Karl Marx (1818-1883) was frequently ridiculed when I was in college and graduate school, except in Dr Howard Zinn’s classes, as an idealist with a faulty utopian vision of the future. He was also dismissed as an autocratic communist because the professors had not read his works or even worse felt fear to speak truth to power. Even though he was not an idealist but a scientific socialist and his vision is spot on, these liberal professors attempted with great vigour to dissuade me from a progressive embracing of his theories. They simply did not understand the Marxian worldview or understood it but wanted to indoctrinate their students to abandon the socialist dream of liberation. Now from Wall Street to LaSalle Street, people are forcing the Tea Party racist reactionaries off the front pages and finally the left is receiving recognition as a force to advance social justice, economic redistribution of wealth and the ruination of the economic royalists (FDR’s phrase).
As one witnesses the crisis of global capitalism devouring economies in the “developed, colonialist world,” the most retrogressive and punishing force in human history, it is important to reassert the enduring genius of Marx. The growth of financial behemoths from Bank of America to Haliburton to ExxonMobil and other capitalist villains are intertwined with government officials; immense suffering and immiseration emerges with growing unemployment of the industrial reserve army as the richest nation in the world has a 9.1% unemployment rate and one out of seven on Food Stamps! Marx predicted that capital would become so concentrated in the hands of an elite bourgeoisie that the proletariat–working class– would rise up and overthrow capital. While bloody revolutions are anathema to me, one wonders if social instability will increase during this period of severe economic stagnation with poverty, unemployed masses, fifty million without health insurance in this demonic nation and increasing steadily.
We are finally seeing burgeoning non-violent resistance from progressives that we have not seen since the pre-war days of George W. Bush’s criminal war against Iraq. Millions of Americans have mortgages under water as housing prices plummeted below the value of the mortgage and unemployment through deindustrialisation skyrocketed. The Wall Street titans in a frenetic effort to increase their productive forces–in this case not industrial modes of production but bizarre derivatives, credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities in order to increase their financial bottom lines–bet that real estate prices would never decline but always increase. The prols stopped paying their mortgages and ironically the edifice of capital began to crack. Such institutions as Lehman, Bear, Stearns, AIG either liquidated or received from the Treasury or Federal Reserve hundreds of billions in bailouts.
Marx envisioned international capital as a very transient if revolutionary and dominant force. It coheres into an international exploiting class of elite-investment bankers, central bankers, government officials, insurance companies. sovereign wealth funds and industrial tycoons. Yet it is doomed to disintegrate as profit seekers act irrationally in producing more for diminishing consumer demand. The bourgeoisie goes broke–bye, bye Wall Street capitalists–who sink into the growing proletariat and the industrial reserve army.
I do not know if the demise of capitalism is at hand but it certainly looks like it as the Dow plummets, the S&P 500 plunges and the NASDAQ growth stocks stagnate. While Marx predicted perhaps prematurely the eventual immiseration of industrial robber barons (bourgeois), his brilliance in addressing the growing chasm between rich and poor, the growing gluttony of indulgence at the expense of the workers and the dialectical inevitability of the downfall of capital demands attention. This should cause liberal professors who did not have the courage or freedom to teach Marx, according to Marx, to pause and recognise his transcendent ethical vision of justice and capacity to anticipate the future which hopefully is now!!! I make of course the distinction between theory and practice. Theoretical Marxism is vastly different than the command economies of autocratic communism that appeared in the wake of the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions.