Two hundred years ago on 5 May 1818, Karl Marx was born in the German town of Trier on the banks of the river Moselle. Serendipitously, at the start of this bicentennial year, I found myself invited to a wedding in what used to be called Karl-Marx-Stadt, since renamed Chemnitz, in the former East Germany. Communism may have formally collapsed with the downfall of the Soviet Union, yet it has not been extinguished.
The world’s most populous state and rising superpower, China, is officially communist, albeit nominally. And socialist ideas remain prevalent throughout the world. The resurgence of socialism could be seen in the Chavismo new left wave of Latin American politics (admittedly now in the process of being rolled back). In the US, self-proclaimed socialist senator Bernie Sanders could well have been as unlikely an occupant of the Oval office as Donald Trump – if the Democratic National Committee had not conspired against him.
In the UK, unapologetic socialist Jeremy Corbyn swept to the leadership of Her Majesty’s opposition, appointed Trotskyist John McDonnell as shadow chancellor (McDonnell recently told the Financial Times that their aims for Britain are socialist), pronounced socialism as no longer a dirty word to a delirious conference, before garnering 40 per cent of the vote in the general election. In France, Jean Luc Mélenchon performed respectably in the first round of the French elections, commanding nearly 20 per cent of the vote. In Greece, the left-wing Syriza government remains in power – even though its manifesto has been crushed by international finance capital. Its former finance minister and firebrand Yanis Varoufakis describes himself as a lapsed Marxist. His recent essay penned in The Guardian cites Marx’s analysis as both the key to understanding our present predicament and the way out of it.
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