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From the Rector: When it comes to Marxism, old Karl has the final say

Fr HawtinKarl Marx, it seems, has been adopted as the political philosopher of choice for the nation’s self-anointed intellectual elite. This is rather odd. Few of them qualify as proletarian. Most of them are obviously members of the bourgeoisie—a class Marx utterly despised.

But just because people claim to be Marxists doesn’t mean that they actually qualify as such. You can take this straight from the horse’s mouth: the late great Karl Marx, himself.

In 1871, following France’s defeat in the Franco- Prussian War, a group of Marx’s disciples set up the Paris Commune, a socialist mini-state in the French capital. Glowing with pride the “Communards” sent a cable to their mentor announcing the first Marxist revolution.

Marx cabled back word to the effect: “It is not a Marxist revolution.”

Crushed, the Communards protested: “But we are all Marxists!”

Marx replied: “Je ne suis pas Marxiste. Je suis Marx!” (“I’m not a Marxist. I’m Marx!”)

He could confidently make this claim because he had described in great detail the type of revolution be believed to be inevitable in his massive three volume work, Kapital.

Marx was an economic, political and social Darwinist. And he considered his theory of economic, political and social evolution just as “scientifically inevitable” as the theory of biological evolution postulated by Charles DarwIn presented in “Origin of the Species.”

In Kapital, Marx analyzed Europe’s economic, political and social evolution from the dark ages through feudalism to absolutist rule and the emergence of what he dubbed bourgeois democracy and the capitalist system. (Yes, Karl Marx invented the word “capitalism.”)

The next inevitable evolutionary step, he declared, would be that the social class of wage earners (the highly skilled workers who actually ran the capitalists’ operations) would seize control of the enterprises for which they labored.

The evolutionary nature of Marx’s theory meant his revolution could only take place in the most advanced, highly industrialized society. At the time in which Marx was writing, the only suitable candidate would have been Great Britain.

Agrarian France had, according to Marx’s theory, was nowhere near sufficiently industrially developed for the next evolutionary step. Hence his curt dismissal of the poor Communards, who, in any event, were brutally crushed by the French military a couple of months later.

Russia was far less industrially advanced than 1870’s France at the time of the Russia’s October Revolution in 1917. By that time, however, Marx had long been pushing up the daisies in London’s Highgate Cemetery.

He was, thus, denied the opportunity of informing the self-proclaimed Marxist Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (a.k.a. Lenin) and his murderous gang of Bolsheviks: “Je ne suis pas Marxiste. Je suis Marx!” That pleasure fell to me at a dinner party in Moscow back in the early 1970s.

The guest list included a number of posh communists, including Georgy Arkadyevich Arbatov, a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party and an advisor to Leonid Brezhnev, the party’s general secretary.

They were an arrogant lot and, as the dinner went on, the rudeness with which they treated the poor subservient souls serving the meal became increasingly irritating.

Eventually, one of them asked my opinion of the October Revolution. It was almost certainly the vodka talking, but I replied: “It was a very nice revolution, I’m sure. But, actually, I don’t think it could be described as a Marxist revolution. It’s more reminiscent of absolutism and the rise of the bourgeoisie.”

The remark was received in stoney silence. However, warming to my point, I went on: “That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a Marxist revolution, of course.”

“Not the Chinese?” gasped one of the guests. The Soviets had, at that time, been fighting the Chinese Communists for possession of Siberia, which had been ceded to Russia involuntarily in the 1870s. They were, in those days, mortal enemies.

“of course not,” I replied, “They are even more industrially backward than you lot. No, the real Marxist revolution has taken place in the United States. Just look at the Forbes 500 and the Fortune I,000. Very few of the people who run those companies actually own them. They are Marx’s highly skilled industrial proletariat who have seized the reins of power.”

“That is enough!” snapped Arbatov, a specialist in U.S. affairs, “That was not funny!”

He lurched to his feet and stormed out, followed by the rest of the party, some still chewing. As for me, I caught the first morning flight West out of Moscow.

I still can’t make up my mind whether Karl Marx would see any merit in my argument about the managers of American industry. But I’m certain he’d condemn our self- styled Marxist intellectuals to the firing squad in a trice—for being so hopelessly bourgeois. GPH✠

1 comment to From the Rector: When it comes to Marxism, old Karl has the final say

  • Dean Sedgwick

    Your last sentence should read,” I took the first flight out of Moscow the next morning and that’s how I ended up in Siberia.”