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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 - 19:22 | 2590487 Jolly.Roger
Jolly.Roger's picture

Holy crap. 

This comment section is shit storm of ignornace and stupidity. 

America's problem is Marxism and Socialism?

Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha 

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 03:17 | 2591046 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

US citizens are well known to invent enemies to avoid feeling lonely.

When one can not put to the root cause to the situation, what options are left? Silence when US citizens have to monopolize speech means, they can not let a vaccuum appear, US citizenism is too easily exposed by now?

Or inventing fantasy, tales and stories to try and hide the root cause of the situation?

US citizens, driven by their eternal nature, have answered to this alternative.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:58 | 2592385 akak
akak's picture

 

Or inventing fantasy, tales and stories to try and hide the root cause of the situation?

Like opium-fueled Chinese Citizenism fantasy of pre-contact Easter Island society being destroyed by contact with Americans, who did not even exist at the time?  Like THAT kind of fantasy?

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 13:08 | 2592428 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Easter Island society being destroyed by contact with Americans, who did not even exist at the time?

__________________________

Easter Island society was not destroyed before 1776, July,4th.

US citizens will cling to their illusion until their dying breath.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 14:24 | 2592748 akak
akak's picture

Lies, lies, three times more lies!

The boundaries of offuscation, lies, insanitation and hypocrisy of Chinese Citizenism is without limit.

Behold the great New World Odor citizen --- roadside-shitting, blobbing-up, collectivist antlike chink of Middle Kingdom hive!

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 15:45 | 2593065 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous, denying reality, said:

Easter Island society was not destroyed before 1776, July,4th.

You have elevated and  advanced retardity to an art form.

US citizens will cling to their illusion until their dying breath.

As the founding father and worldwide number one patriot of US citizenism, you demonstrate this principle on a daily basis.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 20:03 | 2590539 diesheepledie
diesheepledie's picture

Marx is extremely useful, like Milton Friedman. The opposing (both impossible) philosophies are attractive to the simple minded herd animals, looking for simple answers. So they can go to sleep thinking there is a single bogeyman philosophy that is responsible for all the pain they experienced at harvesting that day. Half the world is right, half is wrong, and they are on the right side. Even better, we apply these philosophies directly to their political shepherds, keeps them perfectly divided, opposed in equilibrium, so they can be easily and peacefully herded into the cube farm to be fleeced, or into the Walmart harvesting isles to swipe that oh so wonderful plastic, or to sign that interest only mortgage, strip searched at airports, and taxed as much as we like. All without ever biting master's hand. I love Marx! And Friedman too!

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 21:06 | 2590658 Tom Green Swedish
Tom Green Swedish's picture

Marxism is superior to capitalism. Pieces of it were taken from capitalism and refined.  Its more resource based not monetary based.  If you work your get your fair share. If you don't work you don't.  People can't make money from money in this system.  There are no bubbles.  Marxism is light years ahead of capitalism. It is very ironic America did not adopt this ideology as would make a better country.

 

The Chinese have 5 year plans.  The USA government doesn't know what its going to do 2 months from now. When you develop a plan you can turn into the ultimate capitalist. China is hoarding commodities and eating up the rest of the world like nothing because they plan.  Who cares if you build a city that no one lives in.  It puts people to work.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 21:55 | 2590683 ATG
ATG's picture

You mean Marxism is feudal barter without gold, silver or fiat?

Then how was Marx paid working for the NY Tribune to write this Chartist Classic?:

http://gerald-massey.org.uk/jones/b_marx.htm

Read Animal Farm and rethink Marxism rewards people who produce.

Who decides what is your fair share - the pigs?

PRC and USSR did not have bubbles - they had elitism, scarcity, starvation, and unused labour and products from central command economies that could not rationally allocate resources without a free market price mechanism.

The Pilgrims tried Marxism and starved. 

They abandoned it and survived.

The US now has four-year mixed-up economy plans and they work less well than China or Russia now.

Who cares about empty cities?

The people without food, housing, money or work.

China and Russia are economies of the future.

And they will be until they protect freedom, property rights and responsibility for all.

Guess that makes USA a country of the past,

until our Constitution is enforced and protected again... 

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 05:35 | 2591107 writingsonthewall
writingsonthewall's picture

Read Animal Farm and rethink Marxism rewards people who produce

 

Why do so many capitalists think a cartoon is an appropriate analysis of Marxism?

 

If you actually watched Animal Farm yourself then you might realise that it could also be about capitalism - with the pigs being the capitalists and the horse still being the working class.

 

The cartoon is about oppression by one set of men over another - it has little to do with Marxism.

 

This is the danger when you 'simplify' to a level you can understand - you make mistakes as large complicated areas of marxism are simply 'cut out' for convenience.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 21:58 | 2590752 Marginal Call
Marginal Call's picture

Dude, the Chinos ain't marxists.  They are Kleptocrats just like us.  

 

The world is run by fucking gangsters, and it always has been.  

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 21:05 | 2590666 ATG
ATG's picture

Marxism never left monopoly capitalists who funded and invented it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_Capital

http://www.puppet99.com/?page_id=30

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 22:44 | 2590825 Plumplechook
Plumplechook's picture

Marx was quite brilliant at analalyzing the inherent problems of capitalism and predicting its evolution.   It's almost embarrasing read his early work and realize how accurate his predictions have turned out, including the rise of globalization,  the concentration of wealth,  and the increasing frequency of financial crises.

His model for an alternative system has been a total failure in practice.  But I don't doubt that some alternative social/financial system will need to evolve if we are to survive as a species.

 

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 01:10 | 2590977 critical tinkerer
critical tinkerer's picture

Should google or wiki 'titoizm' and Mondragon cooperative

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 23:37 | 2590886 monad
monad's picture

If some whore gave some CFR punk syphillis during say, the Clinton presidency, and this punk then fucked the CFR, or at least shared alot of the same whores with them, and then the CFR went home and fucked their wives, who all slept around with all their friends, it might explain all this.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 23:40 | 2590893 monad
monad's picture

This man (Jones let us call him) has always desired the divinely ordinary things; he has married for love,
he has chosen or built a small house that fits like a coat; he is ready to be a great grandfather and a local god.
And just as he is moving in, something goes wrong.
Some tyranny, personal or political, suddenly debars him from the home; and he has to take his meals in the front garden. A passing philosopher (who is also, by a mere coincidence, the man who turned him out) pauses, and leaning elegantly on the railings, explains to him that he is now living that bold life upon the bounty of nature which will be the life of the sublime future.
He finds life in the front garden more bold than bountiful, and has to move into mean lodgings in the next spring. The philosopher (who turned him out), happening to call at these lodgings, with the probable intention of raising the rent, stops to explain to him that he is now in the real life of mercantile endeavor; the economic struggle between him and the landlady is the only thing out of which, in the sublime future, the wealth of nations can come. He is defeated in the economic struggle, and goes to the workhouse. The philosopher who turned him out (happening at that very moment to be inspecting the workhouse) assures him that he is now at last in that golden republic which is the goal of mankind; he is in an equal, scientific, Socialistic commonwealth, owned by the State and ruled by public officers; in fact, the commonwealth of the sublime future.
Nevertheless, there are signs that the irrational Jones still dreams at night of this old idea of having an ordinary home. He asked for so little, and he has been offered so much. He has been offered bribes of worlds and systems; he has been offered Eden and Utopia and the New Jerusalem, and he only wanted a house; and that has been refused him...

I do not propose to prove here that Socialism is a poison; it is enough if I maintain that it is a medicine and not a wine.
GK Chesterton, 1910, What's Wrong With The World

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 23:51 | 2590905 monad
monad's picture

 

What is this anarchy?"

"Do not confuse it," replied the constable, "with those chance dynamite outbreaks from Russia or from Ireland, which are really the outbreaks of oppressed, if mistaken, men. This is a vast philosophic movement, consisting of an outer and an inner ring. You might even call the outer ring the laity and the inner ring the priesthood. I prefer to call the outer ring the innocent section, the inner ring the supremely guilty section. The outer ring - the main mass of their supporters - are merely anarchists; that is, men who believe that rules and formulas have destroyed human happiness. They believe that all the evil results of human crime are the results of the system that has called it crime. They do not believe that the crime creates the punishment. They believe that the punishment has created the crime. They believe that if a man seduced seven women he would naturally walk away as blameless as the flowers of spring. They believe that if a man picked a pocket he would naturally feel exquisitely good. These I call the innocent section."

"Naturally, therefore, these people talk about 'a happy time coming'; 'the paradise of the future'; 'mankind freed from the bondage of vice and the bondage of virtue,' and so on. And so also the men of the inner circle speak - the sacred priesthood. They also speak to applauding crowds of the happiness of the future, and of mankind freed at last. But in their mouths" - and the policeman lowered his voice - "in their mouths these happy phrases have a horrible meaning. They are under no illusions; they are too intellectual to think that man upon this earth can ever be quite free of original sin and the struggle. And they mean death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave.

They have but two objects, to destroy first humanity and then themselves. That is why they throw bombs instead of firing pistols. The innocent rank and file are disappointed because the bomb has not killed the king; but the high-priesthood are happy because it has killed somebody."

"How can I join you?"

100 < GK Chesterton > 130

 

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 01:09 | 2590976 robertocarlos
robertocarlos's picture

Cancel the EBT cards and see what happens. It would be bad at first but then it would be good later. Maybe 10,000 dead tops.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 01:53 | 2591001 Peter K
Peter K's picture

Marxism, as a irrational quasi religious belief never made it to the trash heap of history like it's better known economic sibling. And I suspect that since human beings have a natural need to 'believe' in something that can not be explained by a rational or logical thought process, Marxism as religion will be around for quite a while. Sadly :(

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 03:21 | 2591047 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Marxism coming back?

Holy cow. As if US citizenism was not enough...

Hopefully, marxism is not coming back.

The more the situation is progressing, the more US citizens are trying to dress US citizenism as it is not.

So the next years, decades will not be depicted as the triumphant hegemony of US citizenism over everything else, it will be sold as an age of fundamental change in US citizenism, as the reemergence of fascism and/or marxism, the overthrowing by Islam etc

Even though what is prevailing by far today is US citizenism.

US citizenism rules supreme.

US citizenism is at work right now, nothing else.

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