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Marx is berated more than he is understood

Date published: 10/9/2012

On the general premise of keeping one's enemies closer than one's friends, I candidly admit to having read a good deal of Marx. Given how many current letter-writers drag him out for a pillorying, much as the victors after our Civil War would "wave the bloody flag" to silence opposition, it strikes me as apropos to proffer a mild primer on doctrinaire socialism.

The prevailing thrusts of Marx's animadversions were aimed at a money economy: "Everybody will do anything for it, and it will do anything for anybody. Money is the universal pimp and prostitute of the human race." It is primarily for his unanswerable rhetorical power that Marx retains a modicum of validity.

As to the idea of class warfare, Marx was emphatically lucid. The "bourgeois" are the business class, and any capitalist government is simply their puppet front. Meanwhile, the "petit bourgeois" are the small-business owners whose complicity lends a hometown feel to exploitation. The "proletariat" is the working class. The "middle class" is the working class with a "false consciousness" of not being "one of those poor people."

Marx was extravagantly simple, and extremely reductionist: He desired ardently that people wake up from their spending fantasies and realize that there are only rich and poor, and if you know you aren't rich, then you should know you are poor--and that the rich keep it that way on purpose.

Penny-ante libertarians tend to neglect the massive inequity any democratic society, such as ours, was established with at its inception. Regardless of one's affinity for the red flag, we cannot ignore that our country was founded on both slavery and royal land grants. America was built on injustice.

To remedy that problem requires vastly more than shrill words, be they from dull buffoons or from rabble-rousers like Marx.

Christopher Ellis