Monday, May 7, 2018

Karl Marx Statue Is Unveiled As 'Moderate' Marxism Still Makes Life Better For Millions - And Naysayers Yap

Top of the Karl Marx statue unveiled in Trier, Germany Saturday.

It is safe to say that if you asked 100 Americans what Karl Marx is most famed for, his actual works - not even two would be able to name them. And yet, when they bitch and moan about how they can't make ends meet and whine "the rich are getting richer" at their expense, and inequality only seems to be growing - they ought to have known that Marx did his best to change that dynamic.  But such is the deplorable state of education in our country, that a huge bottomless pit of ignorance is what one must contend with.

And into that bottomless pit, as often as not, propaganda, anti-Marx slander and brainwashing enter. Such as in the WSJ op-ed piece, 'Marx's Apologists Should Be Red In The Face', p. A13, May 4), by Paul Kengor - a "professor of history at Grove City College" - according to the endnote.

Numerous myths and slanders were trotted out in Kengor's piece and it is perhaps easiest to dispatch them by way of listing then skewering them.  But let me start with the biggest, e.g.

1) The "Bloodletting" inspired by Marxism/ Communism:

With Kengor writing:

"We're told the philosophy (of  Marxism) was never the problem- that Stalin was an aberration as were, presumably, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Pol Pot the Castros, not to mention the countless thousands of liquidators ..Couldn't any of them read?  ...This is the bicentennial pf the man whose ideas killed millions.'

Of course, this is balderdash. But sadly, this trope and fairy tale has become entrenched in the densan portion of the populace, as it's been subjected to decades of corporatist brainwashing.  If people knew the true facts, they'd appreciate Stalin was indeed an aberration, in a way he "ate his own young" to advance his megalomania. This was not anything to do with Marxism,  which is a philosophy, not a political orientation, e.g. communism.   Specifically, Stalin, in his paranoid cruelty, not only had Russian revolutionary leaders assassinated and executed, but indeed exterminated entire affiliate parties. For example, Stalin raged that Leon Trotsky and his followers were most outspoken against him. He therefore ordered “Trotskyites” to be butchered remorselessly. Estimates from released former Soviet archives show more than 44 million Trotskyites were butchered.

What does this all mean? It means it wasn't Marxism responsible for the slaughter and butchery, but individual megalomania!  It also means it wasn't atheism responsible for the slaughter. Neither Marxism nor atheism created the single-minded dictators, like Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao (in China) who brooked no competition and used the levers of state power to exterminate opponents.   Now, is it possible that communism - as the then practical manifestation of Marx's  "stateless society" - provided the means for Stalin to "stack the deck " to inflict his monstrous harm?   Yes, it is true, but this is no different from Trump using his own megalomania and constant deranged outbursts,  and lies  to stress and destabilize our constitutional structures and norms. Those actions, including his ceaseless slander of the FBI,  could also materialize  ultimately  in monstrous harm -if we don't get rid of him soon.

The difference is that the concentrated power in the Soviet state made it almost impossible to get rid of Stalin short of assassination. But we can choose to get rid of Trump by gathering our wits and first claiming back the House in the coming midterms to reaffirm separation of powers (and cross checking Trump's worst instincts), then getting rid of him either via impeachment (and indictment in a Dem -run Senate) or in the next  general election.  But be warned even then!  As per Ian Bremmer's piece ('The Strongman Era', TIME, May 14, p. 43):

"An August, 2017 Washington Post poll found that 52 % of Republican voters would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump said the delay was needed to ensure that only eligible American citizens could vote."

Make no mistake if we crossed this dangerous 'Rubicon' all bets would be off about a peaceful,  democratic transition of power. We'd truly be in a "Stalinesque" era and there's no telling what further Trump transgressions could follow.

It would do well for Kengor in this sense to attend to the words of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker - who pointedly observed in the run up to the Marx statue unveiling that Marx was not responsible for the horrors committed long after his death in 1883.

2. Communism Marxism relies on state violence to seize private property:

Americans here get hung up on account of their failure to distinguish personal-private and public property. They also fail to process differences, because of capitalist blinders, to see how their own country exercises violence against THEIR property.  For sure, Communism necessarily distributes PUBLIC property universally, but, at least as far as the communist is concerned, you can still keep your smartphone.

Americans will yelp, 'See, told ya!' But not so fast! As Douglas Rushkoff points out ('Life, Inc,', p. 54) the very construction of the federal highway system (to serve the automobile manufacturers) "didn't bother to consider the effects of their constructions on the people around them. Huge swaths of territory were considered only for their value as rights of way not places in themselves."

The result?

"Neighborhoods were uprooted, divided and demolished. Local governments that attempted to resist were quickly neutralized in the courts."

I can cite also the case of my own grandfather, whose beloved corner grocery at N. 27th St.. and Meinecke in Milwaukee was seized by "eminent domain". He was paid only a fraction of its worth. All this to make way for a new expressway which ended up never being built. Don't think he experienced state violence at the literal seizure of his property? Think again!

3) Communist economies aren't  based on free exchange, Capitalist economies are:

In fact, barter and 'black markets' have always been part of communist economies, as they are in the capitalist ones. The reason is to get around state-centrally controlled markets in the former, and capitalist Neoliberal controlled markets in the latter. Rushkoff again, shows how we are all puppets in the capitalist market system as well as victims, from gentrification of neighborhoods - with long time residents (usually less wealthy displaced)  to make way for new condos or Starbucks, to fracking polluting air and water - to make way for drilling gas or shale oil, to the toxic polluting of water supplies.

The idea that we’re all going around  in the US of A making free choices in an abundant market where everyone’s needs get met is patently belied by the lived experience of hundreds of millions of people. Most of us find ourselves constantly stuck between competing pressures and therefore stressed out, exhausted, lonely, and in search of meaning. — as though we’re not in control of our lives. From the type of isolated subdivisions we inhabit, to the jobs we can get, to the restrictions placed on us by banks and the Fed, and even the way the stock market is rigged against us (some small niche getting info on companies in advance) we are all living in a fool's paradise where we think we're exercising enormous freedoms - but are merely doing what our capitalist overseers expect.

By comparison,  in the old Soviet Union, at least every Russian really had a job if he wanted it, even it was filing cards, being a teacher assistant,  or road works. The state truly supported the citizen. No, it wasn't nirvana - hell no, but economic security and having food on the table  - even if only Borscht and bread-  was a given. No Soviet kid would go hungry because of cuts to food stamps, or cuts to his parents' unemployment benefits.

 The origin of capitalism was depriving British peasants of their access to land (seizure of property, you might call it), and therefore their means of subsistence, making them dependent on the market for their survival. Once propertyless, they were forced to flock to the dreck, drink and disease of slum-ridden cities to sell the only thing they had – their capacity to use their brains and muscles to work – or die. Just like them, the vast majority of people today are deprived of access to the resources we need to flourish, though they exist in abundant quantities, so as to force us to work for a boss who is trying to get rich by paying us less and working us harder.

Kengor barks about the central principle of Marxism being the "abolition of property" - and in this case he really needs to read a book on how capitalists spawn shock crises to grab property - mainly from the downtrodden  in the newly- shocked nations, societies. I am referring, of course, to Naomi Klein's book,  'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' (2007).  As Klein describes, the shock doctrine's basis of "disaster capitalism" is to deliberately use assorted confected crises - whether military  or economic- to justify subverting the will of many other nations and their citizens to make the world "safe" for global capital. In one chapter where Klein coins the term "disaster capitalism" she analogizes it to the electric shocks delivered via certain tortures, say to a person's head & genitals. The shocked victims became so mentally incoherent, terrified -  that they were ready to accept just about anything demanded of them.

In the case of  the newly "de-communized" Russians,  following the fall of the Soviet Union,  Klein notes that after only a year of Neoliberal thuggery and "market therapy" millions of had lost their life savings when the ruble lost nearly all its value. Adding insult to injury, abrupt cuts in government subsidies meant that millions of workers had not been paid in months. Consumption? The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than 1991 - and they weren't even consuming that much in '91!   Basically, to survive, the Russian middle class was forced to sell all or most of their belongings - setting up card tables on the streets to do so. As Klein describes this travesty:

"Desperate acts, that the Chicago School of Economics praised as 'entrepreneurial' and proof that a capitalist renaissance was indeed under way."

Recall here Henry Giroux's description of Neoliberalism's mandate:

"As an ideology, it casts all dimensions of life in terms of market rationality, construes profit-making as the arbiter and essence of democracy, consuming as the only operable form of citizenship, and upholds the irrational belief that the market can both solve all problems and serve as a model for structuring all social relations. As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects, and ways of life driven by a survival-of-the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual, and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to exercise power removed from matters of ethics and social costs...."

Having skewered Kengor's main points and Marxian slanders , it behooves us to note there are examples of democratic socialism - call it "moderated Marxism" -  that persist today in assorted nations and which redound to the benefit of their citizens. I am writing about nations such as Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  Germany, for example, has a "heavy, progressive income tax" of the type Kengor disparages as :"Marxist" but lo and behold, Germany has recently  posted a projected, consolidated budget surplus of 50 million euro ($62 billion) between now and 2021. Most of which will be spent on social services, e.g. unemployment compensation, child care, as opposed to reckless tax cuts like the debtor nation U.S. (See 'Germany, Awash In Money, Shies Away From Tax Cut'' , WSJ,  Feb. 21, p. A11)

And then there is Denmark, also benefiting from much lower inequality and citizen social enrichment from higher taxation, as two of her citizens had to educate Oprah, see e.g.
Oprah got perfect response from Danish woman on their social welfare state 

The  "welfare states" Marx envisaged, actually states which address the economic needs of ALL citizens, remain alive and well all the anti-Marx hysteria and contempt nothwithstaning.

See also:


"At 24 years of age, Marx was writing fiery articles opposing Prussian authoritarianism. The newspaper he edited was closed in 1842 by the government, he was exiled and moved to Paris from where he was expelled in 1844.

In 1848, Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto. “The Manifesto” was written as a declaration of the principles of socialism for the Communist League in Brussels. It remains a statement of the core principles of socialism to this day. At 45 years of age, Marx was elected to the general council of the first International where he was active in organizing the International’s annual congresses.

Marx’s vision of socialism had nothing in common with one-party dictatorships like the former Soviet Union that declared themselves to be socialist or communist. For Marx, the key question was not whether the economy was controlled by the state, but which class controlled the state. "

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