Marx named favorite philosopher in British poll


Moral blindness to the evils of Communism, the murderous philosophy responsible for the deaths of scores of millions in the last century, is endemic to Europe, and certain circles in America. Even the United Kingdom, which is generally a bit more grounded than its Continental EU brethren, has many people who still think there is some merit in the ideas of Karl Marx.

The latest disconcerting evidence of this comes from a report in the Times of London.

There is, however, one place where Marxism is storming to victory in an open ballot. On Radio 4.....

One of the station's finest programmes, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, is running a poll to find the nation's favourite philosopher. Borrowing some of the techniques, although none of the razzmatazz , of BBC television's quest for the nation's greatest Briton, Radio 4 has asked a variety of advocates to put the case for great thinkers, from Socrates to Heidegger. Whereas BBC One had Jeremy Clarkson putting the case for Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Rosie Boycott arguing for Diana, Princess of Wales, as our greatest Briton, Radio 4 has Richard Sorabji standing up for Aristotle,and Robert Kaplan leading the cheering for Ren Descartes. As one can see,we are talking intellectuals here. Which is why, troubling as it may be for some of us, it shouldn't be too surprising that the philosopher running away with the race at the moment is Karl Marx.

The author of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital may be the godfather of more misery, death and criminality than any other figure from the last 200 years. But he speaks, across the decades, and over a mountain of corpses, to an eternal yearning on the part of intellectuals. Marxism appeals to the thwarted dignity of the intellectual, flattering the academically inclined by playing to their sense that the world does not value them as it should.

Karl Marx has the answer to the central question that most troubles contemporary intellectuals. Not, 'what is the meaning of life?' but 'if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?'. For all those who form our intellectual classes, the readers of the New Statesman and the London Review of Books, the lecturers in sociology and cultural studies, the Arts Council England administrators and LEA curriculum advisers, life is plagued with a nagging injustice. They possess what they believe to be superior insights to the majority, a more cultivated mind, a more refined sensibility, a broader intellectual range. And yet they don't enjoy the worldly success, or esteem, of those coarser souls who devote themselves to the grubby business of commerce and exchange. How can this injustice be explained? There must be something deeply, systemically, wrong with the way society is organised.

And Uncle Karl provides just such an over—arching, deeply satisfying, all—encompassing explanation. The system is wrong. Capitalism is not just unjust, but inherently illogical and destructive of the true, transcendant value of things. In Marx's own words, it 'has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.' And a pretty poor wage at that.

Marxism offers much more, however, than just an explanation of the injustice that leads money to become the principal scale of value, and the intellectual to be valued at a level well below his true worth. It also privileges the intellectual with a leading role in the organisation and leadership of society. Marxism presents a world which can only really be made intelligible by theory, and thus only properly understood, and shaped, by the theoretically literate. The workers, poor dears, are in a state of 'false consciousness', unware of the reality of their exploitation. History proceeds through a dialectic between forces which only intellectuals can effectively discern. And progress is brought about by a vanguard enlightened enough to have freed themselves from illusions and skilled enough to see the hidden meanings behind events.

James Lewis   6 22 05