El Marx que tú no conoces / Demetrio Boersner

The Marx You Don’t Know

Among the intellectuals and publicists who attack “Marxism” on a daily basis, there exists the most deplorable ignorance regarding what Karl Marx actually thought and wrote. Such ignorance has one possible explanation: the “laziness” of these polemicists (including intelligent ex-communists today converts of neoliberalism). Those who were always on the right were satisfied with reading a few disparaging paragraphs on Marx in some self-righteous manual; and those who were shaped in the Communist Youth before turning toward Milton Friedman haven’t read the brilliant German thinker either, they only “know” him through the Soviet pamphlets by Rozental-Straks and Nikitin.

The communists and conservatives coincide in their desire to “demonstrate” that Marx was dogmatic and totalitarian. In that way, the former hope to continue “monopolizing” him as the presumed founding father of Leninist Bolshevism. The latter, on the other hand, hope to discredit him for the majorities with free spirits and open minds, and in this way prevent the social democrats (actually more of a threat to oligarchic privileges than the communist movement) from enriching their doctrinal wealth with the living and multi-faceted thought of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Karl Kautsky. Luckily, despite this campaign of denigration, the most conscious social democratic parties honor the memory of Marx and consider him theirs.

For them, as for myself, who own and enjoy the 41 volumes of his Complete Works (Marx-EngelsWerke [MEW], Berlin, 1956-66), it’s obvious that Marx was great but not infallible. Just like the three other foundational titans of contemporary science – Darwin, Freud and Einstein –, the master from Trier discovered and formulated fundamental truths that revolutionized our understanding of the universe and man, but he inevitably made mistakes regarding details that his time didn’t allow him to discern with clarity. The essence of his work is the method of analysis – realist, dynamic and historical – he developed, along with a profound critique of the unregulated capitalist system. Within that admirable combination, he reached hasty conclusions or predictions, and he ended up being guilty of arrogance and intolerance. But he was aware of his own faults, and he always rejected dogmatism and generalizations, finally exclaiming in exasperation: “I’m not a Marxist!” But it is important for us social democrats to be “Marxists” capable of critical revisions.

The aspect of “the Marx you don’t know” that is of most interest to the Venezuelan left opposed to Chávez’s authoritarian “socialism” is the ceaseless and implacable fight Karl Marx waged against all types of caudillismo, elitism and “avant-gardism” that restrict democratic pluralism in the heart of the popular and workers movement. In an upcoming article, I want to narrate that epic fight.

{ Demetrio Boersner, Tal Cual, 22 June 2007 }

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