Before I started writing this column on why paychecks are likely to keep shrinking even if unemployment starts to inch down, I consulted Google to see if the term Marxism was trending upward. It was and has been ever since the end of December, the conclusion of a year in which workers’ share of the US economic pie shrank to the smallest piece ever: 54.4 percent of GDP, down from about 60 percent in the 1970s.
— Rana Foroohar, Time magazine via Reader Supported News
You might think it would be a cold day in Costa Rica when a Time article mentioned wage inequities in this country in the same sentence with Marxism, but there it was, plain as the Republican Party’s blueprint for destroying organized labor.
How ironic that so many pundits, not to mention historians, assumed twenty years ago that the fall of the Soviet Union (which wasn’t even Marxist) would be the final nail in the coffin of Marxist ideology. Francis Fukuyama, for one, went right to work on a book that addressed “whether there is such a thing as progress, and whether we can construct a coherent and directional universal history of mankind.”
In 2011, it’s looking as if Marxism suffered a knockdown but not a KO. How naive of Fukuyama to ask whether the temporary defeat of this or that ideology or style of government might portend the “end of history.”
What if Marxism was simply waiting for the 21st century, when corporation owners would finally succeed in using technology to inexorably reduce employment and pay rates in the First World and thus, possibly, spark widespread unrest? What if something much darker than Marxism is waiting to descend on what’s left of democracy in America?
And what’s the meaning of democracy as it’s currently practiced in the United States? From Karl Marx’s greatest hits: “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”
I also like this, from Groucho Marx (no relation to Karl), something he might have said to Fukuyama if he’d lived to see publication of The End of History and the Last Man: “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”
Clarification: To be fair to Fukuyama, his phrase “end of history” was meant to be partly ironic. His book ultimately asked what would become of a populace that has nothing left to strive for but the accumulation of new consumer gadgets. He probably couldn’t see when he wrote it that the threat of tyranny, in this country and the rest of the world, would remain as strong as ever.