By 史蒂夫 奥托
Recently I found an article on the resurgence of Marxism, by a British writer, Cosmo Landesman, from the publication Times Online. In it he said,
“I was surprised to hear this, for I was under the impression that Marxists were the lost tribe of British politics. Once a proud and mighty people, they had been wiped out by the virus of neo-liberalism in the 1980s.
But the marginalised and melancholic Marxists of yesterday are feeling very upbeat today. Why? It’s the economy, stupid – or should that be the stupid economy of capitalism? The credit crunch, the decline in the housing market, the Northern Rock crisis, the rising cost of fuel and food, the spectre of recession, inflation and high unemployment have highlighted crucial flaws – to their eyes – in the free market.”
He noticed it was a little too early to ring the death bells for Marxist both young and old. The old ones never gave up and a whole new generation is now looking towards Marxist revolution as an alternative to capitalism. If there is a maxim for Anarchists, socialist democracy and every faction of Marxism it is this:
“CAPITALISM DOESN’T WORK” ........it never did, it never will.
True, it can save the majority of the middle class and create a temporary model of wonder, development and a sense of well being, but it never includes everyone. By its own nature capitalism has to leave a certain percentage out of the economic progress. Those who fall through the cracks fall hard. It also depends on access to resources in the poorer countries and that causes continues unending war. People in far away countries are not willing to live in squalor for our benefit.
One more piece of the puzzle, expansion. Capitalism only works when it is expanding. By nature, that means a need for more people, more resources such as oil, food, electricity, more materials for computers and cars, more land for more houses and in the end, it is like a pyramid scheme. It works until the resources simply run out. It may take a long time, with peak oil, global warming, over population and other scientific realities that American society has chosen to ignore. Eventually that just won’t work. It is physically impossible to build a machine that continues to put out more energy than is put into it. It defies the laws of physics. The Roman Empire is the best example of what we have today. By its nature, it became less democratic, its cities grew so fast, the infrastructure couldn’t keep up. It relied on slaves and resources taken from conquered states. It lasted for several hundred years, and then collapsed. This country will collapse eventually. It is a war like society and we are becoming less democratic.
The bottom line is we know this system can’t go on forever. We don’t simply want a better system, we want a plan in place when this one fails. In many ways it has already failed us. It can’t deliver prosperity for all, it can’t deliver us a society of peace and it can’t even produce honest leaders who care about the people they supposedly represent.
Instead we get leaders who are power drunk whoremongers.
To continue with the Times article:
“I went to the very first Marxist festival back in 1977, more out of curiosity than any real conviction. At that time lefties seemed to be the chosen people; Vanessa Redgrave was the poster girl of revolutionary politics. I was an idealist looking for a Big Idea and Marxism seemed to offer that. So I was curious to see how things had changed in more than 30 years: back then Marxism was in its heyday, at least among a generation of young intellectuals and academics. It was the era when sociology ruled the humanities and pot, radical politics and sexual promiscuity were all the rage – or so Malcolm Bradbury’s 1975 novel The History Man suggested.
Set in a fictitious university in 1972, Bradbury’s novel tells the story of the trendy and faddish Marxist sociologist Howard Kirk – self-appointed champion of the oppressed and the campus lothario. To many on the right, Bradbury’s novel was proof that Marxist academics were subverting the minds of the young.
But the power and prestige of Marxism quickly faded as the Kirk generation grew older and gave up dreams of revolution for careers in academia. Then came the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and the Soviet Union itself in 1991. Marxism was officially dead and Francis Fukuyama, in his book The End of History and the Last Man, claimed that liberal capitalism had won the great ideological battle. So when I arrived at the opening session of the Marxism 2008 festival I expected to find only a dozen ancient Marxists raising arthritic fists as speakers denounced the evils of capitalism.
But no. The opening rally – at the central hall of the Friends Meeting House – was packed with more than 2,000 people. The audience was a mix of young and old; mature Marxist puritans from the public sector unions and punky and pierced antiglobal protester types. From all over the country they came, clutching sleeping bags, babies and their programmes to hear the likes of Tony Benn and Tariq Ali denounce capitalism.
Across walls and balconies were colour-ful banners bearing such slogans as “People, not profits” and “Renationalise now”. At one point the crowd broke out into a loud and spontaneous chant of “The workers, united, will never be defeated!” It was like stepping back in time and hearing the true believers of a forgotten faith.
The mood of the festival this year was optimistic. After all, there’s nothing like a crisis of capitalism to gladden the heart of a heartless Marxist who has been waiting for the return of class war since the winter of discontent. Tony – a lifelong trade union activist – was an old-fashioned Trot “and bloody proud of it” he told me with a smile. He was rejoicing that the Marxists’ moment had come. “The present crisis is a vindication of what we’ve been telling people for decades – capitalism is unfair and it doesn’t bloody work.”
Were all the young people I saw part of a new generation of Marxists? Not really. With the exception of younger members of the SWP, it was hard to find any young person who would call themselves a Marxist. They have a much more pick’n’mix attitude to politics than we did – a bit of green, a touch of Marx and a dash of antiglobalism is more their style.”
Yes times change and we don’t expect today’s young people to be clones of the old guard. But they do study Marx and history and they are aware that their society has been challenged before. They do want to learn from the older warriors. Also many of the foreign models that older Marxist looked up to are gone. There’s no Albania, the Soviet Union and the Sandinistas have chosen to adopt Socialist Democracy of the European type. So the Marxists of today have to be more homegrown.
The Times article also notices that there are also a growing number of Marxists here in the US:
“Curiously, the place where Marxism seems to flourish is the United States. “If you go to college campuses in America, you are much more likely to bump into people who call themselves Marxist than in Britain,” says Furedi. “But it’s much more of a radical lifestyle thing – students wearing Che T-shirts. A Marxist has become a term for anyone who doesn’t like capitalism.”
It may start as a lifestyle. We do have a culture war where the ultra-right tries to push Christian values on all of society and discriminate against those who oppose their conservative views on life. So yes, it becomes a lifestyle and those of like minded views have to find a niche where they can meet and defend their beliefs. But we have to start somewhere. Rejecting the “In God We Trust” crowd that uses religion as a control mechanism for the capitalist system is an important step in challenging this society.
Marxism will only die out when capitalism is dead and buried. This society will never “win” any ideological battle. There are worse alternatives if Marxism looses. There could be a system of war lords, fascism, total religious theocracy, which is a strong current in today’s society and in the Middle-east. Perhaps that is the appeal of Marxism. We won’t be forced to follow a religion and we can adopt a morality that is relevant to the way we live. And….we can adopt science as a part of our culture instead of ridiculing it.