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article imageReview: 'Masters of Money — Marx' Special

By Alexander Baron     Oct 2, 2012 in Politics
London - This is the third and final episode in the short BBC Television series about big names in economics. Big names, not great names.
It is truly extraordinary that anyone ever took Karl Marx seriously, and it is doubly tragic that many people still do, people like Richard D. Wolff, who fortunately does not put in an appearance here.
This programme is presented as were the previous two (on Keynes and then Hayek) by Stephanie Flanders, and begins with the arrival of Marx in the UK, having been chased out of both France and his native Germany.
Flanders appears to believe Marx was a giant; one might just as well claim L. Ron Hubbard or the Prophet Joseph Smith were giants.
Marx, she says, divided the world into workers and bosses, what the comrades of the Socialist Workers Party call the class struggle. The reason the world is currently in such a shambles, explains one of the comrades, is because money is going to money, and the workers can't afford to buy the goods they produce.
Flanders travels to the birth place of the great man where unsurprisingly in view of his ill-deserved fame, he has become a poster boy for the local capitalists, who even flog bars of Karl Marx chocolate and bottles of Karl Marx wine.
Karl Marx
Karl Marx
File photo
image:96125:0::0
She visits a local wood which is said to have inspired Marx, if inspired is the word, to his understanding of what is wrong with capitalism - the pursuit of profit. As the great Major Douglas said: “It has never been clear to me why any man in any position of life should be expected to perform any action whatever which was not in some sense of the word profitable to him”.
And as others realise, including the dissenting views presented here, the only alternative to a system of production based on profit is one based on tyranny. One of these dissenters is former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, who makes some good points.
The capitalism Marx saw, Flanders points out, was that of the industrial revolution, and for those workers in the front line - such as coal miners - life was grim indeed, as well as nasty, brutish and short. However, even as he wrote, both conditions and pay improved.
So why is Marx back in fashion? Because of the sub-prime disaster and everything that has come after it. What is not mentioned anywhere in this programme though, and indeed what is not mentioned in Das Kapital, is usury. In Volume 1 of this turgid and virtually unreadable book there is one reference to usury in the index, one page, and absolutely no discussion of its mechanism. The followers of Marx exhibit the same wilful blindness to this very day, thus in the 2008 pamphlet CAPITALISM'S NEW CRISIS: WHAT DO SOCIALISTS SAY? Chris Harman of the Socialist Workers Party says "...finance is not something separate from the rest of capitalism. It is driven by the same blind competition for profit" adding "Booms are usually accompanied by unexpected inflation. And, more seriously for the individual capitalists, rising costs suddenly destroy the profits of some firms and force them to the edge of bankruptcy. The only way for them to protect themselves is to cut back production, sack workers and shot down plants..." This results in "overproduction" so "Goods pile up in warehouses because people cannot afford to buy them".
Right, and under socialism/communism goods never pile up in warehouses, because a command economy has no proper mechanism for indicating which goods are wanted and which are not.
In fact, the problem of capitalism is not overproduction but as Major Douglas pointed out, under-consumption, what is needed is not higher wages but a national dividend, (Social Credit as Douglas called it) or better still a Basic Income to supplement purchasing power, and nowadays to lift those at the bottom out of the poverty trap.
The problems we face today arise not from the capitalist system, but from the financial system, problems for which Marx had no solutions because like every single one of his followers down to the present day he didn't even ask the right questions, as neither does anyone in this documentary, including Nigel Lawson.
After Marx died in 1883, his chum Engels edited his work and published the rest of his magnum opus. The great irony of their relationship is that Marx sponged off the wealthy Engels and like so many so-called intellectuals, never did a proper day's work in his life. In fact, as Flanders points out, Marx visited a factory only once, late in life. She seems to think though that Marx discovered the class struggle; Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor has a better claim to that; even the phrase workers of the world unite did not emanate from his lips but from those of the German radical Karl Schapper. And let's not mention Karl's views on blacks, Jews, slavery and Imperialist America.
For those who can receive it, this programme can currently be found on iplayer. Some background can also be found on the Open University's website.
More about karl max, Communism, Economics, engels, usury
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