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Marx’s ideas undeniably have a superficial appeal. The promise of a world without extremes of wealth and poverty, without homelessness and begging, above all without middle-class guilt, is particularly attractive to intellectuals. The idea of common ownership, too, is exciting — especially for the young — just as high taxes are always popular with those who don’t have to pay them. Many people secretly resent the rich and successful. Marx enables us to do so with a clear conscience.

As for all the wickedness done in the name of Marx: his defenders, such as Juncker and McDonnell, insist that he was in no way to blame for crimes committed long after his death by regimes that called themselves Marxist. But are these apologists right?

The most famous of these regimes, the Soviet Union, no longer exists. Seven decades of “actually existing socialism” turned it into what Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire” — an economic basket case run by the secret police, using subversion and sometimes force to impose its ideology on the rest of humanity. The catastrophic flaws of the Soviet system may legitimately be attributed to Marx, who envisaged a violent revolution followed by a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Thanks to his blueprint, the Communist Party took absolute control of the economy, society and culture, with no democratic accountability, no rule of law and no individual freedom. These and other ideas were rejected because Marx himself had rejected them as “bourgeois”.

The Russian Revolution began the most ambitious human experiment in history. A century later, we can see that it was an unmitigated disaster, from which neither Russia nor the other Soviet republics has ever recovered.

The damage done by Marx’s ideas was not limited to the Soviet Union, but extended to its satellite regimes in Eastern Europe and across the Third World. One of the less familiar Marxist genocides took place in Ethiopia under the Mengistu dictatorship in the 1970s and ’80s. Half a million students, intellectuals and others were murdered in Ethiopia’s “Red Terror”, while a similar number died in the famine created by Mengistu’s policies. After he was deposed, Mengistu was given asylum in Zimbabwe by another Marxist dictator, Robert Mugabe. Tried and convicted but never extradited, Mengistu still lives there.

The continent that has perhaps suffered most from Marx’s legacy is Asia, and the worst example of all is China. It is no accident that Xi Jinping’s People’s Republic has taken over the role of the defunct Soviet Union in perpetuating the cult of Karl Marx. Xi leads a one-party state that was founded on Marxist idea of class dictatorship — but under Mao the peasantry replaced the proletariat.
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Lawrence James
June 20th, 2018
9:06 AM
Exonerating Marx from the horrors perpetrated in his name does have a moral equivalence to exonerating Jesus from say the Albigensian crusades. Remember He endorsed the Old Testament with its injunctions to slaughter neighbouring tribes. Anonymous's remarks about the Liberty claimed by the Founding Fathers is preposterous: ask a slave on Jefferson's estate, or a Sioux or Seminole.

Anthony Fountain
June 9th, 2018
2:06 AM
Perhaps, Murray, you could provide us an example where Marx's name wasn't "hijacked" and all went went swimingly.

Penrod
June 9th, 2018
2:06 AM
The world would be a better place if Karl Marx’s mother had smothered him in his crib. Marxists can hardly criticize the concept of murdering an innocent for the sake of 100,000,000, either, unless they claim the 100,000,000 were the correct ones to be murdered.

LL
June 8th, 2018
11:06 PM
"If you're going to be outraged by acknowledgement of Marx because of the atrocities committed by people who hijacked his name and philosophy to achieve their own ends, are you disparaging Jesus for the same failing? " No one hijacked Karl Marx. What happened, the millions of deaths is the corollary of an ideology that does not have limits to its power, neither to its reach. You should acknowledge that Karl Marx started an ideology of social supremacism that made possible to exterminate social classes, people, others. Acknowledge also that Karl Marx was an Hitler avant la letre with a book on "Jewish question" translated rightly "To the end of Jews" and several anti semitic articles because he saw that the Jews didn't disappeared in the culture where they lived which also made them not disappear in the socialist inferno that Marx wanted to build.

Pat
June 8th, 2018
11:06 PM
Brilliant piece. Students in high school have NO IDEA what Marx stands for and is responsible for...and how my Jewish colleagues can not see the roots of the current anti- semitism is beyond me.

anonymous
June 8th, 2018
11:06 PM
Dear Murray, Fuck off with your leftist posturing. Where did Jesus ever say to enslave, rape or murder one's opponents in the name of "equality"? By giving Governments the world over the philosophical tools to centralize power in the name of "equality", Marx paved the way to Governmental oppression. If America's Founders thought it wise to protect Private Property and Liberty in the 1700's, it must be because Governmental abuse had already long existed.

Lance
June 8th, 2018
9:06 PM
Thank you for this well-written synopsis of a troubled man with troubled and flawed ideas of how society should be run.

formwiz
June 8th, 2018
9:06 PM
In the space of a century, Communism took the lives of 125 million people. Not even Islam killed that many in that space of time. Fact is, the abject failure of Communism has required the liquidation of so many dissatisfied with it.

Tom Billings
June 8th, 2018
9:06 PM
The idea that Marx did not know the quality of what his disciples would do is belied by his own writings. He knew. Marxist reaction against the market freedoms of action, of other people, has been a standard of 20th Century academia, because academics always assumed the State would be there for them. Mostly, they've been right about that. However, that may be coming to an end. In particular, the collapse of the definition by Marx's funder Friedrich Engels' of the industrial revolution, will bring joy to many. Engels' definition was used to justify calling "the socialist camp" an industrialized" society, when it barely reached the productivity of pre-industrial society. It will be interesting to see the progress under the definition academics shoved aside in the 1920s for that of Engels, by Arnold Toynbee: “When a society moves from allocating resources by custom and tradition (moderns read here, by politics) to allocating resources by markets, they may be said to have undergone an industrial revolution” Arnold Toynbee-1884 This was the standard definition in 1920. Then came academia's romanticist infatuation with a certain Communist State, and the substitution of Engels' "hunks of stuff" definition. Toynbee's won't be the last word, but it is a far better starting point than Engels.

TMLutas
June 8th, 2018
8:06 PM
Proletarian logic is probably the least covered and the worst of Marx's innovations. Denying the legitimacy of criticism based on the class origins and non-proletarian thoughts of those who are anti-communist means never having to admit you are wrong. This makes it so much easier to keep defective philosophies alive and has led a collection of nonsense ideas to gain a patina of marxism by association and by that association survive their own challenges and debunkings. Until proletarian logic and truth become unacceptable in academia, Marxism will always have a safe haven there and we will never be rid of the stuff.

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