Karl Marx

Karl Marx is Back!

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Articles have appeared recently in newspapers and websites around the world highlighting the fact that sales of Marx’s books over the past year have risen sharply in places like East Germany, particularly among young people.

Das KapitalOn the STV website there was an article titled Global crisis sends east Germans flocking to Marx, which states the following: “Two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, communism’s founding father Karl Marx is back in vogue in eastern Germany thanks to the global financial crisis … His 1867 critical analysis of capitalism, Das Kapital, has risen from the publishing graveyard to become an improbable best-seller for academic publisher Karl-Dietz-Verlag. ‘Everyone thought there would never ever again be any demand for Das Kapital,’ managing director Joern Schuetrumpf told Reuters after selling 1,500 copies so far this year, triple the number sold in all of 2007 and a 100-fold increase since 1990. Even bankers and managers are now reading Das Kapital to try to understand what they’ve been doing to us. Marx is definitely ‘in’ right now,’ Schuetrumpf said.”

Now some cynics may point to the fact that 1,500 is still a small figure, but according to these figures, in 1990 they were only selling 15 a year. Life teaches, and today people are being forced to learn very quickly. With this comes a desire to really understand how this system works. What better authority to turn to than Karl Marx himself, who long ago explained the mechanism that lead to crises like the present one we are living through.

One only needs to look at what has happened to Iceland in recent weeks to see how relevant Marx is. It is not just one bank or one company that has gone bankrupt. Here we have an entire country that has gone down the drain. It is no accident that a new edition of The Communist Manifesto is to be published in Iceland.

The massively improved sales of Das Kapital in Germany and the publication of The Communist Manifesto in Iceland are anecdotal items of news. But sometimes anecdotes can reveal far more than a thousand opinion polls. People all around the world have been shaken by the events on the financial markets. Now they are looking for answers, and as they don’t find them in any of the official, dominant economic theories, they turn to the only set of ideas that can explain what is happening today: Marxism.

Communist ManifestoIf anyone doubts this, read the following quote from the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, i.e. 160 years ago:

“Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production.

“Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.

“The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises?

“On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”
We challenge anyone to find a better description of what is happening now in the year 2008. Read the theories of any of the major bourgeois economists, read Friedman or Keynes, read the myriad of articles published in the financial journals over the past twenty years. You will find that when they refer to Marx they do so to show how wrong he was.

The worrying thing for the capitalists is that Marx did not simply analyze the workings of the capitalist system; he pointed out that the periodic crises of the system eventually lead to revolution, to a revolt by the millions of ordinary working people who have to suffer the consequences. That idea is beginning to sink into the minds of many workers and youth around the world. If you are one of them we invite you to get involved with the Workers International League to help us build a force that can put an end to this crazy system.

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