Nhân ngày sinh nhật 200 năm của ông Mác(Karl Marx)

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Chuyện ông Mác(Karl Marx)


                                  Thư gửi ông Mác

MAY 06, 2018 | 4:15 AM  

Mary Gabriel

Người gửi Bà Mỹ Mary Gabriel

A letter to Karl Marx on his 200th birthday
Karl Marx (Los Angeles Times)


Dear Karl,

Happy birthday! It’s tempting to say that much has changed in the 200 years since your birth, but as I sit down to describe those changes, I must admit I am more struck by the similarities than the differences between your time and mine.


The big news is, of course, that the kings you fought so hard to unmask as charlatans no longer are divine. Well, there are a few monarchs who still claim tangential ties to a higher power, but most people have cottoned on to the fact that royal power is really just a combination of heredity and tenacity. And, unfortunately, your kings have been replaced by new ones who base their right to rule on an aristocracy of wealth.

Have you heard about the terrible wars of the 20th century? They were called World Wars, and that was no exaggeration. The first one, which involved said kings and their ambitions, killed as many as 40 million people. A second war began 20 years later because the first had never truly ended. It would kill twice as many people(#100 millions) and produce a weapon so formidable it could wipe out the planet. In that war, man proved he could kill like a beast and a god. Ironically, your name was invoked in the slaughter.

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tượng nạn nhân của chủ nghĩa Mác ở DC(Mỹ)

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Yes, Karl, after you died in 1883, people discovered your writings and some promptly misused them. There are statues of you in capitals around the globe where governments expounded “Marxism” to deprive people of the very freedoms you extolled. They reinterpreted your vision of “the free development of each” being “the condition for the free development of all” as the freedom to be equally miserable. Indeed, the repression and butchery accomplished in your name during the last century would horrify you.

Do you remember your high hopes for democracy? How you believed free speech, universal education and the vote would help usher in a world that created the greatest good for the greatest number? It hasn’t really worked out that way. While so-called Marxists operating under a communist banner expunged rights around the globe, capitalists busily subverted democracy in a long and insidious hostile takeover.

Don’t get me wrong. The initial benefits of capitalism were tremendous. Humankind’s possibilities soared. Scientific, technological and medical discoveries ensured that people lived longer and better. The arts flourished because people had leisure time to read, paint and compose. Natural resources were harnessed to improve agriculture, so everyone could eat. It really was marvelous, but as you said, for the capitalist, marvelous isn’t enough. That omnivorous beast hungers eternally for more and bigger profits.

I hate to tell you, but the man now occupying Lincoln’s house is your old capitalist friend Mr. Moneybags.

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In the past 40 years, especially, such capitalists have turned democracies on their heads. Most of those governments are no longer of the people or for the people. They serve one constituent: business. Politicians are bought by the dozen, the highest echelons of government bureaucracies are peopled with titans of industry and finance and their minions, and laws are written to protect corporate interests over people’s interests. Citizens of democracies, who fought so hard in your century for the right to vote, have seemed to lose interest in the ballot when faced with the powerful adversary, capital. The vote has been devalued, and like any commodity, it has been snapped up by savvy investors who understand its power.

I remember how much you admired Abraham Lincoln and how you thought that brilliant son of the working class embodied everything good and great about the United States. Well, I hate to tell you, but the man now occupying Lincoln’s house is your old capitalist friend Mr. Moneybags. I recently reread your “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844” and laughed because you described him to a tee when you wrote about the wizardry of money, which can turn even a brute into a prince. “I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness — its deterrent power — is nullified by money. … I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honored and hence its possessor. … Does not all my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?” You must have had a crystal ball in the Paris apartment where you wrote those words.

So, what else has happened 200 years down the road? African men and women are still being sold, but now it’s called “people trafficking.” Citizens have been made somnolent by the trinkets of capitalism the way populations in your time were subdued by conquering colonial powers. Now, as then, the distance between factory workers and the people who use their products is great enough that the guilt over the exploitation of workers dissipates by the time coveted stretch jeans or smartphones arrive on store shelves. As in your day, happy consumers congratulate themselves on grabbing a bargain without being troubled by the fact that a person a continent away worked themselves to death to produce it.

It’s a grim picture, indeed, I’m sorry to say. But there is hope! This century has seen a series of events that indicate a new generation may be finding its way past the prison houses of 20th century ideologies. A collapse of the global financial system in 2008 exposed for even some free-market stalwarts the flaws in its construction. Newspapers that had previously scoffed at the mere mention of your name began to question, “Was Marx right?” Sometimes, brave individuals stuck their necks out and whispered, “Yes.”

And then, two years later, in late 2010, spontaneous revolts that came to be known as the Arab Spring signaled the possibility of mass social change. It was a revival of your 1848 Springtime of the People revolts in Europe. Entire populations rose up to overthrow autocratic and corrupt rulers in North Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, history repeated itself in that, as in 1848, the reaction from entrenched powers was swift and deadly. Alas, the counterrevolution won again. But, eight years later, the embers are still warm, and the wind (which is now called the internet) is spreading them.

In the past two years, individuals have discovered their voices and the strength that resides in their numbers. Black and white citizens have taken to the streets to denounce the murder of black men by police. Women have joined forces to expose sexual predators and the industries that not only enable them, but profit by it. Tens of thousands of children have assumed the mantle of adults by acknowledging the truth their elders are too cowed to express: Guns kill.

So, dear Karl, as you celebrate your 200th birthday, there is hope. And it’s great that you are still around to help us, if not in person, then through your work and your words. You inspire us still.


Mary Gabriel is the author of “Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution.” Her latest book, “Ninth Street Women,” will be published by Little, Brown in September.

Who was Karl Marx?

Mary Gabriel says Karl Marx's utopian dream never materialized, but some of his ideas are integral to the American system.

Story highlights

  • Mary Gabriel: Karl Marx is potent symbol for Americans, is used as political epithet
  • She wonders whether people who fling Marxist tag know anything about Karl Marx
  • She says Marx a middle-class activist trying to lead Prussian king to democratic reforms
  • Gabriel: Americans taught to fear him, but have adopted some of his ideas, like free education
There are few philosophers whose very name provokes more violent responses than Karl Marx.
His stern face, framed by a mass of gray hair, symbolizes for many Americans the costly battles of the 20th century: battles against communism, socialism, and authoritarianism fought in defense of democracy and free-market capitalism. As successive generations of Americans waged those fights, the philosophical disputes at the core of the conflicts embedded themselves into the American soul. So much so that when the “evil empire,” whose seeds sprouted from Marx’s doctrine, died as a result of the revolutions of 1989, the ideological battle did not.
Though the Soviet Union is but a memory, and that other communist behemoth — China — has mutated into a capitalist autocracy, the specter of Marx himself remains as potent as ever in 21st century U.S. political discourse. Since 2008 especially, with the fall of financial markets and the rise of Barack Obama, the charge “Marxist” has been hurled like toxic sludge against politicians seen as ready to redistribute wealth (to the advantage of most Americans), expand social safety nets, or ensure that all children receive a good education. Critics say these steps are merely the first along a slippery slope that inevitably ends in outright state control. Amid these warnings, the communist horrors of the 20th century float like dark apparitions, reminding us of the bad old days.
But I wonder how many of those who invoke the name of Marx in order to stifle political debate actually believe their own propaganda. Or are they conjuring up a convenient bogeyman at a time of great uncertainty. Do they raise Marx’s image in order to deflect attention from slightly warmer bodies (Marx has been dead for 128 years)in positions of political or economic power who are actually more pernicious? I also wonder whether those who use Marx’s name, and those who tremble at the thought of him, actually know much about the man. Are they reacting to Karl Marx or those things done in his name? I believe it is the latter. I also believe it is time to understand Marx so that we are no longer made to fear him.
When I began working on a biography of Marx’s family in 2003, I was well acquainted with his theories. I knew, as most do, the history of the governments formed to reflect the state he had supposedly envisioned. I knew of the atrocities committed by those said to be his followers. I had not, however, been properly introduced to the man himself. What I discovered was not what I expected.

Mary Gabriel

Karl Marx was a middle-class philosopher, economist, and journalist (whose main employer was a New York newspaper). He was also flawed in the extreme. He drank excessively, behaved shamefully in his home life, and worked obsessionally, though he produced little that earned him money or recognition during his lifetime. These flaws, however, made him more interesting because, despite being in a state of near constant personal crisis, he was able to accomplish what he set out to do — he changed the world.
Marx began his opposition activities as a youth in Prussia against an absolute monarch who could not see, or perhaps chose not to see, that society was changing. The industrial revolution was spreading eastward and Prussian businessmen were eager to expand with it. But the old system of government would not allow for such progress. The king would not allow the democratic reforms that were the handmaidens of the new industrial order.
This was Marx’s first battle, to expose the contradictions between the centuries-old monarchical system and the world as it existed in the first half of the 19th century. According to Marx, it was only natural that as the means of production changed — in this case a move from an agricultural base to an industrial one — society would be altered. And if, as he believed, a government’s sole function was to serve the people, then government must also change. Marx saw this social evolution as inevitable. It only became revolution when the kings and their minions refused to reform.
By the 1850s, the industrialists had gained political power after revolts across Europe in 1848 caused kings to view proto-capitalists as allies against radicalized lower classes. The wheels of industry were humming, as were the halls of finance, where a new breed of speculator was born, addicted to risk in his quest for ever greater profit.
Marx quickly recognized that capitalism would institutionalize social and economic instability. The system’s inherent hunger for new markets, new consumers, new and cheaper methods of production in order to increase the flow of capital would result in a destructive system of boom and bust. After each cataclysm, he predicted, the number of capitalists at the top of the pyramid would be smaller, while the base of disaffected workers grew. Gradually even the middle class would be included.
Marx believed that industrial capitalism had also created a new system of repression and exploitation. Politically and socially men were no more equal under this new order than they had been under a monarchy. Rights belonged to those with money and property; those with only a strong back or skilled hands could not even vote. Financially, those filling the ranks of the industrial workforce were arguably worse off.
There was evidence aplenty to support Marx’s assessment. He lived in London, the richest city in the world. And yet as great as was its wealth, much greater was its poverty. In Marx’s neighborhood, some people rented a space in a bed and called it comfort. Others paid for a few inches on a stairwell and called it home. Marx summed up the situation saying, “There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery.”
This is the field where Marx’s ideas grew. He famously spent year after year in the British Museum Reading Room, trying to understand this new system, predict its course, and, finally, offer an alternative. Throughout the 16 years before he produced his greatest literary work Das Kapital, Marx’s family lived in near continual destitution. Their sole consolation was that they believed Marx’s work was noble and important, and that their suffering was small compared with the majority of people who sacrificed their lives so someone else could live in luxury.
Das Kapital and Marx’s other political-economic writings were only one aspect of his work. He was also an organizer and educator. Through various small groups, he tried to teach workers, who had neither formal education nor viewed themselves as a political force. The courses included language, literature and history, but mostly politics and economics. Marx was convinced that the only way to successfully change society was to educate the population so that it could eventually lead itself.
In 1864, the most important of his many organizational endeavors was born, the International Working Men’s Association. Its goal was to connect workers and trade unions throughout Europe and America to protect their rights in the face of an increasingly powerful capitalist system, whose tentacles had spread beyond individual nations and were encircling the globe. Marx recognized the working man’s greatest power was his number.
Marx died in 1883, before his books gained a wide readership and before the workers he had been fighting for took their places in government as representatives of labor and socialist political parties. It had taken decades of struggle — largely nonviolent — for this to occur. But Marx knew the path to progress would be slow, and that ultimately the best way to re-balance society was through the ballot box. He also believed, however, that the working man had the right to revolt if those in power tried to deny him such political expression — free speech, free assembly, freedom of the press — and the vote.
Marx’s actual vision for a government of the future was vague, which no doubt is why it has produced so many variants. But he believed ultimately mankind would naturally evolve out of capitalism and socialism, and embrace a communist society in which government was no longer necessary at all. It is a utopian dream that has occurred nowhere — least of all in the countries most associated with his name.
Today, many people know Marx only through the crimes of the former communist countries. But Marx’s ideas also helped give birth to mainstream political parties in Western Europe — Britain’s Labour Party, Spain’s Socialist Party, France’s Socialist Party, and Germany’s Social Democratic Party. And yet, for some reason in America, these parties are generally not considered part of Marx’s legacy.
In the United States, we have been taught to fear Marx for so long that we have forgotten those parts of his philosophy that have become integral to our own lives — from free education to the right to bear arms. In fact, the era in modern American history that was most “Marxist” was the 1950s, when union membership was high, personal wealth spread more equitably, and the gap between the rich and poor relatively slim.
I came away from my Marx project believing that rather than demonizing Marx, it is better to understand him. If his name is used in political discourse, it should be done in the manner of other great thinkers: as a source of ideas. Whether or not we agree with him, there are lessons to be learned from Marx. To believe otherwise is to ignore a man and a period of history that are crucial to understanding our own.

Karl Marx’s German home town celebrates his 200th birthday with a Chinese statue — and a struggle

(Tượng tưởng niệm ông Mác tại thành phố Thiers Đức,nơi sinh trưởng của ông lại do ông Tàu làm !! và cuộc tranh cải giữa hai phái chống và ủng hộ)

China Marx Statue1
May 5 at 7:02 PM
Why some Germans see a Karl Marx statue as proof of creeping Chinese influence

Nearly two centuries ago, the 17-year-old son of a vineyard owner left this tranquil riverside city on the edge of the Prussian empire to make his way in the world — and maybe shake it up a bit. 

On Saturday, after inspiring untold numbers of revolutions, repressive regimes and ponderous grad school seminars, Karl Marx came home. In bronze. By way of China. And, oh, he is now 18 feet tall.

The unveiling of a two-ton ­Chinese-funded sculpture to honor the German philosopher on the 200th anniversary of his birth brought scads of tourists to Trier, where his life began. 

While here, they took in Marx lectures, toured the Marx family home and bought vast quantities of marked-up Marx souvenirs. (The Marx rubber duckies — wild gray mane framing bright orange bill — were a particular hit.)

The capitalist exploitation of his birthday may not have thrilled the co-author of the Communist Manifesto. But the proponent of proletarian uprisings might have been cheered by another facet of the celebration: the struggle. Not of the class variety. But a bitter one, nonetheless.

The city is split over whether a democratic nation such as Germany should be erecting monuments that are paid for, designed and built by an authoritarian one such as China. The divide spilled into the streets Saturday with dueling demonstrations for and against the monolith, forming a noisy backdrop to the statue’s official dedication.

On one side, hundreds of flag-waving members of Germany’s fringe Communist Party cheered. On the other — separated by barricades and riot police — an eclectic group of Free Tibet, anti-fascist and pro-human rights protesters chanted and blew whistles in a vain effort to drown out the speeches.

City officials say they see nothing wrong with the statue’s unusual path to Trier’s downtown. The statue, Trier Mayor Wolfram Leibe insisted Saturday, is not about the “glorification” of Marx. Instead, he told the large crowd that had assembled under a cloudless blue sky, it is meant to spark conversation — and strengthen international bonds.

“It’s a gesture of friendship,” he said.

But others in Germany — a nation divided for nearly a half-
due in no small part to its native son’s theories — say city officials are being naive about a project that neatly aligns with Chinese state propaganda.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a political agenda behind it,” said Christian Soffel, a Chinese studies professor at Trier University.

How important Marx is to that agenda was underlined by the visit of two senior Chinese officials who spoke at Saturday’s ceremony. The officials — the country’s ambassador to Germany and the deputy chief of the Information Ministry, the government’s propaganda arm — each paid tribute to Marx, although not in terribly Marxian terms. 

The ambassador, Shi Mingde, said China had “modernized” Marx’s theories — a veiled reference to the country’s hearty embrace of much of modern capitalism — and boasted that China is responsible for 30 percent of global economic growth. 

“For that,” he said, “we can thank Karl Marx.”

At the unveiling’s critical moment, Chinese and German officials together pulled back a red drape to reveal a rendering of Marx in full stride — a book clutched beneath his left arm, his right gently pressed to his signature frock coat. 

China had already held its own lavish event to honor the bicentennial. On Friday, President Xi Jinping heralded Marx as “the greatest thinker of modern times” at a ceremony to mark his birthday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. 

Xi, who recently pushed through constitutional changes that could allow him to stay in office indefinitely, has urged all Communist Party members to read Marx and adopt his theories as “a way of life.”

Xi’s German counterpart, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, showed markedly less affection with his own speech about Marx on Thursday. The philosopher was undeniably influential, Steinmeier said, and his ideas need to be discussed. But the country also cannot forget that his writings gave fuel to murderous regimes — and still do. 

“We shouldn’t fear Marx, but we don’t need to build any golden statues to him either,” Steinmeier said. 

Not so long ago, Germany was tearing down statues of Marx. An icon of communist East Germany, his likeness was scrubbed from many a town square after the country’s reunification under democracy and capitalism in 1990. 

And that is the way it should stay, said Dieter Dombrowski, who spent 20 months in an East German prison after getting caught trying to flee the country.

“Marx wrote the cookbook for communist dictatorships all over the world,” said Dombrowski, who now chairs an organization that advocates on behalf of those who were victims of such regimes.

He called the decision by Trier, in far western Germany, to allow China to build an enormous Marx statue “tragic and laughable all at once.” 

“In Trier, and in the West as a whole, no one read Marx. They don’t have a sense for the history,” he said. “It was all far away from them. But we know both his theories and how they were put into practice.”

Whether Marx would have approved of how his theories have been applied is the subject of fierce debate. Many defenders insist he should not be held responsible for the way his ideas were distorted for murderous ends decades after his death. And love him or hate him, there is no denying that the problems he identified — particularly the tendency of capitalism to create conflict between classes — remain relevant two centuries later. 

“The gap between rich and poor is getting wider — not only here in Germany, but in the U.S. and in many other countries,” said Wolfgang Bergmann, a retired locksmith whose billowing white hair and beard make him a dead ringer for the long-dead philosopher. 

Bergmann was drawn to Trier for the statue unveiling because of his own political convictions. “I’ve been a communist since 1971,” he said proudly.

But Bergmann is relatively rare in Germany, particularly in Trier — a heavily Catholic and somewhat conservative city where residents have no taste for revolution.

The same was true in Marx’s day. 

Having been raised in a middle-class family in a stately Baroque home, he left to attend university at 17 and never moved back. Much of his life was spent in exile, where his radical writings advocating the violent overthrow of the capitalist system were better tolerated than they would have in his native land. He died in London and was buried there. 

Modern-day Trier, with a population just north of 100,000, reflects little evidence that Marx’s ideas had much impact locally. Icons of capitalism — McDonald’s hamburgers, luxury watches, designer clothing brands — are on sale in the grand central square. Marx’s boyhood home, meanwhile, has become a “euro store,” where everything from Chinese-made flip-flops to sunglasses can be bought with loose change. The Marx statue itself stares out at a hair salon.

The city has long been conflicted about Marx’s legacy — a strife well-represented in the bookstore window across the street from the home where he was born. Unlike the home where he was raised, the birth home has been converted into a museum.

Owner Regina Ebel has assembled in the window a motley collection of Marx books, Marx busts and even an antique that she claims, with a wink, could be Marx’s baby carriage. But she also has a cage stuffed with books and sealed with red tape — a protest of Marx-inspired oppression. 

Her own views are similarly ambivalent. She would not mind a Marx statue in town. It’s just the size that bothers her. 

“A statue on a human scale is fine,” she said. “But this is propaganda.” 

If the tourists who have descended on Trier have such a concern, it hasn’t shown. Many are Chinese, and Soffel, the professor, said he believes the city’s true goal in allowing the statue to be built is to up their number. 

“For a city like Trier, which has no real industry aside from wine and tourism, it’s quite attractive to draw more Chinese,” he said. 

Early indications suggest the strategy is working. At Trier Souvenir, around the corner from the spot where the statue was unveiled, the shop was doing a brisk business Saturday in all things Marx. 

The ducks were going fast at 6.90 euros (or $8.25) apiece. The “zero euro” souvenir bank notes, adorned with Marx’s stern visage and selling for three euros ($3.59), had sold out — but they could still be preordered. Marx mouse pads, coffee cups and refrigerator magnets were also in demand. 

In between ringing up sales, 24-year-old Sarah Klein said she had not given much thought to the statue debate or to what Marx would make of it all. 

But she was sure of one thing: “It’s going to be good for business.”

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