The Continuing Allure of Marx and Lenin
By Richard Girard
"If Karl Marx and V. I. Lenin were alive today, they would be leading contenders for the Nobel Prize in economics." --Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan; "Marx and Lenin Revisited," OpEdNews.com; 6 October 2009.
Why are Marx and Lenin considered to still have relevance everywhere in the world but the United States--including the democracies of Western Europe--while the darling of America's hard core right-wing, Ayn Rand, is considered a joke everywhere outside of the U.S. and a few extremist circles in the English-speaking democracies. I believe that the answer is very simple: agree or disagree with the conclusions of Marx and Lenin, they were still superb scholars who backed their basic assumptions for the faults of the capitalist system with extensive research and real world examples of the problems inherent in the system; Ayn Rand was a writer of fiction who never let the problem of the truth get in the way of the story she was telling, let alone the elitist propaganda that she was attempting to sell to the world.
Libertarianism is the "Marxism of the Right," as Robert Locke stated in his eponymous article in the 14 March 2005 issue of the The American Conservative, an inverse more than an opposite of Karl Marx's philosophy. Objectivism is libertarianism taken to the status of a cult, in the same way Maoist, Stalinist, and--most recently--North Korean Communism under Kim Jong Udon, his father and his grandfather, is Marxism taken to cult status. We may all count ourselves fortunate that Ayn Rand never achieved any real political power. In my opinion, her intolerance of opposition of any sort to her ideas would have ended in millions of imprisoned or executed Americans.
To quote Bob Burnett's 10 June 2011 OpEdNews article, "Roll Over, Karl Marx," "A 1999 BBC poll judged Marx 'the thinker of the millennium,' but for the last 60 years he's been infamous in America, where being called a Marxist is equivalent to being labeled a terrorist or pedophile. Despite the controversy, Marx's analysis was correct on many issues and his insights help explain America's growing economic and political divide." This infamy has led to intellectual laziness on the part of the American public, who might have read Marx and Engel's The Communist Manifesto, and actually believe they understand Karl Marx. This is the equivalent of reading Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity and believing you understand all of modern Physics.
The right-wing must concentrate all of its considerable invective on the failure of Marx and Lenin's solutions to the problems with the capitalist political/economic system, in order to obscure the two men's clear and prescient exposure of unfettered capitalism's faults with regards to the exploitation and dehumanization of humanity in general, and workers in particular. This is especially true when we speak of the capitalist economic syndicates, trusts, cartels, and monopolies, who use their nation-state's political and military might to develop an imperialist program against the world's less developed nations, a program that establishes and maintains their control at home, as well as their hegemony abroad.
I am not the first to say this. Bruce Allen Morris in his 29 June 2007 OpEdNews article "Marx Helps Explain Cheney;" points out the ongoing slander of Karl Marx by the Right for all of his observations of the inherent evils of capitalism, and the eventual dangers represented by our modern, managed democracy. This managed democracy is "democracy" in name only, whose every organ of information, representation, and election is controlled by the capitalist elite for their own benefit, not that of the nation as a whole, whose People form the legal and moral basis for the nation's sovereign power and authority. (See my 28 February 2009 OpEdNews article "The Tao of Government," for the relationship of power, authority, and sovereignty. Author's note: I borrowed the term 'managed democracy," from the Dean of Science Fiction, Robert A. Heinlein.) To quote Mr. Morris' article:
"Marx Was Right!"
"He was right in his diagnosis of the ills of capitalism and his prognosis for nations clinging slavishly to it; he was right about the international exploitation of workers; he was right about wars for markets and resources; right about growing inequality between the rich and the rest; about the destruction of the natural world, decay of the human mind and on and on. More to the point of this particular article, he was right that the wealthy in society create the form of government that most suits their interests and conform it as needed to serve their wealth and power. Sadly and uncomfortably, Marx was right that capitalists, his bourgeoisie, saw the representative form of government as the best way to control society. They were confident their money would buy representatives to do their bidding, even if against the pubic interest. Hard to argue against that result today, isn't it?"
The conservatives--in reality reactionaries--of today tell us, just as they did when Ayn Rand was writing The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, that our only alternative to the socialist or Communist state (they have a difficult time differentiating between European social democracy and the Marxist state), are those systems' theoretical opposite: unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism, based upon the theories of the Austrian or Chicago Schools of Economics. This type of capitalism is often combined with the political system of libertarianism--which broadly includes the Utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill, Ayn Rand's Objectivism, as well as Murray Rothbard's and Robert Nozick's more cerebral modern systems.
But politics are intrinsically interconnected with economics, as demonstrated by the original term that was used for economics, "political economy." Before John Maynard Keynes's mentor, Alfred Marshall, created the word "economics" in 1888, Marx and other scholars wrote of "political economy" when describing the dismal science. Marshall created the term in part to differentiate the study of wealth and its affect on nations from what he thought was the more mundane considerations of diplomacy, war, and other political machinations.
The Divine Right of Thugs
Later in the article, Mr. Morris adds the following concerning the increasing arrogance of men such as then Vice President Cheney, his adviser David Addison, and Republican power broker Karl Rove:
"Remember that Marx said the wealthy create the form of government that best suits their needs and that they can best control. While those criteria may have indeed pointed to representative government in Marx's time, the wealthy got a taste of empowered representative government that truly worked for the people in the Mid-Twentieth Century and they did not like it one bit.
"But Cheney's naked and brash written assertion that he is tethered to no law strikes me as telegraphic and intentionally provocative. Traditionally, the only person not subject to his polity's [nation-state's--RJG] laws is the King."
Cheney's assertion was the traditional argument of
monarchs claiming "divine right," including Louis XIV, Charles I of England,
and Peter the Great of Russia: they were above the law and answerable to no one
except God. It was an argument that I thought had been settled under the
guillotine in Paris, and in the basement of Ekaterinaberg in Russia. But it
seems that what was old is new once again, especially if you are as lacking in
creativity as America's reactionaries are proving themselves to be.
This nation was blessed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
FDR saw a need to not only re-establish the American economy during the Great
Depression, but to recreate American society based on a growing and literate
middle class holding constitutionally-limited power, which the great Greek
philosopher Aristotle had stated was the best sort of government his book Politics
(Book 4, Chapter XI) more than two millennia before.