Who Is Karl Marx: Meet the Anti-Capitalist Scholar


You might have come throughout communist memes on social media. The person, the meme, the legend behind this pattern is Karl Marx, who developed the speculation of communism, which advocates for employees’ management over their labor (as an alternative of their bosses). The political thinker turned 200-years-old on Might 5, however his concepts can nonetheless train us concerning the previous and current.

The famed German co-authored The Communist Manifesto with fellow scholar Friedrich Engels in 1848, an article that makes the case for the political principle of socialism — the place the group (somewhat than wealthy individuals) have possession and management over their labor — which later impressed thousands and thousands of individuals to withstand oppressive political leaders and spark political revolutions everywhere in the world. Though Marx was raised in a middle-class household, he later grew to become a scholar who struggled to make ends meet — a working-class man, he thought, who may participate in a political revolution.

The Communist Manifesto is most normally the work of Marx taught in faculties, and he’s one of the most assigned economists in United States college classes. Many might not know that he additionally studied law in college. He authored three volumes of Das Kapital, which outlined the basics of Marxist principle of capitalism and in addition organized workers via the Worldwide Working Males’s Affiliation, in any other case often called the First International. He was an editor of a newspaper that was ultimately censored by the Prussian government for talking out towards censorship and difficult the federal government. His writings have impressed social actions in Soviet Russia, China, Cuba, Argentina, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and extra. Many political writers and artists like Angela Davis, Frida Kahlo, Malcolm X, Claudia Jones, Helen Keller, and Walter Rodney built-in Marxist principle into their work many years after his loss of life.

So how can teenagers study the legacy of Marx’s concepts and the way they’re related to the present political local weather? Teen Vogue chatted with two educators about how they apply these ideas to present occasions within the classroom.

Public highschool trainer Mark Brunt teaches excerpts from The Communist Manifesto alongside curriculum concerning the industrial revolution in his English class. He makes use of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair — a textual content printed in 1906 that revealved the exploitative workplace conditions of the meat trade in Chicago and different industrialized cities many immigrants have been topic to within the late 19th century — to grasp what it was wish to work in a manufacturing facility slightly greater than 100 years in the past.

Brunt talks about how these manufacturing facility employees did the entire leg work — together with slaughtering animals and packaging meat on prime of working lengthy days with little, if any, time off — to maintain the factories intact, but had little or no management over their work, together with their working circumstances, in comparison with the profiteering manufacturing facility house owners.

“I do a little role-playing with [my class],” Brunt tells Teen Vogue. “[I tell them,] I’m the boss, you’re my workers, and you want to try to take me down. I have the money. I own the factory. I control the police. I control the military. I control the government. What do you guys have?”

His college students normally blink at him, he says, completely clueless. He insists they really have one thing large, that he, because the boss, won’t ever have: “It’s always just one student, whose hand shoots up and goes, ‘We outnumber you!’” Brunt says.

He then introduces Marx’s distinction between the proletariat — the working class as a complete — and bourgeoisie — the ruling class who controls the employees and income from their labor. The stress between the proletariat and bourgeoisie make up the category battle, or class wrestle, he explains.

Though ongoing trainer strikes aren’t essentially Marxist actions, right now we will see nonetheless see these tensions between lessons at play within the Untied States, between state governments and hanging academics in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona, demanding increased pay and extra public faculty funding.

Nevertheless, in a Marxist revolution, the proletariat will come collectively to overthrow the bourgeoisie and finally, win the class conflict by taking control over their work, or hanging. And if such a revolution occured in Brunt’s classroom, his college students would overthrow him as a trainer — and the principal, the superintendent, and so forth.

In his superior class, Brunt additionally introduces the thought of false consciousness, which is defined as the numerous methods the working class is mislead to imagine sure ideologies — like the assumption that the boss ought to all the time be in cost, it doesn’t matter what.

“False consciousness is when you think that the social conditions are different than they actually are,” he says. “You’re tricked into pondering your allies are completely different and your enemies are completely different than they really are.”

Former Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher makes use of Marx to show historical past via an emotional, fluid, and ever-changing lens. He challenges his college students to ascertain a society with out capitalism, reminding them that completely different — although nonetheless imperfect and flawed — financial methods existed earlier than, akin to feudalism.

“When I teach Marx, it’s got a lot to do with questions of how to think critically about history. Marx says we live under capitalism [but] capitalism has not always existed,” Ciccariello-Maher tells Teen Vogue. “It’s something that came into being and something that, as a result, just on a logical level, could disappear, could be overthrown, could be abolished, could be irrelevant. There’s this myth of the free market, but Marx shows very clearly that capitalism emerged through a state of violence.”

Some examples of violence that aided within the institution of capitalism in america embody stealing the land of Indigenous people and trafficking Africans via slavery.

We’re oftentimes taught that historical past strikes slowly, however many Marxists disagree with that notion, and imagine that that the present socioeconomic system is precarious and may be overthrown at any time.

“Dialectics means that the history moves forward not slowly or gradually or bit by bit, but it moves forward through the sort of crushing blows of struggles between generally two opposing ideas or groups or concepts or people,” Ciccariello-Maher says.

When you might not essentially establish as a Marxist, socialist, or communist, you possibly can nonetheless use Karl Marx’s concepts to make use of historical past and sophistication struggles to higher perceive how the present sociopolitical local weather in America got here to be. As an alternative of taking a look at President Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016 as a snapshot, we will flip to the larger image of what earlier occasions lead us as much as the present second.