The Continued Relevance of Karl Marx

James Connolly Memorial Lecture, 2018

Dr Stephen Nolan

Dublin, 12 May 2018

Thank you for the invitation to speak, although I know I wasn’t the first choice, or even the second, in fact I was the last choice of a desperate man . . . Nonetheless I’m going to do my best, but if you were expecting a Marxist theoretician you’re going to be disappointed. My approach to most things is summed up by a quote I’m stealing off Cian McMahon: “It is better to be roughly right than mostly wrong” (Rohit Azad), and I’m aiming for “roughly right” today . . .
     It is today the 12th of May, and we’re here to remember James Connolly, our greatest thinker, who referred to Marx as “the greatest of modern thinkers and the first of scientific socialists and the founder of the internationalism of the socialist movement.” And, in classic understatement, in his piece “Ireland, Karl Marx and William Walker,” Connolly said Marx knew—and I quote—a “thing or two about socialism.”
     The last thirty years haven’t been a favourable period for Marxism, and the left generally. We have seen the emergence of a new phase in capitalist development that has included a dominant role for finance capital, the rolling back of organised labour, deregulation, low taxes, massive and continuous privatisation—you know the list . . .
     And after the fall of the Soviet Union we were warned about the end of history, but, in warning about using quotes correctly, which is important today, Fukuyama actually said that we face “the prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history.”
     Well, the last ten years have been anything but boring. And history has had its revenge, it seems.
     What we see is the full-spectrum domination of free-market theory. But it’s not enough to have a market economy: what we’re seeing emerge is a free-market society. This is the kind of society where we teach entrepreneurism to five-year-olds, and where universities no longer engage in critical debate and democratic discourse but rather install derivatives trading rooms in departments of “economic management.”

     This is a society in which, for too many, the impulse to engage in political struggle is absent, because we’re not just losing the political battle, we’re losing another battle: the battle of ideas.
     Our inability to claim ownership of the material means of production is matched by our inability to own the intellectual means of production. The pace and depth of private ownership of media, and the subservient nature of state media to the market, serve to underscore the “pole position” of capitalist hegemony.
     Increasingly, too many have bought in to the logic of the market. The most pragmatic solution, we’re told, is to agree that there are no alternatives—indeed to suggest otherwise is to be utopian, uneconomic, impractical, or naïve.
     And for those of us espousing, in whatever forum or indeed party, the revolutionary ideas of our man Karl Marx, and the ideas of those that followed him and built on that foundational work, it’s been a challenging time.
     In the mainstream, the role of and purpose of our pundits, preachers and political leaders is to doom as impossible any radical, fundamental transformation of that system that he first analysed . . . and they’ve done their best to bury Marx and his ideas.
     The problem has been compounded by the fact that even the places where we would expect to be introduced to his ideas have been colonised by that same bourgeois free-market thinking.
     The lesson is that capitalism is so normal it has become part of our commonsense understanding of the world, and as such there can be, there are, no alternatives.

     This dictatorship of no alternatives has colonised the political and economic regime, academia, our school curriculum . . . But perhaps what’s most surprising and disappointing is the collusion of the social-democratic left and the labour movement in this process:

     In the labour movement in particular, Marxism as a core concept is almost entirely absent. Capitalism and class do not feature—not in any real substantive way. How many of our members, how many of our officials, how much of our education is infused with the ideas of Karl Marx?
     It is most obvious to me in the slavish adherence to the skills agenda of trade union education, in which individual approaches to personal development and improving our own “economic opportunities” supersede organising, collective bargaining and industrial action, and building class-consciousness and power. Too much of our trade union education is infused with the language not of Karl Marx but of “lifelong learning,” “career pathing,” “personal effectiveness.”
     In too many places and in too many of our progressive left spaces we have a whole generation of activists that have come through with almost no familiarity let alone training in Marxian political economy or indeed dialectics.
     Then of course into this:

     And of course we lefties stood back. Well, there you go, entirely predictable: overproduction, underconsumption, speculation, crises, contradictions emerging . . .
     In the mainstream it seemed to come as a genuine shock to those same pundits, preachers and political leaders, convinced, as they are, that this time they’ve ironed out capitalism’s problems. In the Financial Times the unthinkable headline:

     And it seemed, for a while at least, that elements of the bourgeoisie were shitting themselves and many were scrambling round looking for answers . . . and, of course, sales of Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto rocketed . . .

     We saw mainstream economists searching for copies of Marx’s writings, who, they were being told, had something to say about crises . . . . My favourite is Brad DeLong, who describes himself as a free-trade neo-liberal, who cites Adam Smith and Milton Friedman as his main influences. In 1991 DeLong co-wrote two theoretical papers with Lawrence Summers that were to become critical theoretical underpinnings for the financial deregulation put in place when Summers was secretary of the treasury under Clinton. DeLong said:

     And then a pluralist economics appears in the seams of discourse. On late-night news shows the odd Keynesian appears, a post-Keynesian, even a Marxist, in the midst of a general fear of collapse . . . .
     But it didn’t last long; that debate was shut down. A few pantomime villains—Fred the Shred, Seán Gallagher—were identified; they were pilloried then, a few rotten apples that spoil the otherwise spotless image of a dynamic and productive economic system . . . and what we’ve seen since then is the reconstitution of class power, a dramatic shift to the right (with some slight exceptions). And we’ve moved into a new normal of authoritarianism, intolerance, mass surveillance, new Taylorist form of worker discipline alongside increased automation, precariousness, and the prospect that in the very likely coming crisis we may well see the final assault on the remnants of the welfare state.
     But these changes are not designed to reboot capitalism: they are a desperate response to a system in terminal decline. Capitalism is in a parlous state.
     And, not surprisingly in this context, try as many pundits might to bury him, Marx just refuses to die . . . and is more relevant than ever. And it seems that everyone thinks so.

     But if we’re going to understand and indeed apply those ideas, then the most important thing is to read him; and, as I’m sure you’d agree, Marx is a great read.
     It’s said that the beauty of reading Marx is the way his analysis of capitalism is like peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the intimate workings and dynamics of capital. (Others have said that reading Marx is indeed like peeling an onion, in that it reduces you to tears.) Humphrey McQueen said in 2005, in an article called “Reading the unreadable,” that “the more that people fear that Marx is impenetrable, the harder it will be to convince them to recover his relevance.”¹
     So we need to stop saying that Marx is too hard, or unreadable; and you can be guaranteed that the people who usually say that haven’t actually read Marx; and because they haven’t—well, neither should you . . . And neither is it enough to read what others have said about Marx, as tempting and as useful as that is; because the only way to challenge the accusation that Marx is “unreadable” is to read him.
     Capital, in particular, has been accused of “resisting mass readership”: eight hundred pages in Volume 1 alone, and another two thousand pages in the three volumes that he left partly completed. For those who complain, think yourself lucky that the volumes that did appear were only about 15 per cent of what he had planned. He even warns us himself at the start of Capital, saying, “The method of analysis which I have employed . . . makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous.”
     My own first memories of Marx couldn’t be more bourgeois, as a student studying gothic horror and having the luck of a lefty teacher introducing Marx to us but, as a gothic writer, sneaking it onto the curriculum. And in the gothic, of course, monsters are metaphors for unwelcome and uncontrollable change; and in Marx’s writings werewolves and vampires abound, because with Marx we have a description of this new economic system as a gothic horror. In his analysis of capitalism he describes the emergence of the forces of production by a new bourgeoisie like the summoning up of dark and powerful forces that are ultimately destructive, a Frankenstein’s monster for the industrial age.
     In a passage from the chapter on the working day Marx, in Capital, Volume 1 (1876), explains the vampiric nature of capitalism.

     “Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks” (Capital, p. 342). But it “only slightly quenches the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour” (p. 367). “And the parasitic nature of capitalism will feed and feed “while there remains a single muscle, sinew or drop of blood to be exploited” (p. 415–16).
     His gothic influence extends to the modern era in how we describe this living, breathing, distortive system:

     John Quiggin’s recent Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (2010). David McNally, notes in Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires, and Global Capitalism (2010).
     And those metaphors, parables, narrative are important in describing capitalism. Yes, a dynamic and changing system, but ultimately a monstrous one. And when you begin to see capitalism through that lens you can’t unsee it, and the way Marx writes about it connects us to slavery, colonial genocide, the dark satanic mills of industrialisation . . . And of course Marx’s writing are full of literary devices: figures of speech, puns, paradoxes, Shakespeare, Balzac, Cervantes, Dante, Goethe, Homer, and Sophocles, and dozens of references to a host of other poets, dramatists, and novelists. Marshall Berman, for instance, reads the Communist Manifesto as a prose poem, as “the first great modernist work of art.”
     We’ll stop there, because there is a danger at this point of getting lost in post-modern bolloxology,² where we read Marx more for its aesthetics than its revolutionary ideas.
     But above all Marx wrote in the tradition of realism, never pursued style for style’s sake. As Schopenhauer said,

     And Marx did have something to say. Don’t forget Marx was only twenty-nine years old, Engels twenty-seven, when they wrote the Communist Manifesto—two lads in their twenties; and let’s remind ourselves how good it us . . .
     “Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned . . .”
     His writing, above all, brings his ideas, his analysis, to life. He describes capital as a dynamic process, not a static abstraction; it is understood as a living, breathing system that we can understand, because he provides us with a living, breathing theory. What we take from Marx is nothing less than a revolutionary framework for knowledge and the most rigorous, searching and comprehensive critique of capitalism that exists.
     So, Marx’s ideas: what are they, and in what ways are his ideas applicable today? Does Marx matter?³ If anything, the last forty years have reconstituted the world of the 1860s that he knew so well: crises, protectionism, war, monopoly . . . And I’m going to speak to a few of the many ideas that are relevant to me and the work I and my colleagues are engaged in.
     As a kid, every Saturday night we went to the local Irish club, the Holy Rosary, on Brixton High Road. It wasn’t a hub of revolutionary activity, and in fact I thought “Faith of our Fathers” was the national anthem to well into my teens. With a father from the Blueshirt midlands and a mother from south Derry, I grew up with fairly standard nationalist tropes, and my knowledge of history was Celtic twilight, banshees, fairies, and bastard redcoats . . .
     But on moving to and living in the Six Counties, I was forced to look beyond the great liberator and the “two tribes” theory, and particularly when I got a job in the anti-sectarian unit of Congress. I met a communist from the Shankill Road, Joe Law, who encouraged me to read Marx. And what I’d been trying to understand on my own metamorphosed into a deeper understanding about the history of this place, the place of my children and my forebears, an understanding not just that there was a pike in the hayloft but why it was there, why it was wielded, why plantations, colonialism, why partition, why the carnival of reaction
     And reading Marx inevitably takes you, as it took me, out of the comfortable ignorance of nationalism, and you’re forced to confront the theft, violence, predation and slavery that, yes, lies at the historic origins of modern Irish history but which in turn lies at the origins of capitalism itself. To do this, Marx gives us primitive accumulation, that first (and continuing) process towards capital accumulation and the exploitation of wage labour.
     If Marxism is in part a theory and a practice of long-term historical change, then primitive accumulation explains how this new system emerges, how a new class gain the necessary assets and control to employ another class, through a system of wage labour, as a new mode of production displaces an earlier mode of production, “freeing us from control over the means of production”! Our freedom is violent dispossession and wage slavery . . .
     So primitive accumulation is, yes, about the origins of wage labour and surplus value; how an urban working class is forged violently out of a dispossessed peasantry, “the expropriation of the direct producers.” “It is a notorious fact that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder . . . in short, force, play the greatest part” (p. 874).
     Marx shows us the detail of the harsh and cruel legislation enacted against those who had been expropriated—or liberated from their previous ways of living—mutilating them for vagrancy, press-ganging the unemployed and destitute into military service, extending the working day, limiting wages, outlawing strikes and workers’ organisations.
     “. . . thus were the agricultural folk first forcibly expropriated from the soil, driven from their homes turned into vagabonds and then whipped branded and tortured by grotesquely terroristic laws into accepting the discipline necessary for the system of wage labour after which of course this violence is replaced by the silent compulsion of economic relations.”
     Stunning: in one sentence, two hundred years of history, and the birth of a new mode of production . . . Marx shows us that the emergence of capitalism “is anything but idyllic . . . it is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.”
     And as primitive accumulation is well on its way to transforming western Europe, the processes of the coming together of the state and banking and credit—of what Marx calls “the bankocrats, financiers, rentiers, brokers, jobbers”—allows the “treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement and murder” to flow back to another country and be “turned into capital.” And he takes us into the world of colonial plunder . . .
     “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of blackskins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production” (p. xxiii)
     And this process is “celebrated by a vast, Herod like slaughter of the innocents.”
     He gives short shrift to the history we were all taught that equates the onset of capitalism with thrift, providence, the English spirit of trade, entrepreneurial genes . . . Primitive accumulation reads history differently. The “agricultural revolution” and the “spinning Jenny” disguise the brutal theft of communal property; the Jacobite rebellion is underwritten by the savagery of the Highland clearances; the genocide of the Americas and African slavery are written as the wonders of the new world; the civilising of Ireland is mass murder, dispossession, the destruction of ancient ways of life.
     And we reread and relearn history through Marx’s analysis. My favourite is the retelling of the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 and the much-lauded Bill of Rights (1689), about which Marx simply tells us that it “brought into power, along with William of Orange, the landed and capitalist profit grubbers.”
     With Marx, the capitalist mode of production transforms the mass of the population into wage labourers and their means of production into capital, and the colonial world into the commercial hunting of black skins—a system which comes into the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt” (p. xxv).
     In our work, when you’re trying to teach Marxian political economy, often for the very first time, primitive accumulation is one of those ideas which are crucial, because it allows us to challenge and overturn those histories which reflect in their telling that the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling idea of the age. People think, because they are told that capitalism has always been with us, it’s human nature, the inevitable result of Darwinian struggle. Primitive accumulation allows us to show that it’s not normal, it’s not natural: it’s coercive, violent.
     And in allowing us to understand that capitalism didn’t always exist, and showing people that there was a pre-capitalist world. with a different mode of production, perhaps they can begin to envisage a post-capitalist world—and to combat that embedded thought that it is easier to imagine the end of life on Earth than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.
     Why is this relevant? it’s relevant because the ideas of the ruling class are still the ruling ideas of the age . . .
     It’s funny that we talk of Marxian political economy, because Marx called what he gave us a “critique of political economy”—and of course he meant classical political economy, in which the stories of the birth of capitalism play in classical political economy the same role as original sin does in theology. So the origin of capitalism is told with the same kinds of myths . . . Marx beautifully mocks capitalism’s mythology:
     “In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living . . . the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority . . .” (p. 873) “Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property.”
     And yet that idea, of the dazzling entrepreneur bestriding the globe, and the rest of us undeserving indolent scum, muppets, chavs . . . These are central ideas of the twenty-first century that dominate public discourse and people’s view of the world.
     And why? Because, almost immediately in that period of primitive accumulation, Marx shows us that the “insipid childishness” of that view nonetheless becomes the ideological support for the system and becomes deeply embedded in discourse. The common people must of course be put to work, but alongside coercion they must be made to believe that work is a virtue and not working is a vice . . . So the war on sloth and idleness begins, and central to that, of course, is immediate eradication of leisure time and holidays.
     Marx makes it known to us that in order to restore a social world and to retain the commons the working class has to rebuild a shared culture of leisure. “The saving of labour time [is] equal to an increase of free time, i.e. time for the full development of the individual.” So in early capitalist development, and indeed ever since, the class struggle becomes a struggle too over time itself. There is an immediate drive by the capitalist to extend the working day, to which, Marx says, “there arises the voice of the worker” (p. 342).
     We see it in the Chartist movement and the fight for the ten-hour day, in the fight against child labour, or the early trade union demands for eight hours’ labour, eight hours’ rest, and eight for what we will; and, without lionising pre-capitalist societies, peasants enjoyed a lot of free time. Even though feudal lords extracted as much as 50 per cent of produce, it is estimated that 50 per cent of the peasant’s life was spent in leisure, in holy days, festivals, or just dossing about . . .
     As late as the 1830s the Anglo-Irish bourgeoisie were complaining to London that the Irish working year contained only two hundred days of work. Time in in this system is money, and leisure time holds no value. And it runs as a theme and practice in capitalism, the disciplining and control of the worker, and not just in work but in life . . .
     John Locke, the father of liberalism, wondered if the commencement of work shouldn’t begin at three years old, Daniel Defoe four years. Jeremy Bentham suggested a privately owned joint stock company subsidised by the government to house and put to work the criminal poor, to create, as he said “so many crucibles, in which dross of this land can be converted into sterling.” His idea was rejected by the government; but two hundred years later it’s found its apogee: mass incarceration, and the prison-industrial complex.

     On the one hand the suppression of free time, and on the other the celebration of work—work as a virtue—which of course becomes part of our history . . .
     Even as he sits dying of asbestosis, with crippled fingers, they say, “I’m sure he misses his work,” and when they put him in his grave they’ll say, “He was a grand man for the work . . . I’ve never seen a man like your father for work.” And we do it because we have no alternative resources, we surrender to “the silent compulsion of the market,” because we have no choice; but worse, it becomes our common sense, we defend it, we take pride in our own wage slavery.
     “We find on the market a set of buyers, possessed of land, machinery, raw materials, and the means of subsistence, all of them, save the land, the products of labour, and on the other hand, a set of sellers who have nothing to sell except their labouring power, their working arms and brains” (Capital, p. 55–56.
     So-called “equality in the market place” deludes the mass of the population into believing the doctrines of liberty endowed in the notion of private property, and the cruel illusion of “freedom” in a market which coerces by compulsion the workers to sell themselves. Marx pulls the illusion asunder in a few words: “There is nothing more unequal, than the equal treatment of unequals.”
     We should never underestimate the significance of this analysis, because this entire process is invisible to modern economists, who, couched in the rhetoric of liberty and freedom, refuse to see that the law, the state and authority are there simply to extract surplus value form our labour.
     But in Marx we have a detailed exposition of the dispossession of the rural population, the destruction pre-capitalist societies, enclosure of the commons, privatisation of state lands, an international system of finance and credit, slavery, colonialism—all which give us an understanding of primitive accumulation . . . and then through proletarianisation, commodification, markets, and monetisation, all of which are necessary in the birth of this new system, a view of our world that, once seen, once understood, cannot be unseen.
     And, from introducing us to the birth of capitalism, Marx moves to its inevitable decline and death.
     In the 1850s Marx worked as a business and financial correspondent for the New-York Tribune, at that time the world’s largest newspaper. In discussing the crisis of 1857, regarded as the first worldwide recession, Marx focused on the policies of Crédit Mobilier, the world’s first investment bank. He noted that the bank’s statutes allowed it to borrow up to ten times its capital. It then used the funds to purchase shares in French railroad and industrial corporations, greatly increasing output. But when no purchasers were found for the expanded production the bank discovered that the stocks it had bought had fallen in value, making it difficult to repay its loans . . . and so it collapsed.
     Replace Crédit Mobilier with Lehman Brothers, or Anglo-Irish Bank, and French railway firms with Irish real estate, or mortgage-backed securities, and you’re in 2008—and we ask whether Marx is still relevant!

     In typical fashion, ever since 1857, up to and including 2008, politicians, economists and commentators pinned the blame for this major international crisis on inadequate gold supply, the Crimean War, credit supply, or some permutation of various factors. Apologists for capitalism are forever falling over one another to provide particularistic explanations of the crash. And of course with any boom that follows they claim that whatever caused that last crisis has finally been overcome.

     And of course they deny that crises are inherent in capitalism, because the whole of economic theory, such as it is, is built on the premise that the capitalist system is self-regulating and if left alone will continue to grow unimpeded for ever. And so any breakdown has to be identified as the result of exceptional deviations from the norm, exogenous shocks to the system . . . something unpredictable.

     Marx located the root cause of crises in capitalism’s cyclical character; and the distinctive feature of Marxist theories of crisis (there are more than one) is their emphasis on the necessity of crisis as an essential and ineradicable feature of the capitalist mode of production.
     The problem is that nowhere in his own work does Marx present a systematic and thoroughly worked-out exposition of a theory of crisis. But that’s not to say that Marx had no theory of crisis: it’s just that the focus occurs in differ places. Most importantly, what comes down to us is the inherent tendency to crisis that underlies the permanent instability of social existence under capitalism.
     At various times Marx associates crises with the tendency for the rate of profit to fall (the iron law), with tendencies to overproduction, underconsumption, over-accumulation. As he summarises in Volume 1 of Capital itself, “the life of modern industry becomes a series of periods of moderate activity, prosperity, overproduction, crisis and stagnation.”
     And of course since the onset of this great recession the debate has been whether it was caused by a crisis in the capitalist process of production (through falling profitability) that eventually triggered a banking and financial collapse or it was the result of “financialisation” itself and finance capital that provoked the collapse . . .
     Marx never used the term “finance capital”—that came later—but he does describe in detail the centrality of the circulation of capital, based on credit, and how the centralisation of the credit system gives “to this class of parasites the fabulous power, not only to periodically despoil industrial capitalists, but also to interfere in actual production in a most dangerous manner” (Capital, p. 545).
     Marx reveals to us the contradiction of the credit system, a device for overcoming barriers to production that allows accumulation and expansion, which in turn becomes the lever for overproduction and speculation and what Marx calls “insane forms” of fictitious capital; and, as speculative insanity goes, 2008 gives us a study in extremis of what Marx’s analysis predicts . . .
     In 2007 the trade in derivatives was one quadrillion US dollars: $1,000,000,000,000,000—ten times the value of the total production of goods on the planet over its entire history.
     This insanity is produced by what Marx called the rise of a new “financial aristocracy,” which accelerates crisis-formation and “brings elements of disintegration to the fore,” creating “a self dissolving contradiction” (Volume 3, p. 438–441) and reinforcing the inherent and inescapable crisis of capitalism.
     This financial aristocracy is central, of course, to capitalism’s expansion and takes us beyond both the processes of primitive accumulation and the detailed study of a capitalist system that he gives us—into a violent, aggressive and expansionist system that Marx hinted at though never fully developed. But through the work of Hliferding and his work on finance capital, through to Lenin, we recognise the emergence of what Luxemburg simply calls the “violence of imperialism,” the highest stage of capitalism, and that underlying drive and quest for markets and resources all over the world. As Lenin said, “It is beyond doubt, therefore, that capitalism’s transition to the stage of monopoly capitalism, to finance capital, is connected with the intensification of the struggle for the partitioning of the world.”
     From Marx to Lenin, primitive accumulation, inherent crises, finance capital, imperialism . . . these are the ideas that define our analysis and our ability to understand our world—and that keep us engaged in the struggle to change it.

So is Marx still relevant? Before Marxism is anything it is a critique of capitalism; and as long as capitalism exists so will Marx and his revolutionary ideas. And it is ours. There is no Marx for the ownership class, unless you include the lunatic ramblings of Ayn Rand.
     As a materialist, Marx had no time for those who approached his writings as sacred texts but rather as a revolutionary framework to build and share knowledge.
     As a revolutionary, he would judge the success of his writing and his ideas by our ability to use them to overthrow the capitalist system.
     And to my first point, he would have wanted us to read Marx . . . and as a revolutionary he would have thought, I’m thinking, that if you find reading about capitalism a bit challenging, you’re not going to be much use in trying to overthrow it.
     There’s no doubt that the neo-liberal orthodoxy that crashed in 2008 has been damaged. The high priests of free markets, deregulation and privatisation who could not predict the crash have no remedy, other than more of the same.
     We are living through a very real structural crisis of capitalism. The rates of growth it experienced in the post Second World War boom have gone, and won’t be recovered. All the more reason for communists, socialists, the left and the labour movement to engage in the battle of ideas, to reintroduce Marx into the spaces from which it has been driven. And above all to remember as, Lenin said:

     1. “Reading the ‘unreadable’ Marx” was written for “Marx Myths and Legends” by Humphrey McQueen in March 2005.
     2. “Postmodernism is a soulless and hopeless echo chamber at best. At worst . . . it pours out scorn on all the collective hopes for moral and social progress, for personal freedom and public happiness, that were bequeathed to us by the modernists of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. These hopes, post-moderns say, have been shown to be bankrupt, at best vain and futile fantasies.”
     3. He runs together divergent intellectual traditions and creates out of them a revolutionary force, his critique of political economy, philosophy. And of course those traditions of utopian socialism that gave us that word communism and that Marx wanted to revolutionise into scientific communism . . .

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