Karl Marx was born in Germany exactly two centuries ago. No non-religious thinker has ever had so much influence on the real history of mankind. Moreover, none have ever been so discussed and criticized by people who have not always made the effort to read them.
Furthermore, those who are content to stick to caricatures, only want to remember about him, the atrocities committed in his name: generations of misled students, millions of hopes spoiled, dozens of hijacked revolutions, and just as many terrible dictatorships and mass massacres. Even today, many people wrongly quote him in order to deliver a summarized and Manichean lecture on economics, or to pretend that he justifies dictatorships, or even to justify their own anti-Semitism, as the sad president of the Palestinian Authority just did (Wrongly claiming that for Marx, anti-Semitism would be justifiable because of the banking practices of Jewish communities in Europe, while forgetting that Jews were only admitted to Christian Europe in the year one thousand on the condition that they engage in the business of banking, always against their will).
It would have been easy, however, to simply revert back to the writings. And there’s no lack of it, though some easier to read than others. One can start with the superb “The Communist Manifesto,” which in one week will have been written 170 years ago. And before taking on the colossal “Capital”, there are many others. Through these texts, we may begin to understand that, for Marx, the bourgeoisie is a formidable innovative class and a bearer of progress and light, as well as a main actor of progress and freedom. For him, capitalism represents a form of liberation from previous modes of production. Capitalism is still in its infancy and there is no point in trying to stop its march, which will expand until it is global. This means that it concerns the whole of humanity, and the exchange and trade of all commodities among all men. As such, it will only crash in a final crisis, which then will bring forth a system that is not based on the distribution of scarce resources, but rather a society of absolute abundance.
Moreover, the only political action in which he believed was the global unionization of workers to face an increasingly global capitalism and to try to accelerate the crisis by preventing shareholders from recouping the essentials of the added value created by the work of the employees.
Consequently, for him, there can’t be socialism in only one country. And in the last years of his life, he was even opposed to what was forthcoming in Russia, which for him was not the best country to undertake such a revolution, which in any case, had to be a global revolution. And in order to understand what he calls “the dictatorship of the proletariat,” one must read his writings on la Commune de Paris; we will then see that the regime that he named as such, protects fundamental liberties and has nothing to do with the appalling totalitarian system born of the Soviet revolution.
We could cite countless other examples of his thoughts, which in a very real sense, were prophetic. Even on peculiar subjects such as music (which lead him to theorize on the immaterial economy, and he was among the first to do so). And other subjects as well, which he had recognized the importance, such as the plundering of nature, migratory movements and the damage caused by individualism.
In fact, when we want to make the effort to delve into his work, we tend to understand current events: Marx is one of the first thinkers of globalization. He remains a guide for whomever wants to study it seriously. And for those who want to understand that socialism is not to be built instead of capitalism, but rather it comes after capitalism.
He teaches us that all dictatorships feed on the caricature of complex thoughts. And if we want to understand globalization and its future avatars, we should read him, re-read him and feed on the nurturing hope that it carries.
Naturally, he is not the sole guide, and many other thoughts are useful for understanding the future. Starting with those that provide in-depth analysis of human passions: it is through a constantly renewed dialogue between Marx and Shakespeare, and many others that came after them, that we can enlighten the future.