Marx and Lenin both liked a joke. So they would have appreciated the irony that, since the ongoing financial crisis began, their analyses of unstable, destructive capitalism has been spectacularly confirmed at the same time that the movement they ostensibly inspired (and for a time, involuntarily gave their names to) lies powerless and moribund. All of capitalism’s house journals have run some obligatory article since 2008 asking: “Was Marx right?” but the proletarian revolution has singularly failed to rise in response. There have been very exciting, even epochal outbreaks of revolt, but whether democratic pan-Arabism or internet-assisted student autonomism, they don’t threaten capitalism itself. These two short books don’t explore this irony, but, in the absence of the movement, they offer challenges to our received ideas about communism. Of the two, Why Marx Was Right, by prolific academic populariser and scourge of English letters Terry Eagleton, is the less controversial. As he acknowledges, our age of no-strings-attached state handouts to banks and punitive cuts to social services has embraced a form of capitalism so grotesque that it resembles the caricatures of the most leaden Soviet satirists. Eagleton presents his book as the fruit of “a single, striking thought: what if all the objections to Marx’s thought are mistaken?” In order to demonstrate this, each of the chapters of this erudite yet breezy (occasionally too breezy) tract begins with a series of assertions about Marx and Marxism, which Eagleton then proceeds to debunk, one by one.
more from Owen Hatherley at The Guardian here.