Saturday, February 14, 2009

Marxism—or just common sense?

Anybody who thinks C-SPAN is boring has never listened to the phone calls on its morning show, “Washington Journal.” It’s become an outlet for extremists on both ends of the political spectrum whose computers haven’t warmed up yet.

There’s just something about actually hearing crackpots’ voices that makes them even sillier than reading their blather in print. I’ll never forget the time I came into the show in mid-tirade and heard the following conclusion:

“It’s time for us right-wingers to forget about the ballot box and start thinking about the bullet box.” Charming, eh?

The other day, the topic was the proposed limits on executive salaries for those companies that are being bailed out by the U.S. Government. A proposal by President Obama would limit their salaries to $500,000 a year. The horror.

One caller vehemently opposed this idea, calling it “Marxism.”

I’ll bet you even money that caller has never read The Communist Manifesto, and learned everything about Marxism from Rush Limbaugh.

I certainly learned a thing or two about Marxism just from its Wikipedia entry. I had no idea there were so many different schools of Marxist thought. If it interests you, feel free to read the entry. For these purposes, I think the overview will suffice. It says that most forms of Marxism share these principles:

• an attention to the material conditions of people's lives and social relations among people
• a belief that people's consciousness of the conditions of their lives reflects these material conditions and relations
• an understanding of class in terms of differing relations of production and as a particular position within such relations
• an understanding of material conditions and social relations as historically malleable
• a view of history according to which class struggle, the evolving conflict between classes with opposing interests, structures each historical period and drives historical change
• a sympathy for the working class or proletariat
• and a belief that the ultimate interests of workers best match those of humanity in general

What does any of that have to do with asking for some accountability from some fat cats who are begging for corporate welfare? Would Marx have approved of taking money from the working class and giving it to capitalists? If anything, the bailout is as anti-Marxist as it gets. Measures such as a salary cap just give the bailout the same sort of checks and balances that is the basis for the U.S. Government.

I assume that those crying “Marxism” are not corporate executives, because they would be too busy to be jamming the lines at C-SPAN. Would they feel better if the corporations were just written a blank check?

I think we’d be better off if America were more Groucho-Marxist. But that’s a theory of another color.

No comments: