In 1845, Karl Marx jotted down some notes for The German Ideology, a book that he wrote with his close friend Friedrich Engels. Engels found these notes in 1888, five years after Marx’s death, and published them under the title Theses on Feuerbach. The eleventh thesis is the most famous: ‘philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it’. For the past five years, we, at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, have considered this thesis with great care. The most widely accepted interpretation of this thesis is that, in it, Marx urges people not only to interpret the world, but also to try and change it. However, we do not believe that this captures the meaning of the sentence.
Simple logic tells us that those atop a societal hierarchy will provide rewards for professionals—be they clergy or psychiatrists—who promote an ideology that maintains the status quo, and that the ruling class will do everything possible to manipulate the public to believe that the social-economic-political status quo is natural. If a population believes that its financial and emotional suffering are caused not by social-economic-political variables but instead by individual defects—be it noncompliance with religious dogma or faulty biochemistry—this “individual-defect” belief system can be a more powerful and less expensive way of maintaining the status quo than a heavily armed police force. That organized religion has a great deal in common with organized psychiatry would be apparent to both Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), two of history’s most famous critics of the political implications of organized religion.
Marx himself said and wrote little about the future beyond capitalism. He didn’t believe in future-gazing; no one could know how the world would evolve. Marx gave us some ideas of what might have to happen if we were going to get beyond capitalism. But he offered no blueprints or road maps. Later Marxists did not always share these hesitations, especially after Marxists came to play leading roles in what they called “socialist” societies. Marx never suggested, contrary to what so many have said, that the state — the government — had to play some sort of ongoing, central role in what this future post-capitalist world would look like.
May 5 marks 200 years since the birth of philosopher turned economist and organizer Karl Marx. Today, the concepts he developed to explain how the capitalist production works are still useful tools for interpreting – and, as Marx would have wanted – transforming our world. His work is a living testament to how we understand the world around us, the social and economic arrangements that shape our lives and organizing to reverse oppression, inequality and – ultimately – human misery and unhappiness. The utopian idea embodied in Marx's criticism and proposals continues to inspire workers, intellectuals and social movements across the world. "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles," the manifesto declares. We see it today, from anti-austerity social organization and protest in Argentina and Puerto Rico to struggles for land redistribution in India. Urban and rural workers, feminists, environmentalists, students and Indigenous nations continue to nourish the 'movement against the existing social and political order of things,' which so motivated 1,800 communists in Europe.
By Richard Moser for Be Freedom - To organize millions, the revolution has to create, not destroy. Truly massive movements take shape around affirmations of goodness most powerfully represented by the promise of universal values. Our task is to fulfill this promise, recognizing that we doom our efforts to win people’s support and allegiance if we too often rely solely on criticism, resistance, and opposition. It is far, far better thing that we be authors of a new world rather than critics of the old one.
By Ronnie Kasrils for Daily Maverick - Karl Marx, who developed the philosophy of dialectical and historical materialism, scientific and political economy, the founder of scientific socialism and communism, and teacher and leader of the international working class for whom he created a new, purposeful world outlook, was born at Trier, in the Prussian Rhineland, on May 5, 1818. One must include Frederick Engels (1820-1895), his closest friend and collaborator, born in Germany two years later. It was some 50 years before Germany became a unified state.