Affairs

Politics

For activists, Karl Marx is still a class act— Budapest

Preface

Karl Marx is back in fashion.

Karl Marx, Marxism, Government, Society

14 November 2011

Karl Marx is back in fashion. Yes, comrade Marx, the Victorian seer of
 doom, gloom and economic collapse, is enjoying a renaissance. Bearded,
 angry, as self-righteous as a biblical prophet, he stares from t-shirts 
and posters across the world, declaring, “I warned you this would happen.”

And yes he did. Capitalism, he forecast more than 150 years ago, sows the seeds of its own destruction. The proletariat and the 
bourgeoisie are locked in struggle, but eventually the working class will 
triumph as a new, communist system arises around the world, ushering in
 peace, prosperity and social justice.

That part did not work out. But while Marx’s skills as a forecaster are
 questionable, even the most ardent devotees of capitalism admit that his 
analysis is increasingly prescient.

Listening to the deluge of bad news about the eurozone crisis, the 
collapse of the Greek economy, the potential Italian meltdown and their
 global consequences, it’s hard not to believe that the end of the world,
 or at least the FTSE Index, is nigh.

Marx’s message is finding a powerful new resonance around the world, from
 the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, to downtown Athens and Rome
 and even Wall Street in New York. The protestors may be diverse, their
 demands diffuse and garbled. But there is no mistaking their heartfelt 
anger and demands for a fairer, softer capitalism.

Even Vince Cable, the business secretary in Britain’s coalition 
government, has said that he feels sympathy for the protestors in London.

Yet despite Marx’s foresight, capitalism, even in its present dire 
straits, will likely still have the last laugh. This crisis, like its 
predecessors in 2008, or Black Wednesday in 1992, right back to the global
 depression and crash of 1929, will pass. The worldwide economic system
 will recuperate, settle down and then slowly revive.

And despite Marx’s claims that the workers, not the financiers will 
eventually triumph, even now it seems that the opposite is happening. The
 bankers’ bonuses are still soaring, the richest 1 per cent of the 
population are steadily accumulating more wealth, while the other 99 per 
cent see their savings and assets wither away.

The political power of the financiers is certainly growing. The last few 
days have seen the bankers even engage in regime change, forcing Greece
 and Italy to depose democratically elected prime ministers in favour of 
technocrats. Those are the type of supposedly wise men who got us into this mess in the first place.

In Athens, Lucas Papademos, a former vice-president of the European 
Central Bank, has been sworn in as prime minister, replacing George Papandreou. Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, has also
 resigned and has been replaced by Mario Monti, a former
 commissioner of the European Union.

Meanwhile, Comrade Karl still glares angrily, knowing that he too, has
 been turned into a commodity.

Monocle 24

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