Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Appropriateness of Marxism in The New York Times

By Robert Wenzel

As the 200th birthday of Karl Marx approaches, he was born in Trier, Germany on  May 5, 1818, the New York Times has posted a remarkable essay about Marx by Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

In the article, Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!, Barker writes:
In 2002, the French philosopher Alain Badiou declared at a conference I attended in London that Marx had become the philosopher of the middle class. What did he mean? I believe he meant that educated liberal opinion is today more or less unanimous in its agreement that Marx’s basic thesis — that capitalism is driven by a deeply divisive class struggle in which the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labor of the working-class majority as profit — is correct.
This sad-ass theory was destroyed by
many economists long ago including Ludwig von Mises. Henry Hazlitt wrote of the book Socialism, written by Mises (The first English translation appearing in 1936 of the German language book originally published in 1922) :
This book must rank as the most devastating analysis of socialism yet penned. . . . An economic classic in our time.
The Nobel prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek wrote:
It was a work on political economy in the tradition of the great moral philosophers, a Montesquieu or Adam Smith, containing both acute knowledge and profound wisdom. . . . To none of us young men who read the book when it appeared was the world ever the same again.
Yet, on  September 29, 1981, the day that marked the 100th birthday of Mises, there was no op-ed about him in The New York Times. Indeed, there was no mention of him on that day at all in the "paper of record". Birthday mentions in the Times are apparently only for those who cheer on central planning and not the Misesian-type advocates of liberty,

It should not be forgotten, however, what Mises taught us in Socialism about the contradictions of Karl Marx, and that of his followers, between the theory of Marx and his political actions:
One of the fundamental dogmas of Marx is that socialism is
bound to come 'with the inexorability of a law of nature'. Capitalist
production begets its own negation and establishes the socialist
system of public ownership of the means of production. This process
'executes itself through the operation of the inherent laws of capitalist
production' .

lt is independent of the wills of people. lt is impossible
for men to accelerate it, to delay it or to hinder it. For 'no social
system ever disappears before all the productive forces are developed
for the development of which it is broad enough, and new higher
methods of production never appear before the material conditions
of their existence have been hatched out in the womb of previous

This doctrine is, of course, irreconcilable with Marx's own political
activities and with the teachings he advanced for the justification of
these activities. Marx tried to organize a political party which by
means of revolution and civil war should accomplish the transition
from capitalism to socialism. The characteristic feature of their
parties was, in the eyes of Marx and all Marxian doctrinaires, that
they were revolutionary parties invariably committed to the idea of
violent action. Their aim was to rise in rebellion, to establish the
dictatorship of the proletarians and to exterminate mercilessly all
bourgeois. The deeds of the Paris Communards in 1871 were considered
as the perfect model of such a civil war. The Paris revolt,
of course, lamentably failed. But later uprisings were expected
to succeed.'

However, the tactics applied by the Marxian parties in various
European countries were irreconcilably opposed to each of these two
contradictory varieties of the teachings of Karl Marx. They did not
place confidence in the inevitability of the coming of socialism.
Neither did they trust in the success of a revolutionary upheaval.
They adopted the methods of parliamentary action. They solicted
votes in election campaigns and sent their delegates into the parliarnents.
They 'degenerated' into democratic parties. In the parliaments
they behaved like other parties of the opposition...

They repeated again and again that the coming of socialism is unavoidable.
They emphasized the inherent revolutionary character
of their parties. Nothing could arouse their anger more than when
somebody dared to dispute their adamant revolutionary spirit.
However, in fact they were parliamentary parties like all other

From a correct Marxian point of view, as expressed in the later
writings of Marx and Engels (but not yet in the Communist Manifesto),
all measures designed to restrain, to regulate and to improve
capitalism were simply 'petty-bourgeois' nonsense stemming from
an ignorance of the immanent laws of capitalist evolution. True
socialists should not place any obstacles in the way of capitalist
evolution. For only thc füll maturity of capitalism could bring
about socialism. lt is not only vain, but harmful to the interests
of the proletarians to resort to such measures. Even labour-unionism
is not an adequate means for the improvement of the conditions of
the workers. Marx did not believe that interventionism could
benefit the masses. He violently rejected the idea that such measures
as minimum wage rates, price ceilings, restriction of interest rates,
social security and so on are preliminary steps in bringing about
socialism. He aimed at the radical abolition of the wages system
which can be accomplished only by communism in its higher phase.
He would have sarcastically ridiculed the idea of abolishing the
'commodity character' of labour within the frame of a capitalist
society by the enactment of a law.

But the socialist parties as they operated in the European countries
wcre virtually no less committed to interventionism than the Socialpolitik
of the Kaiser's Gcrmany and the American New Deal.
And so what can one do but shake one's head when  Baker acknowledges the failures of socialist states:
The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist “states” (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century. There is still a great deal to be learned from their disasters, but their philosophical relevance remains doubtful, to say the least.
But then he moves on to claim a new type of political activity must be launched in the name of Marx, that of critical theory, cultural Marxism and social justice war. An approach that, of course, also contradicts the Marxian claim of the inevitability of communism:
The key factor in Marx’s intellectual legacy in our present-day society is not “philosophy” but “critique,” or what he described in 1843 as “the ruthless criticism of all that exists: ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.” “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it,” he wrote in 1845.

Racial and sexual oppression have been added to the dynamic of class exploitation. Social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, owe something of an unspoken debt to Marx through their unapologetic targeting of the “eternal truths” of our age. Such movements recognize, as did Marx, that the ideas that rule every society are those of its ruling class and that overturning those ideas is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.

We have become used to the go-getting mantra that to effect social change we first have to change ourselves. But enlightened or rational thinking is not enough, since the norms of thinking are already skewed by the structures of male privilege and social hierarchy, even down to the language we use. Changing those norms entails changing the very foundations of society.
So much for the sit back and chill, communism is inevitable.

In truth, Marxism is a scam philosophy filled with illogic and contradictions (Do read all of Socialism).  In the end, it is a philosophy of power seeking under the contradictory guise of inevitability. It is a philosophy for the power hungry, the obsessed haters, and the suckers.

As Mises wrote:
The incomparable success of Marxism is due to the prospect it offers of fulfilling those dream-aspirations and dreams of vengeance which have been so deeply imbedded in the human soul from time immemorial. It promises a Paradise on earth, a Land of Heart’s Desire full of happiness and enjoyment, and — sweeter still to the losers in life’s game—humiliation of all who are stronger and better than the multitude. Logic and reasoning, which might show the absurdity of such dreams of bliss and revenge, are to be thrust aside.... It is against Logic, against Science and against the activity of thought itself. 
And so, in conclusion, it must be acknowledged that it is quite appropriate that an ode to Marx is featured in the Gray Lady, which provides the marching orders for the pseudo-intellectuals who are driven more by hate than by logic. The capability for deep thought and analysis required to understand how the world really works and the beauty of freedom is missing from these people. They are about the crossed mental wires of rage, contradiction and general illogic---sounds Marxian to me.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Ban .and most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on  iphone and stitcher.



  1. Correction Jason:

    A ruling minority called government appropriates the surplus labor of everyone else, seeking out and then perpetuating false narratives and economic falsehoods to keep the citizenry deeply divided so as to maintain its grip on power and enrich itself at the expense of those it claims to serve.

    There, fixed it for you.

  2. I've been jousting with the leftists since 1973. In 2009, I posted a few comments on this silly Yglesias piece attacking Tom Woods and the ABCT:

    My comments seem to generate about 500 responses (all since removed) where I was Milo attacked by a swarm of Keynesian Antifa. In the 70s, no SJW defended Keynesianism, but in 2009, they all did. Where did that come from? That episode is what made me realize that none of these people had the slightest familiarity with even the most basic analysis and/or concepts of libertarianism or Austrian Economics so I started calling them out on it.

    Now we have the MMTers coming out of the closet announcing "Richard Wolff - How Marxism and Modern Monetary Theory Go Hand-In-Hand".

    What's going on? Are they realizing that Keynesianism might be blamed for the next crash and are throwing it under the bus? Are they that smart?

  3. Yet, libertardians are more than happy to claim that importing foreign cultures with a leftist bent (particularly from the south) is great and magic dirt will lead these imports to become limited government low tax libertarians since race, IQ, and culture don't matter.

    1. Re: He-Who-Fantasizes-About-White-European-Males,

      ---Yet, libertardians are more than happy to claim that importing foreign cultures with a leftist bent[...] ---

      You prefer white European Marxist schlong, labby? I venture a guess that you would.

  4. --- Marx’s basic thesis — that capitalism is driven by a deeply divisive class struggle in which the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labor of the working-class majority as profit — is correct. ---

    That's an incredible assertion when Marx himself dropped that idea in his second volume of Das Kapital when trying to reconcile the rate of profit with changing price levels, something that Marxists who were contemporary to Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk were aware of. The idea that capitalists steal the surplus value of laborers is so completely outside of reality to the point where one has to question the sincerity, or sanity, of the person defending such claptrap.

    Marx believed that a person could meet his or her needs by working 8 hours, if he or she owns the means of production. Somehow capitalists, by making --yes, making-- laborers work for, let's say, 10 hours, and because laborers had their means of production taken from them, which one has to wonder if Marx was thinking of 40 acres and a mule or something, the capitalists can then pocket the extra 2 hours of work in the form of profit. Of course this ridiculous idea is based on the wrongheaded Labor Theory of Value which was debunked, severely and mercilessly, by the Marginalists, yet refuses to die as it keeps feeding from putrid minds such as the author of that editorial piece.

  5. This is really interesting! Thanks!