This week marks the birthday of one of history’s worst human beings, Karl Marx. Just because Marx’s philosophy would lead directly to the deaths of 100 million human beings over the course of a century, the imprisonment of tens of millions more in gulags and re-education camps from Russia to China to Vietnam to Cambodia to North Korea, and the oppression of hundreds of millions more hasn’t dissuaded those on the modern western left from embracing Marx’s bloody legacy. Realizing, however, that embracing Communism itself might alienate those who remember the Berlin Wall, today’s Marxists rally instead for identity politics. In the pages of the New York Times — the same newspaper that in the past two years has run opinion pieces endorsing Communism’s impact on female empowerment and female sexual activity and its inspirational effects on Americans — Kyung Hee University associate professor of philosophy Jason Barker celebrated Marx’s birthday, writing, “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!”
What, exactly, was Marx right about?
He wasn’t right about economics — his theory of economics is tripe. He wasn’t right about history unfolding as a glorious Hegelian progression toward a socialist utopia either. But according to Baker, he was right about one thing: The dispossessed of the world would unite to change human nature by changing the system of oppression under which they lived. Marx, says Baker, was right about class exploitation — the rich exploiting the poor. But it’s in the guise of victim groups based on race and sex that Marx’s dialectic finds its true apotheosis:
Racial and sexual oppression have been added to the dynamic of class exploitation. Social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, owe something of an unspoken debt to Marx through their unapologetic targeting of the “eternal truths” of our age. Such movements recognize, as did Marx, that the ideas that rule every society are those of its ruling class and that overturning those ideas is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.
Here, Baker is merely rehashing the writings of members of the Frankfurt School Marxists such as Herbert Marcuse, who argued that
human beings who have lived in the shadow of this culture, the victims of the power structure . . . now oppose to the “music of the spheres” which was the most sublime achievement of this culture their own music, with all the defiance, and the hatred, and the joy of rebellious victims, defining their own humanity against the definitions of the masters.
Instead of a revolution of the proletariat, then, Marxism now seeks a revolution of the victims — the various groups of dispossessed who feel that the system has been stacked against them. And it is far easier to unite such groups around intersectional themes than it is to unite them around income disparity. There may not be any serious brotherhood between those who don’t earn much money, but pure tribalism forms lasting ties — and Marxists are happy to mold those tribes into a new nation of rebels.