Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Why write an article on the anniversary of The Communist Manifesto when the article has nothing to do with... The Communist Manifesto but instead just recaps the standard arguments you can find in all quarters of society about the rich and the poor and that have been kicking around since the days of the Bible? After all, Marx himself once explained to a friend that what made him (Marx) different from other critics of capitalism was not that he had discovered the classes and the gross injustice and misery that system creates. Rather, what Marx prided himself on was his discovery that every society had specific historical roots and end; that capitalism would also have an end; and that the end would be the beginning of a better form of society that would eventually abolish classes and all the other contradictions of society.

In other words, what was distinctive about Marx's work was his scientific understanding of social transformation and his humanistic optimism based in the unlimited potential of humanity.

That's a far cry from the stuff we're getting in this article (the over-consumption argument, also anathema to Marx, sounds pretty "right-wing" to me). Ironically, it is precisely in an age when Marx's revolutionary relevance seems hard to detect that many commentators love to drag him out as a down-in-the-mouth doom-monger. It wasn't the misery of capitalism that interested Marx; nor did he discover it. What he was interested in was the productive potential it released and the groundwork it laid for a revolutionary abolition of capitalist society.

The point about the current crisis isn't so much that there was some deadly marriage of needy over-spenders and greedy lenders. It's that Western capitalism is unable (not simply unwilling) to invest the great wash of capital productively. The current bubble that burst happens to have come in a very delicate industry. But despite the lessons that will supposedly be learnt, there will inevitably be another bubble to replace this one, just as the housing/credit bubble replaced the dot.com bubble. Who knows? Astute investors may already be identifying the next big investment thing as the rest of us worry about our savings and jobs.

John Makkormak

Athens, GA

Oct 2 2008 - 7:16am

Web Letter

Thank God for Ms. Ehrenreich. In her always poignant takes on Society-at-Present in whatever traums it's passing through at the time, her wisdom, compassion & "Spirit-Grit" (for lack of a better word) come shining through as a kind of beacon. I know in her often sober essays I can feel renewed despite the in-your-face darkness she oft-describes, making diving back into the such-as-it-is maya we all seem to find ourselves in that much easier. Maybe the "alternative" coming in to save us from this "creepy capitalism" isn't as far away as she at one point despairs in this piece; who knows, maybe just when it seems darkest, the light shall shine brightest. Thanks again.

Napoleon Blake

San Diego, CA

Oct 1 2008 - 5:05pm

Web Letter

It is rather coincidental that the free market in this country seems to be having its toughest days on this so-called "anniversary," although libs should not get all giddy & fuzzy and warm and lose perspective. That over-zealous and greedy individuals, who, unlike their fathers who wanted it all, instead want it now and manipulated the system to get it should not be construed as an indictment of the system.

And as for this "anniversary" Ms. Ehrenreich actually remembers:

Time to blow out the candles on that cake.

Charles Thornton

Reisterstown, MD

Oct 1 2008 - 4:28pm

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