Marx’s Ideas Vindicated?

A look at the recent popularity of Marxism

A global trend has emerged in which people, without being told to by the Left, or any other "experts" are looking towards Marxism for explanations to the current economic crisis. In Japan, Marxist works have become massive best sellers, with socialist ideas even produced in anime comic book adaptations.

In Britain Archbishop Rowan recently told a congregation during his sermon that "Marx was right" regarding elements of capitalism (he quickly added, "if little else"). In Germany and France Marx's works have regained in popularity and become best sellers; ironically even the capitalist head of state Sarkozy reportedly picking up Marxist texts to learn from. Germany's Finance Minister has grudgingly admitted to the validity of "certain elements of Marxist theory". Marx's birthplace in Trier has become steadily more popular to tourists who visit the site from all over the world. Following on this, The Irish Times commented that leftist ideas have retained a certain currency.

Many more examples would be available if only we had the time to list them all. In fact the few countries where this process is not happening are the usual suspects, including the United States, where socialism is still regarded as a dirty word by the mainstream.

The current crisis is not a part of the cycle of boom and bust at all, which is an important detail that sets it apart from other economic crises. To put it crudely it's basically a crisis in finance capital due to deregulation that's snowballing out of control.

It's going to be deadly for workers all over the world as rising prices and foreclosures on homes cause misery, even worse in many nations where it will push the price of food causing more hunger. Crucially, as of now there is nothing to point to that can lift capitalism out of the pit its dug for itself., a capitalist analyst publisher, offered a detailed explanation of why there is presently no sign of any rebound in the article "Why Conventional Market Wisdom is Wrong".
It's an issue worth studying because unlike socialist revolutions which were defeated under the worst conditions possible, capitalism is near collapse in the best possible circumstances, with nearly every advantage, and tellingly, the crisis started in the most powerful capitalist state.

Is this a sign that Marxism's analysis has been to a large extend vindicated? Yes, but at the same time, it is a telling indication that, absent a mass movement of disenfranchised workers who are organising and guided by Marxist theory, the ruling class do not fear Marxism. While it re-affirms the validity of scientific socialist theory, it also represents a trend of making Marxism more acceptable.

This was a historical process Lenin himself commented upon and warned of. For while many bourgeois intellectuals and politicians may borrow from some elements of Marxist analysis, they of course shy away from Marx's conclusions - that class contradictions point to a proletarian revolution which overthrows the state and in its place sets up new organisations of a state that is dominated by the working class. Unlike the time in which the Manifesto was written, the ruling classes are not trembling at the thought of communistic revolution.

In fact many commentators have warped Marx's ideas with a kind of moralist tinge, as if the crises today are deviations from good behaviour, not inherent systemic features of the capitalist mode of production that is forced to extract more profits or face collapse.

Repeatedly emphasised in most media references to Marx's ideas being right is that his theories are only partially correct. Since capitalism has not yet collapsed, and the Manifesto predicted workers' revolutions to follow on the heels of the democratic/bourgeois revolutions, it begs the question: was Marx wrong about a terminal crisis causing capitalism to fall?

The answer is that events unforeseen by Marx in his lifetime have extended the longevity of capitalism, yet the core prediction of capitalism destroying itself remains valid. The specific answers are found in Leninism and the writings of Connolly. Both emphasised that capitalism extended its longevity through conquest and colonialism, which provided a higher living standard for crucial sections of the working class in imperialist countries.

In effect, some workers were "bought off" or at least dissuaded from revolution, (recall that up until WWII, even the USA suffered repeated episodes of class struggle that turned so violent they became revolts and even incipient revolutions) and turned into loyal defenders of capitalist rule from its enemies.
They argued, as Che would later, that the triumph of anti-imperialist forces brought the world a step closer to revolution.
Therefore, the central prediction of scientific socialism, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, (capitalism requires more and more investment in education, infrastructure and technology that cuts into profits) has not been dismissed, rather it has been enhanced by the fact that new policies sought to deal with its impact, namely imperialism that has increased poverty in the Third World through super-exploitation.

There is a limit to how long capitalism can extend its life through fresh conquests and expansions. At this point, the ruling class of the most advanced capitalist countries actually face diminished prospects and no good choices in sight, despite their triumphant rhetoric. The very last of the large isolationist states have been opened to the market after the Cold War ended.

This has led to a situation of raw capitalist banditry and savagery, and has led to a situation in which "the true gap between the best modern armed forces... and those of the developing world, is now closer to what prevailed in the Age of Empire than in more modern times" as military analyst Daniel Moran argued in the book Wars of National Liberation.

China's entry into the capitalist market may be the signal that a global capitalist decline that is terminal is on history's agenda. A recent book by Prof Minqi Li contends that the integration of China into the global capitalist system marks the beginning of the end for capitalism.

The author states that "Historically, geographic expansions have been a major mechanism through which the system brought in new areas of low costs that helped to check the secular tendency of rising pressure on profitability. ...China therefore has functioned as a strategic reserve for the capitalist world-economy and the mobilization of this large strategic reserve in fact signals the impending terminal crisis of the existing world-system."

One can safely assume that the above quoted passage on China will not find its way into any archbishop's sermon!
One of the most visible signs of the 'new Northern Ireland' has been the immigration instead of the traditional emigration. It is estimated 35,000 people belonging to ethnic minorities have settled in the North and there are another 50,000 migrant workers. Their number has recently trebled. According to the Department of Social Development, 5826 national insurance numbers were issued to immigrants in the year 2004/2005, while a total of 15 614 were issued in the following year 2005/2006. (1)

The majority of those new immigrants come from the new EU states, Poland in particular. A majority of them tend to work in the manual and service sectors, while only a small proportion work in professional sectors. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions reported that migrant workers experienced widespread racism, sectarianism and exploitation in terms of pay and working conditions. (2)
Parallel to this wave of immigration, has been the increasing number of racist attacks. Racist incidents have rocketed during the peace process: from 41 in 1996 to 936 in 2006. (3) Because of this, "Northern Ireland has been dubbed the race hate capital of Europe". (4) A study carried out by Vani Borooah, professor of applied economics at the University of Ulster, and John Mangan, professor of economics at the University of Queensland for the economics journal Kyklos confirms that Northern Ireland is the hate capital of the western world. Not only does Northern Ireland have the highest proportion of bigots, but the bigots are on average more bigoted than those in other countries.

Nearly 32,000 people in 19 European countries as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US took part in the human beliefs and values survey. They were asked: Would you like to have persons from this group as your neighbours? The five groups were people of another race, immigrants or foreign workers, Muslims, Jews and homosexuals. In Northern Ireland 44% of the 1,000 respondents did not want persons from at least one of the five groups as their neighbours. As regards each of the five groups, the percentage of respondents in Northern Ireland who would not like them as neighbours was homosexuals (35.9%), immigrants or foreign workers (18.9%), Muslims (16%), Jews (11.6%) and people of a different race (11.1%). For the same groups, the average of all the countries surveyed was respectively 19.6%, 10.1%, 14.5%, 9.5% and 8.5%. (5)

According to the 2005 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, Protestants were found to be more likely to be racist and xenophobic than Catholics. (6)

The German magazine Der Spiegel (28 February 2005) branded Belfast the most racist city in the world and blamed loyalists for that fact. (7) It is estimated that loyalist death squads are behind 90 percent of hate crime. (8) The reason for this goes deeper than the fact that sections of Loyalism have had relationships with fascist groups in Britain over the last three decades; it is that intolerance is intrinsic to Unionism: "It is a political position which is circumscribed by the very foundation of the Northern Ireland state. When Ireland was partitioned, northern unionists abandoned their fellows in three counties of historic Ulster (Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal) and went for self-government of six counties on the grounds that they could continue to maintain a majority over nationalists in six counties much easier than in nine. As a result, there is a strong strain in Unionism which encourages protectionism, conservatism, narrowness of vision and opposition to anything which may threaten its need to be in the majority.

Traditionally, the threat to majority has been seen to come from the nationalist community. But it is a small step to extend one's attention to any new 'threats', including those from the minority ethnic community. Thus those unionists of Craigavon who oppose the mosque have not suddenly discovered a streak of intolerance which was not there before; they have been intolerant of nationalists for generations.

And the loyalists of the Village have likewise in the past shown their intolerance towards Catholics in their midst; it is not a major step to apply the same principles and tactics to others who move into the area. While unionist and loyalist leaders may condemn their fellow loyalists who act in this way, just as former Ulster Unionist chief David Trimble condemned the councillors of his own former party who have opposed the building of a mosque, intolerance within Unionism is a legacy which has not been overcome by recent peace moves, modernisation or realpolitik." (9)

Despite an official ideology of anti-racism, the state is often content to ignore the issue: "This was emblemised by the apotheosis of the late George Best -who had infamously suggested that 'Pele wasn't bad for a nigger' and confirmed his attitudes to race when he suggested of Andy Cole that '£7 million was a lot to pay for a nigger'. It is ironic, therefore, that murals of Best have become the acceptable face of 'post-conflict' loyalist Belfast and that the Government makes a point of emphasising its support for migrant workers rights in George Best Belfast City Airport. The disavowal of Best's racism says something profound about the priorities of government and community in terms of race -certainly it would seem impossible that Ron Atkinson -himself disgraced for a singular use of the term 'nigger' - would be featured on a £5 note or lending his name to an airport." (10)

Tj O’Conchuir

(1) Kate Chambre, Immigrant workers keen to pay their way, The Newsletter, 31 July 2007
(2) NI migrant workers 'exploited', BBC 18 December 2006
(3) Suzanne Breen, Has peace made us the race hate capital of the world? Sunday Tribune 2 July 2006
(4) Angelique Chrisafis, Racist war of the loyalist street gangs, The Guardian 10 January 2004
(5) Kathryn Torney, Northern Ireland: hate capital of western world, Belfast Telegraph, 7 February 2007
(6) Mark Oliver, Ulster justice system 'institutionally racist', The Guardian 26 June 2006
(7) Debra Douglas, Mag brands Belfast most racist city: Der Spiegel lays blame on Loyalists, Belfast Telegraph, 2 March 2005
(8) Henry McDonald, Loyalists linked to 90 per cent of race crime, The Observer 22 October 2006
(9) Bill Rolston, Legacy of intolerance: racism and Unionism in South Belfast,
(10) Robbie McVeigh, Has Peace made us the Race hate Capital of the World? in What to do about racism and the exploitation of migrants? Supplement to Fortnight, March 2007

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