Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; hayan na hayan na, hindi mo pa makita.
…all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid is the opium of the masses; religion melts into air…
We philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; we have nothing to lose but our chains…
There is a kind of frenzy I wish to ascribe in Marx’s 200th birthday. Perhaps dewy-eyed, I wish Marx’s spirit and Marxist impertinence continue to sweep a world alive with sleeping. Even for at least a weekend, Marx was garnering attention, selling like cats and dogs, raining hotcakes. It was his 200th birthday after all last May 5 and while everyone brought out their share of candles, no one remembered to make a cake. Which is fine after all: with some Control F magic, I found out that of the basic denotations of taste, only “bitter” appears in The Communist Manifesto (“sweet,” “sour,” salty,” even “spicy” and tasty” are all absent): “The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.” Marx wrote this in relation to the increasingly machinic “Modern Industry” where workers are “organized like soldiers.”
As The Charnel House opened their Marx@200 post, “Over the last few weeks, major bourgeois news outlets have congratulated Marx for ‘being right’ about capitalism.” Of the sites The Charnel House cited, only Guardian took my minutes. Aside from Martin Rowson’s piece detailing his work on turning The Communist Manifesto into a graphic novel, there was Stuart Jeffries prodding me to think about the meaning of Marx today. Notable is how Jeffries illustrated the ‘accuracy’ of several of Marx’s propositions. Here and there, he quoted Marx and Engels and pick contemporary phenomena which demonstrate the point. There’s Uber and “constant revolutionizing of production;” Facebook, Amazon and Google and turning “humans into exploitable assets.” There is also commodity fetishism and how a brand new iPhone is mum about all the steps that went into its production—steps that likely include exploiting cheap labor in some poor third world land.
In my first and less careful reading, such descriptions gave me the tingles. Oh shets, my #lodi Marx was indeed indeed right, even though in a subconscious passage at the back of my head, I know I hardly doubted his general pronouncements anyway; the debates are in the details. It was just sweetly reaffirming to read someone—writing in a ‘popular’ periodical—spelling out Marx’s ‘correctness.’
Yet here comes Andrew Culp*, introducing himself in my screen, weaving words in a style that times remind me of Mark Fisher. In Dark Deleuze, He wrote about an old joke: “a communist is someone who reads Das Kapital; a capitalist is someone who reads Das Kapital and understands it.” Initially, I had a strained smirk as a response and then I sensed something odd. But the oddness lies not in the idea that I should not be laughing; to laugh at the ‘joke’ is fine, but it seems that the joke is on Marx and his subscribers (including me, most of the time). Do Jeffries’ illustrations not corroborate the old joke Culp shared? Marx’s genius truly deserves credit but can we conversely posit too that the ‘correctness’ of his ‘prophecies’ were also due to the ingenuity of the capitalists who perhaps had taken a leaf from Marx’s Manifesto and use it against Marx’s endorsements themselves?
My shuddering was, thankfully, only momentary. But I am not saying that to deflect its staggering effects: the society Marxists seek to transform is indeed complex and ingenious. Good for Marxists then, because there is ample work to do, debates to drink for, mass work to be asked, questions to be read, poetry to be pilfered, organizations to be built.
Occasionally, words from the Left side, leaving you in shudders, tasting hope’s saliva in your own tongue. Culp finds a maneuver that turns the dark on its head, so that what appears to be a pessimistic deadlock occasions the inspiring possibility of work and continuance: poverty and violence, global wars and nature’s destruction may have killed us but did not leave us dead, “making us an ‘already dead’… already ready to adopt a revolutionary orientation that sacrifices our current time and space for a new, not-yet-realize future.”
Workers of the world unite! You have been slaving in bandy clocks, train suffocation rides; tilling factory farms for 75 centavos, counting election ballots for 20 hours, pretending to be happy as you say Mam Ser, hi, preparing lesson plans at 4am, flying away from you family to earn moolah, crying in the snow… the point however is to change it.