December 28, 2008

Marx Forever

Paquita Armas Fonseca

If my dear long-haired friend, exceedingly German and Jewish, he could get my attention, I’m sure he would give me a good yank on the ear for the title of these lines. To Karl Marx, dialectics worked —and works— so well that anything that tended to dogmatize that approach was rejected by him, and logically, to link his name with a rigid tack was almost heresy.

However, how can we not think in terms of permanence if yesterday’s naysayers are again invoking him as the great guru of social change?

Jorn Schütrumpf, a German publisher who specializes in communist literature, said recently, “Since 2005, my volume of business has not stopped increasing.” Commenting on Marxist literature, he added, “Of course a lot has to do with people being trendy, because many youths buy the book though they’ll never it; it’s extremely arduous and demanding reading.”

For the expert, “A society that feels the need to read Karl Marx again, is a society that feels bad.”

Undoubtedly, society should feel more than bad, because the situation is extremely serious. The financial crisis is sinking economies that until yesterday were supposedly the most solid – the United States and Japan for instance.

Marx said this, wrote it, argued it, and predicted it not because he was a guru but a sage, a person of science who —along with Friedrich Engels— studied capitalism as no other human being.

To strip bare the essence of social changes from primitive communalism to capitalism, the magnificent German dual argued that crises are irrefutably inherent to the development and death of capitalism.

After suffering through the whole absurd theory of the end of the history and ideology, and the flimsy precepts and now elaborated theories of neo-liberalism, for those who want to find an explanation to the universal debacle that we live in, they will have to return to Marx.

The reading of his work has intensified. As an example, the online sales director for Penguin Publishers in the United Kingdom, Jason Craig, disclosed that “Sales of The Communist Manifesto between May and October 2008 increased a considerable percentage compared to last year.”

And this change is not occurring only with books. Press reports they indicate that in the German town of Trier, where Marx was born in 1818, the number of visitors this year has grown to 40,000 – a very high figures compared to previous periods.

The head of the local museum dedicated to the famous German commented on how it is very common to hear visitors say that, after everything that is occurring, “Marx was right.”

The Highgate Cemetery in London, where the remains of the longhaired genius lie, is not unaware of the growing interest. Jean Pateman, the director of the foundation in charge of maintaining Marx’ tomb, said, “I haven’t stop receiving requests for information from networks and journalists from all over the world.”

The donations and the collection of admissions, something that Marx would not have liked at all, are what allow the place to be maintained, after having been almost totally abandoned for 30 years.

This year, when 190th anniversary of his birth and 125th year since his death, Marx is resurging – and how! Of course, it would have been be much better if the current re-reading of his work had been determined by simple cognitive need, and not a crisis that will lead the planet to who knows where.

Twenty years have passed since I wrote Moroel gran aguafiestas. In the 1990s, more than a few people told me to quite my obstinate reading of Marx; they alerted me that he had already been superseded. Those were the years when people proposed the “end of history.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall and of Moscow offered reasons for conservatives to scream that Marxism was finished. Even many people who defended that theory, often very poorly, also gave up on it.

Today, be it in Buenos Aires, New York or Tokyo, Marx's name is returning to the printing presses, and with that fact is returning the recognition that the essence of Marxism maintains its full validity.

For that reason, one has to accept my being heretical in terms of him for using the word “forever,” because he has always been that way. As Engels said in Marx’ eulogy on March 17, 1883, “His name will live across the centuries, and with his name, his work.”

(Taken from La Jiribilla)

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