Sticking up for Mr. Marx


I have just started, recently, reading The Freeman (online). I have found many of the articles there enlightening and interesting, often bringing up points that I hadn’t thought of before.

I was somewhat put off, then, when I came across this article, reposted from 2001, entitled “The Secret Hate of Hate Crimes.” It starts off about as you would expect, talking about hate crimes and how they are inconsistently applied,  etc. I was nodding thoughtfully up until he got to this point.

But if “hate crimes” laws are here to stay, they should be remedied for a larger sin of omission, for the secret hate implicit within them. If the sincere goal of such measures is to banish all forms of hate from our society, then all such laws and rules should be expanded to include crimes and expressions of economic hatred.

Economic… hatred… okay. I don’t recall any violent crimes done to people simply because they are rich, but I suppose I can agree with a bias against rich people. He talks about that in the next paragraph, and I generally agree with him. Here is the thing that I think could use some serious revision:

Closely related to hatred of “the rich” are class hatred and class warfare. In this occult Marxist notion, “the rich” are not merely individuals who happen to have acquired a certain amount of wealth. They are part of a collective ruling group that is to be overthrown and expropriated, like ruling royal families of yore, so that its wealth and power may be redistributed to the working class.

It is a crucial distinction to note that Marx did not want the rich class overthrown “like ruling royal families of yore.” Those revolutions — one only has to look to the French to see it — were bloody and violent. Marx thought that the next revolution would be bloodless. If memory serves (and my audience will have to excuse me — I do not have my Marx book on hand), Marx belived that capitalism would collapse in on itself of its own accord and the bourgeois would step up and re-create society. Marx’s communist revolution was a slow one, a bloodless one.

The author continues:

But even if shared only with the government, this wealth should be expropriated because the wealthy class uses it for its own excessive pleasure or to manipulate property, goods, prices, and sock-puppet politicians to gain more for themselves and advance their global class interests. As socialist author George Bernard Shaw observed, those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul’s support.

Whether or not he is asserting that this is what Marx said, I am not sure, but one can certainly read it that way. Marx’s ideology was not about hating on the rich and taking from them what was rightfully theirs. Firstly, Marx sought the abolition of private property, so, in his world, nothing would be rightfully anyone’s. To suggest that Marx actively wanted to “steal” from people is, I think, an interpretation that most scholars would laugh at.  Secondly, Marx decidedly did not think that a government should be in charge of redistributing wealth. Again, I apologize for not having my Marx with me from which to quote, but he explicitly states that a centralized governmental institution should not enforce or force this. It must be the voluntary will of the citizens.

It is wholly possible that the author, instead of addressing Marx and his philosophy individually, is addressing the multiple different “flavors” of Marxism that exist today. I fully recognize that. However, I think that it is a part of communist hatred (which I suppose would be consistent with his desire to rid th e world of capitalist hatred) to misrepresent Marx via the followers of Marx. It is like saying that those who killed for Christ mean that Christ himself advocated killing people. It’s an important distinction to make and one that I think communist-haters fail to do. I grant the possibility that the author could be simply addressing the potentially misguided Marxist followers. However, this quote seems to suggest otherwise:

One answer is that outlawing class hatred would banish Marxist rhetoric and teaching from campuses. Campuses where such speech codes are strictest are often ones where Marxist views are most prevalent—and where “diversity” means having faculty that includes a black Marxist, a lesbian Marxist, a Latino Marxist, and a transgender Marxist, but no professor with free-market views.

On one last note, I think the underlying premise of the article — that is, that people who are socialist or Marxist or communist are essentially suffering from class envy — is an oversimplistic and perhaps dead-wrong way to view those who have said views. I touched on this when I responded to Robert Nozick’s article expressing something similar.

As with anything, if we truly want to win against our opponents, we need to stop oversimplifying their arguments and actually argue with them. Straw Man just makes us look dumb and doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

~V.A. Luttrell (who is not a Marxist, but thinks he had lots of interesting and good ideas)