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Home | 2018

5 May 1818: Marxmas

Posted by Mad Mitch on UTC 2018-05-02 06:03. Updated on UTC 2018-05-05

Karl Marx was born on 5 May 1818, 200 years ago today, and died 64 years old in 1883. His entire life fell in a period of alternating repression and revolution in continental Europe.

In 1841 the 23 year-old ended his studies and became a journalist with the Rheinische Zeitung. Two years later he fled to Paris, principally to escape the pitiless German censorship system.

Two years after that he was thrown out of Paris. He went to Brussels. In 1848, the year of revolution, he was thrown out of Belgium and went back, during that brief window of revolutionary freedom, to become Editor-in-Chief of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne.

It didn't last: by 1849 the powers-that-be had recovered their grip on Europe. All the liberality that had been introduced in 1848 lasted less than a year. He was stripped of his citizenship and ended up in London, which would remain his base for the rest of his life.

He scribbled on a mountain of paper, most famously his three volume doorstop Das Kapital, the final two volumes of which appeared posthumously.

Let's commemorate this major anniversary with just a few observations concerning Marx's relevance to the present day – there are still a lot of his followers around. On the occasion of this major anniversary, we can expect a lot of 're-evaluations' of his legacy.

Marx as Messiah

A writer on the Zurich Tages-Anzeiger recently asserted that Marx now occupied a similar cultural role to Jesus Christ. Well, that's the sort of smart-ass comment we expect from our cultural panjandrums, but it nevertheless has its attractions.

Firstly, they both have disciples. Jesus – as far as we know – didn't scribble, he left that to his disciples and apostles etc. In contrast, Marx scribbled like fury, but his many disciples and followers scribbled madly, too. It is unlikely that a single human mind can comprehend the totality of Christian writings, ditto Marxist writings.

Jesus has his passionate followers who regard Christian scripture as quotable truth of such self-evident correctness that they expect it to shut down any other opinion. Because Jesus (allegedly) said it, it must be true. Ditto Marx.

Jesus also has his passionate opponents who regard Christian scripture as the higher nonsense and who find it difficult to accept that anyone might find it even worthy of discussion. Ditto Marx. There are people who will dismiss you as a cultist troll should you suggest that anything at all in Marx's work is worth consideration.

Both Christianity and Marxism are millenarial doctrines, that is, they both look forward to some endtime as the resolution of all the imperfections of the present world. In both doctrines, the achievement of this state is reserved for the true believers.

Having famously described religion as the 'opium of the people', we are not surprised to find Marx and Engels modelling their own opiate on the practices of religion. In 1847, the year before Marx drew up the Communist Manifesto, Engels even published a 'catechism' based on Luther's question and answer model from the time of the beginning of the Reformation (1529).

We can state with some confidence that had Luther's responses to his doctrinal questions been as long and windy as Engel's, the catechism would never have caught on as an exercise in religious rote learning. For example, Engel's response to the question 'How did the proletariat arise?' – that vexed question! – weighs in at 507 words in the German version, more than six times the number of words in this paragraph. You need a good memory to be a Marxist.

Unsurprisingly, Engel's catechism didn't catch on in the religion of Marxism: it was superseded by Marx's Manifesto almost immediately.

Marx as social scientist

At the beginning of this year we praised Marx for one particular insight, his innovative 'Base-Superstructure' theory. He never got much further with it, though. Had he done so the results might have been interesting, since the theory is applicable to all knowledge and thus Marxism itself. How would the old Hegelian have coped with such an example of the reflexive self-definitions that lie at the heart of Kurt Gödel's modern work on recursive functions? We suspect he wouldn't have noticed – he was too interested in changing the world.

There are those who highlight Marx's general contributions to sociology and his empirical/historical procedures. However, most of Marx's weighty 'empirical' wanderings are not really there to lead to new ideas, but rather to reinforce the ideas he already had. His main contribution to the field of social science is to have kept a lot of its practitioners in employment down the years. Few crumbs of the bread he put on their tables reached the hungry proletarians, though.

Marx as libertarian

There are a few who say Marx was a proponent of personal liberty and free speech. The cultural panjandrum at the Tages-Anzeiger was also one of these. Given that Marx was someone who spent his adult life in flight, suffering persecution and in exile, you might be tempted to think this reasonable. There are some who even talk of 'libertarian Marxism', but attributing such a belief to him seems rather odd – he is, after all, the man whose name was written on the banners of some of the most awful totalitarian, repressive, genocidal despots in the history of the world. 'Libertarian Marxism' must surely be one of the great oxymorons of our time.

In the 19th century no thinker resolved the problem of the individual and the state. Kant was the philosopher who told us that Sapere aude!, 'dare to think [for yourself]', was the 'battle-cry of the Enlightenment'. But he also added that we should obey unconditionally the prince, in his case his patron and meal-ticket, Frederick the Great.

Stand up those who associate personal liberty and freedom of expression with Prussian government… Thought so.

In regard to personal freedom Marx made the same mistake that Rousseau made almost exactly a century before him: both believed that their own insights and reasoning were so obviously correct that thinking people would of necessity agree with them. However, Marx and Rousseau thought in different directions: Marx became focused on the masses not the individuals, Rousseau extrapolated from individuals to the masses. Both were wrong.

Neither of them had a plan for the dissenters and the contrarians, the people who just thought otherwise: Rousseau's disciples did it with the guillotine during the French Revolution, calling it the 'General Will'; Marx's disciples with bullets, bombs, starvation and… whatever else came to hand, calling it 'Ideology'.

The sensibilities of both of these paragons of 'freedom' were too delicate to allow them to discuss in concrete detail the means by which their dreams would be realised. But we can say with confidence that, no, Karl Marx was not an exponent of individual liberty.

Marx as democrat

There are also those who call him a democrat. Well he used the word democracy, but in his usage the word does not mean the messy and absurd procedures we know as democracy: the zig-zags, the two steps forward and one step back, the obeisance to the mystical magic of majorities, the 'least worst' form of government. All these characteristics of democracy were incomprehensible to Rousseau, Marx, Stalin and that other communist, Hitler, as they are to all those who wish to forge the world into some image they have in their heads. We'll hear more of what he thought of democracy in a moment.

The twentieth century was the century of Marx's disciples, who wrecked his reputation as a democrat as surely as the Inquisition wrecked the reputation of the Catholic Church.

The Communist Manifesto

The best way to get a flavour of the birthday boy's ideas is to read a bit of the Communist Manifesto. This was first printed in Britain 170 years ago in February 1848, a date that allows us to enjoy the satisfaction of two anniversaries in one.

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The now legendary 'green book': the first edition of the Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei : veröffentlicht im Februar 1848, Communist Party Manifesto : Published in London in February 1848. All images of this source: MDZ. Hereinafter [CM p.]

We can leave the Hegelian nonsense aside and the class theories and all the other boring rubbish. Instead we shall concentrate on a relatively brief passage at the core of the work. Marx never retracted any of this, only extended it.

Anyone who had read Hitler's Mein Kampf before the National Socialist seizure of power in 1933 knew exactly what Germany and the West were going to be in for. The book was programmatic in almost the tiniest detail. The surprise is that anyone was surprised by what happened in Germany. Churchill read it in translation sometime in the early 1930s and, fortunately for the Western World, took it seriously.

Anyone who reads the following passages in Marx's Communist Manifesto knows exactly what will happen whenever and wherever Communists take control. Anyone who calls themselves a Marxist has signed up to this text and its ramifications.

The following excerpts are my translations from Marx's original German in the 1848 edition. The standard English translation was done in London in 1888, after Marx's death, by Samuel Moore under the supervision of Engels. It has numerous important deficiencies. I have also provided some commentary on the text to develop the full implications of the words that are flowing from Marx's pen. Here goes:

We saw above that the first step in the workers' revolution is the elevation of the proletariat to be the ruling class, thus winning the battle for democracy.

Wir sahen schon oben, daß der erste Schritt in der Arbeiter-Revolution die Erhebung des Proletariats zur herrschenden Klasse, die Erkämpfung der Demokratie ist. [CM p. 15.]

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Thus, as far as Marx is concerned and as far as we can parse this tortured syntax, 'the elevation of the proletariat to the ruling class' is the same as 'winning the battle for democracy'. Marx's conception of the latter is therefore not democracy as we would understand it – that is, 'one person, one vote'. His democracy is equivalent to the rule of the working class. The other classes – insofar as they may still exist after the workers' revolution – apparently don't get a vote.

We have to be fair to the old monster: the idea of universal suffrage was unknown to him. He was writing at a time when representative power, where it existed at all, was restricted to property ownership and/or feudal status. His idea of attaining democracy was to flip political power from the feudal estates and the property owning bourgeoisie to the proletariat (the enlightened workers). It is important therefore that we should not confuse Marx's democracy with the modern understanding of democracy as universal suffrage, an understanding that took modern states another century to attain.

Moderns should also be clear that the Marxist 'proletariat' was a very technical concept that should not simply be equated with the poor or the oppressed. Marx and Engels had the utmost contempt for these people – the widows, the orphans, the diseased, the injured, the war-cripples, the vagabonds, the mentally incapacitated – and no heart at all for their sufferings and miserable lives. They were not part of the productive process and were thus irrelevant. In the workers' paradise there was no place for them.

Engels coined the term Lumpenproletariat for these politically meaningless unfortunates, a term of awful, insulting contempt. Der Lumpen refers to a grubby, old, worthless rag, the sort of thing that would be used without a second thought to wipe up dirt, the sort of thing a mechanic carries in his overalls. In English we used to have the word 'shoddy' for such third-rate material.

Lumpen in Lumpenproletariat applies not just to the threadbare rags that the unfortunates wear, it applies to the people wearing them: worthless things that can be used and discarded without a thought. They might be occasionally useful to start a riot, but Marxist theory feels no duty of care at all to the people whom we today ironically hold to be those most in need of help.

Fortunately, since the 19th century the Christian Socialist movement has offered a kinder and much more humane view of the lot of the poor. It has taken root in civilised countries and offered a counter-ideology to that of the Marxists, who drove and who still drive some countries mad with their heartless, grim-faced, blood-spattered nonsense.

Marx here leaves the process by which the proletariat will be elevated to become the ruling class unspecified. We suspect there will be much bloodshed associated with this process, since the bourgeoisie is unlikely to accept its dissolution quietly. Once the proletariat is in the ascendancy, here are the next steps:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest bit by bit all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all the means of production in the hands of the state, that is, in the hands of the proletariat as the ruling class and to multiply the quantity of the forces of production as rapidly as possible.

Das Proletariat wird seine politische Herrschaft dazu benutzen der Bourgeoisie nach und nach alles Kapital zu entreißen, alle Produktions-Instrumente in den Händen des Staats, d. h. des als herrschende Klasse organisirten Proletariats zu centralisiren und die Masse der Produktionskräfte möglichst rasch zu vermehren. [CM p. 16.]

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The alert reader is already wondering just what form this 'wresting' will take. As we have already noted, the bourgeoisie will object to the confiscation and nationalisation of all their capital, factories and workshops. We might suspect that guns, bayonets, nooses and guillotines may be involved in this stage, too. We are not wrong:

Of course at the beginning this can only happen through despotic encroachments on property rights and the relations of bourgeois production, that is, by means of directives which appear economically insufficient and untenable but which, in the course of the movement, overreach themselves but are unavoidable as the means of overturning the entire mode of production.

Es kann dies natürlich zunächst nur geschehen vermittelst despotischer Eingriffe in das Eigentumsrecht und in die bürgerlichen Produktions-Verhältnisse, durch Maaßregeln also, die ökonomisch unzureichend und unhaltbar erscheinen, die aber im Lauf der Bewegung über sich selbst hinaustreiben und als Mittel zur Umwälzung der ganzen Produktionsweise unvermeidlich sind. [CM p. 16.]

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This paragraph is as obscure in German as it is in English. These elongated sentences are classic examples of someone skirting around the unsayable when in their hearts they know exactly what they are saying.

After much pondering and the consumption of an unhealthy quantity of strong coffee we can extract three essential points.

Firstly, that the 'wresting' will indeed be carried out by 'despotic encroachments' on rights, that is with force that will violate legal rights. If you don't like it – tough – just keep your hands where we can see them.

'Despotic encroachments' is a polite phrase for forced expropriation: the bourgeoisie will be turned into penniless beggars at gunpoint if necessary and all their money, goods and property will be confiscated. Only 'of course, in the beginning'. After the beginning, all their property will be in the hands of the state and there will be no more bourgeoisie left to rob or execute.

Secondly, that the end justifies the means: the measures taken may 'overreach themselves' but if they are necessary to reach the goal of the communist paradise to come then so be it. If the bloodthirsty mob gets over-enthusiastic – well, stuff happens. As Stalin might put it: if you need to starve a few million peasants to death for your purpose, that's justified in the long run.

Thirdly, that phrase 'of course at the beginning' means that the process will continue until all the property of the bourgoisie will finally end up in the hands of the state and there will be no more of the bourgoisie left to rob or execute.

The ten action points

We don't really need to read any further in the Communist Manifesto to understand what happens when Marxists take control, but for the avoidance of all doubt by those who still think that Marx was misunderstood or that Marxism has not been given 'a proper chance', let's read on through the ten-point catalogue of the concrete measures Marx had in mind to build his new Jerusalem:

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1 Expropriation of all privately owned land and property and the use of all property income for state spending.

1. Expropriation des Grundeigenthums und Verwendung der Grundrente zu Staatsausgaben.

Best not to object too loudly when they come for your house, your farm or your collection of Harry Potter first editions.

2 Steeply progressive taxes.

2. Starke Progressiv-Steuer.

A progressive tax increases as a percentage of income as the amount of taxable income increases. This is the kind of tax that in its most extreme form culminates in values such as 98%. Apart from an increasing percentage, there is nothing 'progressive' about it at all. Presumably this measure will catch up with anyone left over after all their belongings have been taken away under item 1.

3 The abolition of all inheritance rights.

3. Abschaffung des Erbrechts.

Anyone who has anything left over after the application of items 1 and 2 won't be able to leave it to their children. Anything that has been inherited will be taken away.

4 Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

4. Konfiskation des Eigenthums aller Emigranten und Rebellen.

A similar measure did good service for the National Socialists. Anyone who left Germany after the seizure of power by the Nazis could take nothing with them and troublemakers had their savings and property confiscated as a matter of course.

5 Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

5. Centralisation des Kredits in den Händen des Staats durch eine Nationalbank mit Staatskapital und ausschließlichem Monopol.

Bring credit under your exclusive control and you control most aspects of economic life. This was one of the first measures the National Socialists took after their seizure of power in Germany in 1933.

6 Centralisation of the transport system in the hands of the State.

6. Centralisation alles Transportwesens in den Händen des Staats.

The nationalisation of the rail network has always been part of the communist catalogue of measures.

7 Increase in the number of state factories and instruments of production, cultivation of unused land, and the improvement of rural estates in accordance with a common plan.

7. Vermehrung der Nationalfabriken, Produktions-Instrumente, Urbarmachung und Verbesserung der Ländereien nach einem gemeinschaftlichen Plan.

8 Everyone should be forced to work. The creation of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

8. Gleicher Arbeitszwang für alle, Errichtung industrieller Armeen, besonders für den Ackerbau.

One of the paradoxes of Marxism is the favour in which it is frequently held by intellectuals, despite its anti-intellectual tenor. Mao sent out his intellectuals and academics to work in the fields, Stalin kept his intellectuals only in so far as they were useful to the progress of his economic plan, Hitler only tolerated academic disciplines that were useful. What we might call humanistic disciplines were anathema to them all, because such disciplines necessarily step outside doctrinal orthodoxy.

The idea is tempting, though, given some of the inadequates currently reclining in the groves of academe. We need to think about that one, perhaps.

9 The unification of agriculture and manufacturing industries, working towards the gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country.

9. Vereinigung des Betriebs von Ackerbau und Industrie, Hinwirken auf die allmählige Beseitigung des Gegensatzes von Stadt und Land.

This initially puzzling statement was Marx's response to the depopulation of the countryside as workers moved to the new towns and their factories. The original English translation adds a statement that is not in the original German, possibly at the prompting of Engels himself: '… by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country'. [Lexical note: in the 19th century 'equable' still had its original meaning of 'equitable' or 'balanced'.] Ultimately therefore, once again, force and state violence would be employed to ensure that people lived where they were supposed to live.

10 Public and free education for all children. Abolition of factory labour for children in its present form. Unification of education with industrial production etc. etc.

10. Oeffentliche und unentgeldliche Erziehung aller Kinder. Beseitigung der Fabrikarbeit der Kinder in ihrer heutigen Form. Vereinigung der Erziehung mit der materiellen Produktion u.s.w., u.s.w.

The economists are puzzling how anything can be 'free'. 'Paid for by the state' is surely the more accurate formulation. Marx's abolition of child labour is of course welcome, but 'in its present form' leaves us wondering in what other form there is that will continue. Heaven knows what will happen during 'etc', when presumably people will only need to learn enough to go and work down the mine.

Marx closes this section with a vision of the endtime, the glorious workers' paradise that will come to pass at the end of the blood-soaked road to democracy:

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Once class distinctions have disappeared and all production has been concentrated in the hands of the associated individuals, public power will lose its political character.

Sind im Laufe der Entwicklung die Klassenunterschiede verschwunden, und ist alle Produktion in den Händen der associrten Individuen koncentriert, so verliert die öffentliche Gewalt den politischen Charakter. [CM p. 16.]

Political power in its correct sense is merely the organised power of one class for the oppression of another. If the proletariat during its struggle with the bourgeoisie is compelled to organise itself as a class and to make itself by a revolution into the ruling class and then as the ruling class to eliminate by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

Die politische Gewalt im eigentlichen Sinn ist die organisirte Gewalt einer Klasse zur Unterdrückung einer andern. Wenn das Proletariat im Kampfe gegen die Bourgeoisie sich notwendig zur Klasse vereint, durch eine Revolution sich zur herrschenden Klasse macht, und als herrschende Klasse gewaltsam die alten Produktions-Verhältnisse aufhebt, so hebt es mit diesen Produktions-Verhältnissen die Existenz-Bedingungen des Klassengegensatze der Klassen überhaupt, und damit seine eigene Herrschaft als Klasse auf. [CM p. 16.]

Once again a long, winding sentence full of tricky words. Cutting the long story short: when all the other classes have been liquidated there will be an end to class war. The one-time proletarian class will then become an 'association' of people:

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class differences, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

An die Stelle der alten bürgerlichen Gesellschaft mit ihren Klassen und Klassen-Gegensätzen tritt eine Association, worin die freie Entwicklung eines Jeden, die Bedingung für die freie Entwicklung Aller ist. [CM p. 16.]

So after so much despotism we have finally got to the democracy bit, the endtime and the best of all possible worlds. In Marxist theory, democracy is called an 'association'. It is a proletarian association of the uniform, not an association of the diverse or of the individual. We are left wondering how the 'free development of each' is going to happen in the workers' paradise.

By their deeds shall ye know them – and by their words, too. In the case of Marx and Marxism and all its manifold tumours – Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism – we have plenty of both. One hundred and seventy years after the first appearance of the Communist Manifesto it is surely time to stop treating these -isms as intellectually respectable.

Update 05.05.2018

As expected, the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth brought out the Marx haters and the Marx apologists. René Scheu, in his piece in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung 'In praise of Marx' joined the apologist camp – surprising, since Scheu has the reputation of being a 'classical liberal' (in the old sense of the word).

He starts by distancing Marx and the Communist Manifesto from all the psychopaths who declare themselves to be acting in his name:

The 'popular-polemical' – or in today's terminology the populist – pamphlet, that is still readable after 170 years, has without doubt caused massive damage – those who since then, invoking Marx, have triggered a revolution somewhere in the world have gone into the history books as dictators and mass murderers.

Die populär-polemische – oder in heutiger Diktion: die populistische – Schrift, die sich auch nach 170 Jahren noch flüssig liest, hat zweifellos massiven Schaden angerichtet – jene, die seither unter Berufung auf Marx irgendwo auf der Welt eine Revolution anzettelten, sind als Diktatoren und Massenmörder in die Geschichtsbücher eingegangen.

So far, so good. If we let the 'still readable' characterisation of the Communist Manifesto slide (of course it's 'readable', but whether it is worth reading is the question), Scheu should have stopped here. But he has an article to write to a deadline and so out comes the old saw:

Marx himself was distant from the practicalities, he was a worker in the service of philosophical theory.

Marx selbst hingegen lag die Praxis fern, er war ein Arbeiter im Dienste der philosophischen Theorie.

We saw in our analysis that, although Marx may not directly have blood on his hands, even the most detached 'worker in the service of philosophical theory' would have to pause at sometime to consider the 'despotic' means that were to be used to achieve the Communist society for which he so longed.

For example, writing daintily of the 'seizure of the property of the bourgoisie' does not exculpate Marx from the deeds of those who acted in his name. The were just doing what he told them to do, just filling in the practical details.

Nor was Marx a retiring, pure-minded philosopher, but saw himself at the coalface of the class struggle. His writings are not detached ponderings but hard propaganda in the cause of the proletarian revolution.

Once Scheu has – in his mind at least – disinfected Marx of the practical deeds of his followers, he picks some of the measures that later became part of socialism ('soft Communism') out of the list of the ten measures in the Communist Manifesto that we reviewed. We are all 'semi-Marxists' now, he concludes:

The ten 'measures' for the 'most advanced countries' that the Communist Manifesto listed read today like a social democratic programme to which many soft-centrist politicians would agree without reservation. Steeply progressive taxes, the money monopoly of a national bank, the centralisation of the transport system, a national industrial policy, state ownership of farming and free education of all children have been part of the achievements of advanced welfare states – to be clear: six of the ten points have already been fulfilled. Without noticing it, we are living today in a state of semi-Marxism.

Die zehn «Massregeln» für die «fortgeschrittensten Länder», in die das «Kommunistische Manifest» mündet, lesen sich aus heutiger Sicht wie ein sozialdemokratisches Programm, dem auch viele softbürgerliche Politiker sogleich vorbehaltlos zustimmen würden. Starke Progressivsteuer, Geldmonopol der Nationalbank, Zentralisation des Transportwesens, nationale Industriepolitik, Verstaatlichung des Bauernstandes und unentgeltliche Erziehung aller Kinder gehören längst zu den Errungenschaften avancierter Wohlfahrtsstaaten – damit sind wohlgemerkt bereits sechs der zehn Punkte erfüllt. Ohne dass wir es gemerkt haben, leben wir heute also im Semimarxismus.

Scheu is using much sleight of pen here. Marx calls for state ownership of the means of production, not a 'national industrial policy'. The 'state ownership of farming' is not among the ten points under discussion.

The ten measures do not 'read today like a social democratic programme'. When we have filtered out all the Communist nonsense, we are left at the most with four, not six, points: steeply progressive taxes (2), monopoly of a national bank (5), centralisation of the transport system (6), free education for all children (10).

These four points were part of the programme of socialism, which Marx called kleinbürgerlicher Socialismus, 'bourgois socialism', against which he railed with great determination. He did this because he did not want the lot of the workers to be ameliorated, that would have imperilled the coming revolution, that would have been the minute dose of weakened socialism that immunised the state from further revolution.

It has always been a goal of Marxist revolutionaries that the lot of the peasants must always be made worse as a preliminary of and a provocation to revolution. There are still those who believe that revolutionaries in general or Communists in particular want to ease the sufferings of the underdogs – they always want to make them worse.

In contrast, Scheu is asserting that these softy measures are part of the modern advanced state, even one as 'classically liberal' as Switzerland, and for that we have to thank Karl Marx.

Well, not quite. There is indeed progressive taxation, but hardly 'steep', certainly not in Switzerland – the successful socialist parasite does not kill its host. The centralisation of transport – well, hardly, for there is a Federal Railway but there are also hundreds of private companies, too. Scheu perpetuates the verbal trick of 'free education', which is not free at all. He also neglects to note that the Swiss National Bank is a semi-private institution the shares of which are traded on the Swiss Stock Exchange.

Naturally, Scheu does not mention the other points listed by this 'worker in the service of philosophical theory' – the forced expropriation, the forced labour and so on. Scheu's article is an example of how to mislead and dissemble.

Scheu also wonders what Marx would think of modern society.

Were Marx to be resurrected, after he got over his astonishment he would ask himself: how can anyone describe the existing semi-collective system as turbo-capitalism?

Würde Marx wiederauferstehen, würde er wohl erst einmal staunen – und sich dann fragen: Wie kann man bloss auf die verrückte Idee kommen, die real existierende semikollektive Ordnung als turbokapitalistisch zu bezeichnen?

We can help him with that.

Firstly, mimicking Dickens' Christmas Carol we would take the ghost of the old monster for a tour of the world and show him what capitalism has achieved – an age in which we are living longer, healthier lives, in which life-expectancy has increased dramatically, in which no one needs to go hungry and in which the biggest worry seems to be over-eating and the perils of self-indulgence etc.

We would then take him on an historical tour and show him what Communists have done to achieve his ten points: the misery, the starvation and the massacre they have brought about. We would then happily accompany him back to his grave in Highgate Cemetery in London – still decorated with wreaths and flowers – where we would drive a stake through his corpse in the hope of preventing further walkabouts.

Secondly we would sit down with Scheu and urge him to read word for word what Marx, this 'worker in the service of philosophical theory' actually wrote in the Communist Manifesto. The work, Scheu told us, was still 'readable' – well, perhaps, but you just need to read it.