Karl Marx is dead. Has been since forever.
What he has left behind is something that he is not actually solely to be accredited for (Friedrich Engels seems to have been all but forgotten), but he is accredited for nonetheless – a sad legacy of words, many of which were never actually his, words that have been put into his mouth by those who seek to bend his ideas to their own ends.
That’s right, you NDP douchebags, I’m talking to you again.
Marxism. It’s a funny, funny word. It is absolutely hilarious how many "Marxists" really have little or no clue what Marx himself actually wrote. As George Orwell (one of the finest left wing writers to ever put pen to paper) himself once said, Marx would have never considered himself a Marxist.
But what is funniest about it is that many Marxists fail to recognize that Marx’s theories (in their most specific form) are actually little more than a relic of an age that doesn’t exist anymore. While it is true that in many parts of the world people are illiterate, over-worked and starving still, it is not that way here in North America. True, there is a battle here that must still be fought (and the ideas of Marx will be important weapons in this war), that war is not here in the way that many "Marxists" insist that it is.
Take, for example, the relative lack of illiteracy, and considerably higher standard of living in the west compared to Marx’s times. While islands of poverty and ignorance still exist within our society, they are just that: islands. Not islands in a sense that they are inaccessible to us, but islands in the sense that they are largely isolated cases.
Of course, this does not mean that this should not be fixed – in fact, it must be fixed. But the method of change is what requires some debate.
The hope for a Marxist revolution (which he tells us is inevitable, but has never happened here, and many of the changes Marx desired have happened without it) is nothing more than a childish desire. Many from the left wing would tell us that some sort of revolution is necessary for our society to become a better place, but they ignore one fact: the simple fact that our society has changed, and has become a better place without it.
Few of them seem to ask: "How can this be? Has Marx deceived us?" And, of course, no, he hasn’t. Marx’s theories were important theories. But they are theories for another place, and another time. Now, Marx’s ideas, on the other hand? They are for the right here and now.
Rhetoric aside, Marx’s ideas revolved around one thing: a better life for one and all. As Howard Zinn wrote in his play Marx in Soho: " No more talk about capitalism and socialism. Instead, let us talk about harnessing this planet’s incredible wealth in order to provide for everyone’s basic human needs. Some hours of work, more hours of leisure. Don’t ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it." It’s one of the most profound paraphrasials of Marx’s ideas I have ever heard.
Let’s have a look at some of the countries around the world that have followed the route of communist revolution: how are things in Russia today? What do you think the average, ordinary Cuban is doing right now? Are things not so fucking peachy as some of these naïve buffoons would have us believe things would be in a communist system? How about China? Has Marx’s dream of equality and freedom materialized here? No?
Shut up. Don’t give me all this "but they aren’t communist countries" bullshit. The fact is that these countries followed the route of communist revolution, led by communist parties, made up of communists not so different from you, and have wound up as one great, big, smelly, sad shithole. Don’t tell me that isn’t "real communism". I told you to try to sell that bullshit elsewhere.
The simple fact of the matter, whether you like it or not, is that communism has failed. It has been proven to be one great big pipe dream that leads to the same place that it is supposed to originate from. Don’t deny it. Because you can indeed deny it, but that doesn’t mean this denial is at all credible.
Here is the problem with the idea of revolution: revolutions don’t spontaneously happen. They require leadership, and they require support. What generally happens in revolutions is that an alienated second-tier elite harnesses the power of the masses in order to supplant the first-tier elite. As such, they seize control of society, and are of course replaced in their previous role by a new second-tier elite. Vladimir Lenin and his band of Bolsheviks did just this in Russia, likewise with Castro in Cuba. China is no different, either.
And just as revolutions require leadership, so do societies. In fact, merely as a consequence of people gathering together in communities, leadership emerges. So much for the anarchist idea that the problem of leaders abusing a communist system is eliminated by eliminating leaders. That’s like eliminating the engine of a car because it produces smelly fumes and imagining that the car will still run. Good luck with that, young bucky.
Of course, it would be folly to suggest that capitalist leaders haven’t abused their positions for personal gain. History is full of this, too. But ever since democracy forced the marriage between contemporary politics and humanist ideals, there have been very few cases of democratic governments marching opposition before firing squads and killing them.
On the other hand, history reminds us that Adolph Hitler was appointed – not elected, appointed – within a democratic system. And of course these things can always happen. This is the peril we must eternally be wary of. But at least it isn’t as much of a certainty within democracies as it is with communist systems.
And of course, we are often reminded that occasionally democracy doesn’t seem to work: second helping of George Dubya Bush, anyone? Again, we are required to be wary of this. Democracy only works so long as all of its citizens participate. Should this participation be lacking, especially amongst rational minds making educated choices, then the capacity shall exist for tyrants to come to power. When this happens, it is not only those who voted for said tyrant who are to blame, but also those who, for whatever reasons, refused to participate in the democratic process.
Of course democracy isn’t perfect. But at least it works, at least in many of the ways a political system is required to. Sure, we could overthrow democracy and attempt to retreat into the forests in order to live in what some of the world’s hippies believe would be a world built on peace, love and happiness, but since this isn’t all that likely, perhaps working with democracy would be a more constructive approach. Certainly the problems with democracy can be fixed. Perhaps we would be better to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
To me, it’s a lot more prudent than abandoning democracy to institute a system whose proponents can’t seem to explain how it would work or why, but still blindly insist that it would.