Silent Marx

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1865: Karl Marx (1818-1883), philosopher and German politician. (Photo by Roger Viollet Collection/Getty Images)

I remember Jeff Bezos when he owned a little online book store and had to keep borrowing money from his family and friends to get by. Now he owns and leads Amazon which is one of the largest general retailers in the world. So, last night during an episode of “sit quietly in the dark without electricity” I bought a Kindle eBook from Amazon. It cost R40 or so. It is called The Essential Karl Marx and it includes:

  1. Political Works
    1. Manifesto of the Communist Party
    2. Theses on Feuerbach
    3. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon
    4. Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century
    5. The Civil War in France
    6. Critique of the Gotha Programme
  2. Economic Works
    1. Wage-Labor and Capital
    2. Free Trade
    3. Wages, Price and Profit
    4. Capital (The whole text of Das Kapital)
    5. A Contribution to the Critique of the Political Economy

Certainly, a collection well worth the R40. I read the first few books in the dark on my smartphone’s Kindle application; and then I got bored. You see as the Executive Director of the South African Liberal Students Association I am opposed to and I marshal opposition to Conservatism, Nationalism, Socialism, Communism, Workerism and Theologicism – so for the last 25 years I have avoided reading Marx at all.

Not because I don’t want to know what the competition is saying, but because I encountered every manner of wannabe revolutionary at university, spouting misquoted Engels and Marx, spewing forth out of context Lenin and Stalin and pandering to the “lost in the translation” messages of Chairman Mao; that I felt no need to see for myself. Then there were the hardcore post-graduate students whom knew of Kerensky, Trotsky, Dzerhinsky, Castro and Xiaoping – and weren’t they just an absolute delight with their nuances and inflections that separated their socialisms from each other’s.

I attended UDW where I read political science, when I wasn’t doing anything more useful, and at UDW they taught the strong men of African politics – Nkurumah, Nyerere, Senghor, Kenyatta, Kaunda, Machel, Nujoma, Mandela, Tambo, Mugabe and Toure – and balanced this against heavy doses of Cabral and Fanon. So, the socialist students in their SASCO, ANCYL, YCL, PASMA, AZASCO, AZAYO and other independent Black Consciousness and Pan Africanist Organisation, t-shirts were quite certain that they wanted Socialism, some even wanted Communism – and others demanded Workerism. So, there was no need for me to study Marx – and I didn’t.

However, last night I discovered that there are these people called the proletariat and they are being exploited by these people called bourgeoisie and that there are various layers in this social hierarchy that revolve around capital (and the possession of capital) and wage-labour (and the performance of wage-labour). In fact, Marx dedicates several minutes of my doomscrolling time to deconstructing the actual instance of the situation of the performance of the wage-labour, and the interaction of that with the capital and fusses about the fairness of the division of the proceeds and profits of the production itself. He argues that the worker is entitled to a greater share of the proceeds than just the wage for labour.

I am no expert on Socialism – I do not tell lies very well – and Socialism is predicated on telling lies – like “work is only possible in and through society” and that therefore “the proceeds of work belong to all of society” – which is utter bullshit, when you consider millennials coding mobile apps on their tablets while on the toilet having bowel movements.

So, to Karl Marx and all his devotees, wherever their ashrams may be and whatever shade of saffron their robes might take on in the sunlight – I have this to say. WORKING CAPITAL. The individuals whom supply the working capital that pays the bills are entitled to the profits raised on the sale of the proceeds and produce of production. If the workers want more money – they must invest their labour into the working capital – removing wages as an operating cost – and only get paid once the products or services are sold to and paid for by the firm’s customer’s.

Sounds great, especially when your customers take 90 to 120 days to settle your accounts and still expect a settlement discount for having saved you the loss incurred by factoring their account. How will working class families survive without income for 4 months at a time? In any event I am not impressed with Marx, he doesn’t talk about productivity and craftsmanship and work ethics and quality of work and pride of work and all of the things that make products and services excellent. It’s all well and good to be sick, slow and stupid and be demanding higher wages every year – but where is the concomitant increase in productivity?

On this matter of Capital – Marx is silent. So perhaps one day I will get round to studying Marx in greater detail – and perhaps one day the Marxists will make sense. Nonetheless I agree in perpetuity to make and pay for the propagation of Grundrisse.

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