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John McDonnell is right – there’s a lot to be learnt from reading Karl Marx

This article is over 7 years, 1 months old
Issue 2553
The right wing ridicules Karl Marx - but not everyone accept the attacks

The right wing ridicules Karl Marx – but not everyone accept the attacks (Pic: Pete Birkinshaw/Flickr)

Right wingers have raised the spectre of Communism to discredit Labour’s left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, John McDonnell had said “there is a lot to learn” from revolutionary Karl Marx’s masterwork Capital.

Dubbing them the “Marx Brothers”, the Daily Telegraph newspaper thought its most lurid fantasies about the Labour Party had become true.

Tory minister Priti Patel jumped in, claiming the “nonsensical ideas of Karl Marx” were “just a glimpse of the destruction” a Labour government would cause.

It’s no wonder that the likes of Patel scaremonger about Marx.

At the heart of Marxism is the idea that working class people have the power to transform society—and run it without the bosses.

As Marx’s collaborator Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “Our notion, from the very beginning, was that ‘the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself’.”

As the Sunday Times Rich List showed this week, under capitalism a tiny minority get rich off the backs of working class people.

Apologists for the status quo claim that all this wealth is a reward for capitalists’ “hard work” and “business acumen”.


But Marx showed that bosses make profit by exploiting workers, who create the value that profits are based on.

Capitalism is driven forward by competition between firms. If bosses don’t try to squeeze more out of workers, they could go bust.

Everything is subsumed to this logic of competition. It cannot be tamed to meet the needs of ordinary people.

So while climate change will affect capitalists, the drive for more profits takes precedence.

Just last week financial magazine Bloomberg boasted that Norway was leading oil exploration in the Arctic.

Donald Trump also wants to sink new wells in the Arctic—and this is only possible because the ice caps are melting due to climate change.

But for Marx workers aren’t just victims of this horror show. Bosses can only make profits through exploiting workers.

That means we can put the brakes on the train before it carries us all into the abyss.

Marxists emphasise workers’ self-activity, whether that’s strikes, protests or demonstrations because through struggle people can get rid of injustice and oppression.

They can build a socialist society based on liberation.

Nobody should be defensive about being a Marxist. It means you want to understand society—and change it.

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