Politics

Karl Marx Gets Celebrity Status at New York Times

As the philosopher's 200th birthday approaches, too many people are still celebrating.

Jordan Candler · May 1, 2018

Among the many things the 19th century will forever be remembered for is the early proliferation of communism. The chief developer of this repressive framework was Karl Marx — a stalwart anti-capitalist combatant. He entered this world on May 5, 1818, and spent his life cultivating the collectivist philosophy ultimately bearing the name Marxism, which forms the foundation of communism.

Last year, marking the centennial of Soviet communism, our own Mark Alexander noted this staggering statistic: “Between 1917 and 1991, there were almost 150 million civilian casualties of communist dictatorships, the three largest dictatorial offenders being China (73,237,000), the USSR (58,627,000) and Germany (11,000,000). Where those dictatorships exist today, the slaughter continues.”

That’s not exactly a sterling legacy, nor is it deserving of celebration. Yet some academics continue to treat as a hero the man who laid the foundation for one of the world’s most monstrous political systems. This week, Karl Marx turns 200 years old. Enter Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy, who declares in a New York Times op-ed, “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” Professor Barker ponders: “As we reach the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, what lessons might we draw from his dangerous and delirious philosophical legacy? What precisely is Marx’s lasting contribution?”

Barker’s takeaway isn’t just incredibly deleterious, it’s vehemently anti-capitalist — just like Marx was. Barker insists, “Countless books have appeared, from scholarly works to popular biographies, broadly endorsing Marx’s reading of capitalism and its enduring relevance to our neoliberal age.” He also endorses the view 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.”

While admitting that “Marx arrives at no magic formula for exiting the enormous social and economic contradictions that global capitalism entails,” the professor asserts, “What Marx did achieve, however, through his self-styled materialist thought, were the critical weapons for undermining capitalism’s ideological claim to be the only game in town.” Amazingly, he goes on to posit: “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.”

He concludes by noting: “Marx, as I have said, does not offer a one-size-fits-all formula for enacting social change. But he does offer a powerful intellectual acid test for that change. On that basis, we are destined to keep citing him and testing his ideas until the kind of society that he struggled to bring about, and that increasing numbers of us now desire, is finally realized.”

The biggest irony of all? Barker is employed by Kyung Hee University, which is located in … South Korea. His anti-capitalist tirade completely ignores the nuclear threat posed by communist North Korea. Barker’s tribute to Marx is a tip of the cap to revolutionary social and economic change. Yet it’s worth repeating: Whatever qualms people have with capitalism, last we checked, it didn’t result in 150 million deaths. And as Mark Alexander also observed, “Democratic Socialism, like Nationalist Socialism, is nothing more than Marxist Socialism repackaged.”

As we noted last December, a Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation study found that “58% of Millennials would prefer living in a socialist, communist or fascist nation instead of a capitalist one.” With professors like Barker, it’s no wonder. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Communism and its sister system, socialism, are no different.

(Edited.)

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