Karl Marx is indisputably the greatest thinker of the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. His ideas greatly changed and influenced history in a manner that no man outside of the divine beings of Jesus Christ and Mohammed did. The writings of Karl Marx, notably the Communist Manifesto, influence society in both appreciative and oppositional manner. Born in Trier, Germany, on the 5th of May 1818, Marx’s early intellectual development was influenced by his appreciation of philosophy, which for centuries before his existence re-affirmed and legitimated the ideas of the ruling and dominant classes, royalty and those in charge.
Out of thorough observation of society and the factors that determine consciousness, Marx developed a scientific thought system which threatened ruling elites during his time and influenced the lives of many long after his death. Marxism, the scientific ideology that underpins the scientific and social discoveries of Karl Marx, came to be compartmentalised into three components, which are: materialism, political economy and socialism. Unlike philosophers before him, Marx proclaimed that philosophers have previously interpreted the world; the aim however is to change it. It is this change that influenced and continues to influence progressive philosophy, the political economy and its critique and revolutions across the world.
When commemorating the 200th birthday of Marx in 2018, China’s President Xi Jingping correctly said that, “Marxism is an open-ended and continually developing theory; it is always at the forefront of the times. Marx admonished people over and over that Marxism is not dogma, but a guide to action that must be developed with changes in practice. Therefore, Marxism is able to forever maintain its appealing youthfulness, and continue to explore new problems in contemporary developments and respond to new challenges facing humanity”.
The reason Marxism continues to inspire the world is because it is logically superior. Karl Marx’s views did not arise out of a sentimental, visceral attachment or sympathy to the working class and the poor, but arose out of a thorough understanding of the political economy and history. And any person free from private interest, class prejudices and biasness would necessarily reach the same conclusions if they thoroughly study history and the political economy. That is why more than 200 years after his birth, Marx continues to be the main point of reference by progressive activists and scholars across the world, and the greatest threat to the capitalist establishment.
If honest truth is told, it is through Marxist inspiration that civilisation, not free market economic thought and beliefs, that many societies were able to derive maximum value out of nature and human existence. Despite the many difficulties that confronted socialist Russia in the subsequent stage, it was due to Marxist inspiration that Russia developed from a feudal society into superior industrial society. It is through Marxist inspiration that fascism was defeated in Europe and China. It is through Marxist inspiration that many African countries were salvaged from colonialism. It is through Marxist inspiration that many countries in the world were salvaged from colonialism and slavery. It is through Marxist inspiration that China developed from being the 100th most developed nation in the world to 2nd in less than half a century. The reason all of these happened is due to the fact that Marxism guides that industrial expansion and development should be pursued for human emancipation purposes, not profits.
What distinguishes Marxism from other thoughts is its adaptability to different circumstances and conditions. Marxism is not like a culinary recipe where the exact ingredients should be added to achieve a particular outcome. It is a philosophy, political economic system and scientific socialist theory that seeks to achieve a humane society. Marxism is a call to action, not a call to idealism that existential realities of people will naturally change without active participation of those who are condemned to capitalist subjugation and exploitation.
When Marxism was placed into practice in the great October Revolution in Russia in 1917, it was countered with massive military suppression by the global capitalist establishment. The suppression of Marxist thoughts and ideology all over the world was not because it is a flawed system, but because the ruling class knew that once Marxist ideas came into contact with the masses, it will inevitably lead to a revolution that will overthrow their undue and illogical dominance.
That is why many capitalist nations promulgated legislations against the ideas of Karl Marx, because they lacked the intellectual capacity to counter their superiority. In South Africa, the nonsensical apartheid regime promulgated the suppression of communism acts of parliament and terrorised anyone who associated with ideas inspired by Karl Marx. In the US, the Roosevelt administration admonished all those it suspected to be associating with the ideas of Karl Marx. As a result, even the arts and creative industries was suppressed as a measure to counter Karl Marx’s inspiration in what became known as the Hollywood 10 trials and imprisonment.
Despite the systemic suppression of Karl Marx in many parts of the world, his ideas continue to inspire not only revolutions, but socialist solidarity all over the world. In this day of a world confronted by the deadly and highly contagious COVID-19 pandemic, it is the socialist Cuba that is at the forefront of socialist medical solidarity in the world. It is China that has helped so many nations in the world and pledged additional solidarity with the World Health Organisation (WHO) when the capitalist West is engaged in nefarious efforts to undermine the WHO, therefore incapacitating its capacity from coordinating efforts to defeat the pandemic.
The reality is that the world should now look up to the philosophy and scientific socialist thoughts of Karl Marx to salvage the world from what he called fictitious capital. From Marxism the world will learn the development of the productive forces in a manner that will benefit all. From Marxism, the world will learn that many governments are nothing but committees that manage the common affairs of the bourgeoisie, hence they want to prematurely re-open lockdowns so that capitalist profiteers continue to make profits. From Marxism the world will learn the only solution to the COVID-19 pandemic is international solidarity and common global efforts to first contain the rapid spread of the virus.
Amidst the many voices on what the solutions to the current global crisis should be, progressive and Marxist forces in all parts of the world should fight for universal access to quality healthcare with an appreciation that such access must also entail access to quality water, human settlements, sanitation, nutrition and education. Perhaps these are the most important components of what the global health system needs because it is after all correct that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc. Happy Birthday Karl Marx.