Sunday 8 July 2012

Who You Gonna Call?

Boo! [A]
"A specter is haunting the academy -the specter of the 'New Communism.'
"Astonishingly, a worldview recently the source of immense suffering and misery, and responsible for more deaths than fascism and Nazism, has made a comeback".
(Alan Johnson, "The Specter of the 'New Communism'")

Alan Johnson, professor of democratic theory and practice at Edge Hill University, UK, wrote a comment for World Affairs magazine (January 31, 2012) denouncing the risks he perceives in an alleged renewed interest in Marxist thought, largely by Western countries' disenfranchised youths and a handful of intellectuals:
"The New Communism matters not because of its intellectual merits but because it may yet influence layers of young Europeans in the context of an exhausted social democracy, austerity and a self-loathing intellectual culture."
Johnson seems to enjoy irony, as evidenced by his comment's opening line (which I adopted here): most readers, even those whose only exposure to Marxist thought is the quote itself, should recognize it is a rewording of part of The Communist Manifesto.

I also like irony. It's fitting, then, to return Johnson's irony with Marx's and Engels' entire quote:
"A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
"Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?"

Re-read Marx's and Engels' quote now, replacing
  1. 19th century politicians' names by present day names (by the way, the current Pope is as intent on exorcising the old ghost as he was back then!); 
  2. "French Radicals" by socio democrats/laborites; and 
  3. "German police-spies" by journalists and academics, like Johnson.
The opening lines of The Communist Manifesto could have been written yesterday in reply to Johnson!

We can go further: it doesn't take too much effort to remember the surreal accusations of Marxism (and Nazism!) leveled at Barack Obama; or the payday lender Adrian Beecroft's outburst, calling Vince Cable "socialist". The difference between these two cases and what Marx and Engels speak of is that, in both cases, the targets of the accusations are in government! Imagine: the People's Republic of Wall Street.

This makes Marxism astonishing, indeed: after more than 150 years, the voice of two dead men remains relevant to understand our world and come back to frighten the living.


The Manifesto's quote is so good, that, in fact, I felt tempted to leave things at that. You know what they say: short blogs are good blogs.

To do so, however, feels like a cop-out. Johnson, our ghostbuster, deals with matters that merit consideration and his comment is merely a symptom of what starts to feel like a Red Scare.

I suppose I'll have to revisit Johnson's comment in another opportunity.


Let's however, end this note in a suitably scary way:

Image Credits:
[A] "Geestsluetelhanger" by Superpower (2008). Wikipedia. My usage of this work does not imply its author agrees with my views.

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