Zombie Karl Marx is angry
“Must … crush … capitalism!” roared the zombie Lenin as he burst from his glass case in the Simpsons episode where Homer hijacks a nuclear submarine.
London’s Highgate cemetery is home to Karl Marx’s corpse, and a giant sculpture of his head sits above it. The Simpsons episode crossed my mind when I stopped by to check out the scene, and I imagined what old Karl would say about the mess in Europe if his bones could talk.
He’d probably point out that while upper-class bankers and stock traders make and lose amounts of money most people will never see in their lifetimes, the lower classes suffer from incredible unemployment, especially in southern Europe. Even in relatively well off Britain the unemployment rate is an unhealthy 8.2%.
I think he’d compare national dependance on debt to the virtual slavery the working class experienced during the 19th century when industrialists set wages so low many were forced to rely on credit to survive, paying it off just to take out more loans later, a cycle of debt that only ended in the grave.
These days, however, power isn’t as concentrated on the means of production as it is on the means to lend money. Factories have given way to banks as the electors of governments, the wagers of wars, the compass of society. Marx would probably ask why we continue to put our fate in the hands of money markets, where no one holds the reins and no one has the power to pull it out of a steep dive.
Mr. Marx would probably shiver at how powerless people feel in the 21st century compared to the 19th when revolution threatened every corrupt aristocracy in Europe. Yes the Occupy Movement cast some shame on bankers and opened many eyes to the discontent in the general population, particularly the young, but its vague goals inevitably meant the tangible changes it created would be few. In contrast, last year’s London riots were action-packed, but apolitical, an example of what happens when people are made to lust for material possessions but denied the roads to acquire them legally. We’re forced to compete rather than cooperate, inevitably leading to inequality, envy, and crime, in that order, or so goes Marx’s philosophy.
I’m no Marxist myself but sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if the socialist rather than capitalist model dominated post-war economics.
The communism of Lenin and his successors brought Eastern Europe bread lines and dictatorships. Marx’s ideals were twisted to justify rigged elections. Some believe his concept of class struggle was inevitably going to create bloody revolutions and his utopian goal of a classless society goes against nature where even animals have a pecking order.
Yet the countries most resistant to the economic troubles of today seem to be those that successfully integrated a free society with socialist ideals, the Scandinavian countries and Germany, for example. Maybe if we had given more credence to Marxist concepts we’d have given less power to those who took us down this hole we’re struggling to climb out of again.
What would the zombie Marx give as a solution to this financial crisis? He’s probably ask for banks’ power to be curtailed, so that they become less of a profit making venture and more of a tool governments can rely on for an affordable source of capital when its required. He’d call for workers to buy the companies they work for, use the money that would go to CEO’s bonuses to make the company more efficient, or expand its business. He’d ask German workers to look at Greek workers more as victims of a slightly more corrupt and inefficient hierarchical system than their own, as comrades rather than foreign leeches, because no one Greek plumber ruined the economy, yet bankers of all nationalities perpetuate the worldwide kleptocracy that keeps labour poor and thieves rich, or so he’d say.