Understanding Marxism: Q&A with Richard D. Wolff [June 2019]

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This book is the reason for this evening or at least one of them I wrote this together with the team of Democracy at Work Maria who’s sitting over there among the people in our team Brian who’s doing the video work Because we’ve had so many requests America is changing and the only short introduction I have to say is I really want you to understand that I’m here to tell you there’s no way that we would be, by the way, We produce the the Economic Update at the YouTube studios in Manhattan AT THEIR REQUEST So something’s changing in America, I do public speaking around the United States once or twice a month My last three were Fairfax Virginia, Boise Idaho, I forget (the rest). Just give you an idea In Fairfax, I spoke at George Mason University one of the most conservative universities in the world They just added a new member of their Board of Directors Brett Kavanaugh, a sitting Supreme Court judge Don’t ask me to explain why they chose of all people on this planet. That’s a particular person It’s America, but the attitude towards this subject is radically different A brief history as a way to get into this Marxism is built around old Karl here, born in 1818 died in 1883 a man of the 19th century Born by the way, very near where my father was born on the French-German border The town has two names: Trier in German and Trèves in French because it’s bilingual in the same way (Karl) was a child of middle-class people, Was given a college education which right away it puts him in the top two or three percent At that time, nobody had such education where he studied philosophy and intended to become a professor or a philosophy which indeed was his first job But like me, he noticed struggles in the street Working people struggling with the local government and he was interested. What you weren’t supposed to be and he wanted to talk to them What you weren’t supposed to do and he began writing articles about their situation which he was absolutely not to do and the university did what they normally do. They fired him That’s his intellectual interest in that topic got him fired This didn’t bother him at all. He didn’t like what he was seeing in the university anyway So he became active with these people that he had studied and became an activist Which brought him immediately to the attention of the local police and the local authorities in Germany at that time and so they did what the Germans and many Europeans at that time did to shut down political dissent They didn’t kill you and they didn’t imprison you Their preferred program was Exile. You were sent out and remember Europe is a place of lots of countries in a small distance So sending you out was putting you on a train and an hour later you’re out Okay, so the Germans put him on a train to Paris and literally two hours later. He’s in Paris out But they informed the Paris police that he was coming and they met him at the train station and they basically said to him you’re not staying here And they put him on a train. They exiled him to Brussels another hour and a half to North instead of West and the same thing happened the Belgian police did a lot you’re going to London and he ended in London and London didn’t make him leave Those years London was the place refugees from all over settled and he spent the rest of his life in London which meant most of his adult works, certainly, Das Kapital, were all done as a citizen in London His knowledge of English and his knowledge of conditions in the English-speaking part of the world was excellent Because that’s where he lived most of the productive life He even made his living for several years being a reporter European reporter for a New York City newspaper The New York World During the time of the American Civil War where he wrote many many essays on slavery and the Civil War For the European audience because he was a reporter for this New York newspaper He was always a theorist and a critic and an activist In fact, he didn’t recognize that. These are different words. That’s an American thing For him, he was an activist because he engaged thought He debated different questions. He engaged in the issues of his day like slavery in the civil war but many other issues too. He wrote for public consumption He gave speeches to unions to civic organizations He was always active and always thinking and writing Because for him that was part of what being active was. I would not have recognized the distinction. academic/activists it would have meant nothing to him. He was whatever those things combined are All his life He devoted himself to criticize capitalism It’s really important That’s what he did and he was super at it He did not believe in describing or imagining or constructing an image of socialism or communism. He never did that He didn’t write a book about it. He didn’t devote it. He mocked that He said I’m not at the crystal ball gazing told you what the future is Nobody knows what the future is. That’s not my job My job is to tell you what it is that’s going on in capitalism in order to figure out how this system like every other system is going through its history Every economic system, he argued, is born, evolves over time and dies to be replaced by another. We have slavery. It comes devolves. It dies. We have feudalism. It comes it evolves it dies We have primitive tribal… capitalism reasonably to assume the same history born in England 18th or 17th century Evolves over time becomes the world system and let’s see now. What’s the next step? It dies And it dies under its own marks internal contradictions the problems of itself as it functions You don’t die necessarily most of you will not die because someone comes over and beat you over the head Your own bodily mental processes will bring you to an end They’ll wear out whatever words you want in this system. That’s how Marx understood it. He wanted to identify What’s the contradiction driving capitalism? We’re in this process, is it? Is it growing? Is it dying and what? In order to help those of us that are living in it to, in his view, help it along to get to that next stage because he was convinced that the human race can do better By the way, that attitude that we can do better than the current system. That’s what get us out of slavery That’s what helped get us out of feudalism. Mmm reasonable to assume. It’ll help us get out of capitalism Unless you need to believe that in the particular period you’re in history has stopped Well, don’t laugh too quick you live in a country, which is committed to that idea that capitalism is the greatest thing since sliced bread, probably better and will never go away. I mean mr. Trump, State of the Union this year Socialism will never happen here That’s the statement made by every leader of every country just before one socialist Think about it His assurance that it won’t happen is worth exactly What everything else he says is worth? It’s whatever occurs to him at that moment, repeated six or seven times Marx was a critic and how successful was he as a critic? I don’t know. Let’s see He writes, he stops writing and dies in 1883. Well, it a hundred and fifty years ago. I’m not even… In that period of time, a hundred and fifty years is not very long in human history, in a hundred fifty years His ideas have spread to every single country in the face of this earth Every country has Marxist Study Group’s Marxist political parties and or Marxist unions and or Marxist governments You know little governments like the Chinese They call themselves Marxist. Put aside for the moment exactly what they mean, but the spread of Marxism is STAGGERINGLY successful It spread further faster than Christianity did or than Islam did So if you’re comparing it to global movements, WHOA All these people found something in Marxism excited them It made them study. It made them teach. It made them publish in it. The literature on Marxism is vast and in every language So it’s a very powerful global movement and it came to the United States too, particularly towards the middle and end of the 19th century it came with immigrants who had encountered it in Europe and brought it with him and it came in the form of literature and Individuals who came to this country and who knew that and who spread it. it took root here It influenced many people some who understood it and admitted it and were proud of it Many more who didn’t understand where their ideas came from but they came from Marxism and Marxism was widely studied first at the turn of the century Then again in the 1930s because of the Great Depression made a lot of people interested Then again in the 1960s with the upsurge of a critical movement around the Vietnam War and now again Now again in the wake of the 2008 crash suddenly People are discovering again, but they have to rediscover it in America because it has been smashed in America It’s very important that you understand that The Smashing of Marxism was a deliberate effort to stop that criticism from taking root here The first time it tried was in 1916 The Socialist Party of the United States which have existed a while ran a man for president a man ran for president He did pretty well Got three or four hundred thousand votes about three percent of the vote That was thought to be a pretty good start. So four years later 1920. They ran another person whose name you probably have heard Eugene Victor Debs Mr. Debs He doubled the vote, cut around nine hundred thousand votes was, by that time, that was about four percent Okay, that’s a steady growth next, 1924 Well, something happened between 1920 and 1924. The American business community got scared. They understood uh-oh socialist office’s running, winning votes Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands Socialists were running and winning by the way all over the United States The state in the United States that had the most socialists in the state legislature. I usually take time and you don’t have it tonight to ask people to guess which of the 48, then, states voted the most number of socialists into their state legislature. You’ll never guess. Answer? Oklahoma think about it Oklahoma Bridgeport, Connecticut, not very far from here, had a socialist mayor for decades All over the place Milwaukee, famous for socialist mayor and on and on and on But the government came down there were the famous Palmer Raids in Boston and elsewhere the government of the United States began arresting anybody who said they were a socialist The 1920s were the era of Sacco and Vanzetti some of you know American history The history of the persecution of these people It was older than but it got really going So in 1924, the socialists ran a candidate They wanted to get more votes but at this time they didn’t call him a socialist because that was no longer safe They called him a Progressive Party A man from Wisconsin named Robert La Follette, Robert La Follette and he got 5 million votes At which point it became necessary to crush this thing which they set out to do They set it out because by this time they also had another scare the Soviet Revolution of 1917 which showed where this could go So you better crush it earlier Unfortunately, the program to crush which got really going in the 1920s took a hit in 1929 with the Great Depression It turned out it not to be a good thing for crushing Marxism and socialism because everybody was unemployed and so Marxism kind of came back with a vengeance and people called themselves that The 1930s you had three powerful political parties in the United States advocating more or less Marxism the Communist Party of the United States, very strong the Socialist Workers Party a Trotskyist socialist party and the Socialist Party, the leftover one from before. two socialists and one communist party who worked together with the CIO to make the New Deal, to make the thing that wasn’t green yet But the model for the Green New Deal was then and when then the war with Hitler comes about, the United States takes the next step of a scary embrace of Marxism it becomes allied with the Soviet Union in fighting Hitler Which makes it an official Partnership between American capitalism and Soviet Whatever you want to call that so that the post offices across America had a big picture above the window where you buy your stamps and there was Uncle Sam arm in arm with Uncle Joe for Joseph Stalin who was our buddy, our bosom buddy. He was in the post office in every post office By the end of the war, the American business community was apoplectic the attempt to crush in the 20s had been first postponed and then lost sight of Marxists, socialists, communists were EVERYWHERE and it needed a crusade to get rid of them McCarthyism The last half-century is a half century lost in this country for Marxism Everybody who had anything to do with Marxism forgot about it To make sure you understood it they arrested the leaders of the Communist Party and deported them or imprisoned them and everybody else was scared to death The reason my teachers at Harvard couldn’t teach me Marxism was they had learned early in their careers to keep as far away from all of that stuff as possible When I was finishing my PhD at Yale, I was called in by one of my professors The famous man some of you may know his name James Tobin very famous professor cut a Nobel prize in economics Call me into his office. I was worked with him and said to me Rick, you know this political stuff you do It’s gonna destroy your career and to make it real tangible. He said I won’t be able to write letters for you That’s how you get a job if you go in the Ivy League When you’re done, you got a Ph.D. Your professor writes a letter or makes a phone call and then you got a job Other people have to submit documents and give talks and have a resume. I never did that. I went once to Johns Hopkins Where they wanted me to go and I went to Johns Hopkins and I gave a talk and the professor said: – Are you ready to give your talk? – Yes. – So you know something but how about let’s have a drink instead? – Okay So we went to a bar we had a drink There was no talk. I got the job or for the next day Other people do that, but people in the Ivy League, don’t do that. That’s how this country works So when people in this country get interested in socialism EACH time. they have to rediscover anew that this is a big fat tradition been around for a hundred and fifty years exists in many forms, many articulations it’s a rich tradition of criticizing capitalism In its name, some people have gone beyond criticizing capitalism To try to create an alternative that hasn’t been so successful yet But that’s not so surprising because the project wasn’t the alternative. Marx didn’t believe in that. It was the critique of what exists. That’s Marxism’s strength and if you’re a critic of capitalism and let me remind you in the last three weeks Both Gallup and Harris two major polling companies in the United States have issued the following result People forty years of age and younger in this country are roughly split 50-50 in their preference for socialism or capitalism Two and a half weeks ago. I did an hour-long program on Fox News devoted to capitalism versus socialism where they invited me and a young African-American woman from the DSA the democratic socialists of America Very articulate very good, you know the two of us with a socialist side and sitting next to me representing the other side Was Herman Cain That’s right, that’s right, that’s right the 9-9-9 men Who kept repeating the same story if you go look at the clips that socialism has never worked anywhere and capitalism has always worked wonderfully everywhere. He repeated that You’re not dealing with a full deck here He doesn’t, he doesn’t have it But the fact that he could say it and he says it with real confidence and with, with conviction he does he really does It’s because he must circulate in a place where no one ever questions any. You can say this blurrrr and everyone’s nods and so you’re Bolden to say it even in there in the public where people will realize what a moron you must be The others were the same. I mean, he was a bit out front with it But they also paraded through to debate with us Lou Dobbs, Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney and a woman who had only one name. Kennedy. I… Did no one, no one identified her as having a, I don’t know if Kennedy was the first name or the last name or whether she doesn’t need two names like the rest of us She was the worst she was a libertarian as a whole Anyway So this book is written because Americans are now asking questions for in huge numbers. What is this? What is this? Marxism About my heart sinks my god 2019 and you’re asking a question. What is it like where have you been for 150 years? Right? You had a long nap. What is this? On the other hand, I’m elated because they’re asking the question that’s, that’s nine-tenths of it The answer is easy if they’re getting you interested enough, they ask the question that matters and the book is selling we produced this ourselves. We didn’t go through a regular publisher I published a lot of books regularly and the book is selling because there’s interest There’s interest trying to figure it out young people particularly, but others too, are trying to figure out what’s wrong with American capitalism? And if you’re gonna study what’s wrong with the system, we live in capitalism, which is now global Sooner or later, you’re gonna come to Marxism. There’s no way to avoid that. It is the single most developed critical tradition of capitalism there is. Period. It’s not the only one but it’s the one that the most number of people In every culture have developed their thinking around have developed their tragedies and their successes and their failures around practical ones whether it’s to make a revolution or organize a union or have a strike or whatever it is that people do This is, this tradition of Marxism with its many different formulations and different strands including many that don’t agree with each other at all it’s the single most developed repository to become a critic of capitalism and not engage Marxism, that’s crazy that’s like saying I want to go into the woods and make a nice fire to cook something but What’s this silly crap about matches? I mean you could take this stick. There are other ways, but you people have developed the match It goes in your pocket done way a lot. It’ll save you one hell of a lot of time Marxism is that. It’ll save (your time). It won’t answer every question, won’t solve every problem, not at all and there are mistakes and screw-ups all over the place but it is it is what we’ve developed the most sophisticated development in the history of the anti-capitalist movement To not engage it to not learn it to not milk out of it, all of the insights, that could help take us to the next step That’s nuts That’s not smart. That’s stupid My education was defective in the United States because my teachers were afraid They didn’t reject Marxism. They didn’t know what it was They knew it wasn’t safe They were just scared and they didn’t have the decency to admit it would have saved my generation a lot Okay, you’re scared. Tell me why. they would have told me why. They don’t want me to lose my job. I understand that I get that. Okay Instead, I’m angry You didn’t teach me things I should have learned and you didn’t have the decency to tell me you were too afraid to do it So I thought the time is to do it now Maria, start us off We ask people are sending questions we’ve been overwhelmed the number of questions it came to, how many in the end? Over 200 questions of people who knew we were going to do this tonight. So we’ve selected some. What? No, no, no Okay, so the first question comes to us from Nacio Ramirez, and he asks, to end exploitation, you’ve suggested worker coops honestly, it’s taken too long to get there can some of this be blamed on the so-called progressive policies that somewhat aim to help the poor Had we gone full-blown capitalism with minimal or no help to the poor. I knew New Deal and the Great Depression Do you think the transition to a democratic workplace would have been sooner and quicker? What would mark say about the progressive agenda? Union Social Security unemployment benefits that even though help a little bit hindered the transition to a more democratic workplace Do you think it would go progressive agenda by agenda until we finally make the transition to have a more revolutionary transition or have a more of a revolutionary transition and The second question. I’m just gonna It’s also about revolution. So I’m just gonna read it Robert Han asks of a similar question Understanding that socialism preceded Marx and that is focused on the analysis of capitalism, not socialism Howard Marks evaluates Social Democratic efforts like the New Deal and Great Society programs of the 20th century US to reform capitalism as opposed to overthrowing capitalism via peaceful or violent revolution So they’re both questions about the need for revolution right this question of reform versus revolution is very old. It’s been part of the left debates before Marx, during Marx’s time and since It arises perennially. And so it’s perfectly appropriate and reasonable that it would be raised again now There’s a lot of ways of putting it. Let me be as blunt about it as, in the interest of time, as I can So reform All the word reform has ever meant is that you leave the basic system there either because you believe it isn’t such a bad system or It’s too much to undertake to change it. Let’s go step by step Let’s change this aspect of it. Let’s change that aspect of it and let’s hope a (situation) that it makes things tangibly better for people in the short-run and that over time people will kind of get an appetite for more of this until they kind of step-by-step bring the big change about Sometimes it’s got been called gradualism. It has a variety of names. What are some of the reforms that people critical of capitalism have offered Actually, there are loads of them. Here are a few: a minimum wage You intervene in the bargaining between capital and labor and you say this has reduced working-class people to levels of poverty that are unacceptable So we’re going to intervene with the government and have a law: you can’t pay less than this It’s a minimum wage. And if you pay less than that, we’re going to arrest you shut your business and put you in jail which is a powerful argument and then you… That’s a reform. Here’s another one. You can’t let interest rates go above 20% 30% they don’t want to get it too straighten So, you know that, that’s a cap, a cap on interest rates. That’s a kind of a policy like that An Earned Income Credit if you know how the tax system in this country works These are all reforms a welfare program that says if you’re out of… employment insurance, you lose your job we’re the government we’re going to collect taxes and we’re gonna give you some money to get through the unemployment, not gonna let you just be destroyed by the way, capitalism works and then we depriving you of a job. These are reforms they don’t fundamentally order a different economic system and people have been very, typically, impatient about this Why? It seems that take a long time? It seems to leave a lot of bad things while you fix this one even let’s be a little bit daring, the New Deal The New Deal said if you’re 65 years of age or older We’re going to give you a check every month until the rest of your life Wow We never did that before that’s an intrusion into capital that makes older people have something to fall back on and makes younger people less burden by taking care of their parents, etc, etc. So social security as part of the New Deal Minimum wage that was part of the New Deal Unemployment insurance. We never had those things before the 1930s Government jobs on a massive scale that was also in 1930s These are reforms What does it mean that they didn’t change the basic system? That is interesting? They didn’t take private enterprises away from the people who owned them They didn’t reorganize the production process the simplest way to describe it is instead of there being… Here be very simple in your thinking. Don’t don’t be complicated because these are not complicated issues A small number of people run every business. the owner, the board of directors These are small numbers of people 2 6 9 12 and then there’s the mass of the employees who can number in the tens of thousands or in the case of Walmart millions So that the number of people who run the enterprise is very small and the number of people who work in the enterprise is very large and who makes all the decision? The small group. And who has to live with the decision the big group that’s not democracy folks that’s the opposite Democratic workplace would say everybody has an equal vote, you know Like everybody has a vote for the mayor in the town Because the mayor makes decisions you have to live with so you get to vote for the mayor Yeah, but the boss in your workplace makes decisions you have to live with you get to vote on nothing How interesting a country committed to democracy excludes the workplace from the demand for democracy But the workplace where 5 out of 7 days your entire adult life you spend Democracy should have been Introduced there if you believe in it Which clearly we don’t we pretend to, but we don’t A revolutionary change will change all of that would say that enterprises are the property of everybody and that the operation of an enterprise should be everybody’s concerned, you know, democratic way That would be a fundamental change It’s the kind of fundamental change that socialists and communists and Marxists and anarchists of many stripes have endorsed for a long time So the question is are you a reformist or are you a revolutionary? That issue has divided people terribly The people who are impatient and want to make a revolution don’t want to be sidetracked by all these little things They see that the basic problem is the system On the other hand, people have a hard time getting their head around the notion: change your system The system is very complicated. The system has many parts You don’t know quite where to start not everybody sees the system the same way A particular reform is kind of more definable and focused So it becomes a practical question and not just a theoretical one The resolution MOST have come to, not all, not by a long shot but the revolution most have come to is that This debate is more abstract than helpful in other words, The left movement for socialism have always ended up doing both things to varying degrees If the conditions allow you to make a frontal attack on the system, you go for it If the conditions don’t allow you, you don’t just throw in the towel. Well, we can’t make a revolution. So what we do? Go to the beach? No! you go and you start pushing on those things that people will work with you where you can get masses of people and you hope Marx’s idea and the idea of many Marxist since you hope that the struggles for reform Become schools in which those who get caught up in this struggle learn in a very concrete way Why the reform isn’t enough? You struggle real hard and you have a minimum wage? And then you have one and then how much has changed? Okay and then you discover also that if it’s capitalism and you get reform and you don’t change the system you’ll discover pretty quick that capitalism fights you to prevent you from getting the reform If they lose and you get the reform they don’t stop fighting they try to take it away and because you’ve left them in a position of power They own their enterprises they grab the wealth you leave them with the very means to undo the reforms you will have struggled so hard to win so that the idea the hope is that the struggle for the reform produces the revolutionary who recognizes after a while that the revolution is the only way to make those reforms stick to make them permanent To not work so hard to get something and then see it all undone In the 1930s the United States got the New Deal In the fifty years since then, it was taken back Most of it is gone. You can’t live on social security. Oh, my dear, social security was you could live on it. You can’t possibly I mean there may be some people in the room that are doing it, but they consuming a lot of cat food You can’t you can’t The minimum wage has been abused. When was the last time they raised it in 1997 or something like that? It’s just disgusting The inflation erodes it all the time. They don’t they keep it up and it’s just they can take it away You don’t change the system you created. It’s like having a war and at the end of it country A defeats country B What does country A do does it leave in the hands of country B all the tanks all the bullets all the guns? Don’t do that. Those people are mad that they lost they’re gonna use that and fight another day So you better do some more so that doesn’t happen, disarm them or something Reformers discovered that if they don’t change the system Look that’s America in the 1930s capitalism tottered The people who confronted capitalism in the 1930s the Communists socialists and unions They talked about revolution and they meant it remember the Communists. That was only a few years after what happened in Russia They had a concrete example of what they could have done and they thought about doing that here But Roosevelt was a very clever leader and he came back to them and he said you know what? I’m gonna give you a lot of the things you want The REFORMS you’re demanding But the condition is I don’t want to hear about revolution anymore. You got to stop that talk that’s got to stop. you got to turn on those communists and socialists in your rank and… stop talking about it and they agreed there were always a few didn’t but the bulk of the communism socialism agreed and Roosevelt was good for his word. He gave them social security. He gave them unemployment. He gave them a minimum wage and he gave him 15 million government jobs. It was amazing what he did But they got the reforms They didn’t get the revolution. Who knows if they could have. But they didn’t, they didn’t make that effort And here we are. 70 years later discovering that two-thirds of what they got in the 1930s, they’ve lost that’s why the revolution we cry today is another New Deal a green one I’m in favor of this. there nothing I… I love AOC all of that I do, I do, I do But You have to face what this is so the reform and revolution I think Marx would have been one of those to say you fight for what can be moved forward for the mass of the working people because it’s never just what you’re fighting for It’s the process of the fighting that teaches many lessons The benefits of organization the benefits of unity of different groups The tactics and strategy needed to overcome all of our differences so that we can act in a solidary way all of those lessons are profound and they can be learned even if the thing you are struggling for isn’t what you wish it would be the trick of good leaders on the Left Marxists if they thought about and read all of what I’m summarizing for you would be precisely That the difference between a Marxist and another is not whether or not you fight for reform It’s how you fight for reform. Do you do it as an end in itself? OR do you do it as a step and a stage to something fundamentally revolutionary which you think is the only way to secure whatever reform you get You do things that way then the dichotomy between the two kind of falls away and they become parts of one another and I think that’s the Marxist Yes Schools for revolutions be as good a phrase as any and one of the many that have been used one of the arguments because it’s another question that Maria will probably get to Is about the role of unions, it has always been the idea Marxist idea that the union is an important learning process school if you like a school for struggle a school to understand what you’re up against the employer and how the employer works and how the employers’ tactics and strategy involved Yes, a strike is not a change of the social system but it is an important battle and in other that battle you have learned things and you develop solidarities that can be then worked on for different and broader objectives so you shouldn’t see it as either/or. The debate, is this enough or not, is academic in the negative sense That we need fighting everywhere We need reforms to be fought for and if it’s possible more to be fought for And when you fight for reforms always in the back of your mind the lesson that has to be learned you hope by people struggling for reform is the need for more More than that much of what I do the last several years Has been to hammer at the point some of you listen or watched the shows we do This is a systemic problem for Americans. It’s a new thought For many, in the notion that this is a system we’re battling. Not just Mr.Trump or not, but this is a system and if you don’t understand and change that system You’re gonna be very frustrated about the other things you do focus yourself on Understanding that this system is the ultimate problem is also a way to handle DEFEAT in struggles for reform Don’t make the reform everything because then when you lose you lose the people Because they feel frustrated they feel lost. They feel hopeless, very dangerous Something the other side understands all too well. That’s why they fight against even little reforms that wouldn’t fundamentally shake them. They Understand. Yeah, yeah. Yes, it wouldn’t shake us but we don’t want that taste for victory that comes out of solidarity We want that. They don’t want that They don’t All right, I apologize for messing up this person’s name Christopher Radabaugh Paul Asks, what were some of Marx’s biggest mistakes and in what ways was he responsible for the atrocities committed by Russia China Cambodia? And can those governments legitimately be considered Marxist I want to separate that the Marxist mistakes from all those other things. I mean there’s a certain unfairness that Marx was dead in 1883 There was no Soviet Union and to hold him accountable who died in 1883 for some happened 34 years later seems somewhat unreasonable. So I’m not gonna go there Mistakes, all kinds of things, Marx, just give you a few ideas Marx thought that he owed a great deal to the Analysts of capitalism from whom he learned One of the questions we may have time for they came asked me to talk about some of the other works Marx did what should you read for your different kinds of interest? But one of the works Marx wrote very poorly known In fact, I’m not aware of hardly anybody who(teach about) I always did but there were a few of us But Marx wrote a three-volume work Not called Das Kapital which is the famous one everybody knows but called Theories of Surplus-value completely different work Also, three bonds three fat books and what they are are notebooks kept by Marx notebooks when he read all the preceding thinkers of economics You know he was a refugee as I told you he lived in London most of his adult life and he worked in the British Museum a very famous structure in the middle of London and there he read all of the literature of Economics that was gathered there. It’s very useful for him by the way LONG analysis of Adam Smith LONG analysis of David Ricardo, if you know someone the names of major thinkers in the tradition of economics, pro-capitalist economics and he read them in great detail and he kept very careful notes what he liked in what he read from them what he took from them What he rejected and why he rejected it. You will not find, I’m a professor of economics done this all my life, There are very few in the history of economics as a discipline very few thinkers Whoever did that kind of preparation for the work they did In fact here in the United States is really only one who was an immigrant also Believed from Russia man. the name you may know Joseph Schumpeter. He was a professor at Harvard. He wrote a book the history of economic thought. It is a book that fat It is the great book that Americans and many others study to get a sense of the discipline Marx did as much work as Schumpeter ever did and you can really see what Marx takes Well, one of the things he takes from Smith and Ricardo which may surprise some of you is the labor theory of value many of you have, if you’ve studied this stuff at all, had been told by a teacher who does not know that this is a Marxian invention. it is not Smith had a labor theory of value so did Ricardo Marx liked that they did that He took that from them and he thanks them at a great length in the theories of surplus-value He then did his own thing with it. He changed the theory for his purposes and used it in ways they didn’t but he acknowledges his debt to them. Well, one of the things Marx did was he thought He could explain Prices the prices that occur in the economy by using the labor theory of value He didn’t do it he just thought you could do it. That’s a mistake. You can’t do that the labor theory of value is a theory of value and value is not the same thing as a price and you have to (distinguish) There’s a way of going through that in the material. If had time, I would teach that to you. I do that in my classes all the time, but he kind of mumbled these together. He wanted people to get excited about the theory of value. So he said it could help understand prices and the reason he did that is because most people in his time as in ours Think that explaining prices is what economics is about That’s what I was taught Harvard and Yale, that’s what economics is about, explain why it why the price of a shirt is $3 and not $300 That’s a big question You know if you live in a market economy where everything is a matter of price You can see why people want to understand prices kind of urgent But that was not Marx’s issue. He wasn’t interested in studying prices. He was interested in studying capitalism as a system and change So it was a mistake to go in that direction. Here’s another one He thought that Europe was the most developed part of the world He was, what we would nowadays call, somewhat Eurocentric he was very interested in what had happened in other parts of the world but he did buy into a good bit of the notion of the advanced and the primitive and that the part of his time. He wasn’t separate from his time He was influenced by the things that influenced you. In retrospect, we would say Hm, Nah, not so good He had another mistake He didn’t handle the relationship between the organization he started which was called the International workingmen’s Benevolent Association an organization he founded in 1864 which was the first international, you know, they were later the second international and the third that he organized the first one and he did that together with a man named Bakunin an anarchist from Russia Because the anarchists and the Marxists felt very close But they had a falling-out after a few years They went their separate ways and the relationship between anarchism and Marxism has been kind of rocky on and off ever since One of the people who tried to put it back together again was the Russian leader Lenin Who believed that one of the goals of the Russian Revolution was to accomplish what he called the withering away of the state Remark, which every anarchist in the world enjoys deeply It was an attempt to rebuild an alliance That’s going on in this country too, as anarchism has an attraction, particularly for newly engaged leftists partly because it’s a way to be very leftist without getting close to that Marxism, which is scary Anarchism hasn’t been the focus. It was once in American history. You all know the origin, I assume, of May Day May Day is the celebration and every country of the earth, except this one of workers and of the Solidarity of workers and of the revolutionary spirit May Day is one, you know, the workers march and down the streets of Paris or Rome or London or Moscow or Beijing It’s the holiday everywhere In this country, the anti-communism after world war II was so intense that they ended May day and moved it to labor day So it wouldn’t happen at the beginning of the summer in May but in September, I mean this is childish shit But you live in it Right, so do I But when did May Day start it started in Chicago. This is a double irony The whole world celebrates a holiday for the working class whose origin is American which is the one place that doesn’t celebrate. Why? Because there was a demonstration in Chicago A demonstration fighting for the eight-hour day that the day wouldn’t be too long workers have always tried to shorten the working day and it kind of got out of hand and a policeman or two were killed and they arrested a whole bunch of anarchists and executed a number of them for that crime and it was felt to be a frame-up and … And became a national holiday, so it’s an American holiday that the rest of the world celebrates and America doesn’t and it comes out of the same kind of… Uh…Same kind of issue – Another one? – Yeah, Greg Chun asks, he’s a freshman organizer in Cornell College He lives in Iowa where 92 percent of the land is dedicated to farming I have heard farmers described as working-class, but also a small business owners who hire labor I wanted to ask what is the Marxist perspective on farmers and how to farmers fit in the labor theory of value? The reason this is a wonderful question is it allows me to explain to you what the Marxist method is in trying to analyze any population that you’re interested in a village a state a country a period of time and what Marx is really interested in is saying let’s look at something that others haven’t looked at and because they haven’t they missed things which we want to focus on. What does he mean? He means that in every human community. This is the most fundamental in my judgment contribution Marx makes in every community Whether people are aware of it or not. They make certain arrangements, they may not be conscious of it just like all of you know in a modern world of psychological self-awareness That there are things you do where if you’re honest to yourself You can’t explain to yourself or anyone around you why you just said that, why you just did that, why you looked at that person in just that way and some of you go and get professional help to try to figure out while you do this My wife’s a psychotherapist Might explain these things. Who knows and Marx is that too but on a social scale. so he says I want you to think about one of the things that every community does That it is typically unaware of but that shapes it and here’s what every community does it takes a portion of its members if it’s a community of a hundred it takes 20 of it. If it’s a community of 50,000 it takes X and those people are assigned to a particular function that they use their brains and their muscles to make things to take things in nature. Say a tree and make a chair To take a sheep and make a woolen shirt or whatever Then there are a lot of people in this society who are NOT required to do that Some of them you can see right quickly. A two-year-old is not going to be asked to do this. this thing we call work because it’s two and another one is 89 and for comparable reason we’re not gonna ask him or her either So it means that in every society, Marx says, the people who do do the work Always have to produce MORE than they themselves consume Otherwise all the people who are part of the society couldn’t survive somehow there has to be an excess produced by those who do the work so that all those who don’t the children the ancient but lots of others we’re gonna get to that in a minute who don’t do work are supported We provided them with the food the clothing the shelter without which they would die Now Marx says, what happens in each society is they differ in how they organize that? The word, and it’s a bad translation, but the word Marxists use to describe this producing more They focus on the surplus that the people who do work produce more than they themselves consume. In German, it’s Mehr the German word is M-E-H-R which means more in German. It’s much simpler. It’s clear. Surplus introduces, you know an old army jacket or something It’s not that but surplus is the way got it translated into English. So every society produces a surplus what differs from one society to another is who produces the surplus and who decides how big a surplus will be and who decides how get the surplus from the people who produced it to all the people who need it to live on but don’t participate in producing How do all those things get worked out and how they do shapes the politics and the culture and the art and the music In other words, if you want to understand the politics, the culture, the art, the music the history you better understand something as basic as the production and distribution of the surplus That’s called in Marx class analysis the class of people who produce the surplus in relationship to the class of people who live off distributions Just to give you an idea to tantalize you Here’s one way it can be done The people who produce a surplus can be the people who also get the surplus they get their own surplus and then they sit around and decide what to do with it They distribute it to babies and they distribute it to old people and they distribute it to musicians and whoever else They think what they would like to have While they’re working in the field they want someone to play the mandolin and they gotta feed that one and they gotta clothe that one So they can take a portion of the surplus if they do that But we could have a different system. We can have a system in which the people who produce the surplus. Let’s give them a name slaves Oh Then we know who gets the surplus real quick, don’t we? the master and who decides what to do with the surplus? the master who got it That’s a very different arrangement that you can be damn sure that that master is going to distribute that surplus Differently from how the workers would have if they got their own surplus A worker coop is where workers who produce the surplus are the same people who decide what to do with it and that makes it different from capitalism, slavery or feudalism In slavery, the slaves produced this surplus the masters get and distributed it In feudalism, the serfs produced a surplus and the lords get it and distributed it In capitalism, the employees produced the surplus and the employer gets it and decides what to do with it The Revolution, the Marxist idea, says we got to get rid of this dichotomy. No more of this We don’t want a slave. We don’t want a serf and we don’t want the proletarian employee either Because we don’t want a tiny, minority Master, Lord, Employer Deciding what the surplus, what is going to be done with it? When all the people have produced the surplus are excluded from that decision That’s a fundamental question. Now farmers. Well now you have the apparatus just use it for the farmer and it turns out farmers have different class arrangements just like everybody else so for example, we could have farming done by a slave and a master. That’s what we have in the American South for a long time We had cotton, for example, grown by slaves and the surplus was taken by the masters And they made beautiful mansions down there in Louisiana, you can see him to this day They did what they wanted to do with the surplus. The slaves produced it the masters decided how to use it or you can go to France the peasants produced a vast surplus Gathered by the feudal lords who used a surplus to construct the Palace at Versailles which you as a tourist can go visit and Marvel and what? Do you think that’s the peasants who busted their ass in that time would have used the surplus to make a garden like that? For three people to walk through every fourth night? No, no They wouldn’t have done that Jeffrey Bezos collects the surplus from hundreds of thousands of people engaged in the monumentally important task of delivering packages He is a package deliverer. He’s the richest person on earth because obviously, any rational society would want to give a vast of wealth to a person who delivers packages But let’s be fair he delivers packages QUICKLY So, of course, he should have a hundred and fifty billion dollars. He’s the number one on the Bloomberg billionaires list He recently got divorced from Mackenzie, His wife. and by the virtue of the divorce She got thirty nine million. So she becomes the 22nd richest person on this planet Having been his ex-wife. Do you think, just between you and me if the workers who produce the surplus for Amazon All those people schlepping your package really quickly to your house If they got together to decide what to do with this surplus that their labor had produced Do you think they give it to Mr. Bezos, so he could, by the way, one of the things he’s doing is very excited He’s arranging planetary travel He’s going to the moon and he’s spending a fortune to develop the rockets to take him to the moon. Ooh Do you think the people who sweat in his workshops, that’s what they would do spend the surplus to have a rocket ship take that man to the moon? My hope is that Americans looking at this situation would probably say: Yes, get him outta here Anyway, go ahead. There was a question about so unions under socialism or Marxism Actually, I realized I didn’t finish the other question so Let me finish. The farmer, so you can have farmers set up as coops But there exist farmers around the places where coops actually have been quite successful around the world including here in the United States is a long history where farmers get together and cooperatively Raise animals or grow the wheat or make the corn or whatever it is that they do and they collectively do it to divide the labor they have a meeting they divide the labor and at the end of the labor, they get together and decide what to do with the product they are producers of a surplus they produce more than they themselves consume But then they collectively and democratically decide what to do with it by the way, Marx has a name for when workers together as a COMMUNITY, do the work and then the Community decide what to do with the surplus they produce He calls that communism!!! you know the “-ism” out of the community. It shouldn’t frighten you really You tell this, by the way, I use different language and describe what I just did. I don’t call it communism. I call it something else and wherever I go in the United States, people think it’s a lovely idea They remember a grandmother who did that or a grandpa, Who did that They’re not scared at all. When I tell him it’s communism, they have a small heart attack. I went out there, I went out to California a few years ago to Silicon Valley, San Jose and I met there with engineers who had walked away from big jobs It’s just like the farmers. They walked away from a big job working for Cisco or IBM or any of those monster companies earning $200,000-$300,000 a year big salary They quit. They hated it Some guy in suits came and told them what they had to do and what software to develop they hated that They had to wear a tie and a jacket they didn’t want to. They were California people They wanted to come high as a kite with Bermuda shorts You know and they want to have a frisbee a dog a child or whatever you know, very California. they hated all this. So they quit and they got together in somebody’s job, in somebody’s garage and everybody brought a laptop and they said we don’t want to work that way. We want to come in our Bermuda shorts we want to smoke whatever there is we want to have our dog with us and we want, we want, and we and we’re going to work Monday through Thursday We make software like we always did. Friday, we sit around to decide what to do with our little business And they described this to me and I said just wonderful. You are all communists. They were horrified They wanted me to use the phrase, ready, get ready, very American We are entrepreneur and we are all entrepreneurs and this is an entrepreneurial innovation and I said to them you can call it a purple giraffe. I don’t care. I’m telling you you’ve walked away from capitalism you literally quit your capitalist job to form a communist enterprise according to what Marx wrote most of these people were Republicans They were Republicans because they’re in love with entrepreneur They had, no one had ever told them anything about Marxism. Where were they going to get the idea? Of course, they thought it was an entrepreneurial innovation Because that’s the language in which they grew up Once I explained it to them they had to struggle, turns out they really liked COMMUNISM Here’s what they told me by the way, you know why we stay with this? We are much happier here We feel better every day. We look forward to coming here We’re much more productive this way we come up with new ideas. We cross-fertilize one another I hear what she’s doing, she hears what I’m doing and and then they began to get excited They said to me, you know something the biggest breakthroughs in the work I’m doing that was done after we left the big company. The big company is stifling us Wow, I said you’re the best advertisement for communism I can think of you Republicans But that’s America. See? the dialectic having taught nobody anything about it except to hate it and fear it when you actually translate it into something they can understand, it turns out that they like it Whoa, they haven’t been taught to not like the reality they’ve been taught to not like a caricature and when you tell them that’s the caricature. Here’s what we’re talking about. -Oh, that’s pretty good. Farmers, can they be capitalist? Of course, they can Big farming in the United States called agribusiness for a reason these are big capitalist corporations they’re run by a board of directors and they have an army of farmers who are workers, of course, they are their wage workers. Just like the people working on Amazon If we allowed it in this country, we would have slave farming. I take that back We do have slaves you do know in the United States the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution outlawed slavery Except in prisons and we put people in prisons overwhelmingly people of color in this society for a long time Michelle Alexander has explained that to all of us, if you have never read her work, by the way Just a footnote. This is a sharp, sharp American historian and she’s here in the New York area. I think she teaches in (unclear) Columbia one of the places here What’s the name of her book? I always forget the title The New Jim Crow, that’s it. Really, It’s a remarkable way how slavery is preserved by the incarceration of people now but if you have incarcerated people and you require them to do work and many American prisons have prison labor then you have slave labor. I mean, that’s what you do That’s one of the reasons why the United Nations is always poking itself into the American prison system because slavery is supposed to be outlawed by international law and so forth and we Hm… Have it and we have it for the same people. We had it a while back So farming can be done in any one of these class systems But what Marxism does is it says how you organize the production and distribution of surplus SHAPES who you are, what your relationships with other people are If you go to work, you really all know this, if you go to work in the United States You’re gonna be working overwhelmingly in a capitalist enterprise. You’re going to be a drone You’re gonna be a person who comes at eight and stays until five and you do what you’re told. you sit there and you work with that and you do this and when you’re done you leave what you’ve produced and you go home When you go home, you have a pizza, you have a beer you go to sleep and you come back the next day and you do all that again You are in charge of nothing Everything is told to you. You live in a work dictatorship and you’re not the dictator This is sort of … arresting that’s a particular way of organizing production. It could be organized otherwise For me The revolution against capitalism has to INCLUDE the transformation of the workplace because that’s where adults spend most of their lives that’s where an enormous part of your self-identification, of your relationships, of your attitude towards the world, are shaped To think that you have gone beyond capitalism Because you have socialized the means of production. The state takes over or you have planning instead of markets I’m not against any of that, but you haven’t begun to transform the lives of the people on a daily basis by transforming the workplace and if I had time with you I will also talk about transforming the household Because that too is a place where you are shaped. You and the children coming up after you Marxism is about to transformation of one kind of society into another. Here’s a parallel And the attempt to get rid of slavery in the United States the anti-slavery movement the movement to do something about American slavery. There was a split There was a large number of people who were horrified by American slavery in the American South and who wanted slaves not to be separated husband from wife or parents from children Remember that? There was a struggle to get them fed better, to get them clothed better, to give them better housing and then there were the people who said are you crazy the problem isn’t that they don’t eat enough sleep enough. The problem is that they’re slaves and what we want is the ABOLITION of slavery, not a better-paid slave But a modern equivalent is, is what you want for the working class that they get a higher wage That’s like giving the slave more money or more food or more clothing. You give workers more money. They call them more. Stay more hours Is that it? Is that it? better worker conditions? better wages? or is the problem that it’s a worker? Who doesn’t have any control over his or her life in the workplace and consequently, not much control anywhere else either Why are we surprised that Americans don’t participate in political democracy when we deny them workplace democracy? Where, what the hell, would they get the incentive or the knowledge or the skill or the ability or the appetite for democracy if it’s denied to them where they are five days of the week, all the best hours of that day. Come on These ideas, you see, are not that complicated Marxism goes to the core of the organization of production and distribution of surplus How are you going to do that and then once that question answered how the farmers do it will shape class positions and class categories of the farmers but the same is true of craftspeople. The same is true of Intellectuals in the universe. It doesn’t make any difference. They are all working. They produce and distribute surplus and if you will begin to examine that then you see how that arrangement of which so many people are unconscious, shapes them Just like if you’ve never been introduced to psychological terminology What is true is that university is a place that has still enough space, enough possibility and making it very hard for you to have good relationships with other people which makes you sad you’re gonna have to go back and figure out what those Events back then were even though you’ve developed a lot of techniques to avoid doing that You have to do that with social thinking too You’re gonna solve your personal problems Americans now, they go to shrinks, they think about psychological issues. They understand terms like trauma. They’ve learned Well, you guys do that for the social analysis, too. It’s really quite, quite parallel. I think we have one question time for one more and then we can turn it to the audience The question was how do unions be in under socialism or Marxism? Well partly, we’ve already we’ve already answered it Unions well, you know in the capitalist system Marxists have always been very active in, very committed to, often leaders of, labor unions it’s been a natural place that Marxists go because it’s an organization of the working class for the working class by definition So Marxists have always been close to, committed to, unions but there again then the question becomes, this is what we started with 45 minutes ago the reform and revolution issue surfaces right again Are you going to be an activist getting pushing for a higher wage? Well, the Marxist answer is it’s not a question of whether you’re for that or against it We Marxist are all for it, but it’s how, how is this presented Do you present it by saying we, I don’t know, need more for our families Okay, that’s one way to do it. Or the employer is very rich and can afford to give it. That’s another way to do it But then here’s another way which is to say, why are we in the position Doing all the work here of having to beg for a bit more of what we produce There’s something wrong here !!! Why aren’t we, part of the apparatus, that decides what to do with what we have produced Don’t we have some claim on the output that our brains and muscles help to produce? We all remember the Christmas party last year when the drunken employer got up on a wobbly chair Thanked us all for the great year this company had and then fell off the chair We all thought to ourselves in that nasty moment He’s thanking us for doing all the work. Let’s show some thanks here Jack. Where’s the money? That part you’re keeping So the thank you is all the… verbal, There’s no… What? I don’t want your Thanks. I want your company. I want to take over this is my project What is true is that university is a place that has still enough space, enough possibility from employers or people who have been bamboozled by them The G? The employer takes a risk He deserves some extra, some profit because he took a risk. I always found this extraordinary He did take a risk, but so did everybody else You idiot? What? The worker who moved into this state to get that job took a risk That the job would be there, that the job would be bearable, that the job would pay enough. What is true is that university is a place that has still enough space, enough possibility he doesn’t know whether at the end of the day. He’ll be told must not show up tomorrow He bought a house based on the risk that that income would be coming. Risk everybody takes The difference between the employer and the employee is the employee takes the risk and then somebody else makes the decisions. The employer takes a risk, but he’s got all the power to shape whether that risk works out and when he has trouble, you know where he shifts the burden? Mm-hmm. He fires the workers Because he doesn’t want to bear the cost of the risk he took that didn’t work out If you want to reward risk all the workers get a piece of that You’re not the specialist on risk. Stop it In fact, your risk is less because you’re rich. You take a part of your money. You know you lose that part. It doesn’t shake you but the worker, he has no wealth to hold back has no savings account The risk he takes is if he gets fired, he’s lost you’re not So don’t tell me about it. but if you teach in a culture all the time the absence of a Marxist perspective on the production, then you don’t know these questions. You don’t even know to ask them Einstein said the hard part is the question. Once you got the question, the answer you’ll work out It’s the question. That’s the hard part. The question is Why do we accept? and let me make it real personal for all of you? Because Marxism is not going to go anywhere unless it’s personal for all of you. Why do you each of you sitting here? Accept the system in which you go to work and you produce a surplus for some employer who decides what the hell he or she wants to do with it and your job is to go home. Not bother the employer until the next day when you come back and do that again Why is that acceptable to you? You got rid of kings and queens and monarchy because it was unbearable to have some jerk Whose achievement was to be the son of the previous jerk? and he was telling you what to do all the time and you had to take your hat off when he passed in his coach and he referred to you as his subject We killed those people we cut their heads off We found it ODIOUS to have them around us and we go to work every day where there is a king who tells you what to do and you better take your hat off. Oh you’re fired and then you can go and stand in line at an office downtown and hope they don’t sneer at you while they give you a pittance for you to go and buy that cat food What is it? You know why? Don’t I don’t want you to ask me why I’m a Marxist. I want you to wonder why you aren’t Unless you are The questions are very similar, the questions that came in overlapped a lot you’re quite… But that’s good. that’s… we’re all thinking We’re thinking and we’re coming up with the good questions. But this question is, like so many, is premised on the United States’s backwardness. It’s vast ignorance about all of it, which is not because Americans aren’t smart they’re just as smart as anybody else but this period of half a century of Closing out the left and closing out Marxism really has made us on these subjects stupid So let’s deal with this. First of all, the Nazi phrase wasn’t cultural Marxism. It was cultural Bolshevism “kultureller Bolschewismus” in German. My first language is German I speak German. I read German My mother spoke German to me all my life as a child and so forth and so on so it’s it’s not cultural Marxism. it’s cultural Bolshevism and here was the idea that the Soviet Revolution which frightened the Germans very badly Because remember Germany is not that far from Russia. Literally number one. Number two in 1918 the year after the revolution in Russia There was an attempt to have a revolutions like the Soviet Union in Germany Now again, I’m assuming that I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings that you don’t know about that It was just not your fault. So let me tell you briefly In Bavaria, which is not an advanced progressive part of Germany. What is true is that university is a place that has still enough space, enough possibility That’s not true for the capital city Munich, which is a socialist city But it is surrounded by the Catholic part of Germany, which is the more conservative part. The way politics is shaped up there. Okay in Bavaria a revolution took place in 1918 and 1919 Which set up, you ready? The Bavarian Soviet Socialist Republic a name that brings a certain Bell to copy the Russians The leader of it was a local man named Kurt Eisner In Catholic South Germany in Munich, the leader of the new revolution was a Jew Complicated It lasted a while. In Berlin and effort was made to make a revolution too. It was led by two very famous leaders of the Socialist Party of Germany Which at that time was the second biggest party in Germany, a mass party, The same one that still part of the coalition government with Mrs. Merkel at least for another few days The two leaders who tried to make this revolution. One, whose name you probably don’t know, Karl Liebknecht and the other one, whose name you probably do, Rosa Luxemburg and for their effort, the military came in Killed them hacked their bodies into pieces and threw them in the Landwehr Canal in the middle of Berlin They became martyrs. If you go to Berlin today, there are the streets and squares and theaters named after both of them Even now with a unified Germany. They don’t touch those historical names if you want to see Karl Marx’s name on every street sign, go to Berlin right now Every Karl Marx Alley, Karl Marx plat Karl Marx, you name it, Karl Marx is all over the place and when you ask these very conservative Germans why you do that they look at you as if you’re crazy and say That’s part of our history We are proud of Karl Marx and of Rosa Luxemburg if you go to the center that’s named after her Her sayings her famous sayings are in the street. They have embedded in the cement of the street Metallic plates with quotes from Rosa Luxemburg that that’s the commitment that they have to her. Okay So here you have what the fear in Germany that the revolution was coming Since they crushed these revolutions that kill the people and so forth They weren’t any more afraid of a military. They weren’t really afraid of politics. They thought it would come through the culture so the idea was Bolshevism the Russian experience would seep into Germany through cultural phenomena and part of the reason this happened was that Throughout the 1920s the German culture Reacted to what had happened to Germany What is true is that university is a place that has still enough space, enough possibility It’s part of the revolutionary tradition In Germany, the war, World War I was a catastrophic transformation they lost the Kaiser they lost their form of government. They lost their economic Hope to be the defeater of Great Britain the Empire of the world and to outstrip the United States which was the other competitor for Britain all of that fell apart and as if that wasn’t enough they lost the war and as if that wasn’t enough there was reparations that often that hasn’t happened. Your African Americans are now talking about reparation But the big reparations was the one imposed on Germany after World War one when they were required to spend huge amounts of money Reimbursing France and Britain for the cost of those countries defeating the Germans so they were a destroyed economy a destroyed Society with an enormous debt, they couldn’t possibly pay one of the results of that was inflation in 1923 One of the greatest inflations in the history of the world Let me tell you about it because we might have one like it and you should be prepared Prices doubled over a period of nine months every two hours Okay, my grandmother and grandfather living in Germany at the time told me the stories grandpa who worked in a store would get paid in a bag of money at lunchtime He would run like a relay runner home and give the package to my grandma his wife who would run to the store to buy food with it because if you didn’t if you waited until that evening that money would buy you one stick of gum Because the prices would have gone up and your money was worthless The savings of the Germans, They’re very frugal people. They had saved for 40 years a little bit put aside to save that money was worth a quarter pound of butter overnight They lost everything and in that period of time they became, like Americans are today Radicalized, Extremely radicalized they were defeated in the war. They lost the Kaiser they were suffering reparations. And now they had lost their savings. They had nothing A solid middle class the Thomas Mann, Budhan Brooks kind of middle class destroyed and they split one part of them went to the left you had an explosion of a revolutionary culture probably the best expression Berthold pressed or heart-felt if you know that the way the artistic things of that time if you go to that museum up on 86th Street What’s called? what the… Neue Gallery you should see there the explosion Klee, Kandinsky those great names of that time. These are people who develop revolutionary theater revolutionary art revolutionary music But you also had the extreme go the other way right Adolf Hitler Who goes from nothing into… There’s the great fight between those two and it goes the way you all know it goes We’re in exactly the same place But it wasn’t about Cultural Marxist now this modern, the modern thing is different. The modern thing is the anxiety of the American right That the very failures of capitalism. Look, the reality of American capitalism for 40 years I’m putting on my hat as an economist is the following the wages are stagnant. wages in America, real wages That’s what you take the money your worker gets adjusted for the prices he or she pays Real wages in America today right now are roughly what they were in 1978. It’s really important over that time. Every year workers have become more and more productive They have more computers to work with they have been better trained. They have all of that So the output the worker delivers to the employer that’s what productivity means has been going up steadily one two percent a year But what the employer gives the worker that’s the real wage it’s flat That’s why we have a booming stock market. Those people are collecting all the profits All the productivity goes to the profits the wages go nowhere Why? because companies have replaced workers with machinery the computer revolution the robots the artificial intelligence They left the country to produce in China India Brazil and everywhere else And so you have a situation which didn’t have to pay more and they didn’t So you have grotesque inequality. Bezos and all of that and the people with the money playing on the stock market, so it keeps going up but the mass of people… That wonderful study of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York that says half of the American families if they’re stuck with a $400 unexpected bill, can’t cover it!!! They have to sell something and debts? Well, that’s the only way we survive. the American Dream survived in the last 30 years Because since the wages didn’t go up Americans solve the problem another way everybody works some million jobs the women particularly the white ones come out of the house and go to work and they borrow up to the wazoo Until they reach 2008 when they can’t borrow anymore and whole cards fall apart and we’re stuck now We’re stuck. There is no way to grow now this morning the Fed the Bureau of Labor Statistics Releases every month its information about real wages. The last month. The real wage went up 0.3% per hour, but the number of hours worked in America went down by 0.3 percent in other words nothing, Nothing! and this has happened over and over and over the wages are going nowhere nowhere they don’t need it and they’re not gonna do it Americans are at each other’s throat. A bunch of them are discovering the left That scares the people who run this society Part of the reason they are supporting Mr. Trump and people like him, is they’re doing, getting ready to push back against the fear of where the left is going to get this They understand the history that American radical and young people don’t know That’s the sad part of this. They’re getting ready because they expect something to happen because history has had that happen to them before and they don’t want to be left their out So here’s the fear. Where is this left coming from? well in America, it’s not coming from the usual places the labor movement in this country is dead and If it’s not dead it is so close to death that it could be dead And so they don’t see much danger from there Where is the danger? the danger is in the young people in the Universities in the school so they developed this kind of fantastic notion that the universities are full of Marxists when I was on the Fox townhall two and a half weeks ago Herman Cain and the others kept talking about the Marxist The Kennedy, the libertarian lady she was told the University full of Marxists. I spent my entire life in America I never found any I kept looking to, I was looking for them. I I needed friends They are not there. I can assure you they are not there Are there none? of course not there some. There always are some. But the notion at the universities of it, No. But it is true but to be fair to them What is true is that a university is a place that has still enough space, enough possibility that if you want to go in a radical direction There probably be some other students who will do that with you and there probably be some teachers you’ll find who will give… Yes, That’s true. That hasn’t been wrung out of the system, but believe me, they’re working on it. They are working on it. If you follow the Koch brothers, they are busily placing their people in many American Universities they’re giving money conditional on whether a professor gets hired or not. They have some saying that they’re trying to shut that risky area down They particularly worry that universities are places where the diverse, Anti-systemic movements that exist might come together That the people are angry about racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or you put it there, at the university, in there, kind of together in the University and they talk to each other and there might come some kind of scary coming together and who knows they might make a common cause with unions or at least some unions that are open to it May be The other day I read the woman, The air, the air hostess or what do they call themselves, stewardess? I can’t keep straight – what is it? Flight attendants, my apology, if I’ve already offended someone. the woman is Sarah Nelson, I believe is her name She’s head of the Flight Attendants Union. She took the opportunity earlier this year, I believe it was the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday the AFL-CIO Celebrates it each year and she got up and called for a general strike in the United States which for a union leader in this country at that time to do. That audience particularly was I mean The silence in the room was deafening. I understand but nonetheless I think it’s the fear and that’s what the Republicans talking about culture Marxism Last point, post-modernism and Marxism I find post-modernism wonderfully interesting I make use of it. I’ve learned a lot from it. It is a global intellectual movement. It is about 40 years old now It has affected every discipline I know of, certainly all the social sciences and certainly all the humanities Okay, it questions some of the most basic assumptions of Western modern thought which is why it’s Postmodern it is a powerful intellectual movement and everybody in this room I would argue, has much to learn from it, Marxists included okay, I would also think that postmodernists many of whom are very hostile to Marxism which they see as a modernist ideology, they have a lot to learn from Marxism and I, for one, am interested in bringing them together so we could get a conversation going and we could learn from one another but I can assure you that to lump them together is nuts They don’t like each other in the main the Marxists accused postmodernists of turning young people away from Marxism into some crazy intellectual wasteland and the postmodernists think of Marxists as silly old mechanical thinkers who haven’t understood the problem. It’s just it’s sad but the notion of lumping them, the postmodern and Marxism… What? This is, this is again ignorance, it’s like, the like cultural Marxism. It’s… You’re gonna get more and more of it. You’re gonna watch the Republicans Now they’re gonna start, you know beating up on socialism to push back on Bernie Sanders It’s so much a part of American history. Of course, they’re gonna dredge that stuff up again. Well, you know, I think war has always been, in the history of capitalism, the final resort when you could not solve your problem another way. It’s understood that way by the military. It’s understood that way by the people who lead capitalism I would urge you to understand war doesn’t begin with capitalism. Obviously, It’s ancient Greece and all the rest but capitalism has to its name and extraordinary achievement which goes to an earlier question at Marea read Capitalism produced the first genuine world wars we never had that before partly because capitalism created a world economy a world market the 20th century saw World War 1 in World War 2 Together, those wars killed, directly and indirectly, I don’t know 100 million people 200 million people Unspeakable number of people and these were wars among capitalist countries fighting with one another for what they thought their survival depended on in Germany language like Lebensraum In German, that means, literally, room to live. The Germans had to have room to live That’s why they had to take Poland or take Czechoslovakia, or get back the colonies that the Germans had that were taken from them in World War one they wanted to get them back in World War two These countries got themselves to a point where their, in their minds, their survival as capitalist economies depended on the destruction of some enemy, and I think capitalism has always understood that the military has to be preserved has to be funded has to be maintained in that way what is new and what’s really an American invention after World War II was the permanent massive army Before you kept the relatively small and then you mobilized people, it was called that mobilization, for the war when it became necessary The technology was such and the American hysteria after the war was such that we didn’t do it And then as Eisenhower told us you’re going to develop if you have an army this big and it lasts this long You’re gonna build your society into dependence on that the American military long ago understood. it needs to locate its bases. It needs to locate its suppliers all over the country So all of those people will make sure that the senator and the Congressmen or women from that area support the budget because that’s what comes back and keeps their neighborhood employed and so that you’ve had the industrial-military complex Organized to keep this going you can see the power of that because it’s become the model for others We have a medical-industrial complex. hospitals, doctors and medical insurers, drug companies they’ve gotten together just like the military and ham it up Which is why we spend not only more than any other part of the world on military, for all of you who don’t know, The United States spends more on the military than the next nine countries together which includes Russia and China Spend and the same thing with medical. We spend 18 percent of our GDP for medical care No other country comes even close to spending that kind of money. They are able to get that because they have built themselves into the fabric of this economy, so it can’t afford not to do it. That’s why when we at the end of the Cold War means nothing they can’t stop They have to find the next Cold War and so it’s a universal endless war on terror. That’ll do if you haven’t got the Russians… then hate the terrorists and if that becomes funny because doesn’t seem to matter then imagine caravans from Honduras, you know, those desperately poor people are a danger to this country But you know, Here’s the solemn thing to keep in your mind When you go back and you study Germany, it was the most culturally developed country in Europe It’s the land of Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Goethe. my god what a society they were able to develop and yet under pressure of capitalism that broke down in 1929 They were able, in their fantasy, to imagine that the whole world was after them They became paranoid on a scale that is incredible They killed unspeakable numbers of people in a kind of methodical elimination of other members of our own species that we’ve never seen before If you think that’s peculiar to the Germans, you’re wrong that is the same mentality and I say this using my Marxism That can watch Immigrant children be put in cages and think that somehow that’s necessary that somehow that’s reasonable That is extraordinary That’s an extraordinary cultural moment and it tells you nothing about the children or the cages or immigration it tells you about the mentality of a large part of this country is so upset by what they’re going through They don’t have the vocabulary or the history or the help to identify what their problem is, but they are Unspeakably angry and therefore immune to the kinds of Appeals that normally would have reached them Through their church through their own thinking through what? All dead. It is many times, particularly in the Midwest in the south, The church members who are foaming at the mouth about this stuff. who talk about Christian charity and Family Values on Sunday and then cheer those children in the cages on Monday. That’s an amazing achievement There’s no psychic dissonance for these people. There’s something… No bell goes off about this. There’s something wrong in this picture That’s a sign of deep distress when you hear the president United States say I’ve got the greatest economy in the world you really you’re living in a time warp We have an opioid crisis that is killing 70 to 80 thousand people a year in this country That’s way more than the wars kill us We have a suicide rate. That’s off the chart This is a disaster what’s unfolding in this country and there’s no end the inequality gets worse The policies to make it worse are still in place there’s no self-reflection that this can’t go on and there’s no systemic awareness that there even is a system that could be otherwise Capitalism is the end. It’s what we all are It’s like Mrs. Pelosi said, remember? a year or two ago when a student asked her a question. What about socialism and capitalism? She couldn’t understand what he was talking about and she looked befuddled at him and she said in those famous words were all capitalists exactly exactly Last year. I got an invitation from the students and faculty at Boise State University in Boise Idaho a state that I had never visited before And I was told by the people who invited me that they would pay my airfare out there something But they wanted me to know that they the purpose was they had an all-day conference devoted to the work of Jordan Peterson Would I be willing to debate Jordan Peterson Now I have to tell you which I do with a bit of ashamed face that I had no idea who Jordan Pederson was But I had never been to Boise and I would like to see it and it’s a State University And I am committed to going to state universities Precisely because people like me don’t go to state universities anywhere near as often as we should So I told them yes And I figured go googled Jordan Peters and find out who this is And then they made it even more interesting by saying he is famous for saying that no Marxist dares to debate him So I said you found one so I agreed to do this A few weeks later they call me back They were obviously very pissed off and they said to me He has withdrawn He didn’t do it honestly this is what they tell me He simply said that his fee has gone up a lot And there are a state university. They they can’t they can’t pay what he was asking was enormous and So he’s not coming, but they were so angry. They said we would like you to come anyway, and just present a talk about His work and more importantly Marxism and what you think? young people in Idaho might get from this which I did and In preparation for it. I released a short video of about 10 minutes 7 minutes in which I commented on Him, I didn’t comment on the psychology professor. So I did just not like to leave it psychology, isn’t it? yeah psychology professor in Canada in Toronto And I don’t comment on that stuff the stuff that I know but he made statements about Marxism and all of that I know a little bit about that so I was going to respond to that which I did and I wasn’t insulting him, but I wasn’t complimentary. I think his arguments are …silly They basically boiled down to how could anyone in their right mind be a Marxist because Stalin killed a lot of people I’m always at… there’s always a few seconds of me being I couldn’t have heard that right… What? you know, be just WHOO now I’m used to it so I’m ready for but It always takes me the kind of… it’s like saying I can’t be a Christian because of the Inquisition What?? you know, yes the Inquisition terrible and yes Christian they did that and they Christians have done all kinds of horrible things, but you kind of You kind of separate the thing into its various parts that’s not an excuse it’s just an understanding that People can do all kinds of things in the name of God knows what? Right. The United States is busy bringing democracy to Afghanistan. Am I understand what that means. It has nothing to do with those words But I understand this society needs to say crap like that and other okay But it’s an argument that you couldn’t possibly be a Marxist because Stalin did something awful And so I made fun of this using arguments like that It bothered him he gave answers, he made videos, He changed the story a little bit so we’ve had a bit of a back-and-forth But his argument really is that you can’t possibly be interested in Marxism Because people using the name Marxist Have done awful things Stalin referred to himself as a Marxist. He did awful things. He really enjoyed saying Hitler’s movement that Nazi that those are the first four letters of the German word “National” which means national and then the full name of the Nazi Party was the “Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei” The National Socialist Workers Party Why? because in Germany at that time if you didn’t have the word socialist the working wouldn’t pay attention to you He had to do that in order… but his commitment to socialism was mostly to kill those people Which if you know anything about the history, you know people who died in concentration camps in Germany were not just Jews They were Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, socialists, and communists who were the great enemy of the Nazi , but to say that he would… SEE? he’s a socialist too. I mean, come on. This is childish for a professor of psychology to use an argument like that kind of boggles the mind and then he got a little sloppy Lenin, you know, presided over the deaths. just again the history Lenin was the guy who made the revolution But he died shortly thereafter The revolution is in 1917 Lenin gets a brain aneurysm in 1922 and he’s dead in 1923 Stalin isn’t even in charge of anything at that time to blame what Stalin did on Lenin is an interesting move, but requires the kind of argumentation that Mr. Peterson doesn’t think is necessary the very strange kinds of… and… it is something you know, a junior high school dropout might be we allowed to reason like that. but this guy has no excuse for this. This is pure 1950s anti-communism recycled we hashed it. It’s, it’s kind of beneath Its kind of beneath contempt, you know It’s like someone who says the United States is evil because it’s the only country on Earth that dropped an atomic bomb on somebody Let me, that’s true. The United States the only country that dropped two atomic bombs on Japan and that is a distinctive quality and that has to be analyzed just like what happened in Russia under Stalin has to be analyzed and you try to Understand it and why did that happen and not an excuse of it but to try to to make sense of it You can’t escape it. It’s there. It’s part of the history of the Soviet Union and has to be dealt with better and different but it’s a notion that it is, therefore, the reason to throw the entire Marxist can out of the window That’s not serious that… that is a hatchet job, which should not pass the lips of a person who claims to be Driven by the highest sort of values but that’s not, you know, Jordan Peterson for those of you that don’t know of any, in that’s not what he’s about. Jordan Peterson is a guru for…, I’m gonna try to be polite, young men who are having real troubles relating to young women Who really want to, but don’t really know how to and are very frustrated and very lonely and feel bad about all of this and he tells them it’s not their fault No, no, no No, although you know he may get to that mostly, it’s the fault of the women the fault of the young women, who are Whatever I’m not with it. It’s not my field and I don’t want to comment on it, but it, it sure sounds like He’s a walking self-help book Of the sort you shouldn’t buy

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