Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Is Marx right on the left?

Terry Eagleton's "Why Marx Was Right" and his monograph for Routledge, "Marx" have promoted the democratic-socialist rather than authoritarian-communist view of this thinker, more as a philosopher offering inspiration to the working classes than as an economist planning their uprising. By contrast, Jonathan Sperber's massive re-examination in "Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life"
presents a man looking back to 1789 for 1848, rather than forward, and Sperber's archival arguments contrast a thinker whose ideas were sometimes trapped in his time's mindset, or revamped by Engels.

Yesterday, I perused Chris Hedges' "Karl Marx Was Right". I suppose I am either the ideal or the worst reader for Marxian takes. I lack the economic or theoretical background or the wide exposure to him. But as my three reviews hyperlinked in the first paragraph attest, I am intrigued by Eagleton's idealism, and chastened by Sperber's realism, as to the impact of Marx today. Hedges reminds us of how prescient his thinking is. It's like taking on Jesus and trying to ignore Christianity, I find, when examining Marx's appealing message apart from those who in the founder's name have erred greatly.

At a forum about Marx's relevance a week ago, Hedges sets the context for Marx's call to arms:  "He saw that there would come a day when capitalism would exhaust its potential and collapse. He did not know when that day would come. Marx, as Meghnad Desai wrote, was 'an astronomer of history, not an astrologer.' Marx was keenly aware of capitalism’s ability to innovate and adapt. But he also knew that capitalist expansion was not eternally sustainable. And as we witness the denouement of capitalism and the disintegration of globalism, Karl Marx is vindicated as capitalism’s most prescient and important critic." Hedges neatly cites Marx and aligns his critique of late capitalism with our current corporate stranglehold, government "rescue" of banks and firms, the imploding (and now again inexorably rising--I do warn my fellow residents of L.A. to be careful what they wish for as 44% of recent sales have been to largely Asian, Russian, or overseas buyers in cash) housing prices.

He reminds us that it does not matter who we elect in '16. Comments on his Truthdig site under the KMWR article point out too the danger I foresee, as Bernie Sanders will likely use the few voters he can rally soon to bait and switch them to support Hillary; his attacks are much more against the GOP.

Hedges can be strident, but as I showed in his interview and treatment of Jeremy Hammond last week, he devotes attention to issues few care about. No matter his own stance on the Black Bloc during Occupy, at least he gives Hammond his own platform and voice from behind bars to speak up. The message Hammond and some who support him and those who suspect even Sanders as too cozy with party politics vs. a radicalized anarcho-communism (not the misnomer it may seem if you check out LibCom's intro, but see Wayne Price's preference for socialist-anarchist or libertarian socialist).

Hedges concludes: 
The corporations that own the media have worked overtime to sell to a bewildered public the fiction that we are enjoying a recovery. Employment figures, through a variety of gimmicks, including erasing those who are unemployed for over a year from unemployment rolls, are a lie, as is nearly every other financial indicator pumped out for public consumption. We live, rather, in the twilight stages of global capitalism, which may be surprisingly more resilient than we expect, but which is ultimately terminal. Marx knew that once the market mechanism became the sole determining factor for the fate of the nation-state, as well as the natural world, both would be demolished. No one knows when this will happen. But that it will happen, perhaps within our lifetime, seems certain.

“The old is dying, the new struggles to be born, and in the interregnum there are many morbid symptoms,” Antonio Gramsci wrote.

What comes next is up to us.
I return to this in my next post; it's a Salon interview with Hedges about the Gramscian "interregnum" before the impending "revolutionary moment" that he senses within the restive masses. 

P.S. My friend Matt Cavanaugh opined Hedges places too much faith in the masses and should put down Das Kapital and take up Brave New World for a timelier prediction. Sperber might agree. (Image credit, if from a site that strives to champion the opposite view. I know what I think...)

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