Marx is back! Karl Marx and his contribution to the socialist tradition

The ideas of Karl Marx -- that class society creates great wealth for the few at the expense of the many  --  ring truer every day. Brian Jones, a member of the International Socialist Organization of the United States, examines Marx's revolutionary ideas in the following three articles. These articles first appeared in Socialist Worker, newspaper of the International Socialist Organization of the United States. They have been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission of Socialist Worker.

In the last 150 years of US history, you can't point to a generation whose most active, radical layers have not been drawn to the ideas of Karl Marx. This was true of the abolitionist movement (Marxist immigrants even fought with the Northern Army in the Civil War), the early pioneers of our labour movement, the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) who passed through Socialist and Communist Parties in the first half of the 20th century, and of the many thousands who joined the Black Panther Party and other parties that declared themselves against capitalism and in favour of socialism in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Millions of people around the world have sought, from the Marxist tradition, a way to win a different kind of society free of poverty, oppression and war. That rather hopeful premise -- that a different kind of world is actually possible -- goes a long way toward explaining how it could be that the only book that can compete (in terms of paid sales) with the Bible is the Communist Manifesto.

It was that project -- the fight for a better world -- that motivated Marx. At his funeral, Marx's lifelong collabourator and closest friend, Frederick Engels, said of him: "Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being... Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival."

But when you try to go out and learn something about Marx, you will quickly discover that it is precisely this tenacious revolutionism that is discarded by mainstream treatments of him. "Marx had good ideas", they want you to believe, "but don't try to put them into practice". Or, as another twist on the same idea: "He was good at analysing the problems of capitalism, but obviously wrong about the solution."

Time magazine recently published a feature article, "Rethinking Marx" (interestingly, it was available only in Britain), with essentially the same thesis:

Marx's utopian predictions about revolution and the triumph of socialism were dead wrong; indeed, many of the policies carried out in his name in the 20th century brought misery to millions in countries ranging from Russia to China, and including large chunks of Africa.

Yet... if you leave aside the prophetic, prescriptive parts of Marx's writings, there's a trenchant diagnosis of the underlying problems of a market economy that is surprisingly relevant even today... He was moved by glaring inequalities between rich and poor that are more topical than ever today...

In short, Marx painted a picture of capitalism's excesses, but forget trying to replace it. Replacing capitalism, Time magazine warns, leads straight to Stalin's prison labour camps. Time wants us to "leave aside the prescriptive parts", which is like going to the doctor for a diagnosis, but not for a cure.

Marx's ideas

Marx had a peculiar problem: People formed groups under his name -- but Marx actually had fundamental disagreements with their ideas. "I, at least", Marx was fond of joking, "am not a Marxist... God save me from my friends!"

In hindsight, it's not too hard to see that figures like Stalin and Mao were precisely the sort Marx had in mind.

So what were Marx's real ideas?

Let's start with what Marx actually said about capitalism -- the diagnosis. Of course, the occasion for Time magazine's feature article -- and this talk -- is the current global economic crisis.

The free market, touted as the best way to run the world, is currently in free fall. Not only is the market apparently "broken" as an instrument for spreading wealth, it seems apparent to millions (if not billions at this point) that it was never intended to spread wealth in the first place.

New York Governor David Paterson is making cuts in education and health care to fill a budget hole (for 2009-2010) of about US$15 billion. He's planning to cut funding for Head Start, Medicare and food stamps, for example.

Meanwhile, total Wall Street bonuses for 2008 ended up totaling $18.4 billion. Merrill Lynch alone handed out $4 billion in bonuses to top executives before going belly up. We could easily spend a whole evening imagining the miracles we could work if that kind of money were directed to social needs.

People who were hailed for decades as geniuses and heroes, are today exposed as frauds, liars and thieves. But none of the gurus of free-market capitalism were praised to the heavens like Alan Greenspan. Greenspan was the former head of the US Federal Reserve, and he was one of those who supported getting rid of the regulations on Wall Street so that the free market could work its magic.

In his recent congressional testimony, though, he admitted that he found a "flaw" in his free-market model.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is -- precisely. No, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

This should be called "The Madoff Defence": Your honour, with all due respect, my house of cards did stand for almost 40 years.

Yes, Greenspan found a flaw. Shocking.

Now, it turns out that about 160 years ago, Marx also found a flaw with capitalism. The flaw is related to what makes capitalism so dynamic in the first place, which is the fact that

[t]he bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society... All fixed, fast-frozen relations...are swept away...before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air...

Capitalism is driven forward by relentless competition, and in an incredibly short time (historically speaking), this new system has generated an immense output of wealth:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together...machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation...what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

But the flaw is that all of production is unplanned. So the system has released this relentless innovative energy, but it's out of human control, and every so many years, there's a crisis.

Modern bourgeois society...a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells...It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on trial, each time more threateningly...

There was a time, long ago, when people starved because there was not enough food. Food was under-produced. Along comes capitalism, and people starve because there's too much food!

There's also too many cars, too many TVs, too many basketballs ... capitalism's competitive production for profit, means there's too many of everything, and inevitably therefore, a crisis.

In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity -- the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.

And to what do we owe the honour of our current economic catastrophe? Too many houses!

Not too many houses to house people. Not too many for the millions of homeless. Only too many to be sold at a profit. So houses must sit empty, people must be thrown out of work (2 million people were laid off in the United States just the last four months), stores, factories and offices must be closed, it seems that a "universal war of devastation" is taking place -- all so that the free market can repair itself.


But even without this flaw, even without overproduction, in "ordinary" times, even in a boom, great wealth and great poverty are two sides of the same capitalist coin.

How did rich people become rich, anyway? Are they rich because they're so thrifty? Are they just more hardworking? No, it's not just that some happen to be rich and others by chance are poor. Under capitalism, people are rich because others are poor. They're rich because they exploit our labour -- but it's not obvious how that happens.

In ancient Egypt, if you were a slave, they said to you, "Good morning, you're going to build that pyramid over there until you die. And no, we're not going to give you anything in return. Get started." If you were a peasant in the Middle Ages, the king would send a tax collector who would say, "Oh, what a wonderful crop you've grown! We'll take half. Good job."

It's obvious that they're stealing from you in those systems. In capitalism, however, it's not as obvious.

Capitalists buy and then sell things to make a profit. But it's not just a question of marking up the price in between. You couldn't build a whole society on just marking up everything. All the markups would cancel each other out. Wealth has to be created somehow.

The capitalists buy a lot of things -- raw materials, machinery, buildings and labour. Then they turn around and sell a product, hopefully for more than they paid for all of those ingredients. The trick is that one of those ingredients is different from the others, one of them is special: labour.

As Paul D'Amato put it in The Meaning of Marxism:

It is, Marx noted, a "good piece of luck" that labour's use is greater than "what the capitalist pays for that use." The value of labour power -- that is, wages -- is less than the value of output that this labour can produce. Put another way, workers produce enough value to cover the cost of their wages ... in just part of the working day. The labour performed for the rest of the working day does not have to be paid for -- it is "surplus labour", which produces "surplus value", and therefore when the product is sold, this unpaid portion goes into the pocket of the capitalists.

That our wages are calculated as an hourly payment hides the fact that for part of every working day, the boss is actually getting something for nothing. Ultimately, that's why capitalism creates such disparities of wealth -- it's a system where a few people exploit the labour of many.


For a moment, though, leave aside the exploitation. Leave aside the endemic poverty, leave aside the cyclical crises. There remains the fact that capitalism perverts human nature. Marx called this perversion "alienation."

What does this mean? Keep in mind that creative, social labour is what makes us human in the first place -- work, in other words. Under capitalism, however, we don't have any real control over our work. So the very thing that makes us human, is the thing this system takes from us. In Marx's words:

What constitutes the alienation of labour?

Firstly, the fact that labour is external to the worker -- i.e., does not belong to his essential being; that he, therefore, does not confirm himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind. Hence, the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working, and not at home when he is working. His labour is, therefore, not voluntary but forced, it is forced labour. It is, therefore, not the satisfaction of a need but a mere means to satisfy needs outside itself. Its alien character is clearly demonstrated by the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, it is shunned like the plague.

Imagine a bird that hates to fly, or a fish that loathes nothing more than swimming, and you have an idea of just what kind of alienated creatures we are, living under a system that makes us hate working.

That's a super-brief sketch of what Marx had to say about capitalism's crises, about surplus value and about alienation.

Marx becomes a Marxist

Karl Marx developed his ideas in an era of when young people were dedicating their lives to a struggle for new rights and freedoms.

How did Karl Marx become a Marxist? Marx developed his ideas not just through study -- although he was a voracious reader (really, the word "voracious" doesn't begin to touch it). Marx's Marxism is really the theoretical product of his practical efforts to build a movement for radical change, and his observations of struggles taking place around him.

This is worth our attention because Marx is not only the author of a set of ideas about history, but the author of a unique method of looking at history. This method is widely known as historical materialism or dialectical materialism.

Our tale begins with the 1830s. A young Karl goes off to university to study law, and like so many before him and so many since, is seduced instead by the study of philosophy on the one hand, and the drinking of great quantities of beer on the other.

One of his school reports cites him for "excellent diligence and attention", and then blithely goes on to add:

He has incurred a punishment of one day's detention for disturbing the peace by rowdiness and drunkenness at night... Subsequently, he was accused of having carried prohibited weapons... The investigation is till pending.

The brand of beer (and weapons) may remain unknown, but the brand of philosophy is not: Marx was a radical democrat, which is to say that he was living in an era of revolutions -- known as bourgeois revolutions, because they were the revolutions led by the bourgeoisie (French for "capitalists") to overthrow the feudal order of kings, queens and the nobility.

The kings and queens taught that the world never changed, and that the universe, the earth and society were all organised in God's image -- with them, conveniently, perched at the top. But this was increasingly a lost argument once their royal heads started rolling into guillotine baskets.


Marx became a follower of the ideas of Georg Hegel. Hegel said that the kings and queens were wrong -- that the world is always changing. The change, Hegel argued, is produced by conflicting ideas -- feudal ideas vs. bourgeois ideas, for example. Rather than a view of a static, never-changing world, Hegel put forward a view of a dialectical, ever-changing world.

Marx was for Hegel. Marx was for the bourgeois revolutions and the triumph of the new bourgeois ideas about rights and freedoms (of the press, of the ballot and so on). These were the exciting, dangerous new ideas that young people everywhere were dedicating their lives to fight for. A young heir to a textile business, Frederick Engels (Marx's future collaborator), was just the sort who was thoroughly infected with these ideas, as he himself pointed out:

What shall I, poor devil, do now? Go on swotting on my own? Don't feel like it. Turn loyal? The devil if I will!...I cannot sleep at night, all because of the ideas of the century. When I am at the post office...I am seized with the spirit of freedom. Every time I look at a newspaper I hunt for news of advances of freedom. They get into my poems.

The bourgeoisie had revolutionised France and America. But in Germany, there was a problem: the old Prussian state still clung to power and was determined to repress anyone who spoke out. Many who had previously called for change succumbed to the pressure, including Hegel!

Marx remained among those who would not submit. These opponents of the old order called themselves the "Young Hegelians". Just when Marx got his PhD and was hoping to get a faculty position in a university, "Hegelianism" was banned by the Prussian state. Marx was effectively blacklisted from teaching, so he turned to journalism.

Marx started writing for a newspaper that was funded by some reform-minded capitalists. He wrote hundreds of articles about all sorts of abuses of the Prussian state, and made a huge impression on his colleagues. In fact, within one year of working as a journalist, Marx had such a reputation that Engels (who had yet to actually meet Marx) wrote a poem about him, based only on the stories he was hearing:

    Who runs up next with wild impetuosity?
    A swarthy chap of Trier, a marked monstrosity.
    He neither hops nor skips, but moves in leaps and bounds,
    Raving aloud. As if to seize and then pull down
    To earth the spacious tent of Heaven up on high,
    He opens wide his arms and reaches for the sky.
    He shakes his wicked fist, raves with a frantic air,
    As if ten thousand devils had him by the hair.

The problem with all of this fist-shaking was that Marx was advocating for freedom of the press (among other things) in a country where freedom of the press had not yet been won. Again and again, Marx's newspapers were shut down and Marx was arrested. He was deported for the things he dared to write.

Even worse, when Marx wrote about anything that went beyond bourgeois freedoms, his own funders would retreat. For example, Marx wrote a scathing article against the land "rights" that prevented the poor from gathering free firewood from the estates of the rich, and the shareholders (precisely the sort who didn't want the poor to set foot on their land) complained that the paper was becoming "more and more impudent". Just as the newspaper was growing in popularity, it was shut down.

Dialectical and materialist

From this experience, it was confirmed for Marx that the world isn't just driven forward by ideas. There was something else that trumped ideas: material interests.

Marx retained the idea that the world was dialectical, and therefore constantly changing through struggle. But instead of a struggle between pure ideas, he came to see society as driven by a struggle between conflicting material interests. Marx was on his way toward developing a dialectical and materialist way of looking at the world.

This enabled him to explain why the German bourgeoisie wouldn't lift a finger to fight for bourgeois ideals. They made their money off the growing armies of wage workers, so while they still hated the authority of the kings, they feared even more the possibility of stirring up any kind of revolt among their employees.

It seemed increasingly unlikely, especially in Germany, that capitalists would carry out anything resembling a real revolution, on the model of the French Revolution. But if they wouldn't, who would?

As Marx and his family were chased around Europe, searching for refuge, he came in contact with a new class of people: wage workers.

They were different from peasants, and different even from artisans or craftspeople -- all of whom worked mostly in small, self-sufficient units. Wage workers, on the other hand, were organised into giant collective armies, and Marx discovered that they were political! In France, they had secret societies. Marx sat in on their meetings, listened to their speeches and plans, and was struck by how bold and honest their discussions were. As he wrote:

You would have to attend one of the meetings of the French workers to appreciate the pure freshness, the nobility which bursts forth from these toil-worn men... It is among these "barbarians" of our civilised society that history is preparing the practical element for the emancipation of mankind.

In Silesia, a group of 3000 poorly paid weavers revolted after one of them was arrested for harassing the boss in song (under his window!). They went to the bosses' houses and destroyed their account books. The army was sent in, and the weavers beat them, too.

The workers' material interests led them to stand up for each other -- solidarity was a necessity, not just an ideal.

So while the material interests of the bourgeoisie got in the way of fighting for loftier ideals, for the wage workers, it was the opposite. Whether they even knew about the lofty ideals, their material interests compelled them to fight for freedom and equality.

Marx's struggles and experiences led him to a new way of looking at history -- not just as a contest of ideas, but a contest of material interests. As he and his now collaborator Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight.

And Marx came to a new conclusion about history -- that if the modern working class were to fight capitalists and actually win -- that is, if the working class became the ruling class -- its victory would mean the end of classes:

If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

Marx's vision of socialism

Socialism isn't a utopian dream. It is a part of the real world, a struggle already in progress.

Karl Marx is widely condemned as a utopian dreamer. The irony in this is the fact that Marx is distinguished from previous socialists precisely by his departure from a utopian approach.

The real utopians were the socialists before Marx. They dreamed of an egalitarian society, and drew up elabourate plans for them -- rigorously detailed blueprints for industry, education and social life. The utopians hoped that if these plans were presented to rich and powerful people, they would be convinced by the rationality of socialism, and they -- the bourgeoisie -- would give us an egalitarian society.

I have an image in my mind of Donald Trump leading a march for economic equality. Now that is utopian.

Marx and Engels were the first to bring socialism down from the clouds and put it on a real-world, scientific basis. Their starting point was not ideals, but reality:

The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, but those which they find existing and those produced by their activity.

Marx and Engels were the first socialists to support trade unions. Why? Because Marx and Engels were the first to see socialism as the logical end result of the class struggle that was already in progress.

We are usually taught that change is the product of enlightened, courageous minorities working on behalf of the grateful masses. Marx's was a 180-degree change in approach. "All previous historical movements", he wrote, "were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority."

This continues to be a radical departure from the usual way that revolution (or really any social change for that matter) is conceived.

Furthermore, this "immense majority" is organised in the first place, not by people preaching socialism, but by the capitalists! As Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto:

[W]ith the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level.

Today, "the various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are ...equalised" to an amazing degree. Basically, in 2009, the life of a wage labourer has the same essential features in every corner of the globe. It's the spread of capitalism all over the globe that explains why you see people organising unions all over the globe -- from Nigeria to Venezuela, from South Korea to Canada.

Further, socialist proselytisers don't have to convince people of the "idea" of fighting back. Capitalism forces people to do that.

When management tried to take away all of their sick days and cut pay by 25 per cent, the workers who make cookies at the Stella D'oro factory in the Bronx went on strike. When the owners of the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago tried to close the factory in December and cheat the workers out of their severance pay, the workers occupied the factory.

This movement of the "immense majority" is not a utopian dream. It is a part of the real world, a struggle already in progress. Ever since Marx, it is these struggles that are the starting point for the socialist movement. As Marx wrote in a letter:

We do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world's own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for... explaining to it the meaning of its own actions.

Who decides?

But where is this struggle headed? What is the meaning of a strike?

Even small strikes (such as the two mentioned above) can have big implications. In effect, the owners are telling the workers how it's going to be, and the workers are collectively saying, "No, this is how it's going to be."

Who's going to decide how many sick days there will be? Who's going to decide whether the factory stays open or closes? Who's going to decide the hours, the pay and so on? A strike is like a revolution in embryo, because it's the first step towards working people saying, "We're going to decide."

When students occupied a cafeteria at New York University to protest (among other things) the outrageous rate of tuition, their classmates gathered in the hundreds outside the building to support them, chanting, "Whose school? OUR SCHOOL!" What's the implication of that?

Furthermore, what if the working class actually won this struggle once and for all? What if the students and teachers took over the schools? What if the nurses and doctors controlled the hospitals? What if we -- the workers -- controlled all of the workplaces?

If capitalism was the product of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the kings and queens, then the outcome of the new class struggle -- the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat -- is socialism. As Marx and Engels wrote:

It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its life situation, as well as in the whole organisation of bourgeois society today.

What is it that is foreshadowed? Marx is saying that a truly collective society is foreshadowed by the life of the working class under capitalism.

We already work collectively. If we struggle, we must struggle collectively or we lose. Marx pointed out that if the working class were to rule, the only way it could rule would be ... you guessed it: collectively.


What would that look like? Marx and Engels (unlike the utopian dreamers) wrote very little on what socialism would precisely look like, because it's not for two people sitting in a room to decide. The whole point is for the "immense majority" to remake society as they see fit.

We don't have to draw up elaborately detailed plans for a socialist future, but we can imagine the broad outlines of would be possible if we, regular working people, ran society:

  • We could provide free health care to everyone.
  • We could house everyone (why not free housing?).
  • We could feed everyone (why not free restaurants?).
  • We could give people real leisure time, to spend with their friends and families, travel, pursue other interests.

Impossible, you say? Well, it's happened before.

In 1871, the workers of Paris took over the city and ran it for two months. They set up an egalitarian workers' government. They abolished the standing army, and instead armed the people. They elected representatives with no term of office and no perks, who were paid only an average worker's wage and were recallable at any time. They opened up education for women (unheard of) and for working people in general. Marx described how:

The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it.

The mass of people participated directly in the running of the Paric Commune, and they planned to reorganise the factories under workers' control. Crime virtually disappeared since everything was organised for the purpose of meeting people's needs. Marx wrote that the masses of Paris had "stormed heaven", and the wealthy classes of the world howled in protest:

It is a strange fact. In spite of all the tall talk and all the immense literature, for the last 60 years, about emancipation of labour, no sooner do the working men anywhere take the subject into their own hands with a will, than arises at once all the apologetic phraseology of the mouthpieces of present society, with its two poles of capital and wage-slavery...The Commune, they exclaim, intends to abolish property, the basis of all civilisation!

Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labour of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labour, into mere instruments of free and associated labour. But this is communism, "impossible" communism!

Even this socialist society, Marx argued, is not some dreamland. It's really just a first step:

The working class did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce... They know that in order to work out their own emancipation ... they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realise, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant.

If you think that capitalism is an utterly corrupt system, and that our society is "pregnant" with the possibility of radical change, and if you have some intuition that we, the working people of the world, could run things in a better way, then you should join the socialist movement and help to make that dream a reality.

[Brian Jones is a teacher, actor and activist in New York City. His commentary and writing have been featured on GritTV, and the International Socialist Review. Jones has also lent his voice to several audiobooks, including Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States and Zinn's one-man play Marx in Soho (forthcoming from Haymarket Books).]

Submitted by Joe Bob (not verified) on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 09:53


Among the articles about Marx that have been popping up recently and that I have read, this is by far the best. Kudos!