"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)