2000s >> 2009 >> no-1261-september-2009

Cooking the Books 1: Hunting in the morning

It was a good idea. To take Marx’s passing comment in the German Ideology that in a communist society (socialism) he could “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic” and put it to the test. The trouble was that this was done by a free newspaper, handed out at London tube stations, aimed at twentysomethings whose usual interest is the goings-on of celebrities.

According to Andy Jones who carried out the test:

“A mantra drawn from the teaching in Marx’s 1867 book Das Kapital (but sexed up for the modern reader) tells how he predicted the working classes would increasingly buy expensive goods and houses until their debt became unbearable. And when all this went belly-up, the State would have to turn to communism as a way out. In the ensuing communist Utopia, Marx reckoned the average working man should be able to go fishing in the morning, work in a factory in the afternoon and read Plato in the evening”. (The London Paper, 17 April)

Actually, this wasn’t Marx’s exact suggestion but it could have been and Jones seems to have enjoyed himself engaging in his three activities in a single day.

 But where on Earth did he get his version of what Marx is supposed to have taught? Certainly not from Marx himself as it bears no resemblance to anything he wrote. What Marx actually wrote in Capital about how he thought the end of capitalism would eventually come was:

“Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Thus integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” (Volume I, chapter 32).

Nothing here about workers getting more and more into debt by buying expensive goods and houses. Rather the opposite if anything.

 We do in fact know the source of Jones’s nonsense. It was this hoax email that did the rounds:

“Can you believe that this was said by Karl Marx 142 years ago (1867)!
What do you think, doesn’t it apply today???!!! PRONTO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
‘Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism.’ Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867″ (see http://www.hoax-slayer.com/karl-marx-quote.shtml)

 The suggestion is that this false quote was made up either as a joke or by someone opposed to the Bush/Obama policy of the state acquiring a majority stake in banks. Which of course was state capitalism and had nothing to do with communism (or socialism, the same thing)..

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