What do you mean, 'Marxists'?

A continuing source of amazement is the depiction of the left and its social justice warriors as "Marxists."

However wrongheaded in theory and tragic in practice, Marxism placed great emphasis on work.  Indeed, its basis is that value is created by the working class, the proletariat, and is expropriated by others.

Marx himself held in contempt the lumpenproletariat, which he described in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1851):

On the pretext of founding a benevolent society, the lumpen proletariat of Paris had been organized into secret sections, each section led by Bonapartist agents, with a Bonapartist general at the head of the whole. Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars – in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème; from this kindred element Bonaparte formed ... a "benevolent society" – insofar as, like Bonaparte, all its members felt the need of benefiting themselves at the expense of the laboring nation.

Marx's major point was that Louis Napoleon used this lumpenproletariat, allied with the finance aristocracy (which Marx also regarded as outside the productive system, rich parasites), as his power base to make himself Emperor.  Thus, the exploitation of the true proletariat would continue, ending only when these forces were overthrown in the final revolution and the proletariat triumphed.

The description of the lumpenproletariat might be applied to the Antifa mobs that are so ignorant of history that they vandalize a statue of Joan of Arc in New Orleans, apparently thinking she was a Confederate general.  I especially like the "ruined ... offshoots of the bourgeoisie," a fair description of ill educated pajama boys and girls (and all other genders).  The description misses out on the professoriate and the media, who are more important now than when Marx wrote, but I suppose "swindlers," "mountebanks," and "maquereaux" cover that ground.

And while the left sometimes talks an anti-banker game, the U.S. financial industry is solidly on the side of government favoritism and crony capitalism, and the last thing it wants is to drain the D.C. swamp.  Marx had their number in 1851.

I will take correction from true Marxist scholars, but all this leads to the conclusion that were Marx writing today, he would be describing the Trump movement as an expression of anger by the working-class proletariat, a rebellion against the parasite classes, "all of [whose] members felt the need of benefitting themselves at the expense of the laboring nation."

He would not be supporting the social justice warriors, whose contempt for hard work and those who perform it is palpable.  They have borrowed the concept of "political correctness" from the communist activists who succeeded Marx, but they have turned it inside-out, making it into an instrument for suppressing the working class rather than supporting it.

As a guide to political action, Marxism led to great tragedy, but Marx had some interesting insights into political and economic relationships, and one can learn.  As with the monuments to the Confederacy, one should take the gold and leave the dross, and should not allow him to be hijacked by the parasites.  It is not clear what philosophy the cultural left embraces, but it is not Marxism.

James V. DeLong lives in Shenandoah County, Va.

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