Karl Marx

Barbara Foley: Should we celebrate Karl Marx on his 200th birthday?

In an essay for The Conversation, English professor and Marxist scholar Barbara Foley examines whether Karl Marx's message is still relevant today. 

Some would argue that Karl Marx, author of “Capital,” has been proven wrong on just about everything he wrote. The founder of scientific socialism was born 200 years ago on May 5.

These naysayers would point out that Soviet socialism imploded decades ago, and that China is heading merrily down the capitalist path. Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels wrote in “The Communist Manifesto” that the capitalist ruling class “produced its own grave-diggers” in the proletariat – that is, the working class. However, we have yet to see workers pick up the shovel and bury capitalism once and for all.

Activists seeking to combat injustice and inequality, it can be argued, have turned not to class struggle but to social movements focused on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and the environment. “Intersectionality” – the notion that people are defined by multiple identities, where class is just one among many – would seem to have a lot more appeal today than the effort to end “exploitation.”

However, as a scholar of Marxist theory and practice, I find that such announcements of the death of Marxism are premature.