meaningfully call a system where the price of money is controlled by the state a free market? How can we meaningfully call a system where financial institutions are routinely bailed out a free market? How can we meaningfully call a system where upwards of 40% of GDP is spent by the state a free market? How can we call a system where the market trades the possibility of state intervention rather than underlying fundamentals a free market?"

Where in the article were any of these claims made? What "Marxists" are making these claims?

"Both corporatism and Marxism are forms of central economic control; the only difference is that under Marxism, the allocation of capital is controlled by the state bureaucracy-technocracy,"

Untrue, unless you accept a system like the USSR as someting Marx would support (and having read Marx you understand that's not possible).

"The fundamental choice that we face today is between economic freedom and central economic planning."

Nonsequitor. 

"Marxists like to pretend that the bureaucratic-technocratic allocation of capital, labour and resources is somehow more democratic, and somehow more attuned to the interests of society than the market."

Whatever "Marxists" you are imagining maybe, but not Marx. 

"Nonetheless, as the financial system and the financial oligarchy continue to blunder from crisis to crisis, more and more people will surely become entangled in the seductive narratives of Marxism."

Let us hear these seductive narratives from the mouth of Marx.