"Marx was Right!"

Richard Metzger is the current Boing Boing guest blogger.
Watching the news with the G20 protesters in London carrying banners reading "Capitalism Failed Us" and "Marx was Right!" I felt quite good about the day's events. In 1983 and 1984, I was living in London and going to protests like this myself and it brought back long-forgotten memories. When I was younger, I considered myself a staunch socialist, but as I got older that way of identifying myself fell away. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, it seemed like Marxism was something that the world had moved on from and so did I. During the dotcom era, I was as greedy a capitalist as the next guy. Five years ago, slimming my library down for a cross country move, I unemotionally tossed all of my "Karl Marx and related" books. Boy do I regret doing this now! One recent evening, I was writing something and I thought I'd coined a nifty new phrase to describe a major factor in the economic meltdown: "fictitious capital." I decided to Google the term and it's a good thing that I didn't pat myself on the back too hard because it's something that Karl Marx came up with about 150 years before me. That Google search led me down a Karl Marx rabbit hole that lasted for weeks (My wife, Tara, called it "worse than your reggae phase!"). I bought a new copy of "Capital" and read deep into the night. I emerged a few days later, bleary-eyed, unshaven and proudly declaring myself a socialist again. The work of Karl Marx is ultra relevant to understanding the world's current financial mess, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Marx has become intellectually indispensable to me again, as if there ever should have been any doubt. It's fascinating to consider that during the time period when Marx was writing "Capital," there were few factories in England --it was largely an agrarian society still-- yet somehow Marx was able to see clearly the mess that we would be in today. He's the most accurate prophet in all of history, there should be no doubt about this. Marx viewed history with a very, very long telescope. How he was able to see so far into the future is a mystery of his particular genius, but Marx accurately extrapolated how capitalism's endgame would play itself out at the very birth of the system. Marx saw how utterly destructive this system would ultimately become. Look around you: Marx was right. If you disagree, well, I have a challenge for you: Start reading Marx's "Capital" and see what you think afterward. Keep an open mind and try to get past the drier chapters up front. It's a richly rewarding intellectual journey to take. There is an online course taught by Professor David Harvey that I found quite helpful, you might want to take in some (or all) of his lectures for chapters that are more difficult to understand. Maybe some of you might want to form an online reading group on Facebook. The important point is to READ Marx again and to rediscover how prescient his ideas really were and how well they explain what's going on today. The Revenge of Karl Marx by Christopher Hitchens Marxism (Wikipedia) An excellent overview Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey (13 part video lecture series)


  1. too lazy to dig through the piles, someone refresh me please: what limit did capitalism just bump up against, according to Marx?

  2. This entire post is worth it just to reintroduce the phrase ‘fictitious capital’ to the world.

    The big problem with the US is that we borrowed to consume, instead of borrowing to produce. How are we going to pay back our debt? Inflating the currency to rob the debtholders seems like a devil’s bargain.

  3. My older son ran for Class President in his junior year, tho he didn’t want to win- “you can’t leave me alone in a room with those people!” He’d say. So he ran on the communist ticket. I made a series of 14 posters and a lot of small handbills, using phrases like ‘Are we Lennin anything here?’ and “X Marx a vote for Andy!’, we did Castro, Che Guevara and such.
    He was running against one of the cheerleaders, and we drove them and the security guards nuts. Every night we’d plaster the campus with posters, and every morning they would tear them down.
    He won, but they said he didn’t. Couldn’t have a commie win! Fine. Good times.

  4. An unqualified “Marx was right” declaration may not be beneficial. Certainly he was right about many of the problems of capitalism (and oddly prescient for his day), but his overemphasis on production certainly didn’t account for the rise in white-collar work, middle management and professionals who are neither bourgeoisie nor proletariat. He was oddly optimistic about the coming revolution, and failed to account for the regulated capitalism which took the edge off of many of the system’s worse abuses. And I can’t even imagine what benefits automation may lead the world to (the problem of exploitation between countries much greater than inequality within a single country in my opinion).

    I have a great respect for the man, his intellect and legacy (and much of his social analysis is dead-on with a little adaptation) but few sociologist, professional or scholar would make such a general statement.

  5. Gringos ingenuos. Metzger habla de Marx como quien habla de Charles Dickens o Beastie boys.

    Déjense de hacer el ridículo y vayan a leer Zizeck, para empezar.

  6. Somewhere in the last few decades the means of production turned into the means of moving imaginary concepts around while pretending to do something useful. How many people do you know who actually produce a product compared to those who simply move information? We should have remembered to plant victory gardens along the information superhighway, because databases don’t make for very good eating.

  7. Dick’s Capital come-on is curiously akin to the Mormon’s “promise” that if you read their Book of Mormon that God will give you the faith to know it’s true.

  8. How was Marx writing in an agrarian society? This was post-industrial revolution, surely? If anything, I think that the problem that Socialism faces now is that it developed in an industrial society that now longer exists, around a factory-based working class that no longer exists. The idea of ‘the worker’s alienation from their product’ or ‘seizing the means of production’ are no longer resonant in Western societies, because capitalism has removed both products and the means of production overseas. I think a ‘socialistic’ ideology is valuable but the basis of the politics needs re-working to function in modern western society.

    1. I think a ‘socialistic’ ideology is valuable but the basis of the politics needs re-working to function in modern western society.

      Or, modern Western society needs re-working to function in a world in which people in far-off lands have figured out that they shouldn’t be working for a dollar a day to feed our fat, useless asses. As the world inexorably moves to equality between (large) nations (Hey, China! Hi, India!), we have to start farming and manufacturing again and stop trying to live by reselling mortgages and flipping houses.

  9. Marx was right in many ways about capitalism and the way it can and does implode upon itself, but I think that he seriously misunderstood human nature in predicting the rise of socialism and, ultimately, communism. I think that making socialism, much less communism, work would require human beings to be much more good-natured and much less self-interested than they actually are. Human beings just aren’t wired to accept “To each as he needs, from each as he is able.” I am a Hobbesian and I believe that human beings will necessarily act in accordance with their own self-interest even if doing so is not in the interest of others and that this cannot be changed.

    I think that is also why governments which have purported to have communist systems have actually been very corrupt and unjust and riddled with economic and social inequality. Those governments, in fact, made no effort to actually grow through socialism (which is a prerequisite for communism) and instead merely declared themselves to be communist from the beginning. They then used the mask of communist ideology to justify their regimes. There has never been anything close to a communist country, and I doubt there ever will be.

    I would support gradual steps towards socialism, though I don’t think we’ll ever reach that, either.

  10. I’m not about to say he’s 100% correct, but I’ll certainly go out on a limb and say that he was a hell of a lot more right than Adam Smith.

    And Ayn Rand is still her own entirely continent of wrong.

    1. I’m not about to say he’s 100% correct< ?i>

      That’s a good point. You can say the same thing about Darwin or Einstein. Their ideas are subject to refinement and reinterpretation in light of new data, but they provide a good foundation and framework.

  11. Am I the only person here that see our problem directly related to “free trade”.

    So here is the deal. Free trade means as a working American I have to compete directly with people earning 50 cents an hour in china?

    I would have to work 5600 hours a year just to pay my property tax. 1980 hours to pay my homeowners insurance a year. In other words NO FUCKING WAY IN FUCKING HELL Americans can compete. SO we send all our money to china and then all stand around looking at each other like WTF?????

    For fucks sakes.

  12. “It’s fascinating to consider that during the time period when Marx was writing “Capital,” there were few factories in England –it was largely an agrarian society still”

    England or rather Britain was the workshop of the world, the Empire was in full swing. The industrial revolution was well under way. Cotton, and textile mills dominated the landscapes, coal mining, ship building, iron works etc too.

    Yes Marx had good insight into where capitalism would lead, ut Marxism is as flawed as any ideology out there. The human spirit is too complex to be assigned to an ideology. Capitalism tempered with socialism is a good compromise imho.

  13. Marx’s analysis of the problems with capitalism is pretty good: his proposed solutions, not so much – that’s understandable, since it’s easier to find the weak points of an existing system than to design a ground-up replacement.

    Unless you’ve read Smith properly in the original and considering the context he was writing in, don’t go off on him – he makes a lot more sense than most of the people who selectively cite him and was aware of a lot of the problems with a free-market.

    Ayn Rand wasn’t even wrong.

  14. I guess someone forgot to tell you that America hasn’t seen hide nor hair of real capitalism for nearly 100 years. (Not that I’m a fan of capitalism.)

    You can’t, for too long, attempt both free market capitalism and socialism at the same time – which is what we’ve been attempting… (At least not without enforcing a police state, which is inevitably what will happen anywhere socialism is attempted.) Socialists are all about slavery, and rule by oligarchy. They always have been, and they always will be – as much as they attempt to deny it – whether it’s Hitler’s National Socialism, or Stalin’s socialism. America, and much of the western world now finds itself in a situation caused by both capitalism (system based on personal greed) and socialism (system based on absolute control and theft). Mark my words that this situation will lead us further toward a world fascist government. (Remember fascism is a form of socialism) It’s possible that we will have complete breakdown, and anarchy…(we can only hope ;)

    There is a third way, but if you’re a fan of Marx I must assume it would be beyond you to comprehend.

  15. marx was right about a lot of stuff but i don’t think you could say he was right in his final conclusion. the same analysis in the context of ubiquitous digital networking technology yields an entirely different result. we are going to see this outcome appear in peoples minds soon with clarity and it’s gonna really mess up a lotta applecarts.

    captalism as it is practised today is not really a free market, but an oligarchic system where benefits and exceptions are dispensed through social networks of powerful people, meshed in with governments and thinkers with big followings.

    the mess we are in is the inevitable outcome of inertia of people who want today to be the same as tomorrow, most especially when it comes to believers in doctrines of one sort or another, those who benefit from the status quo (welfare people, politicians, advertisers, etc) in the face of, at this cycle of history, the impact of digital technology on the established hierarchical industrial system from the industrial revolution (as an aside one of the big drivers of the chaos that led to the depression and WW2 was the impact of pharmacological technology most especially in the way people think about medicine and how medicine affects people’s minds).

    it is good to look back at marx and other thinkers of his era (bakunin, et al) at this time, however. they were important in their time also because they essentially wrote the textbook on the old system that is falling apart now because it is incompatible with ubiquitous digital technology. re-assessment will see how their conclusions lead to our confusions.

  16. @#13 Jesse in Japan: I was equally pessimistic, until I started dating a Swedish girl (who spent the first part of her life in Yugoslavia), and got to learn about how Sweden works. It’s close as dammit to a functioning socialist state, without major corruption, power hungriness among politicians or any of the kinds of issues that plague most other nations. (It’s quite telling that until she moved to the U.K., social class was a concept she had never even heard of. She ended up living in some pretty dodgy parts of London at first because the idea that a city could have “bad neighbourhoods” was completely alien to her.)

    I’ve come to realise that the reason Sweden is like this is at least partly because socialist values are built into Swedish (and probably most Scandinavian) cultures.

    As an anecdote: Last summer we were staying with some of her friends near Stockholm, whose English, while orders of magnitude better than my Swedish, had the occasional error. Every now and then I would correct them (which is a bit insensitive, but is a habit I’ve gotten into having been in English-speaking countries with non-English speakers who asked me to correct them wherever possible). Anyway, the friends in question got annoyed, and quietly told my girlfriend as much, and she related it to me. However, she had to explain to me why they were annoyed, and to do so, she introduced me to the concept of Jantelagen, a series of commandment-like laws invented by a Danish author (in a work of fiction) as a way of describing this facet of Scandinavian culture. The laws themselves are intended to ensure equality among members of society, and seem oppressive and far fetched. Nevertheless, they are almost taught as canon in Sweden. The reason the friends got annoyed was not because I bruised their egos by correcting them, but that in doing so I had violated Jantelagen (by trying to seem better or smarter than them).

    There’s another account of a non-Nordic person running into the Jantelagen here.

    So, I present to you a counter-example, although I would love for you to frame it in Hobbesian terms. (I mean that sincerely, without sarcasm – it would be genuinely very interesting.)

  17. The problem with Marxists is they take the wrong things from Marx.

    You need to look at the anti-state left to get a clearer picture.

    Best place I’ve found is Kevin Carson’s ‘Studies In Mutualist Political Economy’ which presents an excellent overview of the history of capitalism from the enclosures and evictions of the 18th Century, through the state aid to industrialists to impoverish workers to provide a workforce, then to the attempts at cartelisation in the 19th Century to the state enforced cartels in the early 20th Century and the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex we have today.

    Marx was categorically incorrect in his predictions, some of his analysis was however excellent. Just a pity he had all the Hegelian, statist, authoritarian and paternalist baggage.

  18. #2, takuan: Capitalism runs into capital as it’s own limit. The argument is thus (from memory, simplified):

    A simplified economy: We have a worker and a Capitalist. The Capitalist pays the Worker a wage, from that wage the Worker buys the goods he is producing. But the motive for investing capital in the first place is profit, with is the part of the price, which does not pay for the means of production or w.

    Obiously, this system doesn’t work in the long run, because the profits accumulate on the capital-side It only works, as long as either the surplus value can be raised at the expense of the worker (which also doesn’t work since then he can’t buy the products anymore) or the technical means of production (e.g. as long as the raise in technical productivity ensures the profit, but machines can’t consume the goods they produce either) or the whole system expands, e.g. to new markets.


    This of course can be compensated by consuming on borrowed money. So Marxist say, that the rise of financial capital is not caused by greed, but is a direct consequence of the actual system of production hitting its innate limits.

  19. There is a third way, but if you’re a fan of Marx I must assume it would be beyond you to comprehend.

    If you have a point, make it, but please don’t insult the other commenters who have actually made theirs. Hmmm – looking at your two previous BB comments, I see that you’ve described people who disagree with you as ‘retarded’ and ‘Kool-Aid drinkers’. You keep using those words. I do not think they mean, what you think they mean.

  20. Marx’s observations on capitalism were right on the nail, shame his suggested ‘solution’ was so utterly flawed.

  21. Great post, thanks for this.

    People ignore Marx at their own peril.

    Its a shame that many americans brush him off without much of a review.

    Its a case of too little, too late. Many americans are reading Marx again because of the mess their unfettered capitalism has gotten them into …

    Heres a prediction, noone is going to fix anything, the u.s. empire is doomed and humanity is ready to plunge into another dark age (of sorts).

  22. All of my life living in the Soviet Union and then in the former Soviet Union I look around myself: Marx was wrong

  23. why haven’t we ever developed an economic system based on primate social psychology? Something everyone can understand even if only intuitively?
    Why do people persist in denying their own nature?

  24. @13

    “I think that making socialism, much less communism, work would require human beings to be much more good-natured and much less self-interested than they actually are.”

    And some people see that acting collectively can often be in their self-interest.

  25. Non-economists have such a crazy interpretation of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and the other economical theorists that have come before us: this idea that each must be completely right or completely wrong to be important does not enter into professional’s minds. No…Adam Smith did not understand the theory of interest. But Karl Marx didn’t understand the theory of money. Yet each have given us tremendous understanding of how the economy works. I find it shocking that when considering physics, no layman doubts Newton’s importance even though Newtonian physics didn’t consider quantum mechanics. Yet your average citizen dismisses Adam Smith’s or Karl Marx’s contribution in one breath, never considering that they may not both inform us.

    However, real economists are well aware of the theories that predate us, and to experts, posts like these really feel like comments from the crazy man at a city council meeting. “Yes Mr. Metzger, thank you for reminding us that California is in an earthquake zone and how the recent earthquake caused a building near you to fall down. However, the city council doubts your extrapolation that the entire city must be rebuilt as city engineers believe they know the reason for the building failure near you and have assured us that it was exceptional.”

  26. @ #22, Kieran O’Niel,

    Hobbesian theory, at least to the best of my understanding (I’m not an expert), states that there are many situations in which people come to an understanding that what is in the interest of their society/community/group is also very much in their own interest in the long-run even if it can seem to be against their interest in the short-run. This is called “enlightened self-interest.” A person who has enlightened self-interest realizes that it is best for him or her to sacrifice his or her own immediate self interest in favor of what’s best for those around him or her.

    I think that Jantelagen is a very good example of that kind of enlightened self-interest (there are similar concepts in Japan, but they are based more on homogeneity than equality) and it does represent a challenge to Hobbesianism. However, the Hobbesian response would be that there are invariably conflicts and disputes in every society (I would imagine so in Sweden, but I don’t know very much about Sweden) and that, even in the most egalitarian of societies (equality is not the same as sacrificing self-interest), these conflicts, if not checked by some kind of overarching authority (law), create discord that can strain societal bonds and lead to situations in which it’s either you or me. I think that even in a system like Sweden’s, in a serious matter (property rights, life-or-death, that kind of thing), most people would assert the “me” before giving in to the “you.” A person who does not believe himself to be superior to his fellow man will not necessarily share his food with his fellow man if it means that he will go malnourished. Of course, that doesn’t apply in everyday life, but I believe that those kinds of situations do come up.

    In everyday life, the Swedish system is very good and represents enlightened self-interest. In times of famine or war, though, would that system hold up?

  27. I wonder where all those protesters got the materials to make their “Capitalism is dead” signs, eh? I’m betting it wasn’t at the people’s paper mills, ink kibbutz and collectivised print commune.

    While there are serious structural flaws with undiluted capitalism (like it’s tendency towards self-destruction), many of the solutions that Marx has inspired have been worse.

    Simplistically saying “Socialism good; Capitalism bad” (or vice versa) isn’t the way to go about dealing with the very complex problem of national or the world economy. The likely best solution is some sensible blend of the two.

  28. Funny that the crisis brought upon us by socializing the home lending sector (for we MUST loan money to people who cannot pay it back) becomes “a crisis of capitalism” in the minds of marxists.

    But only in their minds…

  29. @#22 Kieran O’Neill: I mean that sincerely, without sarcasm – it would be genuinely very interesting.

    I do wish there was an emoticon for that sentiment. I find myself having to say the same thing online over and over again, for fear of being mistaken for a troll.

  30. Did someone on here really say that The Nazis and the Soviets are the same?

    How many times does this nonsense need to be shot down?

    But anyway.

    I am a Socialist, but I recognise that the biggest problem with it is that it flies in the face of human nature, much like Christianity.

    I know that there can never be true socialism but that is no reason not to try.

    In the same way that the credo of Xians shouldn’t be ignored simply because it can not be achieved fully.

    I’m also an atheist but I recognise that the god botherers are actually pretty moral people.

    Socialism, the good of all, the benefit of the people as a whole should inform the way we behave individually and as a society.

    It is as close as we are likely to get.

    Basically don’t embrace evil.

  31. And as for Adam Smith vs Marx, guess which of them wrote this:

    “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

    Smith was well aware of the shortcomings of an unregulated capitalist system.

  32. Socialism has been tried. It has never worked. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting to see different results. We don’t need socialism….we need to modify our already modified capitalism to a better model and try again. I thought this blog was about new ideas….new ways at looking at the world…not dredging up ancient and dusty concepts and failed ideas and then applying them like a twisted religion to our lives….

  33. “don’t embrace evil.”
    Sounds like something from Google. Is that it now? Is Google the new “Godwin’s Law”?

    As for Marx, it is not only a waste of effort to try and historically score his predicitons, it is also to miss his point. It is this:

    Capitalist Democracy is not the final stage of mankind.

    This sentiment has been said in many other ways, not least of all by a serious Capitalist:
    “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Winston Churchill.
    What is clear is that it is not the ideas of the left that is at fault, it is the method of implementation. Hopefully, eventually, we will get to a state where the “means of production”, I.E. the scarcity of resources and their creation from raw materials, is no longer an issue. Only then will a sort of Enlightened Communism be possible. In other words, as long as the notion of money rules humanity, suffering will exist. Simple.

    Basho –

  34. Of course Marx couldn’t foresee the shift of work in at his times industrializing countries to white collar work today, but as long as it is you and not your money working for you, you’re still ‘working class’.

    The market is an as stupid advisor as is a board of self-proclaimed revolutionary leaders. At the moment we can watch how the demand for cheaper and cheaper products (competition) is turning into a self-fulfilling phophecy: lower prices mean lower wages (or complete outsourcing to cheaper countries), lower wages raise the demand for cheaper products. This is why the demand for mid-price is drastically decreasing, while cheapo and luxury goods flourish.

    I have no solution to offer, but it seems obvious to me, that we’re falling back to a 19th century society structure, ‘socialist’ activists had helped to overcome during the past 100 years, leading to an amount of wealth and freedom, that obviously did not meet the demands of ‘the market’.

    Maybe we should consider to switch goals.

  35. This thread is absolutely terrifying. How many examples do you need of people who think they’ve discovered the way society should be having to kill those who disagree? And get your facts straight about Sweden. It has high taxes but is rigid in its belief in private property and free trade – much more so than France, for example.

  36. I like future-is-now tech displays, spacebats, and funky retro-art as much as the next Boing-Boinger, but I have to say a [*insert emoticon for sincerity*] thank-you to the posters here for the reasoned, multi-faceted discussion here. I appreciate getting the benefit of all your study, reading, and thought.

    My deepest wish is that the people reshaping our banks and governments after this latest turn would stop like this and question the fundaments of our society, rather than just patching holes so the ceaseless shopping cruise can keep on sailing.

    Anyway, thanks for the insights.

    Time to return to my info-work, with maybe a stop to pray with Reverend Billy on the way back.

  37. Imo communism has been misinterpreted and it’s been said that Stalin was the biggest anti-communist of the 20th century.

    The tragedy of 20th century “communism” is that it has been used as a tool of a revolution rather than an evolutionary goal. Marx proposed communism as the ultimate stage in the evolution of the human society, rather than something that can be accomplished by a radical revolution from a much less “evolved” state. (The quotations are here because I acknowledge the quaintness of seeing evolution as a progressive one-way street to “greater refinement” a 19th century more Marx was subject to.) According to Marx communism is something that happens when the society progresses enough in material wealth, education and “self-awareness” for want of a better word.

    All the failed “communisms” of the 20th century failed because they tried to jump-start several of the stages of this evolution of societies. Russia was a basically feudal society for example and yet they tried to jump over the stages required.. no wonder they relapsed quite quickly back into authoritarian oligarchy – the society simply wasn’t “mature” enough.

    Scandinavians are a good opposite example. Materially secure, no wars for god know how long, no feudalism legacy to hamper them (and feudalism/slavery complex takes many generations to purge from a society.) According to pure Marx they are on a right proper way to eventual communism (barring any trauma ofc). In addition some would say that today’s global system equates to “communism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.” I’d say that’s a very illustrative way of looking at things from both historical and economical perspective.

  38. @13 – You’re opinion of human nature is very valid. Ironically, it is very similar to Ayn Rand’s opinion of the “ethical” people in Atlas Shrugged – that all the people “of the mind” would always do the right thing wrt greed and NEVER try to game the system or be corrupt.

    Although #22 says that Swedes do a pretty good job at being socialists, socialism’s spread would require them to export their culture which just isn’t happening right now.

    Until all the basic human needs can be met without a substantial cost to the group, socialism will always lose to greed. Most 1st world countries have the whole food thing covered – there’s not a lot of starvation in the US. But that still leaves education (getting there) and medical treatment. Nationalized medicine clearly is still too expensive as there are people who don’t receive treatment in a timely manner OR even get some treatments at all because they cost too much.

    Star Trek society is still a long ways off. Until then – GO capitalism!

  39. Capitalism is NOT the same as free market. Identifying one with another is a serious conceptual fraud and has always been a central point of the capitalist ideology’s propaganda strategy to gain legitimacy among the populace.

  40. I’d like to introduce a term too – fictitous labor. Marxist society would end terribly when people measure worth only in labor hours. I would spend my day digging holes and filling them in so i can get maximum labor credits in Marxist society.

    Socialism is a silly childish idea and has caused our global economy to crash. Let’s mend our ways and get back to capitalism as quickly as possible.

  41. At 42 – imo the “swedish culture” thing is way overrated. Saying that nordi culture is somehow intrinsically more “altruistic” than others is not only pretty much inaccurate (some would say that it is probably the most individualistic one of all, northern people living in isolated communities, vikings etc) but it borders on racism.

    If you want to go that way you can argue that far eastern “cultures” have a much greater predilection toward “communal” living and selflesness. I’d really like to see how swedish socialism would fare in an alternative reality where they had the kind of history russians, chinese, vietnamese etc had with all the foreign invasions, colonialism, natural factors etc. To put it bluntly, Scandinavians can afford mellow socialism because no one bothered them up there for a long time. A few mongolian invasions, a decent famine or two with a nice civil war brought about by a foreign power would quickly put an end to any idea of naturally cute and altruistic northmen lol.

  42. Karl Marx wrote a lot of things other than Das Capital.

    He had some observations on the Jewish Question, for instance.

    et us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.

    What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.

    Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.

    Marx himself was Jewish: this is one of the better examples of the “self-hating Jew” phenomenon.

    Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.

    Other radicals of Marx’s era had similar problems-Proudhon, for instance, said much worse (though he got over it).

    But I don’t hear many people saying that Proudhon was right (aside from Kevin Carson, who, while quite erudite and well worth listening to, is a fringe figure).

    Anyone wanting to revive Marx is going to have to deal with the legacy of the Marxists of the last century, the fact that some of Marx’s critics (like Proudhon) predicted that Marxism in power would look an awful like what the Soviet Union was, and the racism, sexism, and naked power-worship that pulses throughout his works.

  43. Daemon @14

    Have you read Adam Smith? He was, after all, the guy who wrote this:

    We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… [When workers combine,] masters… never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, laborers, and journeymen.

    Smith was a harsh critic of the kind of crony capitalism and socialism for the rich (and only for the rich) we have now. (He didn’t call it socialism for the rich, since the term socialism didn’t exist when he was writing, but it’s the same thing.)

    The “capitalism” we have now is not something Smith would have defended.

    Smith was also the same guy who said:

    People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

    Food for thought in our era of G8, G20, and various UN summits (where people in the trade of government meet) and Davos, is it not?

  44. Mystics for Marx unite! Instead of saying that you were “as greedy a capitalist as the next guy”, it makes more sense to state you were as “free” a capitalist as the next guy. And I’ll assume you did not abuse this freedom to harm your fellow man. That very freedom is what we lose under socialism. Man is not owned by other men or supernatural beings. It is the mystics of muscle and spirit that believe man is not the true owner of his life. They believe that we owe our lives to tyrants, other men (society) or to some god. Man’s life is his own and he has the freedom to succeed or fail. He owes nothing to, and is owed nothing by his fellow men. This is the true nature of freedom. It does not exclude benevolence, but benevolence does not come at the point of a sword or a gun as it did with Stalin, Castro, Che and every other socialist revolutionary (tyrants). When it does, its called socialism or in its most extreme form, outright slavery.
    If the premise is that capitalism caused this problem, I suggest we check the premise and not just believe it as an axiom. This country traded freedom from tyranny (capitalism) for freedom from want (socialism) long ago. Its government sponsored freedom from want that caused this excess and mess. Not capitalism.

  45. As a scandinavian I can assure that we are not different from most others. And we are not really socialists up here. True, we probably have a more equal distribution of wealth here compared to many other contries, but this is historically a result of negotiations between strong unions and employers organizations. This tradition of negotiation with addition of strong safety net in a good health care and educational system has benefited both parties, as it redistributes wealth but provides a flexible and highly skilled and supported workforce. Since we have strong regulations for equal opportunities, the potential workforce is also of a higher percentage than many other places.

  46. It´s trully difficult to concentrate in one solid vector of thought all the emotional states, intelectual domains and political factions that we face today.

    I take myself Anarchism as the non-definitive system, the ever-evolving system and the teleological archetype that Human Societies suck from. In fact, I think, as an spectral analyzer, anarchism could be posited outside the political framework, and be considered as an ontological force which prints its stamp in the sociological entity as an anxiety reaction.

    Marx nailed it when he wrote his theories. But we must be aware that he was forced to take abstract lucubrations such as Technology or Labor force. He deepened into a timeless critique against Capitalism full of concepts and dynamics. However, Systems are always in transformation, especially its own limits and data rates.And so does Capitalism.

    In my honest opinion, I think that Technology is the big issue, right now, and how digital technology and Information are exploding into a fluid and chaotic mesh of massive alienation.

    My current strategy is forgeting Titans and focusing on what I do know is fucking everything up. Like for example, advertising and its ubiquity. I smash advertising and that way I release my primal desires of violence. Just to finish, I saw lots of people abusing of the concept of “human nature”. I do not accept it because it´s just such a dark and void paradox… how do you establish the borders between biology and culture? Who comes first, the chicken or the egg?I refuse to use that term.

    And what about the: X is proven that didn´t work…Come on guys, that´s the bullshit we eat since we are born. That didn´t work, you cannot do further changes. Life is like this… human nature…bla bla bla. I see the Eternal and unmutable God dancing around those dogmas.

    As an spanish recently arriven from the States for one year, I can say, Americans, in general, are fucking scared of anything that sounds communist (but I do like their anti-state side). Now, the new wave of capitalist embrace ethics and turning this world into an ethical TV set with personal growth and visionary creative work. And Any Rand is their guru… I just think… Ayn Rand is fucking scary!

  47. Or, modern Western society needs re-working to function in a world in which people in far-off lands have figured out that they shouldn’t be working for a dollar a day to feed our fat, useless asses. As the world inexorably moves to equality between (large) nations (Hey, China! Hi, India!), we have to start farming and manufacturing again and stop trying to live by reselling mortgages and flipping houses.

    Well, in acknowledgement of the limitations of my knowledge, I don’t want to comment in depth on what would work in developing countries; but where secondary industry is prevalent I don’t see any issue with the application of original, unadulterated Marxism. But it would be foolish and immoral for us to try to re-industrialise as we can’t compete with developing countries while our labour prices are so much higher, these countries are often viciously suppressing their workforces in order to achieve these low costs, which we don’t want to do, and the most obvious way to level the playing field would be to introduce tariffs to reduce their competitiveness. Given their export-driven economies, this would be catastrophic for developing countries, and further most of this loss would be passed on to the poorest people in the economy. If anyone has got any answers to this, I’d seriously love to hear them – I’m not much of an economist.

    I think that the best thing that could happen would be a significant, steady-rather-than-sudden increase in the cost/risk of long-distance shipping. I hear piracy’s on the rise…

  48. I advise yuo have a look at the work of Adorno, Marcuse, among others of the Frankfurter Schule aka Critical Theory.

    Their insights into ideology and the cultural industry help understand why the revolution never succeded here.

  49. Richard, just curious: have you ever read The Wealth of Nations? If not, then that’s a rather glaring hole in your economics education, no? A bit like the Creationists who talk about how ridiculous the idea of evolution is without ever bothering to learn how it works. Adam Smith is basically the Charles Darwin of economics. In the same way, he’s certainly not the be all and end all, and the science has progressed a hundredfold since then, but he formulated the foundation that has proven to be basically the right idea. And as with Darwin, if you haven’t familiarized yourself with how those ideas work, you really have no right entering the conversation in the first place.

    Which is not to say that there’s nothing to be gained from reading Marx. I’ve read most of what he’s written, as well. And if you’ve read one and not the other, you’d probably be shocked at how little they actually directly disagree.

  50. Welcome back, Richard Metzger.

    Many of us kept the faith because we knew Marx to be a solid materialist and evolutionist. His 150-year-old prediction of the rise of international corporate capitalism is an unparalleled achievement; it’s so prescient it’s spooky.

    After the fall of the USSR, My friend Newall Gilchrist, the board game master, put his copy of Kapital in the freezer section of his refrigerator. ”We’ll thaw it out in a few years,” he said.

  51. Anonymous @ 10 stole my thunder. England wasn’t an agrarian society in 1867 when Capital I was published. Marx’s friend and benefactor Friedrich Engels had notably published The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 decades before.

    Marx wasn’t all that visionary really, and communism as a political system is untenable because it doesn’t account for individual self-interest. Marx just has some sort of grip on the popular imagination of impressionable undergrads, not unlike Che Guevara.

    If one really wants to understand the current financial crisis, read true visionary Max Weber to understand behavioral aspects and study the Panic of 1873 and the eerie parallels between railroad then and housing today. Note how that great capitalist icon J.P. Morgan, who saved the American economy no less than twice, saw an unregulated market as the primary problem: yes, Morgan was for regulation. Note the Panic of 1873 turned into the Long Depression.

    Marx will get you nowhere in practical insight into the current crisis. Of course, being convent in Marx & Engels will help you score with the angry, iconoclastic chick in the hemp sneakers and Che t-shirt at your next frat house beer bash.

  52. Jhduval @45

    In fact, capitalism was brought, in lot of cases, at the point of a gun, too. The XvII and XIX centuries european and american history is full of liberal revolutions. And your examples aren’t valid as a rule, either. There are examples of socialist goverments choosen by the people peacefully (scandinavian countries, Allende’s Chile, Sandinistas … ).

  53. “Look around you: Marx was right.”


    Your wife was right! Capitalism is a mess now, and I certainly don’t support its excesses, but remember what Communism looks like? Elimination of freedom, economic stagnation and environmental destruction (on a much more dramatic scale than what we see today in the U.S.)

    Is there a “third way”? Sure. And the failures of Bush-era Capitalism will propel us towards it, but hyping Marx’s critique of Capitalism while ignoring the unmitigated disasters of Communism seems…well, crazier than a Rasta hat on a whiteboy.

  54. Capitalism is more or less the worst form of economy.

    Except for all the other ones that have been tried.

  55. ’83-’84: Major recession. Metzger decides capitalism is bad; joins protests.
    Dotcom era: Major ecomic growth. Metzger decides to be a “greedy capitalist”.
    April ’09: Major recession. Metzger’s rediscovered socialism again.

    Forgive me if I don’t put too much stock in your opinion.

  56. Marx was indeed a genius and a prophet.

    Marxism is increasingly in vogue again as people realise who prescient he was.

    The President of France, Sarkozy was recently spotted clutching a copy of Capital

    And sales of Capital have skyrocketed in Germany

    and Marx was named as the “Philosopher of the Millennium” recently on the high-brow BBC Radio 4


  57. Thank you for this.
    Folks should be able to tell the difference between Marx as prophet and Marxism as a political ideology. They aren’t as closely connected as you might think….

    >>I’d really like to see how swedish socialism would fare in an alternative reality where they had […] with all the foreign invasions, colonialism, natural factors etc.

    Welcome to Finland. Pretty similar but they put more money in guns and stock food for the bad day.

  59. #20
    “Socialists are all about slavery, and rule by oligarchy”

    mmmm…pretty sweeping statement there. Methinks you have pretty tenuous grasp of what socialism is. I think the word you are looking for is ‘totalitarian’ although even then…

  60. Always worth distinguishing between Marxism and the various other ‘isms’ that have claimed to follow his lead, but really haven’t. Everything from Leninism to Maoism. I’ve always found the political compass system more useful than the stale old 2 dimensional left/right paradigm.

    On the economic axis I’m in the category of at least a Scandinavian style social democrat economic interventionist while on the political, personal freedom line I’m close to being an anarchist.

    The problems began when leftists all over the world bought into Lenin’s analysis that international capital had stalled the inevitable evolution to socialism through colonial trade and the process needed revolution to proceed. As Teriyaki posted here: “The tragedy of 20th century “communism” is that it has been used as a tool of a revolution rather than an evolutionary goal.” Absolutely right.

    It could be my Norwegian ancestry but I’ve always viewed the Scandinavian models as the best application and as the best models for attempting to reconcile equity for the many while allowing entrepreneurial gain. There are much the same number of rich people in the Nordic countries as elsewhere, just a lot less desperately poor people than elsewhere.

    An illustration of the Scandinavian model I enjoy is speeding tickets: If you’re a low income worker caught speeding in your beater your fine will be in the range of your income to be uncomfortable but not crippling, say the equivalent of $60 or $70 bucks. If you are a millionaire caught speeding in your Ferrari, your speeding ticket could be $60 or $70 thousand bucks.

    Seems reasonable to me.

  61. Did Marx forsee technical changes leading to the end of industrialism? My impression is not, but there’s a lot of Comrade Karl I haven’t read.

  62. Mr. Metzger,

    I think you do both yourself and Marx a disservice by the unqualified “holy crap, how did he telescope into the future” bit. Clumpy (@#5) is absolutely right – no one paying serious attention to Marx and the social/economic history since Marx would make such a general claim.

    There is just so much wrong with Marx’s account – even most contemporary Marxists grant that Marx’s labor theory of value just can’t explain as much as the marginal utility model. In Capital and elsewhere Marx was talking about factory conditions that were dramatically worse than the working conditions of most Americans, Britons, etc. Conditions in the third world may more resemble the kind of industrialism Marx was talking about (or perhaps not – I just don’t know enough to say), but that wouldn’t vindicate Marx, since it was supposed to be the most advanced stages of capitalism that most fully exhibited the features he was pointing to.

    The average working day has been DECREASING, while Marx’s theory predicted it would be continually INCREASING. Wages have, on an arc from the writing of Capital to now, dramatically INCREASED, while he predicted they would continually DECREASE to mere subsistence levels. The size of the “petty bourgois” (aka ‘the middle class’ or ‘small business owners’) has, on that same arc, dramatically INCREASED, while he predicted it would soon disappear. Perhaps some of these things are, over the recent term, again going in the direction that Marx predicted. But if I predict it will start raining more, then there is a drought, I can’t claim I was right when it finally starts raining again.

    So by framing the value of reading Marx as how he was so right and somehow saw in advance everything that was going to happen is to just set your case up for failure. You undermine your general point, which I think is right – reading Marx is helpful in understanding where we are now. That’s because, despite all he got wrong, there are some general, structural features of capitalism that he correctly identifies. Even those who fundamentally disagree with Marx’s overall assessment must take these features into account. These are things like the constant need of capitalists to expand into new markets and the periodic crises that result when they are unable to do so.

    Finally, it’s worth reading Marx just to see how ridiculous the claims are of people in the media (and in blog comment sections) about how this or that is socialist or Marxist or whatever. This includes those above who’ve said things like ‘Marx’s critique of capitalism is good, but his proposed alternative is no better.’ The thing is Marx did very little in the way of sketching an alternative because he saw the revolution of the proletariat to be a scientifically certain, unavoidable outcome of the growth and development of capitalism. In fact, most of what gets called Marxist or socialist in contemporary discourse are things that Marx would have no patience with. Just see his “Critique of the Gotha Program” (much shorter, and more polemic, than Capital).

  63. Homer was right! In “Odyssey” he foretold the notion of a computer virus that looks safe but once you bring it in, it unpacks itself and skewers your liver.

  64. Richard, Marx was s socialist. but to be more accurate he was a sociologist. He had a very acute understanding of the human collective and how it functioned economically. He wasn’t a prophet anymore than a farmer is a prophet when he predicts that winter comes once a year. For an advanced and cultured as human society gets we are still basically human and are destined to be participants in these boom and bust cycles.

  65. I think it is important to separate out Marx’s contribution to philosophical and cultural discourse from the implementation of communism. #20 and #41 pointed out that the highly flawed Stalinism is how most of use understand communism and it’s failings. Marx took an extreme long view for how communism would come about. He saw it as an organic sociopolitical reaction to the flawed society capitalism creates (on a long enough timeline).

    This notion of looking at history as a set of action-reaction relationships on a grand scale was revolutionary thought (oversimplification of Marx, but that is the gist). Thinkers of the 20th century worked towards disproving Marx’s model of history, not so much together, but in a more Oedipal, “I can’t believe this guy is so smart and right about everything so I have to kill his ideas.” This “project” gave birth to post-modernism in the 70’s, which is marked by the realization that the formation of political/art/social movements is much more chaotic and less based on reactions to the specific and identifiable political/art/social movements that preceded them.

    Regardless, Marx casts an enormous shadow and, though he has been “proved wrong,” there has not been a single individual after him who has made a similar impact. Since we are at the embryonic stage of the internet age, and already everything points to crowd-sourced intelligence hive-mind, I doubt there ever will be.

  66. #24 nescireaude has it right. The fatal flaw in a capitalist system is that capital gradually accumulates to a few people. Unless we do something to “shake things up” and redistribute the capital.

  67. Hey, what’s a few hundred million dead among progressives? You Marxists will get it right one of these days. You have to break some eggs, right?

  68. Motionview- was that a comment generated by some sort of chatbot response to the word “Marxist”? Or did you have some sort of… point?

  69. @22
    I’ve never heard of Jantelagen before, but it explains some things to me, related to other people I know. Thanks for linking to the Wiki.

    As for Marxism vs. Capitalism: pfft. I don’t care. Sorry. People tend to be selfish and opportunistic in society. It’s easy to grind your boots into an old woman’s back when you don’t have to look down at her, and that’s exactly the sort of sociopathic madness being expressed by the most powerful among us today. They’ve hurt so many people, then laugh like hell about it because it means nothing to them.

    No matter what system you put into place to govern a society, you will always have those greedy sociopaths to deal with. You’ll always have corruption, and you’ll always have suffering as long as our culture accepts those selfish, money-motivated people into positions of power.

    This is how Sweden is different from us. They’ve found a cultural way to keep their natural, greedy urges in check. They’ve learned how to transcend the decadent, mindless flab that has become idealized in our culture.

    So arguments of Socialism and Capitalism and so on are irrelevant, as long as our worldview remains the way it is.

  70. Paraphrasing what Churchill said about democracy, capitalism is the worst possible system, except for all the others.

    Would a socialist system have ever produced the iPhone (or iPod, or Zune, or Android, etc, etc, etc)

  71. Back when I was young and knew Marx was right, I was like, “Marx is right!” Then I made some money and was like, “Marx is wrong!” Then that money went away and I got back into Marx and I was like “Marx is right!”

    Thank god there is a place to publish such insight!

  72. Hmmm. Retro-Marxism. If something or someone is right, somewhere along the way ‘it’ is accepted as the norm and adopted IF people see a benefit to themselves. Basic human psychology. This is why capitalism succeeded. People see the dollar signs, see the ‘other guy/gal’

    Not ‘every other guy’ is greedy. Unfortunately, this re-birth would be more credible were it not for the ‘born-again’ convenience of flip-flopping into it now that the proverbial has hit the fan.

    It is fine to have a belief or a stance, but to adopt it now that it would be fashionable to do so leads many to doubt the veracity of intent.

    “Oh, look. Here is that copy of the Bible now that the Four Horsemen are knocking at my door.”

    Forgive my cynicism but I am seeing so much commentary about doom and gloom and so much re-politicizing that it really gets my craw. Philosophizing about the nature of the problem does not solve it.

    People are bitching about how wrong things are but have yet to come up with anything positive or concrete in terms of actual action. Instead, there is a lot of navel contemplating about what, philosophically might happen…

  73. Would a socialist system have ever produced the iPhone (or iPod, or Zune, or Android, etc, etc, etc)

    … because the one thing we need for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is an iPhone (or iPod, or Zune, or Android, etc, etc, etc).

  74. Since no one on this forum ever went under the knife in the USSR for an appendectomy or root canal, and never was forced to accept sub-standard goods in a grocery store due to the failures of a command-economy, let me pose a question to everyone, with a little background first.

    Consider that in the USSR, a cadre of ethnic-Russian male bureaucrats at GosPlan failed to develop a robust market for consumer goods, and failed to balance the trade between the Soviet republics and Warsaw-Pact satellites. The result was that we stood in line for hours to get bread, subsisted on potatoes and preserved produce from the countryside, and sold diesel engines to Romania while getting nothing but spoiled fruit and lousy shoes in return. There was no competition to provide the spark for development of personal computers, no official access to foreign sources of information, and not even dual-sheet accounting (debits and credits), since profitability and efficiency were irrelevant. This, incidentally, is why ex-Soviet emigres living in the US consistently vote Republican – they’re afraid that their hell will be resurrected here.

    Here’s the question: Do you really think that you, as young-ish liberal-arts dilettantes, or even an ivory-tower American economist, can succeed where the Russians failed? And give the Russians some credit for their high degree of education: even a punch-drunk Russian bum at the racetrack can perform calculus equations faster than most sober, college-educated Americans. Are you really prepared to give up all your property to live in some Jim Jones-esque socialist paradise, where no incentives exist to stimulate competition between producers, and where you can’t pay more for a top-notch surgeon, even if you life depends on it?

  75. oh, please. Honestly, I’m getting quite sick of seeing this kind of radicalist response. ‘Marx was right’?? And you base this on the current economic failure, so it is an empirical conclusion. Please, then, give me a single example of Marxism bringing prosperity to a people in history.
    This is just an economic crisis (hard one, no doubt) but it is still an economic crisis. The economy will eventually recover, be made better through more appropriate regulation, and bring back the ever increasing prosperity and quality of life we’ve gotten used to.

    To just write capitalism off for this is plain miopic, and imho, quite arrogant.

  76. My advice… read as much as possible. Not just Marx, but read the wealth of books from other authors whom you may not agree with. Read Rand, read Smith, read Hayek, if you are going to read Marx, read Lenin, etc.

    Then interpolate. Use your beautiful brain to determine what seems right and what seems wrong. Maybe even write your own book. Knee-jerk responses and uneducated perceptions are dangerous.

    In the end, I hope states implement systems that ensure the greatest amount of LIBERTY, as I feel that is more important in the long run. Just because you are fed and clothed and sheltered doesn’t mean you are living a good life. If that’s all you need, go commit a crime and stay in prison. When my friend got out of prison that was the one thing that he the most thankful for, “I can go outside when I want to. I am free to do things on my own time.” LIBERTY although it is being attacked by both the left and right in the US, is critical.

  77. Raj77 – the point being that on the one hand you have the socialists, with a body count in the hundreds of millions, and the capitalists, who got excessive bonuses. Of course it’s time to run into the arms of the state and try socialism again.

  78. #61 – Wages up, working hours down – these were things that had to be fought for. They didn’t just happen because capitalists were nice, or as an inevitable result of the capitalist system. There were countless strikes and political battles, and a lot of these concessions were made to avoid socialist revolution by people who’d read some Marx. You’re all turned around, man.

  79. Ah, socialism is so seductive.

    The lure of everyone living happily ever after, no one having more than their fair share, no one going hungry, everyone doing their part. Sounds like utopia.

    Problem is, just like Capitalism it breaks along the edges where the over ambitious and greedy are willing to take advantage of others, and along the edges where free loaders and the irresponsible are willing to take advantage of others.

    A key difference in the two system’s approaches to these same and ever present problems are the one system compels, robs and limits the freedom of its members at the point of a sword, and the other system hopes that a majority of people will try to be decent, caring and responsible.

    When humans are too often or strongly compelled to give up what could be theirs, they resent it, and either quit trying to earn more (and everybody has less), or they rebel against the too-powerful system (and they or others die).

    When humans are given freedom to be what they want and give to others as they choose, people go hungry while others get filthy rich.

    Neither systems are utopia, but I do not wish to serve a system that thinks it knows better what is good for me than I do.

  80. #61 – Those strikes and political battles where the democratic and capitalistic system at work. Capitalism means that you can refuse to work for less than you are worth. It doesn’t mean the struggle is easy, but it means that the struggle is possible. Socialism declares that the system knows what you are worth, and you aren’t allowed to fight for more!

  81. Marx was very well able to critique capitalism.

    He was not able to critique socialism so well.

    His critiques, and most valid critiques of any economic system, center around the fact that when scaled up, the amount of resources that must be committed to preventing criminals from scamming the system or those using it must scale up as well.

    The fall of Communism was caused by the fact that the crooks could sit at the center of the society (government) and play at unproductive ends (war) with the livelihoods of billions. The failure of Capitalism is caused by the fact that the crooks could sit at the center of society (finance) and play at unproductive ends (partying/extracting more money) with the livelihoods of billions.

    Neither is a good economy for people living day-to-day lives, who need decentralisation of government – local government run by universal principles, not universal government run by local principles.

  82. Political systems move this way and that over time. Some move faster than others. The nordic systems are slow moving while the US system seems to move back and for more quickly. These systems move from conservative capitalistic to liberal socialist and back again as society feels the negative limitations of each way of life. So the markets melt down and greed is percieved as overwhelming lets move to a socialist regulated world. Socialism takes hold and people feel limited in thier potential and freedoms so lets move to a free market society. The organizers of these movements are the ones in power. They sell their ideas to the public who throws in their support depending on how much food is on the table and how they are feeling at the time. When things get really out of whack or too extreme we have a social uprising. We are just experiencing one of those times when popular sentiment is starting to move from right to left. It may take 10 years or 100 years but we will be back and then some to the right (and to the left again after that). If you want to throw your lot in with the socialists it seems like now is a good time to do so but there will be plenty of things you don’t like when you arive at socialist city.

    What can you do? Educate yourself (business and philosophy), save you money, help the environment (start with your home first and work outwards), be nice to others, give away 10% of what you make (you know if you can do this or not) to somone on the planet that needs it and don’t accept what your so called leaders tell you. If you do these things we could all be free (notice I don’t say happy). People will see what you are doing and slowly but surely will try and do the same.

    Most importantly fight against any political system that impedes your ability to do the above (hint: they all do in some way).

    Sorry for the preachiness I promise I don’t mean it that way.

  83. @DanTurner (#77)

    None of what you said contradicts what I said. In fact you just further illustrate why the worth of understanding Marx is not to be measured on whether ‘Marx was right’ in any global sense. He didn’t predict ‘there will be results X, Y, and Z unless you improve labor law;’ he predicted that results X, Y, and Z were inevitable results of the development of capitalism and that trying to secure concessions in labor law was a waste of time.

    The things you point to vindicate Marx’s significance, but they don’t vindicate the claim that he was right.

  84. Living under socialism is like being a Boston Market franchisee. If you’re very profitable, the parent company forces you to sell your restaurant in exchange for equity. If you fail, the parent company buys you anyway. The only way to maintain a consistent cash-flow is by turning in mediocre performance.

    Raul Castro recently complained about how Cuban shops were habitually giving consumers short shrift – like putting fewer slices of meat into sandwiches. This is what happens in an inefficient market, where you can’t cater to consumers with high price inelasticity. A Cuban book seller won’t publish an expensive hardcover edition before a cheap paperback edition, because they can’t access retained earnings to fund the hardcover edition, because the state hordes their surpluses and profits.

    The Soviet economy unraveled as early as the 1970s. While state coffers were lubricated with petro-dollars, the average Soviet citizen had to bribe officials to get their kid admitted to a prestigious university, to get better cuts of meat at the deli, and to get a car. Why? Because consumers demanded what their socialist economic system failed to deliver – BY DESIGN.

    Marx is an agent of economic stagnation, and there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. It also seems to breed hatred and corruption.

    And also, in case you’re wondering why, empirically speaking, anti-Semitism is called the “socialism of fools”: The Russians under Catherine “the Great” saw Jewish merchants, brought to Poland as agents of economic development, as a threat to Russia’s social strata of boyars and serfs. To prevent the rise of a middle class that could threaten the ruling class of nobles that perpetuated slavery (serfdom), Catherine barred Jews from settling in the territory of Russia proper. Subsequent tsars tried to buy off popular anger at economic conditions by scapegoating Jewish merchants and expropriating their property; for instance, stealing clockmakers’ trade tools. The punitive expropriations and state-sanctioned violence did nothing to improve Russians’ living standards – these measures only institutionalized corruption and graft. The point of the anecdote is this: Ethnic relations aside, bribery becomes the ‘invisible hand’ in socialist command economies, and the creation of fictitious external enemies has consistently proven vital to buying off popular discontent in such societies. It’s the bloody, greedy way that human beings “internalize externalities” in the absence of a free market.

  85. #79 – Gotcha, laws providing for a minimum wage are capitalist, because they were created under a capitalist system.

    You’re conflating democracy with capitalism.

  86. If you’re going to read Marx then please follow up with Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and Its Enemies”. Popper eloquently discusses how, while Marx had profound things to say about the cultural change that was taking place in Europe during his lifetime, his prescriptive philosophy is fundamentally a return to tribalism. Predictive Utopian idealogies are a form of irrational thought, relying on a collectivism that does not exist in human nature. Rather, we should strive for incremental improvement and the best approach to this to date is democracy and the piecemeal social engineering that it facilitates.

    “In politics and in medicine, he who promises too much is likely to be a quack. We must try to improve things, but we must get rid of the idea of a philosophers’ stone, of a formula which will convert our corrupt human society into pure, lasting gold.” –Popper

  87. #83 – I don’t have a vested interest in Marx having been right, my point was that your claims of how wrong he was are based on actions taken against the status quo, and not because they were in any way natural extensions of captialism. I don’t disagree with your on most of your comment, just the reasons to which you assigned progress in favor of workers and the middle class.

  88. To be clear, any socialism I’m advocating for is in regulating markets, not replacing them.

  89. @DanTurner (#85)

    Gotcha, laws providing for a minimum wage are capitalist, because they were created under a capitalist system.

    Seriously, that’s **Marx’s** position. The right to a minimum wage is just a ‘bourgeois right’ – the very terms in which it is conceived presupposes capitalism. There can only be a minimum wage if there are wages; there can only be wages if some own the means of production while others sell their labor power to the first group – aka capitalism.

    So having capitalism doesn’t guarantee that you have a minimum wage, but you can only have a minimum wage under a system that is fundamentally capitalist, as Marx understands it.

  90. #85 – No, I did not say that minimum wage laws are Capitalistic. In fact I didn’t even mention a minimum wage law. I said that striking in order to in one way or another achieve higher wages is Capitalistic (a means of making some scarce, and therefore worth more). Some people striking may also work for minimum wage laws, but just because it may be some of the same people doesn’t mean that both actions are Capitalistic.

  91. @75 “In the end, I hope states implement systems that ensure the greatest amount of LIBERTY, as I feel that is more important in the long run. Just because you are fed and clothed and sheltered doesn’t mean you are living a good life.”

    In fact, you can say just the opposite: Liberty tends to matter less if you don’t have anything to eat.

  92. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

    – Guess who

    Mr. Metzger, would you please alter your title to “Breschnew was right!” to match the discussion? Thank you.

    Somebody asked, if Marx predicted the end of industrialism: Well, no. You can choose your counter-question from these two:
    – Do you know when it will end?
    – If you think it has ended already, how do you think would Marx comment that the system of production has changed, but the basics of the economic system haven’t?

  93. #61

    My take on this: Proudhon was Right!

    I’ll second #23’s recommendation of Kevin Carson’s *Studies in Mutualist Political Economy.*

  94. re:minimum wage laws

    Agreed with “not a result of capitalism, but only possible in capitalism.” More importantly, though, for most of us they’re not even relevant. The vast majority of us make substantially more than than minimum wage despite not owning our own “means of production,” and the reasons for that ARE the result of capitalism.

  95. This is the first time I have seen so many straw men in a single post here. Hell, some of them do not even pass the Turing’s Test!

    I have yet to see anybody here supporting the URSS or asking for millions to be killed. I have seen plenty of support for the Scandinavian systems. I have seen nobody defending Staling, quite the opposite. Yet, some people come here to attack what we do not defend.

    Exactly why are you doing this? Do you really want to have an useful debate or only troll around here?

    If you have arguments other “wow, silly blond Scandinavian cannot stand waaaar and famine!”, please feel free to share them with us.


    The irony is rich concerning left-right. The US supports actively and helps with money and weapons to the most successful example of real communism in action. The US is devoted to the protection of a system that shows without a trace of doubt that socialism IS possible and extremely productive. Yet, many from the left hate the environment that nurtures this system and claim for it to be destroyed.


    Have you ever heard about the Israeli Kibbutzim? That is real communism that creates wealth and useful products. A lot of the current political leaders of Israel come from the kibbutzim, and its children have been very successful. The kibbutzim have been a key player in Israel staying alive among hostile neighbors and blooming in the middle of a desert with few resources. Of course Israel is not made of only kibbutzim and is wrong on many issues of its foreign policy. But kibbutzim show that voluntary commitment can have astonishing results and that communism and socialism are not useless and require blood to bloom. They are not perfect, but they prove that there is still a lot of territory to explore in politics and social organization, the American systems sucks.

    Now, if you have arguments against that, I would love to see them, please.

  96. >My wife, Tara, called it “worse than your reggae phase!”

    Best laugh all morning. Been in that one. Drove my boyfriend nuts…

  97. It’s ironic that Marx was such an admirer of Darwin, as his ideas so willfully ignore genetic/biological imperatives disguised as ‘human nature’.

    And as Christopher Hitchens makes clear his excellent essay (which is far from an endorsement of Karl’s theories, but thanks for the link anyway, Richard), Marxism is abstraction piled upon theoretical construct balanced on top of thought experiment: what is ‘value’? How much is anything ‘worth’? If you sit in a cubicle crunching numbers all day, is that even ‘work’?

    “Capital” was a wonderful attempt to deconstruct the mechanical and psychological structures of labor and markets, but it’s irreparably flawed – and hopelessly dated – as a socioeconomic blueprint. In practice (where the rubber meets the road) Marxism’s admirable goals have always been disastrously perverted. The Lumpenproles, used as a weapon by Lenin/Mao/Pol Pot, end up the standard bearers.

    I can easily see the angry hordes we saw at Sarah Palin rallies reconstituted as ‘the people’, rallied with the same kind of populist class rhetoric that motivated the Kulaks and the teenaged executors of Year Zero. Left and Right converge at the bottom.

    The so-called economic crisis is a heist, a brazen control fraud of stunning proportions. To call it capitalism’s end game is absurd, and it takes a mighty loose reading of ‘Capital’ to suggest that Karl predicted it.

  98. I know very little of Marx’s writings however, it has not been a true Capitalist society in America since… whenever the first business regulation came into existence.

  99. @Mark Frei, #97

    >My wife, Tara, called it “worse than your reggae phase!”

    That’s her all-purpose line, a densely constructed rhetorical catch-all for a guy like me…

    She should release it on Creative Commons so everyone can use it!

    Glad to be of service, comrade.


  100. Hey Marx was the first openly-materialist economist: and we are all materialists, now.
    And Marx’s “system” was a reaction to Hegel: and Marx was a thinker, not a sloganeer.
    Most importantly, Marx IMO mis-understood technological change: specifically, the unpredictable nature of such directly undermines his analysis, insofar as his analysis has a ‘teleological’ and/or predictive element: his “Messianism”/”salvationism” is thus badly misplaced.
    In other words, Marx was and is an excellent analyst of his times, and is well worth reading: his analysis may be usefully adapted, mutatis mutandi, to present economies: but his predictions were/are out to lunch, ’cause technological changes in the means of production are INHERENTLY unpredictable.
    As to what “broke” in our present economy: in Marxist terms, it’s as it ever was for capitalist systems, with its self-seeded destruction: there is over-production. The rest follows from that fact.
    For Marx, as in Hegel’s system (influenced by then-recent translations of Buddhist/sanskrit works?), but turned on its head: the thesis “contains” or “engenders” the anti-thesis in some sense, once the element of time comes into play….
    If you wanna “knock down” Marx, undermine his Hegelian foundations…go ahead, I dares ya…
    As to Marx’s morals, as expressed in his writings, IMO he’s better than the neo-cons, with their acceptance of “the necessity of telling lies and deceiving the general public in order to obtain efficient governance”.
    The critique of Marx’s writings really should try to distinguish his morality from his economic analyses, and to distinguish his descriptive from his predictive statements. As with most deep and original thinkers who leave voluminous writings, there’s some gold in the dross, and vice-versa;
    but it is not the simplest of tasks to distinguish the two, particularly if one is wholly dependent on translations from the original language.
    Which is German in Marx’s case, yes?
    I am impressed how the Americans do not appreciate the “Christian” nature of Marx’s writings, what with their shared apocalyptic visions of “necessary” futures which are “salvational” in tone. Christian communism, as in the monasteries, is not an American thing, eh?
    I also recommend “das Kapital” as a useful soporific…

  101. @#95:

    Ok. Kibbutzim are voluntary associations bound by a particular radical ideology/religion of socialistic Zionism. Less than 5% of Israelis participate. They exist within a larger capitalistic society. All of these things make them totally incomparable to, say, what a socialist United States would be. In fact, Americans could form similar communes today if they wanted to.

  102. @ Richard>

    What pro-capitalism books have you read recently? For instance, anything by John Maynard Keynes?

  103. It is interesting how Richard’s suggestion that people sit down and actually read Capital (or at least the first volume) has devolved into a discussion of the merits of Marx based on the way subsequent thinkers and governments used (or misused) his ideas.

    Remember that, at its heart, Capital is a critique of Adam Smith and several of his intellectual descendants. The concept of “surplus value” was Marx’s attempt to resolve what he saw as the problem of the origin of value, left unresolved by Smith. In this Marx is quite correct when he points out that the objective of Capital is the extraction of surplus value at the highest possible rate, while the interest of labour is the retention of as much of this surplus value as possible. For Marx, the emergence of this struggle is intimately tied to the development of money as a medium of exchange and the introduction of wage labour. This is something that capitalists should try and understand as much as socialists or communists.

    It is interesting the ways in which Marx’s theories can be applied in modern contexts. An example might be the current industrialization of intellectual labour. While manual labour (construction or factory work, for example) has mostly become safer and easier due to advances in technology and political struggle (and here I limit my discussion to the 1st world), we also see the ways in which intellectual labour (in many ways also through the development of new technology) is now organized less like craft or guild work and increasingly like industrial work. In many areas we see the types of pressure on wages and hours that Marx attributes to factory work (then a relatively new phenomenon). Of course, the development of new entrepreneurial modes (independent shops, hackers and the like) in the technology sector can also be seen as a response to this.

    At the very least, if Americans had less of an antipathy to anything vaguely Marxist, we might not have seen many of the problems of “fictitious capital” that Richard references, such as lending a person more money than the amount of surplus value they could conceivably generate in their lives.

    Remember also, that while Marx’s diagnosis capital is relatively coherent, his political ideas and his conception of a solution to the “problem” of capital changed several times throughout his life. Thus, the prescriptions seen in The Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 or The Manifesto of the Communist Party are very different from those in The Civil War in France or his debates with Bakunin.

    Certainly, there were also manifestations of capitalism that Marx could never have foreseen. Weber’s history of the emergence of a capitalist ideology makes some important points, as does Thorsten Veblen’s analysis of a number of phenomena related to (primarily American) capitalism.

    Then, of course, there’s the Frankfurt School, Critical Theory, Gramsci, etc.

  104. …which I should have followed with: Keynes was anything but a free market capitalist but he was a capitalist and abhorred Marx. I was simply citing an anti-Marx example.

  105. Moriarty, indeed, a very tiny minority lives in kibbutzim. Yet they have done wonders, and they still provide today a lot of Israel produce and they built high technology too. That is precisely my point, despite being so few, they have achieved great things. And yes, of course they live in a capitalist society. So what? A mix is possible. We human beings are very different, each one unique, there is some kind of human nature, but it is too diffuse to base our policies on it.

    We should look more to these examples instead of dismissing them. What’s wrong with Scandinavia? Why can’t we try to make something different? I am sick of all this crap about socialists systems hurting liberties coming from people who live in the world’s leader in incarceration.

  106. “It is interesting how Richard’s suggestion that people sit down and actually read Capital (or at least the first volume) has devolved into a discussion of the merits of Marx based on the way subsequent thinkers and governments used (or misused) his ideas.”

    As ironic as declaring “capitalism” a failure based on current economic troubles? Without, apparently, having sat down read very much about capitalism at all (except the words of its most famous critic)? Isn’t that a bit like declaring evolution a failure, based on a visit to the Creation Science Museum, and then complaining that all the scientists ought to just sit down and read the Bible?

  107. A thing I have noticed and always been amused/appalled by is reading Americans crowing about the evils of Socialism whilst on the same website reading of how a website has been set up to help pay for the care of a respected individual suffering from Alzhiemers brought on by a brain injury.

    Effectively pan handling for change to look after a man in serious medical need.

    And socialism is the evil?

  108. Emilia-Romagna is the third richest region in Italy. more than 29.000 Euros of GDP per capita.
    And more than 60% of its people belong to a co-op.

    Is this bullshit too? Where are the millions of dead that the prophets of doom love to predict?

    Show me.

  109. Moriarty, Marx created capitalism: try to find that particular word in use prior to Marx…ha ha ha the word itself did not exist when Marx started to write: “capitalism”, the word itself, was born in 1854!

  110. The enthusiasm of the original post has made me want to read ‘Capital.’ It’s posts like this one that actually make people go out and do something they would not have otherwise. I am going to buy a copy of the book this weekend and read it. I’ve never read Marx before. I suspect my ideas about him are purely Time Magazine standard issue notions filled with red banners and hammers and marching workers. I’d prefer to read the real thing.

  111. thesis-antithesis-synthesis….Marxist thought predates the word “capitalism”…did “capitalism” arise as a reaction to marxism/socialism? To be sure, the Christian monasteries were the first communal/”communist” establishment.
    So…which is the thesis? Isn’t capitalism, first called such in 1854, not a reaction to the older idea of communism?
    Which is the real “radical innovation”, here?

  112. GuidoDavid, my point was that nobody is forced to participate in them, and those who do have the motivation of a radical ideology keeping them there. And the fact that they exist in a capitalistic society is extremely important. The analogy here is not with a socialistic country, but with a family unit. Pretty much any family, too, is “socialistic” if only its internal dynamic is considered. And families, too, are held together only by powerful motivators that can’t really be externally imposed, in that case affection for one another. That doesn’t mean they don’t participate in or benefit from the larger capitalist society. And again, there is certainly no law preventing you, here in America (or whatever liberal capitalist society you live in) from living like they do. There would be, however, in a command economy.

  113. “Forgive me if I don’t put too much stock in your opinion.”

    Hey I hear you, man! Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.

  114. … because the one thing we need for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is an iPhone (or iPod, or Zune, or Android, etc, etc, etc).

    Yeah, actually, we do.

    The infinite number of consumer products which makes life actually fun for most people never would get created in a “workers paradise”

  115. You mean like families in Ancient Rome, where the father held the unquestioned-by-law power of life, death or selling into slavery his wife and children?
    Not socialism, but despotism, is the model of the family, if unimproved by socially-conscious and liberal laws…
    Yeah : look again, capitalism the word and concept is of mid 19th century origin: it is a system unhallowed by age and tradition: it needs defence, and justification.
    “Capitalism” as a social system is a recent innovation, and NOT the edifice of immemorial time. That it is somehow “natural”, or built-in to human society, is simply a lie, as in, untrue.

  116. As ironic as declaring “capitalism” a failure based on current economic troubles? Without, apparently, having sat down read very much about capitalism at all (except the words of its most famous critic)? Isn’t that a bit like declaring evolution a failure, based on a visit to the Creation Science Museum, and then complaining that all the scientists ought to just sit down and read the Bible?


    Where do you get any of that from the statement you quoted, or any of my comment? I’ve read quite a bit about capitalism as well, and I certainly haven’t declared it a failure. I’m not even sure that “success” or “failure” are even valid conditions in this discussion (although Marx might have disagreed). I tend to look at these things more in terms of “useful” and “not useful,” or “did not exist before” and “will become something different.”

  117. Why? because Marx is not capitalism’s “most famous critic”: you are factually wrong.
    Capitalists are Marx’s most famous critics…the opposite of your assertion in comment 1086, above.
    The truth is capitalism has never in its very short life succeeded, for long.

  118. When Richard was young and couldn’t fully participate in the capitalist system, he was a socialist. Then he shed that label and philosophy when it seemed like every one else was doing so, proudly embraced capitalism, and profited during the dot-com boom. Now that capitalism seems to have gone to shit, he’s rediscovered and re-embraced socialism and Marx once more.

    So, when (or if) a new and mutant breed of profitable capitalism rises, will he again shed Marx and embrace it? Is this a developing arc of maturing thought, or an unmoored intellect blown about by mere circumstance?

  119. Geez, you guys are not following: capitalism is itself a plant of but recent birth: and it has never been successful at preventing social violence.
    This is why so many Americans are now rotting in prison: they are trying to get capitalism to work…

  120. And Iwood cannot it seems get over his own ability to name or label things…oops I mean people, eh, Iwood?

  121. @#2 – Takuan — re: someone refresh me please: what limit did capitalism just bump up against, according to Marx?
    You may have been thinking of (or the corporate media may have been alluding to) Friedrich Hayek’s “Socialist Threshold,” mentioned yesterday in this brief April Fools’ Day release from one of the few left-leaning DC policy institutes.
    “Developed by Friedrich Hayek, the Socialist Threshold–or “Tipping Point” as it is commonly called–states that an economy abandons capitalism and becomes socialist when spending exceeds exactly 23% of the economy. Any government spending beyond that threshold indicates a bleak future filled with universal health care, energy independence, and, in the worst-case scenarios, high-speed commuter rail….”

  122. Two thoughts:

    First, as many posts here illustrate, what is really needed is less binary thinking: we live in a heterogeneous world, so the ‘all or nothing’ proposition of capitalism vs. socialism is a towering strawman that stands in the way of discovering how the systems could work together (is universal health care really socialism when it can save society money?)

    Second, capitalism is falling to the same phenomenon that killed communism: corruption. For the sake of moving forward, we need to collectively look at how to minimize corruption within our system. Unfortunately, this is a feature, not a bug, to those currently in power.

  123. #121 – um, are you saying that if the USA used Socialism instead of Capitalism there wouldn’t be rape, murder, stealing, etc. ? None of those come from Capitalism. They come from selfishness, which still exists with Socialism (particularly with compelled Socialism).

  124. @#44 Teriyaki: You seem to be under the impression that I was implying that culture is genetic in origin. I am not. In this particular case, #56 5alo has already shown the quite specific counter-example of Finland. However, culture can most certainly be geographically concentrated, which I did imply.

    Indeed, if you, say, swapped Russian and Swedish history (and geography), I think there’s a good chance that you’d get a correlated cultural inversion. (Unfortunately such an experiment is not something we can actually do.)

    The point is that a socialist state has been shown to function, where the values of the society support it. This leads to a further question of how society in other parts of the world can be changed to enable this.

    I am quite confident that, both economically and ecologically, our current global situation is untenable, and that great changes to the fabric of our society and to our framework of moral principles will be necessary for the continuation of our species.

    (I suspect that several billion will unnecessarily die before it happens, but I can hope otherwise.)

  125. This “capitalism didn’t exist before Marx” meme is a puzzling one. Marx was giving a critique of what he saw, which he gave a name. It’s never been universal, but the basic practice is almost as old as civilization. Economists, most notably Adam Smith, turned it into a science and formulated why and how it worked in the context of a large society. What you guys are talking about is the use of a word.

  126. #122 posted by Ugly Canuck:

    Did you miss the part where I asked, “Is this a developing arc of maturing thought, or an unmoored intellect blown about by mere circumstance?”

    It’s a sincere question, and I haven’t labeled anyone or anything.

  127. “Where do you get any of that from the statement you quoted, or any of my comment? ”

    I didn’t get it from your comment or even you particularly, I got it from the preceding arguments, the opening post, and the general attitude I’ve seen around here. You can’t claim it’s not the case that people are railing against capitalism, and holding up the current recession as proof, can you?

  128. Wrong Moriarty: Capitalism as old as civilization? Every farmer a capitalist? Feudalism as capitalism? The Chinese (or any empire) as capitalist?
    No no capitalism came into existence with the word: 1854, after Marx started to write.
    Who’s reacting on whom, there?

  129. “You mean like families in Ancient Rome, where the father held the unquestioned-by-law power of life, death or selling into slavery his wife and children? ”

    Is that how your family functions? Or how it would, if suddenly all those liberal laws were repealed?

  130. Excellent post! And the comments, for the most part, are an object lesson in how many people have strong opinions about Marx who have clearly never actually read what he had to say.

    Rather than regurgitate the BS that you heard on the tee-vee or from your high school social studies teacher, please consider taking the time to actually read Volume I of Capital. Yes, it takes a while. (And yes, the free video lectures at davidharvey.org are a great resource to help you get through it.) But I think that you will find that most of what you think you know about Marx is wrong, and that what he had to say is very relevant to our present crisis.

  131. Just a co-incidence then, that the world’s most capitalistic society jails a far larger precentage of its popilation for non-violent offences than any other society on earth or even in history, then.
    I guess it’s the way God wants it, eh?

  132. “what limit did capitalism just bump up against, according to Marx?”

    The growth of the productive forces is limited by private ownership and control over the means of production, and as later Marxists (such as Trotsky) would point out later, by the division of the world into nation-states.

    The following article explains these more fully, and how they apply in the current context:


  133. I didn’t get it from your comment or even you particularly, I got it from the preceding arguments, the opening post, and the general attitude I’ve seen around here. You can’t claim it’s not the case that people are railing against capitalism, and holding up the current recession as proof, can you?

    That may or may not be so, but it really has nothing to do with any of my statements.

  134. Well, AFAIK it’s the United States that jails the largest percentage, and that’s largely because of the War on Drugs, which, in fact, is directly counter to capitalism. I don’t know where this tangent came from or is going to.

  135. Indeed, Marx was a thorough-going democrat: there is nothing in Marx that would precludes or negates a democratic polity. Quite the opposite. Marx recognises that individual political liberty and freedom is severely limited in a capitalist society: it becomes a question not of the will, but of the size of one’s purse.
    Marx was not working to enslave people: quite the contrary.
    But there is much in theoretical Capitalism which would limit the power of democracy, eh? All that fear of “ignorant masses voting to take away private fortunes” crap…limits to freedom, eh?
    So, in theory, which system is more compatible with democracy? Hint: it is not the one that gives primacy to the wishes and plans of those who possess wealth, for that reason alone.

  136. #34 posted by pmhparis , April 2, 2009 2:06 AM

    Funny that the crisis brought upon us by socializing the home lending sector (for we MUST loan money to people who cannot pay it back) becomes “a crisis of capitalism” in the minds of marxists.


    Um, yeah. About that…


  137. Moriarty: mopping up the surplus workers
    Thesis: modern industrial capitalism requires extensive gulags for surplus labor.
    Example to the contrary? none…

  138. “That may or may not be so, but it really has nothing to do with any of my statements.”

    I know. I’m sorry. It wasn’t a direct contradiction of you, it was an extension to the other side of the argument. I don’t really want to have an irony fight with you.

  139. Iwood: your last statement is wholly an attempt to color with chiding tones a process which everyone who studies the world undergoes: but your qualifiers betray the feeling behind the words….of an ad hominem attack, in essence, and not worth the noting.

    jeez next someone will wave a badge…

  140. “So, in theory, which system is more compatible with democracy? Hint: it is not the one that gives primacy to the wishes and plans of those who possess wealth, for that reason alone.”

    No, Oligarchy never worked for very long did it.

    I think in light of this recent revival of Marx, I’m going to do like they do with Che’ and create a line of T-Shirts, fridge magnets, bumper stickers, and other knick knacks, (come from the impeccably proletariat China) and sell them to all you neo-retro socialists.

    Honk if you like to unite workers of the world.

    @141 Canada?

  141. Apparently there is a joke doing the rounds in Russia at the moment;
    “Everything that Marx said about Capitalism was right !
    And everything he said about Communism was wrong!”

    They should know.
    NOrway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany are largely Social Democrat in nature. The Nordic countries especially are committed to narrowing inequality between the highest in society and the lowest. A recent book has shown that inequality is bad for every single member of an unequal society, rich and poor alike.

    AS an Irish person, living in one of the most unequal societies in Europe, it makes sense to me. Thats why the social democratic way is the one to follow. Tax the rich and redistribute their income to educate and economically support the poor, and you create a healthier, happier society. Even the rich will thank you for it in the end.
    Finally, just wondering. Why are Americans so terrified of the word socialism? We saw Republicans on tv announcing the stimulus plan “.. would bring socialism to America.” as if announcing the arrival of the 4 horsemen? Is this indoctrination, stupidity, or what? Produced a lot of hilarity over here, I must say.

  142. #134 – the large amount of imprisoned people in the USA comes from the infamous “war on drugs” – which a result of our laws, not our economic system. If we chose not to have drugs be illegal, the numbers in prison wouldn’t be too out of line with the majority of other countries.

    Now, there may be another discussion about drug use in Capatialistic societies, but we’d get no where in that discussion because there is no reliable statistics about drug use in socialistic societies – though we all know how popular vodka has been!

  143. Mindpowered, my question was, Which is most compatible with democracy?, not which is more likely to last…nor was it, which has been more successful in the past.
    A theoretical question.
    Now, oligarchy, that’s compatible with both, in practice, as experience has shown. And compatible with most any other economic arrangements too, even in a potlatch society, as histroy has shown.
    And oligarchies can endure for centuries…
    But my question was a question of theory.
    And of democracy.

  144. #144 posted by Ugly Canuck:

    My question was esentially is there something worth chiding here, and was based entirely on Richard’s own account. As someone who’s been all too frequently unmoored myself, it’s a fair one.

    If your answer is “No,” then fine, but your assumptions about my motivation and what I’m thinking are incorrect.

  145. Marxism was not an economic theory, it was a soteriological doctrine. Attempts to implement soteriological doctrines politically lead to mass murder.

  146. #149 – at least of late, yes. But not originally. Though most of the propaganda is aimed at keeping ourselves convinced that we still live in what we want to think the USA is. If we actually lived as intended under the founding ideas, we’d be a lot better off, and have little need of propaganda.

  147. @Ugly Canuck (#139)

    You say:

    [T]here is nothing in Marx that would precludes or negates a democratic polity.

    Marx said (Critique of the Gotha Program, Ch 4):

    Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

    Now, one doesn’t have to believe in that to believe in things like socialized medicine, workplace safety laws, or the redistribution of wealth. But if you want to talk about what Marx himself, it’s quite clear that he’s no fan of democracy. He’s surprisingly silent on the details of the later, higher stage of socialism, but even if that’s going to be democratic (as opposed to peaceful anarchy), that’s only going to be after the transition through dictatorship.

  148. #147 i am sure it is just co-incidence that drug laws (and others) which have criminalized and made punishable by imprisonment for the first time in history behavior which was not so treated ever before just co-incidentally arose as capitalism came into being at the end of the 19th C.
    I guess that the never-ending propagandizing in the media to increase jail penalties and to ever-expand the list of behaviors for which the Law prescribes imprisonment is “merely” co-incidental with the huge rise in surplus labor brought about by the increasing use of automated systems of production since 1900…

  149. None of these theories (as far as I know!) contains any Easter Island clause pertaining to overshoot: an inability for the environment to sustain the system it supports. We have new problems these days that require new thinking about sustainability, not just equity or lack of it between rich and poor.

  150. Sirdook: As per my earlier comment, ignore Marx’s predictions: attend to his analysis of the facts present to him.
    use what’s good, throw out the rest.
    same advice for capitalists.

  151. Agreed Doc: screw doctrine.
    And empty the prisons…this is directed at the USA, and Canada too: our incarceration rates are too high, and rigor in the Laws and in their application speaks more of despotism, than of liberty or freedom.

  152. UglyCanuck: Sound advice. But then your claim becomes not “There’s nothing in Marx that precludes democracy” but instead “There’s nothing in adopting the worthwhile parts of Marx that precludes democracy.”

  153. Ninnyfriedcheez: also agreed: IMO marx and capitalists are both stuck in the 20th C, using the language and concepts of the 19th C.
    But our science is much much better: and we have more important problems.
    And we know much better how valuable the lack of centralization of command contraol and allocation can be: eg the internet.
    For the so-called “capitalists”, it ought to be noted that Laws against “excessive” accumulations of capital and the perpetuation of such, have been in existence for centuries, almost millenia, in good old capitalist England: and that those arose, to counter the suffocating accumulated (and accumulating) wealth of religious communes.
    I offer this as an irony, for my fundamentalist-Christian American capitalist friends to chew on, whilst considering how to treat “too big to fail” banks.

  154. Yeah, adopting a method of analysis, does not entail anything as to where one thinks society should be going.
    The poltical marx (as distinguished from the economist marx) reads to me as a wierd and distorted reflection of Judeo-christianity, actually… and I still think that the Capitalist angels require as a pre-condition to their own being the existence of the Communist devils: as the Satanists need God, kinda.
    With about equal “science” on either side of the battle lines…and they can share equally inhuman views, justified by their respective “faiths”.

    yeah, capitalism vs. communism, is like Arianism vs. orthodox christianity, back in the 2nd-5th C.: a faith-based justification for violence and slaughter, it seems…

    is not this a religious difference, this communism vs. capitalism stuff, adapted for our era?

  155. On Marx and democracy: Rather than throwing around scary-sounding catch phrases (“dictatorship of the proletariat”), maybe you could make the effort to learn the actual history. August H. Nimtz’s book “Marx and Engels: Their Contribution to the Democratic Breakthrough,” SUNY Press, 2000 would be a good place to start. In fact, Marx and Engels made very important contributions to the struggle for democracy in the nineteenth century.

  156. Sirdook@153,

    He does say that in the Critique of the Gotha Program, but around the same time in The Civil War in France he seems to advocate interlinking communes with a high degree of local autonomy and democratically elected committees. As I said earlier, he was much less consistent in his ideas about politics and revolution than in his ideas about economics and history.

    Following the Paris Commune, he also wrote “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.” This would seem to have implications for any revolution since then that has called itself communist (Soviet grafting of Lenin onto Tsarist bureaucracy and secret police, Chinese revival of the Mandate of Heaven).

  157. #154 – surplus labor due to automation can occur with capitalism, but what’s wrong with that. The problem is that the other elements of society (not capitalism!) has failed in finding something useful for them to do. If our values were different, those resources would put themselves to use on a variety of life improving projects.

    You seem to think that it is “good” to give someone a menial job, just so he has a job – even though he’ll hate the task that can be done by a machine. People are not machines, and should be put to more creative use. Hurrah for automation!

  158. Maybe Keynesians, crony-captialism, or fascism failed but an open market never was given a chance.

  159. Judging by the number of comments, Marxism remains a contentious topic. :)

    I’m not here to read the comments (sorry!), but to just say Thanks for posting the link to the David Harvey series of lectures!

  160. an innocent question for those above who state capitalism is the best thing we’ve tried so far:
    Explain today.

  161. #163: In a capitalist system, ONLY those activities which increase capital are undertaken.

    I wish to modify my thesis: the new thesis: ANY industrial economy requires a gulag for surplus labor.
    It matters not if it’s called “communist” (Stalin in the 30s) “fascist” (Italy and Germany in the 30s – widely admired for their “economies that work” at the time!) or capitalist/democratic (USA from 1945-present).

  162. Marxism, Communism, Socialism…whatever you want to call it—has always seemed to me something that looks good on paper…but history has shown (and will continue to show) does NOT work in real life. No ideal situations exist in this world and for Communism to work requires ideal situations/environments. I don’t think Marx was evil, as some seem to, but just an idealist with some interesting ideas that don’t really work. “Right” or no…they just don’t work.

    Heck, I even think that pacifism is a neat idea and would be great in an ideal situation…but then some guy comes along with a gun or knife and it’s back to Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”

  163. Ugly Canuck, the idea that Marx “invented” capitalism is ridiculous. First of all, while you are correct that the first instance of the use of the word “capitalism” in English was in 1854, according to the Oxford English Dictionary it was by Thackeray, not Marx.

    Second, and more important, even if we pretend that Marx was the first to use the word, that wouldn’t mean he “invented” capitalism any more than Newton “invented” gravity by describing it.

  164. Unfortunately you can’t even mention Marx without some people (no pun intended) seeing red. Much of the world has been so indoctrinated with the idea that “communism = evil” that there is often no way to discuss it rationally with them (in fact, I’ve talked to people who have no idea what communism even IS, just that it’s “bad”, and often mistake it for fascism or Hitler’s national-socialism.)

    Marx wasn’t perfect, but a lot of his ideas proved reasonable; as much as we hate income tax, it’s still the fairest way to tax everyone equally.

    That said, I’m not going to step into the arguments I imagine are raging in the comments thread here.

  165. #170 – ” Marxism, Communism, Socialism…whatever you want to call it—has always seemed to me something that looks good on paper…but history has shown (and will continue to show) does NOT work in real life.”

    Sigh. Wrong. Socialism is different to Communism. Its this confusion that seems to be have a bit of a death grip on mainstream thought in America. I think it must be deliberately maintained by the right wing there. Unhealthy, really. I think America really could be ‘a shining city on a hill’ if its people could get beyond the propoganda and consider the facts for themselves. With a healthy dose of socialism you really could all lead fantastic lives, considering the wealth you generate.
    Anyway, for the record, Democratic Socialism works very well in the Nordic Countries, etc, etc. Read the previous comments.

  166. @91: Sure, basic human needs are a first priority, but socialism ONLY addresses this. Systems which embrace individualism and freedom (Capitalism, hint hint) are more successful in they accomplish this basic need and provide for higher order human needs as well. Also, in modern history, the most free societies tend to be the ones with the most abundance of food. If you could give me a counter example of that I’d love to hear it.

  167. Sorry, my previous was aimed at # 184.

    @ 188 Re Individualism and Freedom
    I read somewhere ( maybe in a book called Stasiland, can’t be sure) of an exchange system for East German students that was set up just before the wall fell that allowed them to come to America and spend three months in a typical town and a typical high school. Their American hosts, when asked their opinion of their visitors, pitied them, expressing the opinion that none of them was free to think for themselves. The Germans, when asked their opinions of their American student friends, all agreed that they pitied them, because they were not free to think for themselves…
    Eye of the beholder, etc,

  168. for example; millions of Americans suffer and die for lack of universal medical care. The money is clearly there, but this still happens. Canada has medical coverage for all, but still maintains a functional capitalist economy. Both countries produce sufficient food for their populations, both countries still have people who go hungry. Canada has spent next to nothing on a military, America has spent more than any nation in history. Yet, if you take any average person from either nation, you would have to talk with them for quite a while to discern any real differences in fundamental values and outlook – if you could find any at all. Both will insist vehemently that they are quite “free”.
    In light of the foregoing, would you not conclude that someone, somewhere has a wrong-headed idea of what “socialism” is? Where did this wrong impression come from? Who created it? Why?

  169. Marx was literally right. Again, if folks actually take the time to read what he wrote, the main argument that Marx made in Volume I of Capital (remember its subtitle: “A Critique of Political Economy”) was that the closer a society gets to an unregulated (what we would now call “free market”) capitalism, the greater the polarization of wealth and poverty. Contra Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” individual greed does not produce the greatest outcomes for everyone, but instead produces great poverty and misery alongside great wealth.

    We’ve been performing a 30-year experiment in the United States with just this. As we have implemented more and more “free market” policies, poverty has skyrocketed. Wages for the bottom 80% of wage earners have been flat or falling since 1973. Incredible wealth have been concentrated at the top. Income inequality is the greatest of any industrialized country, and only comparable to the “Gilded Age” in the late 19th Century. Social mobility has declined.

    Now that imbalance has become so extreme that we have entered a crisis. The crisis is because so much of our society’s wealth has been captured by the very rich that the middle and working classes have had to rely increasingly on credit to survive. When that ran out, the effective demand collapsed. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity in America. When it collapsed, so did the economy. The income inequality produced by free market capitalism caused this crisis. Marx was right.

    I recommend reading David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism OUP 2007 for more on this line of argument.

  170. “Capitalism” as a belief system, as a doctrine for social arrangement , arose in response to socialist/communist thought and action, which was so rife in the 1850’s in Euraope, still stutified by the untaxed Nobility of the day.

    Marx “called forth” capitalism: as offense may call forth defense: never was “capitalism” a doctrine, prior to marxism becoming a doctrine.

    Funny how the word was never used prior to 1854: bet you were surprised, eh?

    Capitalism is NOT an old system, much less a “State of Nature” or natural system: to say of systems prior to 1854 that “twas such (ie capitalism), but it just failed to be called such” is laughable inaccurate and revisionist: EG. the US founding fathers were NOT advocates for the despotic power of capital: they were revolutionaries. there is NOTHING in the US Constitution prior to say 1880, which “enshrines” capitalism. Particularly limited-liability corporate capitalism.
    Like drug laws, capitalism is a recent social experiment, which benefit some at the expense of others, nothing more.
    To say to the decrying of economic injustice, that ’twas ever thus, why rail at the inevitable order of nature’, is to tell a compound lie. They deny that “economic injustice” is even conceivable.
    But the fact is, that things were NOT “ever thus”, capitalism a s the only systemt is not “inevitable”, and it is not “natural”: “capitalism” is a modern arrangement and must needs prove its value to us, now, or we shall exercise our franchise accordingly: to arrange things in a better way.
    Or do Americans no longer believe that improvements in the ways of human life are possible, or that the attempt ought not to be made?

  171. Hey the whole point of human society is to create a small class of hyper-wealthy that is, politically-powerful (Ayn Rands’ Russian aristocratic parents, for eg) who live very very well, while every one else must suffer to ensure their well-being: that’s capitalism, right? That’s why humanity exists, right?
    That’s why we consent to be ruled, right?

    Wrong, on every count….explain to me again why and how capitalism precludes human slavery…

  172. Tak: Despotism, of a more or less “enlightened” sort.

    IE allowing people to enjoy the greater part of the gains of their labors, so as to not give them an incentive not to so produce.
    IE not killing captives taken in War, but enslaving them for their labor.

    But still despotism, in any case, no matter how “enlightened” (= clever). (The cruel cut their own throats by their cruelty: the clever despot, like Augustus, labors not to appear a despot: for that’s ‘bad for business’, unless you’re a US supported 3rd-world dictator)

    And a wealthy man is always (and has ever been) a “little” despot, when it comes the disposition of the property which society ALLOWS him to have. Whether such allowance comes from the King, or the Assembly of the Commons, or is enforced by the Courts as an incident of ‘common law”.

    As in fire-fighting in great cities, where untouched houses may be destroyed to create a fire-break, the private claims to property must yield to the greater need of society.

    They always have, and always will.

  173. Indeed, only the wealthy in Ancient Rome had anything to fear from the Emperor: they might stimulate his avarice or envy, and thus lose their fortunes.
    The little guys had nothing the Emperor wanted…and thus had much less to fear.

    Ever wonder why the wealthy want “strong government” – so long as it cannot touch them?
    Notice how the wealthy have less to fear from the State, than do the poor in America?

    Do you think that’s “natural”?

    And “despotism” describes American-backed 3rd-World “free-market” dictatorships, better than the word “capitalist” does.
    Indeed, is not “capitalism” just shorthand for “the despotism of wealth”, while “communism” is shorthand for “the despotism (in the name) of the masses”

  174. Nescireaude, #107: “- Do you know when [industrialism] will end?”

    It is ending now, though it may be several centuries before it is as marginalized as agricultural production has become. It’s not that agriculture has stopped–far from it. But it is no longer a major source of wealth.

    Industrial manufacturing became critical in a time when manufacturing required easy access to a source of energy, like a river, easy access to a transportation network (canals), a large equipment-intensive manufacturing plant, and a large concentrated workforce to operate the plants. Time went by, and energy became increasingly easy to move, first as oil and then as electricity, transportation networks became first regulated and then state-sponsored public services. So built infrastructure replaced geographic. Now we have information technology and manufacturing is becoming increasingly small and generalized; what 19th-century technology did for energy and transportation, making it decentralized and general-purpose, 21st-century technology is bidding to do for industrial capital.

    Remember all those articles on specialized production you’ve been seeing, right here in Boing Boing? That’s the future. Not bigger and bigger industrial plants, except for commodity items like integrated circuits and flat-panel displays, and perhaps even those facilities will in the end become local. Smaller, more flexible, less labor-intensive production, instead.


  175. despotism may describe the political system, my question was about the money. The whole idea of treating the nation as your personal piggy bank. Of mortgaging the kingdom and everyone in it to pay for your hobbies, wars and mistresses. (starting to sound familiar?)

  176. To #50 above – You are a perfect example of what America’s “free” education system produces. You reflexively launch an idiotic attack on “Marxism” while simultaneously demonstrating your complete ignorance of Marx’s work. If you’d ever bothered to read even a few pages into Das Kapital, you would have known that Marx’s concept of labor and value is tied to the actual production of things that are of use to others. I’m not a Marxist myself, but I despise the lock-step ignorant smugness of people who are convinced they live in the best of all possible worlds, just because that’s what they’ve been told, and then assume that because they’re not currently hungry and cold it must be true without ever bothering to question any of the so-called “truths” that have been spoon-fed into their brains.

  177. Marx did not have a crystal ball. All he had was the London library. He wrote a brilliant analysis of 19th capitalism and predicted all the bigger fish were going to gobble up all the littler fish before they were in turn gobbled up by a REALLY BIG motherfucking fish! And he did it 150 years ago! Stop nickel and diming the guy.

    DOC, you should be banned for using a word like soteriology in any of its forms. You don’t even use it correctly. What’s *divine* about a guy with a hammer in one hand and a sickle in the other? Go play with a gadget, or finish your dissertation.

    @#119, Good comment, BOBA.

  178. Maybe Keynesians, crony-captialism, or fascism failed but an open market never was given a chance.

    I’ll see your “No True Scotsman” and raise you an “Ad Hominem”… NUTS!

  179. tak: it’s despotism.
    The communist-capitalist “divide” is an illusion: and it does not apply prior to the 19th & 20th C, to anyplace.
    The King commands: first of all, the economy.
    No matter how this command ( by his command, he can free the market, etc.) is delegated to his nobles & ministers: it’s yet despotism. In fact, his first duty is to secure and provide security for, the public marts: that’s why his picture is on the money.
    That’s true for all non-constitutional monarchies: that the role of despot is taken over by the Commons or Congress does not change the power in play: it’s still despotism, now it just requires a majority vote.
    That’s why the Congress is bought and paid for by the wealthy, to protect & augment their wealth – why else would they bother with the expense to do so?
    It’s the nature of political power in possession…the modern BS about ec. systems is just confusing the issue, from either “left” or “right” so called (which terms themselves are also modern, inapplicable to prior states of political organization).
    The only limits on State power are what the People have agreed to via their Representatives – and the State must needs be limited to effectively forbid State slavery, violence, confiscation, etc., directed at the Citizens.
    But be careful, as those limits ought only obtain insofar as they are required.
    If people need it, the sovereign may do whatever it deems is necessary for the good of the State and its Citizens.
    I think that most would reasonably want an effective say on those matters which concern them: so a democracy is more stable than despotism by nature, so long as the majority of people feel they’ve got some say.
    If they do not so feel, the State will have problems – like the ones we’ve been seeing?

  180. something interesting is happening: all the traditional tax havens are being brought to heel. Now, obviously the really rich aren’t going to suddenly start paying taxes or anything crazy like that, so: where will the money go?

  181. Eh, money is an idea, tak: where do the characters in novels go, whilst nobody reads them?
    That’s the same place where the money will go – just like all that Confederate money: where did it go?
    All those cigarette cartons used as cash post-WW II in Europe…
    Money may be a medium of exchange, and it may be a store of value. But it need not be both: and like a good catalyst, it need not be used up to do its “job”.
    Money has worth so long as both sides of the exchange (of purchase and sale) feel that it does so have worth.
    Just so, in the barbaric Kingdoms surrounding the Byzantine Empire the Byzantine Aureole widely circulated and was used in preference to the local currency (a la the US dollar today) – money is perceived to have value in proportion to the strength of the Issuer. After all, it was not long ago that US Banks issued their own notes.
    That US “near-money” (ie securities) are subject to a present devaluation in exchange value reflects a loss of confidence as to the future, and shows where “the money goes”: it radiates as heat into space…

  182. also, suppose Russia DOES go ahead with a new gold-based world reserve currency?

    (where’s Zuzu in all this?)

  183. #201: there’s problems with a “usefulness = value” theory, just as there is in a “labor added = value” theory.
    Too many useless things have great exchange-value (do you like my sapphire ring?), too many unworked, found things have great exchange-value (what will you give me for my unprospected and inherited mineral-rights?).
    The idea of economic value is too multi-valent and arises in too many differing situations(IMO) to be amenable to a “one-size-fits-all” theory (similar to attempted ‘general’ definitions of property: in the final analysis, “property” is what others allow as one to treat as “property”).
    Functional definitions may come closest to capturing all the particular examples of either ‘value’ or ‘property’: but IMHO any general definition of these words will miss some instances.
    In addition, I am not convinced that such general definitions are of any analytical or synthetical use. How would a general definition of “value” or “property” help in understanding the economy? From what I see, such exercises serve to “bake-in” assumptions: which defeats the very end of the inquiry, at the outset. A political debating trick.
    But “economics” is perhaps simply “politics”, dressed up so as to confuse the naive and inexperienced into thinking that they have nothing worthy to say, with respect to the most important subjects up for debate in a democracy.
    And thereby excluding them therefrom: and it seems voluntary on the part of the “uninitiated”, to boot.

  184. Tak: they don’t hide it: they invest it. Money is no good if people do not know you have it…

  185. A note on terminology: Marx uses the terms private property and system of private property, as opposed to capitalism. Private property in the means of production, and the associated production of commodities for profit, is what distinguishes this historical era from others. It’s worth pointing out that private property in the means of production includes factories, offices, mines, etc. but does not include toothbrushes, clothing, Nintendos, and other personal property.

    A note on the environment: Really, the only thing to do about the environment is to abolish private property and its organization of human production, and replace it with collective ownership of the means of production. This enables worldwide rational organization of production, and for an open discussion about priorities, division of tasks, etc. Most importantly, only such a coordination, unencumbered by private/national interests will allow humanity to throw gigantic sums of effort into transforming our productive processes for maximum efficiency, and deploy these processes throughout the world, while still increasing standards of living and reducing the length of the workday. This is possible ONLY if surplus value can be harnessed by society and put to immediate and important use, rather than siphoned off by individuals as private profit and wasted on ridiculous yachts and gold toilets.

  186. Funny how the examples of alternatives to the American version of capitalism are brushed aside with little arguments.

    Yes, the kibbutzim are now in a “capitalist” society, even if a very different one than the US, where healthcare is universal and mandatory. Taxes are mandatory in every single industrial democracy, yet the very existence of the kibbutzim allowed this society to emerge and flourish and the kibbutzim are still integral part of Israel. Co ops and kibbutzim are not families, are collectively owned means of production, very different from LLCs and other entities. Yet, despite all the noisy propaganda and all the venom, they can work, they can be successful.

    In every single measure I can think, except GDP per capita, Scandinavian countries are doing better than the US. Name it: Education, life expectancy, freedom (measured as people in prison), chronic diseases, teen pregnancies. Well, not in all, they are not as competitive as the US (even if Denmark is the 3rd, Sweden is the 4th and Finland* the 6th most competitive countries in the world) and maybe (I have never been in Scandinavia) is not as easy to create a start up as is in California. And the Californian entrepreneurship meme is really contagious, it got me after only two weeks there.

    Don’t get me wrong: I love a lot of American things. My worldview has been shaped by American TV, books and ideas. Many of my favorite places in the world are in America, I barely can understand any other accent different from standard American English variations (Australian is gibberish to my untrained ears). And because I love so much (yet, not everything of it) American cultures, it hurts me to see so many stubborn people predicting the apocalypse just because taxes are going to be heavier for the rich or because caps are set on income. How non free are Finns, Danish, Swedish and Norwegians compared to Americans? America deserves better than blind support.

    * I know, Finland is not a Scandinavian society.

  187. #202 buddy66

    “Marx did not have a crystal ball. All he had was the London library.”

    The British Library (used to be in the middle of the British Museum) is where Marx worked.

    The London library was in existence at the time but was a subscription library.

    It’s still there, still is, and is well worth it, despite a 100% increase in the subscription over the past two years. Nearly all it’s massive collection is still on open shelves.

  188. well guido remember that in America the right owns the megaphones: most Americans want universal health care, oppose jailing for non-violent “offenses” (against what or whom?) and oppose war.
    It is just difficult to hear them: less so now, with the Net, but you’ve still gotta look: Google directs you to paid-for sites, after all…

  189. quite so Guido David. I am watching Cuba with great interest. The American assault on their economy had crippled their experiment and hopefully with a more enlightened administration, the artificial limits set on Cuba might be loosened and we will see what they can make of a society.

  190. i would like to request that boingboing, immediately post a retraction to this post and denounce it’s author. I realize he’s a guest blogger, but this blog reaches thousands of impressionable readers and this is irresponsible.

    this is the type of dangerous and sloppy thinking that has led to putting in power many of the worst types of governments and leaders history has seen. Hitler, Stalin, Castro didn’t magically and mysteriously rise to power, it came about when thinking people stopped thinking and started looking for the easy way out.

    i’m willing to ignore a lot of the silly hippy-communist nonsense i read on this blog every day (regular dismissal of copyright laws? i mean come on, are you really suggesting creative people shouldn’t be able to make money?) but this post is crossing the line.

    again, i am calling for a full retraction and denouncement. Marx was, I am sorry to say, quite wrong.

  191. well,tell you what we WILL do: at this very moment your IP is being traced and a crack squad of Marxist Ninjas are headed to your home. I suggest you do not struggle. Remain in view of the camera please.

  192. Ugly Canuck: You are on fire today; I stand in awe, but where did you get this?

    “..most Americans want universal health care, oppose jailing for non-violent “offenses” (against what or whom?) and oppose war.”

  193. Socialism needs 100% perfect leaders. Since there are no humans like that, it can never work. Capitalism is not perfect but no one is forced by threat of violence to go along with that system.

  194. Also tak , if those (despotic?) “drug-money” laws did not exist, all they’d have to do is pay their fair share of taxes: they could keep the rest: but American money, it now appears, has a “spiritual” requirement that must be fulfilled to avoid its outright confiscation by the State: that it must be shown to the agents of the State that it came into one’s possession or otherwise arose in a “non-sinful”, “permitted” manner: and you MUST answer where you got this $$, or they SHALL take it away.
    How “free” is that?

  195. Oh yes, I was not kidding above about Hegel: knocking Hegel down was what Marx was all about, after all.
    In fact, Hegel is the “indispensable man” when it comes to understanding many early modern thinkers and constructing a coherent narrative of the history of modern Western thought.

    A link for curious beginners:


  196. “Its a case of too little, too late. Many americans are reading Marx again because of the mess their unfettered capitalism has gotten them into …”

    Odd, odd, odd, and just wrong, wrong, wrong. The United States has consistently moved away from “unfettered capitalism” for at least the past 70 years. We are what is best described as “corporatist.” The real “evil” is not capitalism, it’s capitalism with favorites backed through the use of force (i.e. the government and the evil of democracy, aka mob rule).

  197. @220, Slowpoke,

    Marx had absolutely nothing to do with Stalin, Castro or, especially, Hitler. It’s not fair to dismiss the man’s theories just because a bunch of evil dictators (and why do you mention Hitler?) have done a lot of evil in his name. That’s like saying that Jesus was wrong because of the Crusades or the Salem Witch Trials.

  198. #231 Jesse

    Hitler is included as he was also a socialist, a national socialist. The red fascists and the black fascists are heads and tails of the same coin. When you line up the greatest mass murderers of the 20th century, Lenin and Marx and Hitler and Mao, along with lower ranked contenders like Pol Pot and Castro and Che, you do find Socialism as the common thread.

    Instead of re-reading Marx, Metzger should do a first read of the Gulag Archipelago, the Black Book of Communism, and Liberal Fascism. Or is that too much reality for this community?

  199. Because things are going so bad now economically must mean that Karl Marx was right?? The supposedly smart people of Boing Boing indulging a logical fallacy?

  200. First, I agree that Marx was right and continues to be correct in his critique of political economy. He dissected the dismal science of economics and showed it’s systematic flaws.

    Second what is called “socialism” or “communism” is marxism but are based on the Lessallianism of the German social-Democratic Party. Ferdanand Lassalle advocated the state-run capitalism adopted by the Leninists as well as the Social-Democratic parties of Europe.

    Third: Just because a party uses the term “socialism” doesn’t mak it so. eg the National socialist Nazi Party. Using this logic, members of the US Republican Party are terrorists because they stand for the same thing as the Irish Republican Army.

  201. Hitler claimed to be a socialist.

    Zhirinovsky claims to be a liberal democrat.

    The North Korean government claims to be a people’s democratic republic.

    The Holy Roman Empire claimed to … oh never mind.

    Hitler supported elements of the capitalist class, repressed the working classes, and supported nationalism, patriarchy and hierarchy in general.

    Socialists try to support the working classes, oppose the privileges of the ruling class, and generally support economic equality if not other forms of equality.

    For the past century, the main tendencies within socialism have been Marxism (social democracy, Bolshevism, and so on) and anarchism (anarchosyndicalism, libertarian communism, and so on). It’s hard enough squeezing Marxism in the same category as anarchism, let alone squeezing Fascism in as well. Is Objectivism also socialist? (It has to be more socialist than Fascism is).

  202. Note the date this was posted. I’m amazed that it took 224 comments before someone realized the obvious….

    Someone in this day and age proclaiming that “Marx was right!” is absurd.

    Certainly the man was a genius, more for his sociology than economics, and much of what he said was right based on the systems in place at the time … but his foretold collapse of capitalism that he was so certain of never happened. Instead, “capitalism” evolved and corrected / avoided most of the dangers he foresaw. (“pure” capitalism is indeed dangerous, see Robert Reich’s “Supercapitalism”, but is actually practiced nowhere).

    I posit that this is a brilliant April Fools post. Hyperbole. The left is so over-reacting to to our current mess caused by not enough regulation, that we might as well go all the way and Praise Marx!

    Now, how many will swallow it?

    Obviously, Marx was wrong. What Marx was “about” was that capitalism would of necessity fail, and it didn’t. That collectivism would prevail and succeed, and despite all attempts, it never has.

    If this was an April Fools post, it was brilliantly written. So believable, in spite of its absurdity. And the comments here… Wow. Some awesomely thoughtful stuff! Bet Richard didn’t foresee that ….

  203. @Motionview

    “Hitler is included as he was also a socialist, a national socialist. “


    “The red fascists and the black fascists are heads and tails of the same coin.”

    Phenomenal fail! Dude…get an education. This is kindergarten stuff. If after you looked up the definitions of fascism and socialism you still can’t make the difference, I suggest you may be… no, I will not say it, I’m mature enough to avoid this kind of foul language and easy labeling of people…

    Just try again. :)

  204. “Obviously, Marx was wrong. What Marx was “about” was that capitalism would of necessity fail, and it didn’t.”

    It failed more than once for the rich, and constantly fails for the poor. I don’t know what your definition of success is, but what the majority of the earths population has to go through because of “our” greed (made possible by laisser-faire capitalism), certainly isn’t “success”.

  205. In #169 SIRDOOK, you cite Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Programme as evidence that he didn’t support democracy:

    “Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

    However, this quote is largely about democracy. Consider this quote from the Communist Manifesto:

    “We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy. ”

    To see the present-day US through Marx’s eyes, he would see it as dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, even if it calls itself a republic or a democracy. These labels are rhetorical devices used by the bourgeoisie to placate the proletariat. However, to raise the “proletariat to the position of ruling class” – to ”crate a dictatorship of the proletariat” – is to ”win the battle of democracy”. Marx’s writings on the state and transition are more involved than that, but I don’t think he saw democracy or even a dictatorship of the proletariat as different from democracy.

    In transition there’s much focus on what steps need to be taken to secure democracy and communism from inevitable counter-revolutionary forces. That transition therefore requires uniquely communist democratic institutions, but its not opposed to democracy at all.

  206. In #192 JACK HALEY writes:

    “Marx was literally right. Again, if folks actually take the time to read what he wrote, the main argument that Marx made in Volume I of Capital (remember its subtitle: “A Critique of Political Economy”) was that the closer a society gets to an unregulated (what we would now call “free market”) capitalism, the greater the polarization of wealth and poverty. Contra Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” individual greed does not produce the greatest outcomes for everyone, but instead produces great poverty and misery alongside great wealth.”

    While I agree with much of what you wrote there’s an important difference that I’m afraid gets often repeated by Marx’s detractors (I don’t say critics since they detract by simply regurgitating what others have told them that has no relation to what Marx actually wrote). That confusion is that Marx was writing about “free markets” or “regulation”. These terms do not really define the “capitalism” Marx identifies and writes at length about. For Marx, “capitalism” is about a specific mode of production and distribution where exploitation – the appropriation of surplus labor – takes place through the appropriation of surplus value. This exploitation takes place typically through the interaction of markets: markets in labor power (wages); raw materials; and finished commodities. Marx may discuss different modes of regulation, but he does not share the naive views of most “capitalist” subjects that markets are ever free or regulated.

    Therefore his criticisms are neither directed at free markets nor at regulation nor at non-regulation. The topic is capitalism. All sorts of alternatives to capitalism are consistent with markets and different forms of regulation so Marx’s “capitalism” is not about those topics. The detractors of Marx therefore first take his views to be about something else entirely: free markets and regulation. Then they feverishly defend these two things (along side democracy) which they think Marx is attacking. So many of the mistaken comments in this thread reflect exactly this view.

  207. In general I’d say this is a great post. I don’t think Marx was a prophet, but he is an immensely important thinker. His analysis of fictitious capital in particular is very relevant to the current crisis (most of that theory is developed in volume iii of Capital).

    Of particular interest is the way in which Marx shows how all capital (the process of self-expanding value) can be understood in terms of productive labor processes. For example, the expansion of value from interest often derives from the payment of surplus value from the productive capitalist to the financial capitalist (the bank). Since the participants in these capital processes do not understand the connection to the performance of productive labor, they imagine they can earn more value simply through interest or through buying and selling (fictitious capital). While it is true that they can make money this way for any single capitalist, in the frenzy whipped up among capitalists, they all ignore productive capital and try to make money only from fictitious capital. Workers are laid off, the economy collapses and suddenly the fictitious capital value vanishes.

    While it may seem prophetic, we should keep in mind that much of Marx’s interest in writing Capital was fueled by a worldwide (within the capitalist world at least) crisis of 1857. Many of the same things we see happening now, went on then. The big difference between then and now has been the growth of speculative capital (where value is achieved through merely buying low and selling high). Engels actually wrote about this speculative capital towards the end of his life in the 1890s, but that phenomenon was only in its infancy then. Prior to that period fictitious capital was primarily through interest and dividends or merchant capital of buying wholesale and selling retail.

  208. #233, Motionview,

    You do realize that Marx was dead before Stalin or Hitler or Castro or any of those people came to power, do you not? Are you saying that Marx is to blame for things that happened after his death because the people abusing his ideology (without adhering to it) claimed to be doing it in his name?

    Again, why shouldn’t we blame Jesus for the Spanish Inquisition and for Pogroms and for the Salem Witch Trials and even for slavery?

    I am not a Marxist but I do understand that you shouldn’t judge Marx (or Jesus or Mohammed for that matter) because of what was done in his name by people who lived long after the man himself was dead.

  209. #199, THE_RAVEN: One could argue that precisly this crisis shows, that our economy is much more based on industrial production that many were aware of. Some say, industrial work has basically moved, but also you could argue that knowledge work is becoming ‘industrialised’.

    But: What is the big point about industrial society with regard to Marx? It’s that the class antagonism and class consciousness did not develop like Marx anticipated. This is true, but who needs a revolution anyway? The main point of his theory though, is a) that wealth is based on labor (as we see in the crisis), b) private property of the means of production and capital thus is a core problem and c) the correspondence of the system of production to society.

    c) might give hope, but it’s actually kind of neutral with regards to exploitation, b) allows a lot of different opions but hasn’t really changed, and as to a), well, that’s something we tend to overlook because of _the success of the industrial revolution_ regarding technology, but exactly this is one of the points where “Marx was right”. This crisis shows, to whom looks closely, that labor is still the core. One thing one should and could learn from Marx now is that it’s not primarily about financial markets and regulation.

  210. #86

    … because the one thing we need for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is an iPhone (or iPod, or Zune, or Android, etc, etc, etc).

    Says the prole with his own 3-gigaFLOPS computer…

  211. “…the greatest mass murderers of the 20th century, Lenin and Marx…”

    Who did Marx ever kill, you nit-wit?

    Those of you who who say it’s as foolish to blame Marx for 20th century communism as it is to blame Jesus for Christianity have made an excellent point. I remember reading somewhere that Marx actually said, perhaps with humor, “One thing I know is that I am not a Marxist.”

  212. Failix

    This is a new form of argument to me. You write “Fail” and that logically proves what? Only that you have no critical reasoning skills.
    Open your eyes, read Liberal Fascism, you might get a clue.

    #247 Buddy666

    I meant to write Lenin and Stalin. Do not forget that Lenin started the camps and the mass murders long before Stalin took control.

  213. Takuan:
    I hate Cuban govt and system. It is the perfect red herring for people who claims that alternatives to capitalism will always bring murderer and collapse of civil liberties.

    Of course, these people, as they have shown in this post, will close their eyes tightly and pretend that the Kibbutzim, Emilia-Romagna, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland do not exist, they like to think those are fantasy lands where people are not as free as Americans.

    Great social policies that target inequality can be built and can create wealth, without abusing people. Cuba is an example of things done absolutely wrong. But it is the example of socialism that blind supporters of laissez faire love, because it is a boogey man to scare people.

  214. In #250 GUIDODAVID wrote:

    “I hate Cuban govt and system. It is the perfect red herring for people who claims that alternatives to capitalism will always bring murderer and collapse of civil liberties.”

    You’re simply adopting the US bourgeois position uncritically. One of the greatest assaults on civil liberties in Cuba takes place at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, outside the sovereign juristdiction of the Cuban governement. Comparisons between Cuba and the US can be made, but the US does not come out as the stellar example that US citizens think in such comparisions. The US has been murdering those it identifies as threats throughout the World and domestically for decades: long before the current Cuban state existed. The main difference is that US citizens view any murder carried out by the US state as a justified, necessary, and legitimate murder while any murder by the Cuban state is clearly an affront to basic human rights and unjustified. Why the double standard?

  215. @ #227 kctinman

    “Capitalism is not perfect but no one is forced by threat of violence to go along with that system”

    Now see that is just wilfully ignorant.

    Central and South America.


    Daniel Ortega’s Sandinistas were DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED.They just happened to be SOCIALISTS too.

    Come on.

    Neither side exactly covers themselves in glory.

    The difference being this.

    The Soviet Union was never really a Socialist state. It was a totalitarian state.

    The Soviets chased the Romanovs out of the Kremlin and moved in themselves.

    Stalin was the new Tsar.The Okhrana were replaced by the NKVD then in turn the KGB.

    Workers rights progressed from being serfs, effectively medieval slaves, to being free poverty stricken indentured servants.

    Ah sod it. I suspect there is no hope for several people on this thread.

  216. Cplot:
    What the fucking hell are you talking about??!!

    I have never ever supported American policies and abuse of Human Rights by ANY govt or individual. I condemn Bush and Kissinger, but also Castro and Guevara.

    Bourgeois position? Condemning a govt. that makes people being killed for thinking different is Bourgeois? Bring the fucking caviar, then.

  217. Dear Guido David, would you agree though, that Cuba hasn’t a had a chance to make her own way unhindered yet? I’m not saying I myself approve (or disapprove) of how they have run their country. I’m just concerned that the econo-war waged against them has distorted their outcomes.

  218. “This is a new form of argument to me.”

    Welcome to my world. :)

    “You write “Fail” and that logically proves what? Only that you have no critical reasoning skills.”

    I didn’t think it actually was necessary to argue about the meaning and difference between two very well known and widely studied political and economical ideologies.

    You still insist? Didn’t I tell you to check the definitions?

  219. If the argument is that the current financial crisis was predicted by Marx I would say that this is totally fictitious. Marx was a fine social theorist, a lousy prophet, and even a worse economist (his total economic theory can fit on half a page and it is mostly incorrect). What is happening in the financial markets are more closely predicted by Keynes, and it is his methods that we (we as in the world) is using to get out of the problem. The strategy gets back to commanding the heights of the economy. Hayek also said some very interesting things that relates to this problem (it would take many more pages of writing to go into specific details). The main argument that I am trying to get across is that the current economic crisis is way to complicated to be able to point to one person and say “he predicted it, and it’s the fault of Capitalism”. It is like those in the US arguing that it is the lack of production in the US that has caused the problem…that is false. If that was the case then the problem would be isolated in the United States, but it is a World Problem. We are a global community and we are all interconnected. We share (albeit disproportional) the benefits and drawbacks of economic growth.

  220. Takuan:
    Yes, but to me, whether or not their potential was hurt or not by the blocking is something secondary. The magnitude of their abuses against people and crimes and rejection of freedom of speech is enough for me to despise the whole thing. Just like I do towards China, despite its impressive growth.

    Sadly, I must acknowledge I own chinese made things.

  221. If Marx is going to be the next great intellectual again, does that mean Hayek will be again in 20 years when Marxism again destroys millions, possibly even billions, of lives?

  222. GUIDODAVID, I didn’t mean to offend. I think you missed my point though. I was trying to say that the embarassment you feel uniquely about Cuba is entirely unfounded. Americans clearly believe states have the right to preserve themselves. I would agree myself. There are sinister forces that will bring down a state like Cuba and wreak much greater havoc on life, liberty and fraternity than anything we would ever see from the Cuban state.

    So whether or not you think that Castro or Che or the Cuban state apparatus in general overreached in preserving the state and the revolution, it is not a unique overreaching among states. If anything it might be considered a model of restraint in terms of similar revolutionary states. When a state is in a precarious position it might be expected to rely more heavily on summary execution and the like. What is the excuse in the United States (perhaps the least precarious state in the World for some time)?

  223. Re #257

    “Marx was a fine social theorist, a lousy prophet, and even a worse economist (his total economic theory can fit on half a page and it is mostly incorrect). ”

    Where do these ridiculous misconeptions come from? Stated with so much authority yet to anyone whose read even a little bit of Marx this is complete nonsense. Marx wrote volumes upon volumes about economics or what he called political economy. His analysis is quite detailed, engages every thinker on the topic he could uncover and describes economic processes far beyond anything dealt with in modern economics. Keynes that you laud largely plagaraized his greatest insights from Marx (plagarized in the ful sense that he claims to have read Marx, touts most of his insights without giving any credit, and claims full ownership of Marx’s contributions).

    What passes for economics today is merely the latest variation of what Marx analyzed in depth as vulgar economics. Its main aim is as an apologetic for capitalism and to obscure the insights of capitalisms critics. Most of the bourgeois criticsms of Marx that show how he was “incorrect” amount to littel more than the same hand-waving criticisms we see in these posts. Keynes himself replied to George Bernard Shaw who recommended he consider more of Marx’s contributions by saying something along the lines of: why should I look to someone who has been thoroughly discredited. Yet Keynes himself never bothered to elaborate on what had been so discredited in Marx’s work. Like the contemporary economists, they all just assume its been done.

  224. Cplot:
    I do not feel that way uniquely about Cuba. I feel that way about every regime that claims to kill people for the good of the People. I am not fan of North Korea, the Khmer Rouge, Ecuatorial Guinea (Google the lovely picture oF Condie Rice with the bastard Teodoro Obiang, btw, you might puke, however). My beef with Cuba are all the apologists of such a bloody regime and all the stupid admiration for a system that hurts its own people and where social classes are as sharply delimited as in the worst feudal regimes (Try being a regular Cuban Citizen and going to a forbidden beach available only to foreign people).

    “So whether or not you think that Castro or Che or the Cuban state apparatus in general overreached in preserving the state and the revolution, it is not a unique overreaching among states.”

    No, it is not. So what? That does not makes it less despicable.

    ” If anything it might be considered a model of restraint in terms of similar revolutionary states.”

    Certainly is pretty mild compared to Cambodia, the USSR or North Korea. But the fact that punching you kids until their teeth break is pretty mild compared to burning them as witches does not make you a good parent.

    “When a state is in a precarious position it might be expected to rely more heavily on summary execution and the like.”

    It might be. In my ethical standards is still wrong. And the Cubans relied on oppression and murderer well after the Revolution and before America turned on them. It is revolting to me to see Guevara hailed as a hero.

    “What is the excuse in the United States (perhaps the least precarious state in the World for some time)?”

    I wish I knew. Still, no excuse would make their acts right (like supporting to Khmer Rouge after Viet Nam invaded Cambodia, so the Vietnamese puppet govt. would not get the UN seat of Cambodia).

    For the record, I am not American.

    Still, I do not get why should we have to choose a “side”. I do not understand why we would have to ignore the abuses of some regimes and highlight others. We have examples of govts who are not involved in wars or colonialism, who do not invest a lot in military and who promote social policies. Govts who are democratic, even if imperfect, that promote peace, that are not led by bastards. Why should we keep defending crap like Castro?

  225. we shouldn’t. I myself only rooted for Castro because he refused to bow to a foreign bully. Personally, he did little I liked.

  226. GUIDODAVID regarding #262

    “I do not understand why we would have to ignore the abuses of some regimes and highlight others.”

    You’re doing precisely that. Show me a nation-state that doesn’t infringe on the rights of its citizens: especially when threatened. The idea that the Cuban state abuses preceded US interference is ridiculous. The US has ben interfering with Cuba’s sovereignty since at least 1900. Castro only began his revolution in the 1950s.

    And your idea of civil rights violations is restricted access to beaches? How many countries in the World can I freely us any beach I wish without state intervention?

    You’re focussed on those regimes that make claims to communism or socialism and leaving out regimes that claim to be democaratic or repbulican or imperialist. Is it because you think only communism claims to be democratic and in defense of human rights? It seems to me that all modern nations make such claims. Yet you do not focus attention on any one of them unless they have communist ties. Your responses are starting to sound quite disengenous.

  227. “We have examples of govts who are not involved in wars or colonialism, who do not invest a lot in military and who promote social policies. Govts who are democratic, even if imperfect, that promote peace, that are not led by bastards. Why should we keep defending crap like Castro?”

    What countries are you thinking of? I think of Cuba as one of the finer examples of a coutnry which doesn’t promote wars of colonialism, who do not invest a lot in military and who promote social policies. Also I would add that they do not put capitalists before the people. Its not merely a placation of peoplle to keep corporatist powerw unscathed. Those sorts of arrangements can turn on you in a flash.

  228. Well, Cplot, check Human Rights Watch and International Amnesty. They criticize pretty much every country. And they both seem to coincide in that Sweden, Denmark (which has a Gini coefficient lower than any other country in the world, mind you), Finland and Norway are doing very well in human rights. Recently Norway decided it would not invest its surplus money from oil in certain companies with dubious ethical practices.

    I have criticized the US many times, yet you choose to ignore the criticism.

    And yes, I invest a lot of time criticizing pseudo leftist regimes. Because I want to make clear that you can support social change and more equality without asking for people to be shot because they think different, because I do not want to defend my ideas using the blood of others.

    Well, yes, you got me on that. The US made worse its intervention and blockade after the revolution, but they were, as you say, involved in Cuba since long before.

    And no, in Cuba they don’t put capitalists before people. Just Castro and his cronies and family. Is there a difference difference for the oppressed and silenced?

    “And your idea of civil rights violations is restricted access to beaches? How many countries in the World can I freely us any beach I wish without state intervention?”

    My idea of civil rights violation is not having freedom of speech and freedom of movement, and, before you ask borders suck. I am an Utopian, I know.

    Well, in Venezuela, where I was born and where I chose to live, you can go to pretty much any beach without asking permission, except for national parks and natural reserves. Even if I think this govt we have now sucks more than vacuum, there is no restriction based on nationality to visit beaches, which is sad and ironic in a society supposedly free from classes like Cuba. So no, they do not put capitalists before people, just wealthy Europeans on vacation. Yeah, right, count me in to support that and claim it is an example of freedom and egalitarianism, rather than Denmark (which again, has the lowest Gini in the world).

  229. GUIDODAVID, well I think we’re way off topic anyway. I still find your responses to be evasive and disingenuous. For example, be utopian all you want that still doesn’t explain why your singling out Cuba when the Scandinavian countries all have borders too and restrict access to beaches. Much of the appeasement offered by capitalists in the Scandinavian countries is tenuous and temporary. Wait for ethnic diversity to grow in those countries and watch the capitalists change strategies from appeasement to all out class warfare.

    But as I said this is really off topic. Your responses indicate to me that you could gain a lot from reading Marx. Marx isn’t only about political economy, but his intensive study of epistemology helped usher in a completely new way of critical thinking: one not as susceptible to the manipulation of the ruling classes like your own thinking about Cuba and borders and Utopian. For example the common misconception reflected in your views that the state is an independent actor separate from the capitalist ruling class and civil society. This view goes along way toward controlling the masses.

  230. I still have to read the original source, indeed. Same with Keynes and Smith. I have been interested in economy only in the last three years.

    But, yes, the Scandinavian have borders. But what I criticize are not borders by themselves, but the fact that an average Cuban citizen has no right to step on certain beaches, reserved to foreigners. That happens in a society where they claim to have no classes. Show me a Scandinavian country where people cannot step in state owned beaches in the same way.

    “Much of the appeasement offered by capitalists in the Scandinavian countries is tenuous and temporary. Wait for ethnic diversity to grow in those countries and watch the capitalists change strategies from appeasement to all out class warfare.”

    Mere speculation. Still, it has not happened. And their societies are very egalitarian. You are asking me to reject a known fact and support a bunch of murderers and thugs based just on your speculations.

    And concerning your patronising attitude of I being manipulated: Funny that no matter how unpopular and weird are my points of view, even here on BoingBoing you claim I have been manipulated, because you cannot accept any opposite worldview as being thought carefully. A warning sign I am talking to a fundamentalist who dislikes other’s opinions when they do not agree. Now it makes sense your support of the Cuban thugs.

    Singing: Revolution by The Beatles.

  231. GUIDODAVID, your second paragraph about Scandinavian countries not forbidding entry on state owned beaches is exactly the type of narrow view I’m talking about. If we compare two societies where 1) one society has a distinction where some public resources are privately owned and therefore subject to special protection; and 2) the other society has the state own those same public resources and likewise restricts access, how is one society more repressive. Granted Cuba could make the distinction on income lines like the capitalist ideology would dictate, but then you’re creating a distinction based on income where citizens with sufficient income are privileged and allowed on the beach but other citizens without sufficient income are prohibited. That doesn’t strike me as more fair or less oppressive, simply differently exclusionary. And given Cuba’s commitments and needs for foreign tourism I can fully understand why they would go with their policy and not the capitalist ideological policy.

    “Mere speculation. Still, it has not happened. And their societies are very egalitarian. You are asking me to reject a known fact and support a bunch of murderers and thugs based just on your speculations.”

    Yes I am speculating. But many of the Scandinavian countries are already facing austerity programs and other attacks on the social welfare state, in part, influence by US foreign policy. And again you’re dogmatic prejudices are reflected in this statement. You’re choosing one bunch of murderers and thugs and rejecting another: if you really want to characterize it that way. Those states also commit murder. Nearly every Scandinavian state provided material support – including combat troops – for the US criminal invasion of Iraq. Over 1 million dead by some estimates, certainly hundreds of thousands. This is just another example of your selective condemnation of Cuba when these states too have their own oppressive state apparatuses

    “Funny that no matter how unpopular and weird are my points of view, even here on BoingBoing you claim I have been manipulated, because you cannot accept any opposite worldview as being thought carefully. ”

    Well I’m not that familiar with all of the views you’ve expressed on Boing Boing, but from this exchange I don’t see them as all that strange or unique. All of the views you’ve expressed are welcomed regularly within the US media. I enjoy encountering and engaging new views, but nothing you’ve said here is all that new and certainly not all that engaging. Perhaps in Venezuela the views are unique, but even there, I can assure you the US is working diligently to bombard Venezuela with these capitalist supporting narrow viewpoints. You may have merely picked up on that counter-intelligence campaign and adopted those views as your own. So I don’t dislike your views because you disagree with me, I dislike them because they are the same narrow and uncritical views that support capitalist oppression throughout the World.

  232. Finland and Sweden did not send troops to Iraq, but Norway and Denmark did. But Sweden sells weapons, I agree, OTOH, Finland has stopped producing land mines. The amount of troops sent in total by Scandinavian countries is less than 1000 soldiers. Cuba sent troops elsewhere too, specially to Africa, if I remember correctly. No country is perfect, and every single nation has blood on its hands, yet, even if the amount of blood would be the same, there are other social and political traits (such as freedom of speech and movement, universal health care, progressive taxation) that are more desirable than others (dictatorship, restriction of movement, single party systems, no healthcare for poor people) and that Cuba and the US lack.

    “But many of the Scandinavian countries are already facing austerity programs and other attacks on the social welfare state, in part, influence by US foreign policy.”

    Links, please. The same has been said before and even if the systems have been reformed and changed, the benefits still persist. Of course, if everything crumbles to the ground they will disappear, but such thing is valid for welfare in any system, including communist systems.

    Still, even if both systems were ruled by equally filthy thugs, why should we choose a system that punish people for not thinking exactly like the Mighty Dear leader? Why should we choose a system that is top-down rather than emerging from self-organizing like a kibbutz? Why should we trust in a bunch of assholes that believe they have all the answers and refuse to listen to others like Castro does?

    So, private property to you is the same than apartheid for the sake of tourism? Wow.

    Well, I do not watch a lot of TV, but I yet have to see a documentary on mainstream US TV about Emilia-Romagnan coops. And in a country where Obama is called a socialist (XD) for half of the political Establishment is difficult to see how talking about the kibbutzim would be welcome.

    “but even there, I can assure you the US is working diligently to bombard Venezuela with these capitalist supporting narrow viewpoints.”

    Yeah, right. You are the only person that has independent points of views. And of course, the CIA is talking constantly about kibbutzim, coops and Scandinavian universal healthcare, and of course, about PISA programs for tracking educational policies. Of course, silly me, I forgot, local Anarchists are double agents trying to get an ultra Randian government controlled by the Jewish lobby…

  233. What we currently have is not really capitalism, however Marx was correct about a number of thinks.

    He was also very wrong on a number of other points.

    The causes of our current problems are rooted in the existence of The Federal Reserve and their tinkering with interests rates and the monetary basis. This along with the piles of governmental regulations on the books pretty much guaranteed the outcome we are now seeing.

  234. How he was able to see so far into the future is a mystery of his particular genius, but Marx accurately extrapolated how capitalism’s endgame would play itself out at the very birth of the system.

    He wasn’t peering centuries into the future, he was describing his own time or what he thought would be his own immediate future, during his own life. The fact that it’s centuries later and we have yet to see the system actually collapse, despite every generation of Marxists believing they’re living in “capitalism’s endgame,” is enough to indicate that he wasn’t as much of a prophet as his fans think he was.

  235. Important note:

    When somebody like #20 talks about a “third way”, or a “third position”, or the “middle path between liberalism and conservatism”, or “between socialism and capitalism”, they’re referring to fascism. Please call it out when you see it, don’t allow their views to go unchallenged.

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