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Do you like to have free weekends? And driving on public roads or going to the library? Are you one of those people who seeks to put an end to injustice, inequality and exploitation?
In that case, May 5 may want to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, since he defended all these causes.
Most people who know a bit about the history of the twentieth century will agree that Marxist revolutionary politics has a difficult legacy.
A quick look at the consequences in the Soviet Union, Angola and Cuba could make you shout: “Marx is not for me, thank you!”.
In fact, the German thinker was wrong in many things: his predictions about the end of capitalism or the emergence of a classless society , ideas that seem unrealistic nowadays.
And that’s not to mention that his ideas have served as inspiration for drastic social experiments, often with disastrous results.
Many of his theories have ended up associated with totalitarianism, lack of freedom and mass murders, so it is not surprising that Marx continues to be a divisive figure.
But there is another facet of Marx that is more human, and some of his notions have contributed to making the world a better place.
Marx also hit on some things: a small group of people ultra rich dominates the economy Global, the capitalist system is volatile and it scares us all with their cyclical financial crises, and industrialization has changed human relations forever.
Read on and discover why the author of “Capital” is still relevant in the 21st century.
1. I wanted to send the children to school, not to work
This is an obvious proposition for many. But in 1848, when Karl Marx was writing with Federico Engels the “Communist Manifesto,” child labor was the norm.
Even today one out of every 10 children in the world is subjected to child labor, according to figures from the International Labor Organization (2016).
The fact that so many children have managed to move from the factory to the classroom has a lot to do with Marx’s work.
Linda Yueh, author of the book The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today (“The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today“), says that one of the 10 measures of the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels was education free for all children in public schools and the abolition of child labor in factories.
Marx and Engels were not the first to advocate for the rights of children, but “Marxism contributed to this debate in that period of the late nineteenth century,” Yueh adds.
2. I wanted you to have free time and that you decide how to use it
Do you like not having to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
And have a break for lunch?
Would you like to be able to retire and collect a pension in old age?
If your answer to these questions is yes, you can thank Marx.
Professor Mike Savage, of the London School of Economics, says: “When you are forced to work very early hours, your time is not yours, you stop being responsible for your own life”.
Marx wrote about how to survive in a capitalist society most people are forced to sell the only thing they have – their work – in exchange for money.
According to him, this transaction is often unequal, which can lead to exploitation and alienation : the individual may end up feeling that he has lost his humanity.
Marx wanted more for the workers: he wanted us to be independent, creative, and above all, owners of our own time.
“It basically says that we should live a life that goes beyond work, a life in which we have autonomy, in which we can decide how we want to live.” Nowadays, this is a notion that most people agree with,” says Savage.
“Marx wanted a society in which a person could ‘hunt in the morning, fish after eating, raise cattle at dusk and criticize at dinner time’, as the famous quote says. emancipation and the need to fight against alienation, “he adds.
3. Not everything revolves around money. You also need to be satisfied with your work
Your work can be a great source of joy if “you can see yourself reflected in the objects you have created”.
Employment should give us the opportunity to be creative and show all the good things about ourselves: be it our humanity, our intelligence or our abilities.
But if you have a miserable job that does not fit your sensitivity, you will end up feeling depressed and isolated.
These are not the words of the most recent Silicon Valley guru, but of a man of the nineteenth century.
In one of his first books, “Manuscripts of 1844”, Marx was one of the first thinkers that relates job satisfaction with welfare.
According to him, since we spend so much time at work we should get some happiness from our work.
Find beauty in what you have created or feel pride in what you produce will lead to the job satisfaction you need to be happy.
Marx observes how capitalism – in its search for efficiency and increased production and profits – has turned work into something very specialized .
And if all you do is record three grooves in a screw thousands of times a day, for days and days it’s hard to feel happy.
4. Do not support what you do not like. Change it!
If something does not work in your society, if you feel there is injustice or inequality, you can make a noise, organize, protest and fight for change.
The capitalist society of the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century probably seemed a solid and immovable monolith for the powerless worker.
But Karl Marx believed in transformation and encouraged others to promote it. The idea became very popular.
If today you are one of those individuals who believe in social change, you probably recognize the power of activism .
The organized protest has provoked a great social rethinking in many countries: legislation against racial discrimination, against homophobia, against class prejudice.
According to Lewis Nielsen, one of the organizers of the Festival of Marxism in London, “you need a revolution to change society, that’s how ordinary people managed to have a national health service and an eight-hour workday.”
It is often said that Marx was a philosopher, but Nielsen does not agree. “That makes people think that all he did was philosophize and write down theories.”
“But if you see what Marx did with his life, you will see that he was also an activist, he created the International Workers ‘Association and was involved in campaigns to support workers who were on strike.” His shout of’ Proletarians of all countries, unite! ‘is a true call to arms. “
Nielsen believes that Marx’s true legacy is that “we now have a tradition of fighting for change, which is based on Marxist theory, even if those who protest do not consider themselves followers of Marx.”
“How did the women get the vote?” Asks Nielsen. “It was not because the men in Parliament felt sorry for them, but because they organized and protested , how did we get the weekend without work, because the unions went on strike to get it.”
It seems that the Marxist struggle as the engine of social reform worked. As the British conservative politician Quintin Hogg said in 1943: “We must give them reforms or they will give us revolution“.
5. Marx already said, be careful when large companies have a close relationship … and watch what the media
What do you think of the close ties that the State has with the big corporations?
And that Facebook has facilitated the personal data of its users to a company that was dedicated to influence the intentions of the voters?
These confluences worry many people and they want to examine them more closely.
But guess what: Marx, along with his friend and ideological partner Engels, did exactly that in the 19th century.
Obviously they did not review the annals of social networks, but Valeria Vegh Weis, a professor of criminology at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and a researcher at the University of New York, says they were the first to identify these dangers and analyze them.
“They (Marx and Engels) analyzed with great care the cooperation networks that existed at that time between governments, banks, companies and the key agents of colonization,” says Vegh Weis.
“Its conclusion: if a practice, deplorable or not, was good for business and for the State – such as slavery as a means of promoting colonial impulse – then the legislation would be favorable for that practice.”
The sharp observations of Marx on the power of the media are also very relevant in the 21st century.
“Marx understood very well the power that the media have to influence public opinion, and these days we talk a lot about” fake news“, which is something that Marx did in his time,” says Vegh Weis.
“Studying the articles that were published came to the conclusion that when the poor committed crimes, even if they were minor, they left much more in the press than political scandals or crimes of the upper classes,” the expert specifies.
The press was also a useful vehicle for dividing society .
“By saying that the Irish were stealing jobs from the British, or by confronting blacks against whites, men against women or immigrants against locals, they managed to get the poorer sectors of society to fight each other, and in the meantime no one controlled the powerful.” adds Vegh Weis.
And another thing … Marxism actually came before capitalism.
This may be a somewhat shameless statement, but consider this: before people really knew capitalism, they had read about Marx.
The expert Linda Yueh says that the term capitalism was not coined by Adam Smith, considered a pioneer of the economy.
It is thought that the term originated for the first time in 1854 in a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, author of “Vanity Fair”.
“Thackeray used the term capitalist to denote a” capital owner, “Yueh explains.
“So it could be Marx who used this word for the first time in its economic sense in Das Kapital in 1867. Since then it has been used as an antonym of Marxism, in a sense, Marxism came before capitalism.”