Socialist Worker

Why Marx Was Right: reject the right’s distortions

by Gareth Jenkins
Issue No. 2258

How many times have you been told the following? Marxism is irrelevant.

It only leads to tyranny. It reduces human beings to cogs. It ignores human nature because it’s utopian.

It is against democracy because it believes in violence. It wants everything run by the state.

Why Marx Was Right answers these, and other, criticisms with both wit and passion.

This is absolutely not a po‑faced defence of Karl Marx, with great slabs of quotations to back its case up.

It is undogmatic, yet committed.

Disarmingly, Terry starts the book by saying how great it would be if Marxism really was finished. That would mean that capitalism itself had disappeared and human beings could get on with other things.

Terry points out that the real utopians are not Marxists but those who believe that capitalism “works”.

Of course, Marx himself celebrated the wonders of capitalism. But its greatest wonder is that it produces its own gravediggers.

Workers are its victims but have the potential to transform its riches into well-being for all.

Terry deals with other misunderstandings about Marx. People often claim he was a determinist, who thought the victory of the working class was inevitable.

But if that was true, why would he have talked so much about struggle determining outcomes?

Marx did not see revolution and democracy as opposites—quite the opposite. He wanted an end to the state, with public functions under the broadest, popular control.

As for individuality, it’s capitalism that reduces everyone to the same. The purpose of socialism for Marx is for individual personality to flourish—on the basis of cooperative development.

Does Marxism have a concept of human nature or morality? What is meant by the relationship between base and superstructure? Terry illuminates these tricky issues.

This is a wonderful book that every socialist should have on their bookshelves—even if you have to wait for it to come out at a more reasonable price in paperback.

Why Marx Was Right
Terry Eagleton
Yale, £16.99

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Tue 28 Jun 2011, 17:57 BST
Issue No. 2258
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