Understanding Marxism: Change the World

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Workers of the world, unite! Karl Marx’s famous call to action never caught on with its intended target, the working class. But the intellectual class—the world of academia—swallowed it hook, line and sinker. They are still pushing it today. Why? What do they hope to gain and what does it mean to the rest of us?

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Presented by C. Bradley Thompson, author of “The Redneck Intellectual” on Substack, and America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American Revolution and the Declaration that Defined It.

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Engraved on Karl Marx’s tombstone in Highgate Cemetery in North London are the following words: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

Substitute the word “professor” for the word “philosopher” (we really don’t have philosophers anymore) and you get right to the core of Marx’s enduring attraction to the contemporary world. 

Marx demands that the intellectual class — the professors of law, sociology, history, women’s studies, anthropology, journalism and so on — come out of the Ivory Tower and join the barricades; to see themselves not as the preservers of the dusty past, but the creators of a new and glorious future.

The lure has proven to be very strong. And it’s not hard to understand why.

How much more meaningful, exciting, and romantic to see yourself as an agent of change rather than a mere academic. How much more meaningful, exciting, and romantic to see the young people who fill up your classroom as potential soldiers in the cause. 

Send them into the world with the same revolutionary spirit, the same disgust toward bourgeois middle-class values that you feel, and you’ve done your job. 

And we must give these lecture-hall revolutionaries their due. Look around. For the most part, they’ve succeeded.

Drill into any current leftist movement — environmentalism, critical race theory, the massive expansion of the welfare state, not to mention diversity, equity and inclusion offices at every university and major corporation — and you will find Marxism at its core: a contempt of the Enlightenment and the Judeo-Christian value system from which capitalism springs. 

Marx’s most famous call to action — “workers of the world unite” — was not, of course, to the professoriate, but to the laboring class. 

That didn’t work out so well.

Workers, especially in the United States, turned out to be more interested in refrigerators than revolutions. The only barricade they were passionate about was a white picket fence in front of a green suburban lawn.  Poor benighted souls, the appeal of Marxism was somehow lost on them — maybe because they didn’t go to college. 

But the intellectual class never lost faith — even after Stalin, even after Mao, even after Castro wrecked Cuba, even after Pol Pot murdered millions of his fellow Cambodians, even after Hugo Chavez decimated the strongest economy in South America, the academic elite remained true believers. 

Indeed, in a world without faith — where God is dead — Marxism has become, in effect, a substitute religion.

One of the major strengths of Marxism (in contrast to both modern liberalism and conservatism) is the unyielding commitment of its followers to this faith, to bear witness to it, and to act on it.

Marxism summons these followers to join a crusade to destroy the evil that is capitalism and to create the good that is communism. In our secular world, the Marxist ideal gives the Marxist true-believer a reason to live, a reason to die—and a reason to kill. 

Monsters like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot took this to the nth degree and murdered millions. For the record, the latter two were politically “educated” in France. Pol Pot studied at the Sorbonne.

If you think I’m exaggerating the evils of Marxism, if you think Stalin and those other guys got communism wrong but your new Democratic Socialism will get it right, think again. 

Marxism leads a society toward a fixed goal: a utopian vision of pure freedom in which the individual is liberated from the “false consciousness” of capitalism. Unfortunately, by Marx’s own definition, the path to this utopia requires the destruction—economically, politically, and morally—of every vestige of civilization as we know it.

Economically, Marxism seeks to destroy free enterprise, the division of labor, profit-and-loss, competition, and material wealth. 

Politically, it seeks to destroy the rule of law, separation of powers, and freedom of speech. 

Morally, it seeks to destroy individualism, religious liberty, and independent thought.

And on top of this rubble it builds the all-powerful State ruled by an all-powerful elite. 

This is why the communist one percent (the true 1 percent) must use the full power of the State to force the 99 percent (the true 99 percent) to become something they are not and do not want to be. 

And if that doesn’t work, the secular philosophy of brotherly love simply intimidates into silence and ultimately liquidates as much of the 99 percent as is necessary to keep everybody in line. 

Censorship, secret police, and reeducation camps: these are not bugs in an imperfect system, they are features — critical parts of its design.

In short, the problem with Marxism has been and always will be . . . Marxism.

Too bad the academic establishment has yet to figure this out. 

Or even worse, maybe they have. 

I’m Brad Thompson, Professor of Political Science at Clemson University, for Prager University.