Karl Marx – 140 years later

Image: Nico Becker


This immense thinker and revolutionary established himself as an interpreter of contemporaneity

On March 14th of the current year, it was the 140th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx. This immense thinker and revolutionary established himself as an interpreter of contemporaneity. His grandiose work allows us to concretely unveil the current historical period that is being marked by the condensation of the various crises of the order of capital. Social pauperism advances, the erosion of capitalism deepens from its founding milestones, a deep ideological crisis grows that feeds the resurgence of fascism, the sociability of this decaying order fed the various forms of oppression, among other determining factors of the societal crisis that is making possible the opening of the political scene to the elementary disjunctive of our time, socialism or barbarism.

The key to understanding Karl Marx's thought, as a rigorous theorist of contemporary enterprise, involves three constitutive notions, which are the labor theory of value; the dialectical method and the perspective of revolution. This fundamental tripod makes possible, as a whole, a powerful instrument of analysis so that we can understand the capitalist mode of production, the order of bourgeois sociability and the perspective of rupture; necessary scenarios that need to be unveiled so that the immanent subject of the revolution can open paths for the process of human emancipation.

Karl Marx, still alive, inspired revolutionary traditions and varied interpretations of contemporary world issues. His legacy grew in this long journey, became present in the social and human sciences, in the revolutions of the XNUMXth century and in the working class movement for rights and transformations. In the current historical moment, even with the immense problem of revolutionary organization, guided by Marxisms, an ontologically communist fertile militancy manages to have a vast field of action and accurate analysis to face the political project of capital, even if the working class movement has not yet whatever is necessary to indicate a power relationship based on the contradiction between work and capital.

Although it is the social theory with the greatest ability to adhere to the real and to understand the societal crisis, Marxism, when riddled with sterile academicism and dilettante Marxology, loses its ability to be the subject of the working class's future project, becoming encapsulated in the environment of an infertile logic that is incapable of allowing theory to become concrete action.

The contradictions of the perennial contemporary political scene, with its impasses at the end of a cycle, made possible the reappearance of the extreme right as an alternative power in various parts of the planet. Individualism, obscurantism, fundamentalism, xenophobia, reactionaryism and all forms of oppression of capitalist sociability have reappeared. Karl Marx, as a lesson and a starting point, is an extraordinary source for us to understand the ongoing process and move forward in the search for the path we have to build to combat the monsters at the end of the cycle.

The actuality of Marx is found in the fine analysis that the French philosopher, Alain Badiou, warns us, “to face the reality of capital is to have a praxis solution for the revolution”. This seminal trail is the manifestation of Karl Marx's profound actuality. This concrete motive inspires and operates the struggle for the hegemony of a project that confronts the order of capital in the current historical cycle. However, this strategic perspective will only be victorious with the organization of the working class and its lasting theoretical training.

Karl Marx's work is inseparable from his life and the historical struggle he waged. His studies always reflected the concrete steps of the battles he fought and the foundations he unveiled to advance in building the world revolution. Thus, at the moment when the giant Marxist thinker Ernest Mandel would complete one hundred years, we can, based on his contribution, reveal some stages of the “history” of Karl Marx.

The writings from 1837-1843 conform what we identify as radical democratism, marked by works such as The differences between the philosophy of nature of Democritus and Epicurus, The Rhenish Gazette and Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right.

The foundations from political emancipation to social emancipation (1843-1844) are found in books on the jewish questionAt Introduction to a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right it is us Economic-philosophical manuscripts.  

At the height of the European revolts (1848-1850), Karl Marx devoted himself to the movement from bourgeois revolution to proletarian revolution. From this period are the texts on The Communist Manifesto, Wage labor and capital, Ea Message to the Central Committee of the League of Communists.

With the defeat of the so-called spring of the peoples, Karl Marx wrote two books to balance this revolutionary wave, the class struggles and political struggles of that period (1850-1852): Class struggles in France (three essays published in a journal) and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

From then on, a new cycle concerned Karl Marx who began to develop research on capitalism (1853-1859), initiating the process of preparing his The capital. It is also from this period that he collaborated with the newspaper New York Daily Tribune (1852-1862), the Grundisse and Critique of Political Economy.

From 1860-1867, Karl Marx deepened his economic work and held debates in the First International. Being from this stage Theories about the added value, Manuscript II of The capital, Inaugural address of the International Working Men's Association, Capital (Vol. I), Capital (Vol. II – manuscript), 1869-1870.

We can close this intellectual cycle (1867-1883) with Karl Marx's concerns about the ongoing proletarian revolution and political parties. then we have the Two Reports on the Franco-Prussian War, The Civil War in France, Criticism of the Gotha program, Letter to the leaders of German Social Democracy, Letter to Vera Zassoulith and the Preface to the second Russian edition of communist manifesto.

Today, Marx's thought puts us face to face with history and is fundamental in the debate about the revolution at the beginning of the XNUMXst century. After all, when French workers a few days ago, in an open struggle for their rights, sang the anthem of the International in demonstrations in the streets of Paris, a new cycle began to be presented with a strong possibility of unveiling class struggles and presenting a real and concrete blueprint for the future of humanity.

*Milton Pinheiro is a political scientist and professor of history at the State University of Bahia (UNEB).

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