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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

How the strikers honor Marx

The New York Times reviewed a book recently published by Jonathan Sperber that chronicles the life of Gray Lady’s favorite thinker, Karl Marx. The most exciting things the new biography reveals are details about the adored thinker’s private life.

The Times wrote, “(Marx) is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain ‘slummy,’ and who can be maddeningly inconsistent when not lapsing into elaborate flights of theory and unintelligible abstraction.”

Marx the man sounds a lot like an occustriker, doesn’t he?

He often pleaded to his mother for an advance on his inheritance — the occustrikers keep demanding that the state pay for more of their education. Marx constantly schemed to plot radical revolution — the occustrikers went from plotting sit-ins in the Kelley School of Business to planning a statewide campus strike. Marx inhabited slums — the occustrikers lived in People’s Park. Marx contradicted himself — the occustrikers can’t explain the discrepancy in their demands (e.g. wanting IU to provide a cheap education and one with better services for all, regardless of ability to pay).

Should it shock us that the father who inspired millions of leftist radicals was just like the lot of them?

Sperber would say no, unfortunately. His book argues that Marx’s influence is too large — that he does not deserve the treatment he receives among academic circles as a timeless philosopher. Rather, we should treat Marx as a man who offered solutions specific to his time and as a reactionary whose ideas should have little influence on our daily life.

Sperber claims that more than anything, even more than a theorist or a committed revolutionist, Marx was a political commentator whose commentary predictably contains contradictions that a theory such as “Marxism” should not. How else does one explain the fact that he characterized “the very idea of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” against the Prussians as “nonsense” to a Rhineland audience in 1848?

Indeed, Marx was as unlasting a commentator of the 19th century as Maureen Dowd will prove to be in the next. Yet, on college campuses, his influence lives on — if not in his economic theory then in cultural theory — despite the fact that Marxism has never worked.

The occustrikers will fail because their tactics are flawed, and their solutions are flawed. Though, when you frame the student body as a proletariat mass denied material wealth by an evil bourgeois administration, that is to be expected.

Here’s the bottom line: Marx was a flawed man who did not present a timeless solution to humanity’s ills but offered reactionary tactics to political issues of his day.

Why, then, do so many academics and students of the radical left determine to maintain Marx’s legacy?


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