The New York Times published an op-ed Monday with the headline “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” The piece was festooned with a celebratory exclamation mark, as though the mere declaration needed that something extra, like a Broadway production (“Mama Mia!”) or television game show (“Jeopardy!”).
The piece was written by Jason Barker, who is an associate professor of philosophy (!) at Kyung Hee University in South Korea. He’s also the author of the novel “Marx Returns,” so he writes fan fiction as well. In his article, Barker triumphantly declares Marx’s legacy to be a success because “countless books have appeared, from scholarly works to popular biographies, broadly endorsing Marx’s reading of capitalism and its enduring relevance to our neoliberal age.”
He then proceeds to describe the Marxist states which emerged primarily in the 20th century as “ironic,” based solely on the idea that Marx endorsed a concept in which there was no need for a state at all. How then does he explain the tenets of the “Communist Manifesto” in which industry, wealth, property, and even the lives of children should belong to the people as a whole? He doesn’t. This is philosophy where no explanation is needed. For someone who seems to be a fan of irony, he either overlooked or discarded the very definition of the term “state.”
But irony can be easy to miss. Indeed, as Barker’s article was being made ready for publication, a Marxist dictator was stepping across the 38th parallel into the very country where the professor teaches, in an historic event heralding yet another potential collapse of a communist regime.
As so many have done before him, Barker labors under the false assumption that communism has never truly been attempted in its purest form, and thus the term as well as the definition cannot be ascribed to failed states such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the German Democratic Republic, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
More irony: Marxist dictatorships labeled themselves “republics.”
What is not ironic is the fact the same newspaper that deliberately printed Walter Duranty’s false claim that there was no famine in the Soviet Union in 1933 — a famine which took the lives of 6 to 8 million Soviets, more than half of whom were Ukrainian farmers deliberately starved by their own government — is now publishing a celebration of Marx as a grand philosopher whose ideas were never properly implemented.
It must have been someone else’s concepts the Bolsheviks were touting as they slit the throats of the members of the provisional government in Saint Petersburg. Perhaps it was some other manifesto Guevara was reading as he summarily executed dissenters. Surely something was lost in translation from German to Xiang when 55 million people perished during Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.”
In hindsight, how could the Cuban people have trusted a mediocre Washington Senators pitcher if he couldn’t correctly read his catcher’s signs? Let the citizens of Venezuela feed themselves on the satisfaction of knowing their government got Marxism wrong. And North Koreans can warm themselves over the ashes of “incorrect implementation” when the heat is shut off by their neighborhood energy monitor every night next winter.
Karl Marx’s philosophy is the sandy foundation on which the most ruthless and brutal governing bodies of the modern era were established. Thanks to his manifesto, would-be dictators no longer needed to fabricate lofty justifications for the seizure of wealth, land, industry, labor or food. If the people believed it was all for the people, then the people would fall into line. And if some people didn’t like it, then those people could justifiably be killed because they truly didn’t believe in the people. Then there would be more for the rest of the people.
Marx once said “Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.”
In 1985, a third of the world’s population was living (and dying) under the boot of one Marxist regime or another. Fifteen years later, the only remaining countries successfully carrying on the solution to this “riddle of history” were Cuba, Laos and Vietnam. Pardon me, I meant to say “The Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”
China embraced capitalism when they took possession of Hong Kong in 1997, and has since taken the first tentative steps toward dictatorship when earlier this year, the ruling legislative body eliminated term limits for President Xi Jinping. North Korea was founded on Marxism but is today considered by political scientists across the globe as “a hot mess.”
Marx’s legacy is not merely one of philosophy, but of true diversity. Thanks to his ideas, whole cultures were subdued or exterminated during the 20th century. In “The Black Book of Communism,” Martin Malia claims as many as 100 million people died premature deaths under 20th century Marxist rule. And it wasn’t just Caucasians. Cambodians, Ethiopians, Chileans, Nicaraguans, Romanians, Koreans, and former Yugoslavians all were slaughtered in their respective Marxist states for the good of the people. Millions more throughout Africa and Central America were killed when Marxist “liberation” groups attempted coup d’etats in their respective countries. And let us not forget China’s forced abortion policies back when it still claimed to be a Marxist state.
But here’s the op-ed’s money quote: “Even liberal economists agree that Marx’s conviction that capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to destroy itself remains as prescient as ever.”
Barker wrote those words from his paid teaching position in a capitalist country and sold them to The New York Times, which resides in the economic stronghold of a capitalist system that’s 42 years older than Marx himself; a newspaper that charges you a fee to read its articles. Meanwhile, Barker is charging a mere $21.00 for the e-book version of “Marx Returns” or $26.00 (!) for the paperback version, like any true capitalist would. How’s that for irony?