After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a relentless attack was waged by the bourgeois intellectuals and politicians against the ideas of Marxism and socialism. Lal Khan comments how now, with the world living through a seemingly endless crisis, the spectre of Marxism is back to haunt the capitalists.
The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist degeneration of the Chinese bureaucracy led to mass euphoria and ridicule of Marxism by a sea of imperialist experts, intellectuals and politicians howling against socialism and communism. What is far worse is how quickly the former sycophants and disciples of Moscow and Beijing jumped on this bandwagon, justifying their betrayals, ignorance and opportunism by capitulating to this exploitative and inhuman system. The capitalists and the imperialists started to use them as a tool to spread venomous propaganda against an ideology they proclaimed to adhere to and ‘confessed’ it to be wrong and a historical failure.
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky were ‘proved’ to be grossly wrong and their mistakes – and they didn’t make many – were flaunted as crimes. All the crimes, blunders and tyrannies of the Stalinist bureaucracies in Russia and China were heaped upon Lenin and Trotsky. Marxism was declared an obsolete and redundant ideology and it was proclaimed that ‘socialism had failed’ and that this was the ‘end of history’. A ferocious onslaught was unleashed against the working classes and trickle-down economics and neoliberal capitalism became the mantra not just of the right wing parties but of the so-called lefts and leaders of the traditional parties of the masses. This drunken euphoria was short-lived. The opening up of the markets of Russia, Eastern Europe and other countries of the so-called ‘socialist’ block provided a temporary respite to the growth of capitalism. The opening up of China, and in particular availability of its cheap and skilled workers to the corporate capitalist vultures to the rapidly enriched Chinese bureaucracy, gave a further spurt to the profits for imperialist corporations.
Since the historic slump of 1974 capitalist growth has been based on debts and credit. This hollowed out the system and the debts started to accumulate leading to biggest financial crash in its history when the bubble burst in 2007-8. The OECD countries of the West have never been able to recover from it. The recovery to date has been jittery, weak, fragile, and largely based on further consumer debt and spending. The so-called emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have seen their growth rates plummet dramatically since 2008 and are failing to any reprieve for world capitalism.
In the period after the fall of the Berlin Wall there was massive increase in inequality unprecedented in history. Just eighty five people own and control more wealth than half of the total population on this planet. There is poverty on a biblical scale in large swathes of the world’s territories and more people are forced into the abyss of misery, poverty and deprivation than ever before. We have witnessed mass movements and eruptions in the recent period and they are in no way fizzling out into oblivion. Instead a relentless process of ebbs and flows has begun in one country after another crisscrossing national frontiers and continents. There has been a renewed interest and attraction towards Marxism especially amongst the youth in the last few years. Marx’s Capital was one of the best sellers in the Frankfurt book fair, one of the world’s largest, a few years ago. It is not an accident that at the turn of the millennium in various surveys and polls – most significantly BBC’s – Marx was adjudged the most revered personality of the previous millennium.
Now a new book on the present world inequality by a French economist, Thomas Piketty, entitled, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has become a bestseller since its English translation appeared in March this year. It has become an overnight sensation, not only in Europe but also in the bastion of capitalism, the USA. Its 700 page hardback edition was sold out within days. The old capitalist fox, The Economist had this to comment in its latest editorial entitled ‘New Marx’, “When the first volume of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” was published in 1867, it took five years to sell 1000 copies in its original German. It was not translated into English for two decades… Having for years dismissed the gaps between the haves and have-nots as a European obsession, Americans stung by the excesses of Wall Street are suddenly talking about the rich and redistribution. Hence the attraction of a book which argues that growing wealth concentration is inherent to capitalism and recommends a global tax on wealth as the progressive solution.”
However the three volumes of Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’ are not just about inequality. On the contrary they explain rise of capitalism, its fundamental core modus operandi of exploitation, the path to alienation and class struggle culminating in socialist revolutions as the only way-out of this oppressive and desecrating system. It’s a scientific analysis of the crisis that capitalism was bound to enter along with the causes and mechanics of its slumps and booms. Marx also developed the philosophy of dialectical materialism that gives the human mind an accurate method of analysis, drawing inferences and charting out perspectives for the future. It was on the pages of this, Marx’s magnum opus, that he had predicted the transformation of capitalism into imperialism, the wealth being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands with the vast majority of the human race being thrown into deprivation and suffering and finally the patterns of the capitalist growth that would make the nation state obsolete and nation boundaries redundant will huge flows of uncontrollable capital. Mr Piketty’s book is nowhere near the great epic of Das Kapital from any aspect. He himself concedes that a worldwide wealth tax is ‘politically’ not possible within the system.
Marx’s epic works are truer today than they were more than 150 years ago. All the ‘new’ economic theories have miserably failed. The absurd philosophical ‘inventions’ like ‘post modernism’ etc. are poor imitations of redundant doctrines of a distant past completely impotent to explain the rapidly unravelling historic events and processes. At the present time the titanic power of the monopolies and corporate capital exercises a total stranglehold on the planet. With access to staggering sums of money and economies of gigantic proportions, with the ability to manipulate commodity prices and crushing powers to determine the policies of governments, they are the real masters of the world. Even the top bourgeois economists like the nobel laureate Paul Krugman are now frazzled and pessimistic about the future of capitalism. The venomous criticisms by frantic bourgeois analysts of this new book are in reality directed towards Marxism. But these reckless attacks reflect their fear of an ideology they have been pronouncing dead for generations. Yet there are increasing number of sober economists that mention Marxist ideas in their analysis and resolution of the crisis today. In the opening lines of ‘The Communist Manifesto’, Marx and Engels wrote in 1848, “The spectre of Communism haunts Europe.” In the present rapidly-changing epoch the ‘spectre of Marxism’ is now beginning to haunt the world.