Marx Introduction


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Marx Introduction

  1. 1. Justice & Power session xi Marx Marxism is in the words of Bertrand Russell, “the last great system that was produced by thenineteenth century.” (Wisdom, p. 273) For more than one third of humanity [in 1977] it remainsas the established religion employed by their governments to justify all policies. The epigoni[lesser imitators, Gk.] of Marx took his “critique of everyday life” and tried to expand it into amegasystem of thought, a synthesis of philosophy, history, science, and futurology. Today’s“socialist camp” has many campsites, and the relations between Marx’s heirs are notoriouslystrained. What can explain the influence which Marx continues to exert almost a century after hisdeath? “The teaching of Marx is all-powerful because it is true,” wrote V.I. Lenin in an introductionin 1913. Such a bald assertion today carries less conviction in countries where Marxism does notoccupy a privileged position. The legacy of the Cold War has led most Americans to an equallydogmatic position---the teaching of Marx has much power in spite of the fact that it is false. If so,why? People today who are undeniably not agents of the Kremlin persist in studying his writings. There are several possible reasons why a person might carefully read Marx and the mountainof commentary which threatens to bury him. Following the notation which began during theFrench Revolution, these motives can be styled Left, Center, and Right. Leftist students of Marx have been divided since Lenin’s time into Orthodox and Revisionist.The orthodox tend to idealize the teachings into a complete and infallible body of knowledge andmethodology. Revisionists are admiring and sympathetic but feel free to revise Marx, to adjusthim in the light of later events and new scientific theories. These positions are subdivided intomany “schools:” Trotskyite, Maoist, Marcusians, too many by far to enumerate. All claim to bethe true heirs of Marx’s corpus. Centrists study Marx because of his significance. They are not committed either to vindicatehim or excoriate his followers. They strive to discover objectively his strengths and weaknessesboth as an historian and as a futurist. This may be a good point at which to warn you thatcentrists tend to be despised by the partisans of both Left and Right.
  2. 2. Rightist students of Marx are operating under the ancient maxim of “know the enemy.”. Theyalso need to demonstrate to themselves and others the inherent falseness of communistphilosophy. Marxism is in their hands like the bull entering the arena; the series of capework andwounds cannot be predicted, but there is hardly any doubt about the ultimate outcome of thecontest. Whatever your initial starting point, if you read Marx attentively, you will profit from it. Hehas unusual gifts of rhetoric and invective. The champion of “scientific materialism” ofteninvokes the imagery of Israel’s prophets. Re-read Amos and Jeremiah. Struggle to follow thearguments and not be merely “transported by the passions.” A final word of caution. Try todiscover Marx. Put aside fr a moment what his epigoni say he said, or what men have later donein his name. Otherwise you are wrestling with a creature who never was. Jim Powers, Justice & Power; A Primer in Political Philosophy. 1977, p. 39