Marx taken seriously, at last!

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DALLAS — In its Sunday, May 17, edition, the Dallas Morning News ran a full-page color spread extolling Karl Marx for his economic abilities. A careful reading of the article by Canadian political economist Leo Pavitch shows that, probably for the first time ever, there are no caveats nor reservations. In the past, Marx might have been acknowledged, but whatever good might have been said of him was always buried beneath a landslide of condemnations!

For those of us who have lived in the United States between March 1946, when Winston Churchill opened the Cold War, and October 2008, when the pundits began to question capitalism, even the mention of Karl Marx or anything Marxist in a positive tone was completely unheard of. I can remember asking a college professor in the 1950s if Marx was a German. She almost shouted her answer, “Karl Marx was a Russian dictator!”

It is a measure of our times that, for the last six months only, terms like “working class” and “army of unemployed” are peeping out in the American public after carefully hiding for over 60 years. Last November, the Dallas paper even published a response to someone who had slandered Marx with that old “opiate of the people” phrase that is always brandished to imply that Marx hated God. The response gave Marx’s full quote, including the “sigh of the oppressed” phrase which showed clearly that Karl Marx targeted oppression, not religion.

Readers can find that article at .

The Dallas Morning News did not publish Panitch’s tribute to Karl Marx on its web site. However, the article was originally published by Foreign Policy magazine, and can be found at .

The Dallas paper used the title “Thoroughly Modern Marx,” and subtitle, “As capitalism trembles, Leo Panitch revisits the ‘Das Kapital’ author’s surprisingly relevant predictions about the downfall of the global financial system.”

Panitch begins, “The economic crisis has spawned a resurgence of interest in Karl Marx. Worldwide sales of ‘Das Kapital’ have shot up (one lone German publisher sold thousands of copies in 2008, compared with 100 the year before), a measure of a crisis so broad in scope and devastation that it has global capitalism — and its high priests — in an ideological tailspin.”

Panitch goes on to show that all the new attention to Marx and Marxism is deserved. While today’s conventional economists and politicians fret and stammer, understanding the current crisis would have been easy work for Marx. He was the first to point out that capitalism and crisis are inseparable historical partners. He understood why crises happen and what to do about them.

Panitch explains that contemporary experts like Willem Buiter, a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, has come up with a “new” idea of turning the financial sector into a public utility. Marx and Frederick Engels called for the same thing in 1848! Marx saw, just as many contemporary Americans are beginning to see, that the struggle for control of the financial system is part of the fundamental fight for democracy.

How do we solve our many problems? Panitch says, “Marx would insist that, to find solutions to global problems such as climate change, we need to break with the logic of capitalist markets rather than use state institutions to reinforce them. Likewise, he would call for international economic solidarity rather than competition among states.”

These good ideas, hidden for a century and a half, are easily accepted today.