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Zombie

Karl Marx Was a Tea Partier

May 28th, 2013 - 1:31 pm

If you think of yourself as a Marxist or a progressive, you need to read this. (Tea Partiers may want to steer clear.)

Marxist theory can be summarized in two distinct ways.

The first view (held mostly by its detractors) is that Marxism is little more than the politics of resentment — a philosophical justification for the hatred of success by those who failed to achieve it. The politics of resentment offers three different methods for bringing its program of economic jealousy to fruition: Under socialism, the unsuccessful use the power of government to forcibly extract wealth and possessions from the successful, bit by bit until there is nothing left; under the more extreme communism, the very notion of wealth or success is eliminated entirely, and anyone who seeks individual achievement is punished or eliminated; and finally under anarchy, freelance predators would be allowed to steal or destroy any existing wealth or possessions with no interference from the state. Marx himself saw pure communism as the ultimate goal, with socialism as a necessary precursor, and perhaps just an occasional dash of anarchy to ignite the revolutionary fires.

But there is another, more intriguing and less noxious, view of Marxist thought that gets less attention these days because its anachronistic roots in the Industrial Revolution seemingly render it somewhat irrelevant to modern economics. Marx posited that factory workers should own the factory themselves and profit from its output, since they’e the ones actually doing the work — and the wealthy fat cat “capitalists” should be booted out of the director’s office since they don’t really do anything except profit from other people’s labor. Marx generalized this notion to “The workers should control the means of production,” and then extended it further to a national scale by declaring that the overall government itself should be “a dictatorship of the proletariat,” with “proletariat” defined in this context as “someone who actually works for a living.” The problem with this theory in the 21st century is that very few people actually work in factories anymore due to exponential improvements in automation and efficiency, and fewer still produce handicrafts, and the vast majority of American “workers” these days don’t actually create anything tangible. Even so, there is an attractive populist rationality to this aspect of Marxism that appeals to everyone’s sense of fairness — even to those who staunchly reject the rest of communist theory. Those who do the work should reap the benefits and control the system; hard to argue with that.

Although the “factory” is no longer the basic building block of the American economy, Marx’s notion that “The workers should control the means of production” can be rescued and made freshly relevant if it is re-interpreted in a contemporary American context.

Visualize the entire United States as one vast “company,” with citizens as employees and politicians and bureaucrats as managers. Everybody, in theory, works together to make the company successful. But there are two realities which shatter this idealized theory: first, only about half the employees actually ever do any work, while the rest seem to be on permanent vacation or sick leave; and second, our bureaucratic “managers” — just like the wealthy fat cats in Marx’s vision — simply benefit from the labor of others without ever producing anything of value themselves.

Now, this “company” known as the USA doesn’t operate in the way traditional companies operate. In our system, we create only a single product every year, a gigantic pile of money we call the “Federal Budget.” Each “employee” is free to engage in any profitable activity or profession of his choice, just so long as at the end of the year he (or she, obviously) adds his earnings to the collective pile, setting aside a certain amount for living expenses. The “managers” then decide how this gigantic pile of money is spent, presumably to keep the company healthy and strong.

The formula to determine how much each employee gets to keep for living expenses is called “the tax code,” and those who contribute to the national product are called “taxpayers.” The managers deciding how the pile is spent are “politicians,” who are chosen every two years in a shareholders’ meeting called an “election.”

This system worked pretty well for quite a long time — until recently. It is only within the last few years that something remarkable happened: The number of contributing “taxpayers” in the country for the first time has fallen to approximately 50% of the population. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed, retired, disabled or indigent citizens grew, as did the number of citizens who earned so little in part-time or low-paying jobs that they paid no taxes, as did the number of people laboring in the untaxed underground economy, as did the number of bureaucrats.

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Top Rated Comments   
What a load of crap. Tea Partiers believe in the free market and individual responsibility. Marxists believe in a state run and regulated economy and collective responsibility. You couldn't get any more diametrically opposed.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, Zombie, assuming this isn't satire I'm not buying the sophistry. Marxism at its core is a violent and oppressive philosophy, dedicated to the principle of 'the ends justify the means' and ultimately designed to replace one set of exploiters with another.

That has about as much in common with the Tea Party as accurate, objective journalism has with the New York Times.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, I'm afraid this makes about as much sense as Kathy Schaidle's article which tried to present Helen Gurley Brown as an example of a conservative. No matter how you try to "reinterpret" Marx, I don't think you can remove the oppression of non-politically-correct persons from his ideas and still call what is left Marxism. That oppression is key to his methods and goals.

From what I've read by and about Marx, he would consider the Tea Party to be a tool of capitalist fat cats, and he would condemn it. Yes, the Tea Party was a grass-roots movement for freedom, but like Solidarity in 1980's Poland, it does not fit into the means or the ends of Marxism. Marx encouraged ruthless, dictatorial methods to get to the supposed utopia of communism, and he did not want any end-result that would accommodate Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Let's not try to make any excuses for Marx. He doesn't deserve them.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (48)
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The three highly rated comments appear not to have read Marx, but only experienced the Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist interpretation of how to use his theories. Similarly, they've listened too much to the left about what Marx actually wrote.

While I disagree that Marx would have supported the Tea Party (since they represent some form of the small shopkeeper that Marx also saw as oppressing workers), I think you've made a very insightful analysis.

I think Marx would have been equally offended by the USSR as he would be with our system. Large state bureaucracies are exactly the opposite of the "withering away of the state" that Marx saw as the goal.

Marx's greatest flaw was that he forgot that people are greedy and selfish. Systems that take that into account and allow those aspects to end up benefiting everyone (capitalism) work. Anyone who forgets human nature is doomed to live in a dysfunctional society.

People need to read more and have more open minds.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Zombie,

Interesting take. It reminds me of the saying how people will often become that which they fight against. History shows it again and again.

Have you ever read "Rerum Novarum"? It countered Marx at the time. It is a good read even if you are not Catholic.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Zombie, I am a big fan of your work but being a Mold Maker I am tired of hearing my betters tell me that manufacturing in America is no longer needed. All manufacturing jobs are not "Floor Workers" and I find myself at odds with the great Thomas Sowell on this issue. We gave, under Clinton, China our manufacturing against Nixon's warning from his book "the Real War." Clinton handed over Favored Nation Trading status and held nothing in reserve for leverage. A Nation who can not manufacturer the means with which to defend itself will not last long. Environmental and labor regulations have sent manufacturing off shore and we no longer produce Mold Makers, Die Makers, or tool makers and YES they are all different disciplines with little overlap other than the ability to precisely use manual machine tools. This will bite us in the butt eventually as Engineers do not make anything, they design things but we make the tooling that produces their designs and they know little of the process.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
A better analogy is the Tea Party as the early French Revolution, before things went nutso. I think things might end up similarly here. Success in America is getting more and more defined by how connected one is to government. A nobility is forming right before our eyes. The people who are being left out are the average Joes. Some time in the future more of us Third Estaters are going to begin to agitate that things are wrong; and when things don't change after an initial moment of hope that they will, these proles are going to get s*it-crazy mad.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
i'm a bit late to the party on this post but being a fan of zombie's work i will toss in my 2 centavos

i believe this piece an example of how to snag a few people who consistently vote lefty and possibly remove some from the ledger of tyranny if only for one election cycle

for those who may not know- zombie lurks around the bay area and if one doesnt not know what it is like there then you have no clue--

the normal arguments and methods of persuading people to the side of limited government and self reliance are virtually impossible here-- this is where i see the slant of zombie's piece-- by using the common lefty vernacular combined with the comparison of a lefty icon-- (zombie gets bonus points for exploiting the fact that most lefty's in california are really bluffing in their knowledge of marx and will sucker at the mention of "workers and factories" and stuff) the usual mindless dolts on parade here might, just might, get confused at the moment of truth and side with the tea partiers-- because they are already preconditioned to react to these pavlovian responses

tl;dr-- the normal rules of life dont apply in the bay area and a little trip outside the box has its merits
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I anticipated a throng of well-meaning Tea Partiers howling at this analysis. As one myself I was inclined to think likewise, until I read the article. You're tricky, you are, and as usual correct in the context as you put it forth. Very useful too. I suggest anyone who might be engaged in a conversation with a staunch liberal who brings up 'fairness' to use this logic... and delight in the 'deer in the headlights' look on your antagonist.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
<>

No, it's not hard to argue with that.

If I buy or build or or invent a machine that makes workers 10x more productive, why should "the workers" (ie, the ones operating the machine) accrue all the benefits?

I take your point that politicians are parasites, but I take exception with any equivalence of them and Marx's "capitalist".
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The website messed up my quotes. I was referring, specifically, to Zombie's statement:

"Even so, there is an attractive populist rationality to this aspect of Marxism that appeals to everyone’s sense of fairness — even to those who staunchly reject the rest of communist theory. Those who do the work should reap the benefits and control the system; hard to argue with that."
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our modern day marxist progressives(democrats) do indeed look at the way the country is run by politicians as deciding how much the taxpayers get to keep. The tea partiers want and believe that the taxpayers should decide how much of "our money" the politicians can have to run our govt. it is not up to any moron president to decide who is rich enough or has made enough money or how much we set aside for our retirement or if we should reward criminals that enter our country illegally with taxpayer paid benefits.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Outrageous nonsense, zombie. To conflate anarcho-syndicalism with 'Tea Party' anything is to have a gross misunderstanding of what the Tea Party movement is/was. It is NOT an anarchist-anything, a Paul-bot anything or any sort of Occupy-anything. It might be up in that festering sewer of leftist politics you play in, but it sure as hell isn't, nationally. It's a goddamned obscenity on a par with the Folsom St. garbage for you to have even made the assertion. Muckraking? Hit-whoring?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"It is outrage over this very power shift that spawned the Tea Party, which is essentially a movement of taxpayers angry that they no longer get to determine how their taxes are spent. Historically speaking, the Tea Party movement can be accurately defined as a workers’ revolution.

Karl Marx, were he alive today, would approve."

I'm sorry, Zombie, but I think you've really gone off the rails here. I don't know Marx in detail but if his thinking matched that of his followers Lenin and Stalin, the whole notion of unemployed workers wouldn't even come up. Certainly, under Stalin, there was no unemployment. Everyone had a job of some sort, except perhaps the very old, the very young and the very sick. Able-bodied men and women simply didn't sit idle. Work of some kind, however menial, would be found for you unless you were clearly incapable of working, such as an infant.

And unlike America, you didn't necessarily have a lot of choice in what work you would do or where you would do it. If you were needed deep in Siberia to work in a factory, you took that job or found yourself under deep suspicion of being a troublemaker, suspicion that would likely find you on your way to the Gulag sooner, rather than later. There was, of course, no shortage of work in the Gulag. In fact, its primary feature was that inmates were frequently worked to death. Only 1 in 7 of the people that were sent to the Gulag survived their terms.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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