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September 12, 2007 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-09-12

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Wedesay Sptmbr 2,200S -Th Mchga Dil

Bo Schembechler was his client, but
not Lloyd Carr, so he must be
doing something right.
Is the dominance of Pow-
erPoint in Univesrity class-
rooms making us dumber?
Y 6B
When a donor whose
name is on a campus
building commits a crime,
what does that say about
the University?
Why your apartment might be worse
than a panhandlers'
How a Midwesterner braved the New
York City Subways


A look at the big news events this week and how important they really are. Conveniently ranked from one to10.
Michael Vick isn't the country's only dog- Under the pretense that the selection was
fighter. The Detroit Free Press reported last made because Metro Detroit is an impor-
week that the U.S. Huwane Society consid- tant center for industry and manufactunine.
10 ers Detroit "a hotbed for dogfighting" with 0 10 a network-televised Republican debate will
6 more than 200 complaints a year in Oak- 8 be held in Dearborn on Oct. 9. Really, the
land county. If only people cared about the selection is a way to exploit Dearborn's
millions dead in Iraq as much as they care large Arab American and Muslim popula-
about puppies. tion in front of a national audience - typi-
cal Republican stuff,


For about two months, owners of Apple's
new Phone defined cool. After a $200
price cut though, the hipsters who stood for
hours in line to buy it are looking a lot more
10 like chumps who got played by Steve Jobs. 0
Time to tell your rich friends to find new
ways to get attention.

Inan interview with GQ Magazine, former
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,
ignoring the resurging Taliban, described
the war in Afghanistan as "one big suc-
is cess." Just like the war in Iraq and his ten-
ure as Secretary of Defense.


With the state facing a possible shutdown over a budget defi-
cit and a timid Democratic governor disinclined to take her
opposition to task, State Senate Majority leader Mike
Bishop has found himself in the position of being one
of the most powerful figures in state politics.
The 41-year-old University alum who is known
for his pin-striped suits and slicked back hair has
steadfastly refused to agree to any budget deals
with Gov. Granholm that involve tax hikes. The
Rochester Republican's tactics have driven the
state to near shutdown, a situation that only wors-
ened last week after Bishop canceled Friday's .
budget talks with the speaker of the house and
the governor to go on a golf outing.

Cont'd: The real legacy of Karl Marx

Finally making good on their campaign
promises, congressional Democrats
passed an overhaul of federal student aid,
increasing Pell Grants and slashing sub-
10 sidies to loan companies. Now only book
9 stores, universities and textbook publishers
are getting rich off of students.
Many AOL subscribers will miss out on the
secret way to "grow three more inches" or
"take part in a sexual marathon," because
Adam Vitale, responsible for millions of
spam e-mails, was caught breakingfederal
3 ospam laws. If he practices what his mailings
preached, at least he'll be popular in prison.
rule 37: The only thing
worse than wearing a T-
shirt out at night is wear-
ing a graphic T-shirt. rule
38: When you're late you
look like an asshole. rule
39: Go to office hours.
Your grade really will go
- E-mail rule submissions to

MARX From page 2B
radical Islamic movements of the
present. A Green Menace replaced
the Red!
People still ask me, on occa-
sion, "Are you a Marxist?" My
answer now is different. "We're
not allowed to tell."
When the Soviet Union set
itself up as the guardian of the
faith, Marxism and socialism were
identified by liberals, conserva-
tives, and Stalinists alike as being
consonant with the practices and
achievements of the USSR. Stalin
defanged Marx, eliminated the
critical power of Marxism and
turned it into a legitimizing ide-
ology. Russia was conceivably the
worst place to attempt to build the
kind of socialism that Marx envi-
sioned coming after capitalism had
exhausted all its potential. This is
a country that is still today trying
to get capitalism right. Actually,
many historians claim, this is a
country that could not get feudal-
ism right. My own sense is that
Marx would have been the most
fervent critic, from the Left, of
the disempowering of the working
class and the exploitative character
of the Soviet regime, as were many
Western and Soviet Marxists of the
time. He would have been appalled
at Marxism becoming a religion
dressed in scientific drag.
In my view, what is most impor-
tant in Marx are his questions,
critiques, his values and his moral
vision - all part of a legacy that
remains a powerful specter that
still haunts global capitalism and
(what Marxists call) bourgeois
democracy at the beginning of the
21st century. Those values contin-
ue to inspire people in many parts
of the world who without them
would be even more disempowered
before the onslaught of global capi-
talism and American hegemony.
For Marx, history did not end
with capitalism. He did not legiti-
mize the present as the best of all
possible worlds, even as he appre-
ciated the power and productiv-
ity of capitalism. Socialists aimed
to subvert and supercede bour-
geois society in the interest of a
more egalitarian, socially just and
democratic form of society. This
vision certainly contains within
it a utopia, as does any politics
except conservative acceptance
of the way the world exists at the
moment. That utopia - that dif-
ferent and better future which the
overwhelming one-dimensional-
ity of current political imagination
makes appear ridiculous, retains
enormous power as an immanent
critique of the limits, mystifica-
tions, apologetics, and deceptions
of bourgeois democracy and mar-
ket capitalism. Utopia, in other,


words, might be thought of, not in ing large sums of money, buy pri-
the usual sense of an impossible vate media and use it to create or
dream, but rather a far off goal limit popular opinion; where the
toward which one directs one's wealthier members of society had
politics, even if the ultimate goal easier access to courts and lawyers
might not be reached. My personal than poor people, and money spent
goal, for instance, might be per- in elections would be equated with
fect health and immortality; even freedom of speech. Such a perfect
bourgeois democracy, of course,
would be viewed by its pundits
and preachers not as serving only
The Bolsheviks the rich and powerful but by the
talking classes as well as the bulk
are gone. Did of the population as working in the
interests of the whole people for
Marxism o with the common good.
g What Marx's message has lost,
th mat least for the time being, is the
means to make the changes that its
system of values and preferences
would maintain is so necessary for
human well-being and, increas-
though I know neither is possible, ingly, survival. There is no prole-
that does not stop me from going tariat anymore, at least not in the
to the gym for a workout. sense of a unified historical subject;
Socialism was, and remains, an there is no coherent material force
alternative imaginary modernity positioned as the gravedigger of
and not an alternative to moderni- and alternative to capitalism. That
ty. It might be thought of today as a modernist belief in a unified, con-
classic "empty signifier," a concept scious class that embodies progress
without specific content, the con- has had to give way to a greater
tent to be filled by actual practices appreciation of the scattered, dis-
within the ongoing movement of jointed elements of dissent and
history. From its origins, socialism refusal - working people, the Latin
has been a movement with the goal American Left, environmentalists,
of extending the power of ordinary those who struggle for their identi-
people, that is, of extending as far ty and dignity and engage in a day-
as possible the limits of democracy by-day struggle which often fails to
- not only in the realm of politics constrain the seemingly inevitable
(which was the goal of democratic expansion of global capitalism.
radicals and left liberals), but also At its best moments, from its
in the economy as well. Because origins to its present dismal state,
the power implicit in property and the struggle for socialism has been
wealth, they believe, would mevi- fundamentally about a struggle
tably distort and corrupt the demo- for democracy - the extension
cratic political sphere, socialists of empowerment to the greatest
have searched for mechanisms of number of people. The commit-
social control over or social own- ment to democracy, however, was
ership of the means of production. repeatedly compromised by politi-
In addition, socialism - in contrast cal expediencies, the imperatives
to liberalism but closer to some of gaining and holding state power,
forms of conservatism, religion and and the usurpation of socialism's
nationalism - seeks a restoration aspirations by self-serving poli-
of social solidarity fractured by the ticians. Yet democracy, greater
individualizing effects of competi- social justice, the promotion of
tive market relations. That remains equality and popular control over
their utopia, a telos for their poli- the economic as well as the politi-
tics. cal sphere remain the program of
Marx presents a radical critique those who would take Marx seri-
of the injustices that derive from ously and on his own terms.
private property in the means of Democracy, however, as Ameri-
production, and the power such cans must now be most acutely
possession implies over all kinds of aware, does not come easily and
economic and political decisions. cannot be exported on the tips
He argues in favor of establishing of bayonets. Its gains even in the
real democracy in place of bour- most stable of polities can be easily
geois democracy, which Marx from reversed. The United States, simul-
his earliest writing understood to taneously one of the most progres-
be a colossal fraud. Great wealth sive and the most reactionary
and property when unchecked by countries on the globe, bestrides
countervailing institutions, their the world like a colossus thatstands
power justified by the dominant in the way of any movementor idea
discourses, inevitably distort dem- that would curb its dominance,
ocratic choices. If one imagined and for the current administration
a perfect bourgeois democracy, (those I refer to as the Busheviks),
it would be one in which the rich that dominance entails the freest
could influence elections by spend- of free market economics and the

greatest freedom for the U.S. to
have its way in the world.
So what is left of Marxism? It is
still about expanding democracy,
which is stillso fragile in much of the
world. The utopian aspect of think-
ing beyond the present - for all of
the dangers associated with attempt-
ing to impose utopias - at least arms
us with a way to think critically
about what needs to be changed.
Marx makes us think about alterna-
tives, even when his own theory fails
any longer to give us either a clear
vision of that alternative or a means
to achieve it. Granted, this might not
be enough, especially for pragmatic
Americans. Without vision though,
politics circles endlessly around its
present conceptions.
In the absence at the moment of
a material force to assist us in a pro-

gressive direction, Marx's historicity
helps us out: change happens, per-
haps not in determined, predictable
ways as he might have thought. But
it happens, and humans still make
their own history even if not.under
circumstances chosen bythemselves.
But to make history, you had better
know history, and the world. That is
where scholars come in - not just as
closeted observers but as interpret-
ers, explainers - and in their noble,
necessary work of critique and anal-
ysis, they contribute to those exalted
goals of Marx himself, enlighten-
ment and emancipation.
- Ronald Suny is the Charles
Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social
and Political History at the Univer-
sity. He has written several books on
the history of the Soviet Union.

Cover Art: Sam Butler
PhotoEditor:Emma Nolan-Abra-
Designer:Bridget O'Donnell
EditorinChief: Karl Stampfl
ManagingEditor:Jeffrey Bloomer

What's left of Marx?

hen I was a young pro-
fessor at Oberlin Col-
lege, that liberal oasis in
northeastern Ohio, a senior profes-
sor of religion came into my mod-
est office, past the larger-than-life
size poster of Lenin on the door,
and asked me, "Is it true that you
are a Marxist?" In those days, con-
fident in my radicalism, I assured
him I was. "How quaint!" he said.
"You know," he continued, "you on
the Left believe in the goodness of
man and therefore are always dis-
appointed, while we who believe in

Original Sin expect the worst and
are never disappointed by what
For the Left, in so far as a Left
actually exists in the United States,
and for liberals as well, certainly
the next few decades were ones of
disappointment, even disenchant-
ment. The last spasm of hope for
many of us came with Mikhail
Gorbachev, former president of the
ex-Soviet Union, who led an exper-
iment in radical reform from above,
but that ended only too quickly in
the catastrophic collapse, not only

of Soviet Communism, but of any
real "third way" alternatives to
The term third
party doesn't
have to mean
the Greens.
the triumph of neoliberal econom-
ics and eventually neoconservative

The end of Communism and
the Soviet empire in East Central
Europe appeared to confirm the
perversity of Marxism as political
practice and as a view of history.
The principal critical analysis of
capitalism and imperialism, the
major opponent of Western capi-
talism in both Western socialist
parties and in Soviet support of
national liberation movements
and Communist parties, Marx-
ism was swept from the field,
driven underground. Or at least

driven into the academy, the uni-
versities, where it is occasionally
taught to freshmen. In the absence
of significant secular revolution-
ary or reformist alternatives to
the "new world order" of West-
ern capitalism and democracy,
unanticipated new forces, much
more conservative and religious,
appeared, first in Iran in the revo-
lution of the ayatollahs in 1979, in
the Muslim Brotherhood move-
ments in Egypt and elsewhere, in
the mujaheddin resistance to the
See MARX, page 11B

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