Guest Post: Is Marxism Coming Back?

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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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Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:19 | 2589651 financial apoca...
financial apocalyptic contagion's picture

what a load of crap

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:29 | 2589693 LMAOLORI
LMAOLORI's picture

Who Runs the World ? – Network Analysis Reveals ‘Super Entity’ of Global Corporate Control

http://planetsave.com/2011/08/28/who-runs-the-world-network-analysis-reveals-super-entity-of-global-corporate-control/

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:19 | 2589652 financial apoca...
financial apocalyptic contagion's picture

.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:41 | 2589728 Nothing To See Here
Nothing To See Here's picture

I know you did son

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:20 | 2589655 Bobby Lee
Bobby Lee's picture

I always thought that Groucho was the better market theorist.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:20 | 2589657 spdrdr
spdrdr's picture

Isn't your description of "corporatism" exactly that of "fascism"?

Either way, a true left-wing totalitarian corruption of capitalism.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:29 | 2589692 Thorny Xi
Thorny Xi's picture

Line One - "Isn't your description of "corporatism" exactly that of "fascism""? - One vote UP

Line Two - "Left wing?"  As if the bankers are all left wingers?  Oil companies?  Anybody making $1MM or more a year who's buying politicos? Please.  One vote DOWN.

 

 

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:41 | 2589724 spdrdr
spdrdr's picture

Ahh.  Thank you, but I would submit that you are as confused by the "political compass" as is Aziz.

The political  compass flows from left-wing to right-wing, but was corrupted by Communst thought contol (through revisionist history taught in all schools) in mid-last century, so as to give the impression that communism was diametrically opposed to fascism. 

The true political compass starts at the left-wing of complete totalitarian control over the masses (be it communsm or fascism), through socialism, conservatism, libertarianism, and anarchy, a lessening degree of political control and authoritarianism from the "left" to the "right '.

Essentially there is no difference between communism and fascism (or "corporatism") as Aziz defines it.  That's why I think he flounders with his definition.

An yes, banksters are of the Left, using the uncorrupted political compass of the right/left dichotomy.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:47 | 2589752 MachoMan
MachoMan's picture

Agreed.

All we do is bounce from each point of the compass, without ever actually getting to the point.  Neither capitalism nor socialism are mutually exclusive, they're just different points on the timeline... 

Unless humans devise some form of stasis, we'll always bounce back and forth...  one screws up, we go the other way for a while until it blows up...  by then we've forgotten what a miserable failure the other was so we're right back at it...  repeat...

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 16:20 | 2590092 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Your compass only has a North and South?  Weird.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 18:20 | 2590262 akak
akak's picture

The hopelessly limited (if not false) "left-right political spectrum" is a broken statist compass which only points in one direction: down.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 17:03 | 2590146 Liquid Courage
Liquid Courage's picture

was corrupted by Communst thought contol (through revisionist history taught in all schools) in mid-last century, so as to give the impression that communism was diametrically opposed to fascism.

Yes! Now you're talking ... but, ask (as the Romans did) who really benefits the most from said corruption? Surely not so much communists as those who find themselves smack in the center of the so-called "political spectrum" ... the Social Democrats, or soft Socialists, no?

And of course by defining anyone of Libertarian or Laissez Faire beliefs as being to the right (far right!) of conservatives and thus verging on Fascism, leads to the false and patently ridiculous conclusion (or confusion) that:

Freedom = Slavery

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:47 | 2589755 potlatch
potlatch's picture

people get confused when their boxes don't work anymore :(

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:21 | 2589662 midgetrannyporn
midgetrannyporn's picture

Aziz blows billionaires for nickels thus proving the market is always right.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:50 | 2589764 Aziz
Aziz's picture

A free market is just the sum of society's economic preferences.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:03 | 2589783 midgetrannyporn
midgetrannyporn's picture

Using marx for a hot button while lacking a basic ideaological understanding is poor journalism at best. The premise of is marxism coming back? is a sham because it has never been practiced (much like your free-market religion is ivory tower flavored tripe).

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:11 | 2589827 Aziz
Aziz's picture

I'm talking about Marxism as an ideological movement, and in terms of the things that ideological movement advocated — state control of industry, revolutionary violence, the dictatorship of the proletariat, or as Hobsbawm put it "a shift from private appropriation to social management", which of course was very much practised.

As for ideological purity, I don't think there will ever be a pure manifestation of any ideology, but certain states and periods embody different ideologies better than others, and the USA for certain periods in its history has been the freest and richest nation on Earth, and also the closest to a free market.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:13 | 2589843 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

I'm talking about Marxism as an ideological movement, and in terms of the things that ideological movement advocated — state control of industry, revolutionary violence, the dictatorship of the proletariat...

This proves the point that you are clueless.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 16:08 | 2590043 Nothing To See Here
Nothing To See Here's picture

"The premise of is marxism coming back? is a sham because it has never been practiced"

You go and try to whisper that into the ear of a soviet ex-pat who managed to escape the gulags...

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:21 | 2589878 midgetrannyporn
midgetrannyporn's picture

from wiki: The dictatorship of the proletariat refers to the absolute power of the working class. It is governed by a system of proletarian direct democracy, in which workers hold political power through local councils, known in the Russian Revolution as "soviets".

 

Marxism never advocated state control or direct dictatorship of the 1%. Look up "commune" in the dictionary sometime.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:36 | 2589926 Aziz
Aziz's picture

"No great movement has ever been inaugurated Without Bloodshed."

-Karl Marx 

He dressed it up as direct democracy. What he was really for was bloody revolution and coercive violence against the borgeoisie. Every Marxist nation turned into a bloody mess. Why? In my view because that was the nature of the revolution Marx advocated.

Marx's intent was probably pretty good. But I judge him by his fruits.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 17:45 | 2590159 critical tinkerer
critical tinkerer's picture

How is that you still do not understand what  'contradiction of a market system' means?

Employees are customers too. Constant need for higher profits makes a kapitalist search to reduce costs of production and in times of crisis it gets the reduction in payroll cost, paying his workers,  who are buyers of his products and services, less and less. Pay your workers less and in enough time you won't have any customers. Workers are customers too.

Last 30 years there was no increase in real wages so kapitalist customers compensated with debt. Debt reached it's limits and it's game over. Now you can sell less and less domesticaly and more only to foreign markets.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 17:08 | 2590182 midgetrannyporn
midgetrannyporn's picture

the borgeoisie had/have it coming. marxism was a sham used by soviet dictators to cover up bloody repression of the proles the same way democracy is a sham used by the kleptocrats to cover up their murderous repressions (don't make me cite examples) over the years. communism in its pure form has been practiced successfully by small groups from the beginning of time. Capitalism is always and everywhere corrupt.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 17:39 | 2590252 Marginal Call
Marginal Call's picture

The Iroquois Nation and the Duwamish tribal group in the Pacific NW are both examples of successfull "commies".   Other tribes were more warring, but these tribes lived in resourse riches and their populations didn't rise to ever strain them.   Or I'll put it this way, when I was a kid, wading out into a Salmon run, you had to kick them out of the way and they were constantly bouncing of your legs.  They would knock you down if you lost your balance.  Allocation of capital?  What capital.  Allocation of resources?  Walk over and grab some.  Tide goes out, go grab a bunch of crabs.  Capitalim is on it's deathbed, because it ate everything.  

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 18:37 | 2590369 prole
prole's picture

Mind boggling distortion.

Capitalism may be on its deathbed I'll give you that, but it's because Marxists like Hitlery and Obomba on this side of the pond and VaN Rumpboy and Baroso (as in Baroso, the frigging Communist Baroso) on that side of the pond have somehow gotten themselves in power like life-destroying human cancer parasites always seem to do (Lenin/Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot/the Dear Leaders)

Your Iriquis surrendered or were displaced from their country, and now my tribe is showing itself to be ten times stupider than any indian tribe ever was in their eagerness to commit suicide as rapidly as possible.

Christians: The stupidest imbecilic fuckers ever to spawn on the Earth and it is basically proven by everything they say and do.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 18:51 | 2590403 Marginal Call
Marginal Call's picture

Distortion?  No, just an example agreeing with tranny porn.  

 

Fully functional and successful societies, until a conquering force showed up and brought along their vampire squid.  You can down vote me all you want, but the fact remains that superior fire power doe's not equal superior social structure.  And US govt. was initially based on that social structure.

 

The west never copied shit from Aftrica, now did they? 

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 13:02 | 2592406 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

The west never copied shit from Aftrica, now did they?

______________________________

US citizens steal from everyone. US citizens are the greatest copy cats in world history.

US citizens have even stolen cultural achievements from anyone, any people.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 13:18 | 2592456 akak
akak's picture

 

US citizens steal from everyone. US citizens are the greatest copy cats in world history.

Make me laugh!

Oh the hypocrisy, the lies, the offuscationalizationing, the insanitation, the blobbing-up!

Yes, Americans are the copycats ---- right!  That is why there are so many pirate American businesses producing and marketing black-market copied Chinese-designed and originated products!  That must be why so much American industrial espionage targets Chinese manufacturing!

See the pot, the 1,300,000,000 woks calling the kettle black!  Not even, as the kettle is not even close to black!

Tell me, do Chinese Citizenism citizens understand difference between window and mirror?

 

 

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 13:23 | 2592474 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Others steal but noone matches the excellence of US citizens.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 13:28 | 2592499 akak
akak's picture

Others shit in public, but none match the roadside fecal output of Chinese Citizenism citizens, whose roadside-shitting nature is eternal.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 15:22 | 2592955 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous boasted:

Others steal but noone matches the excellence of US citizens.

As US citizenism founding father, this is what you take pride in? The Byzantine hooligan nature of AnAnonymousity reveals the eternal nature of Chinese citizenism.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 15:14 | 2592921 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous, founding father of US citizenism, said:

US citizens steal from everyone. US citizens are the greatest copy cats in world history.

Confucius say: "Asymmetric placement of blame on US citizens reveals the boastful larceny of Chinese citizenism AnAnonymousity."

US citizens have even stolen cultural achievements from anyone, any people.

As the number one US citizenism patriot worldwide, will AnAnonymous admit to any theft?

No, of course not, don't be silly. You can't have self indiction in Chinese citizenism. A Chinese citizenism citizen will flee to France or Greater Britain before self indiction of any sort.

French citizens and Greater Britannic citizens need only look to their roadsides for evidence of Chinese citizenism evasion of self indiction.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:29 | 2589900 falak pema
falak pema's picture

if it ever existed since Caesar's days... we would have known it. Robinson Crusoe was probably the only free marketeer, as producer and consumer, without need of intermediary and currency!

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 16:03 | 2590031 THX 1178
THX 1178's picture

What if society has been woefully retarded by television? Is it not my right to be protected from their horrible choices, influenced by the interface of Wall St. and Madison Ave.? I'm just saying... it's not that simple. Americans chose to buy foreign schlock and send all our money and jobs and factories overseas. No one forced them to-- they just couldn't pass up the deal. Free markets take advantage of stupidity (and why not) but more than just the stupid are affected by the bursting of a bubble, or some other emergent behavior of the free-market complex system. I wish I could rely on humanity to do the sensible and restrained and well-guided thing... its just, you know... all of history tells me I shouldn't.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:22 | 2589664 agent default
agent default's picture

Yeah well good luck getting me to get off my ass for anything other than cold hard cash, or gold for that matter.  Yes I am driven by naked self interest.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 18:45 | 2590387 prole
prole's picture

If everyone were just like you we could have a great country with a great ecomony and -- basically a land of plenty.

Unfortunately a large segment of (this lost country) everyone who 'works' for the government, is driven by naked lust for power over other men, dominance and control. Not to mention the desire to steal their wealth forever to:

A- Stuff in their already bloated pockets

B- Spend the entire fruit of mens' labors on eternal wars

C- Plunder this nation's wealth forever to send it to a special little country, our true democracy ally? (I forget the name)

We are basically the Ukrainians but we still have guns and they haven't gotten to the outright genocide yet.

Anyone who calls this a Capitalist country is a muther fucking LIAR. We are mercantilist at best, an outright Soviet Socialist Republic more accurately, Comrades.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:22 | 2589667 Colonel
Colonel's picture

"and the financial oligarchy continues to plunder from crisis to crisis..."

 Fixed it for ya.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:22 | 2589668 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Re: Marxism, I surely hope not....

From my perch, it looks like corporate feudalism....

That being said, Marx nailed the deficiencies and long term problems of capitalism...

Here is exhiibit A:

Cheaspeake’s 1% Tax Rate Shows Cost of Drilling Subsidy

Chesapeake Energy Corp. made $5.5 billion in pretax profits since its founding more than two decades ago. So far, the second-largest U.S. natural-gas producer has paid income taxes on almost none of it.

Chesapeake paid $53 million over its 23-year history, or about 1 percent of the cumulative pretax profits during that period, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s less than half of Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon’s compensation, for example, in 2008 alone.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:35 | 2589709 Sophist Economicus
Sophist Economicus's picture

So what?    If this is so easy and you want to make a point ---  Take your money (or raise it in the capital markets if it doesn'rt upset your constitution) , hire engineers, hire people, invest in  equipment and go drill for natural gas.   Hope you find lots of it.    Then, After paying for all of your expenses, if you have any money left over - mail it to the fucktards in Washington to spend for you. 

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:46 | 2589746 potlatch
potlatch's picture

lol, that was one bitter post my friend.  Take a breather after that one.  You earned it ;)

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:47 | 2589754 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

If you are not deeply offended by this state of affairs, you are either paid to think otherwise or completely oblivious to how this country got sold out....

As I have said, the subsidies for the fossil fuel industry dwarf those of renewables and it should be clear that a good chunk of those FF subsidies are being pocketed by the corporate officers... Sorry, but I call that a kleptocracy....

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 18:48 | 2590394 prole
prole's picture

Eliminate all tax then Comrade and you won't have to weep bitter tears about the tax money you didn't get to stuff in your pocket.

I celebrate every tax dollar you don't get to steal from the private economy to support your parasitic lifestyle and bloated pension

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:44 | 2589740 Chump
Chump's picture

Pffft.  This is chump change, and I should know.  Just take all their pre-tax profits, period, since their inception.  Take all $5.5 billion over 23 years.  The feds blow through that about every 12 hours so it's a big win towards balancing spending against revenue, right?

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:51 | 2589766 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

So you are in favour of corporate kleptocracy?

This is only one example of many... Do you recall the last outgoing EXXON CEO and what his package was? Hint: ~$350,000,000

Go back 40 years and check out what fraction of government revenues were corporate taxes and what fraction of GDP was corp. profits...then and now....

This is fascism of the highest order and its morphing into corporate feudalism.... 

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:59 | 2589786 Chump
Chump's picture

Yes, clearly I am for whatever you think is bad simply because I added some information for perspective.  And you still don't include federal spending in your analysis.  Do you honestly think we're running a $1.7 trillion deficit thanks to lower taxes??

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:12 | 2589839 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

No, no one so naive to believe that is the only problem... throw in a few wars and concurrent tax cuts and you are well on your way....

Having followed your posts, it is apparent you consistently see the world through an immature manichean prism.... living in some kind of libertarian purgatory of false dichotomies...

I think you secretly wish you could be a corporate kleptocrat. Afterall it is the fantasy of  most teenagers that read Ayn Rand....

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 15:24 | 2589891 Chump
Chump's picture

Lol??  I suppose I should be flattered for my following, but that just came off kind of creepy, especially since you seem to have such a wrong view on where I stand.  It's like you wrote all that just to address anyone who dare question you rather than what they actually say.  I think argumentum ad hominem is the proper term, but since I'm an Ayn Rand-reading teenager wannabe corporate kleptocrat libertarian what do I know?

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 16:20 | 2590094 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Sorry, but you showed your colors when you couldn't recognize a kleptocracy and even worse, could be taken to approve of it....

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 14:44 | 2589741 potlatch
potlatch's picture

"Corporate Fedualism" -- that'll do for me.  So, the corporations hold the fiefs, and to whom then to the fiefs pay fealty in this new global fiefdom?  Good lord, is it really.... just the printing presses?

 

This is starting to sound like a bad Star Trek episode.  Don;t we eventually discover a computer behind a wall that has gone haywire and is causing this but Kirk can cause it to crash by seducing it or something?

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 18:58 | 2590423 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

"50 billion quatloos on the fiesty newcomer in the green shirt!"

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!