Why Marx Was Wrong

On the occasion of Karl Marx’s 200th birthday, the co-founder of communism has received more than a few positive reappraisals, even from Western leaders. But those arguing that Marx cannot be blamed for the atrocities that his ideas inspired should reexamine his ideas.

.. For much of the twentieth century, 40% of humanity suffered famines, gulags, censorship, and other forms of repression at the hands of self-proclaimed Marxists.
.. Marx regarded private property as the source of all evil in the emerging capitalist societies of his day. Accordingly, he believed that only by abolishing it could society’s class divisions be healed, and a harmonious future ensured.
.. Under communism, his collaborator Friedrich Engels later claimed, the state itself would become unnecessary and “wither away.” These assertions were not made as speculation, but rather as scientific claims about what the future held in store.
.. it was all rubbish, and Marx’s theory of history – dialectical materialism – has since been proved wrong and dangerous in practically every respect. The great twentieth-century philosopher Karl Popper, one of Marx’s strongest critics, rightly called him a “false prophet.” And, if more evidence were needed, the countries that embraced capitalism in the twentieth century went on to become democratic, open, and prosperous societies.
By contrast, every regime that has rejected capitalism in the name of Marxism has failed – and not by coincidence or as a result of some unfortunate doctrinal misunderstanding on the part of Marx’s followers. By abolishing private ownership and establishing state control of the economy, one not only deprives society of the entrepreneurship needed to propel it forward; one also abolishes freedom itself.
.. Because Marxism treats all contradictions in society as the products of a class struggle that will disappear when private property does, dissent after the establishment of communism is impossible.
By definition, any challenge to the new order must be an illegitimate remnant of the oppressive order that came before.
.. Marx showed almost no interest in people as they actually exist. “Marxism takes little or no account of the fact that people are born and die, that they are men and women, young or old, healthy or sick,” he writes. As such, “Evil and suffering, in his eyes, had no meaning except as instruments of liberation; they were purely social facts, not an essential part of the human condition.”
.. Xi views China’s economic development over the past few decades as “cast iron proof” of Marxism’s continued validity.
But, if anything, it is exactly the other way around.
it was the China of pure communism that produced the famine and terror of the “Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution.” Mao’s decision to deprive farmers of their land and entrepreneurs of their firms had predictably disastrous results, and the Communist Party of China has since abandoned that doctrinaire approach.
Under Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, the CPC launched China’s great economic “opening-up.” After 1978, it began to restore private ownership and permit entrepreneurship, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular.
.. If China’s development is being held back by anything today, it is the remnants of Marxism that are still visible in inefficient state-owned enterprises and the repression of dissent.

Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests

Responding to the demonstrations, Israeli forces killed 17 Palestinians at the border fence that separates Israel from Gaza. More than 1,000 Palestinians were injured. It was the worst violence since the Gaza war of 2014.

Israel has a right to defend itself and maintain civil order, but it also has an obligation to respect peaceful protests and not use live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators. Israel’s response appears to have been excessive, as human rights groups have asserted.

.. Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times that while the military probably decided to use lethal force as a deterrent, “In my opinion they should have planned from the beginning to use minimal force and to prevent casualties.”

.. Competing videos told competing stories. The Israeli version appeared to show a Hamas fighter shooting at Israeli forces while other Palestinians were seen hurling stones, tossing Molotov cocktails and rolling burning tires at the fence. Palestinian videos on social media appeared to show unarmed protesters being shot by Israelis.

.. the United States on Saturday blocked a move in the United Nations Security Council calling for such an inquiry. The European Union has also urged an independent investigation.

.. More than two-thirds of Gazans are refugees from villages that have since been destroyed and their descendants.

Luther’s 95 Theses, 500 Years Later: A Mixed Legacy

it would do well to learn from Luther’s inability to control the revolution he somewhat unwittingly inspired.

.. The Lutherist reformers spurred the bloody peasant revolts; Burkean liberals yielded to radical revolutionaries; Girondins yielded to the Jacobins until in turn the Jacobins ate their own; the Mensheviks yielded to Bolsheviks and catalyzed the deaths of nearly 100 million people. And here on the American right, the Bannonites see our current “establishment” and vow to “burn it down,” without having any real idea how or what to build on the embers.

.. Luther originally posted his theses while expecting his mission to be within a long and honorable tradition of reform within the existing (Catholic) church.

.. Before Luther died, the church’s own Council of Trent had begun its deliberations, which in effect led to acknowledgment that Luther had been right about the abuse of indulgences and other clerical corruptions.

And 500 years later, what became his signature theological doctrine, “justification by faith,” was largely (if with slightly different emphases) affirmed by the Catholic Church itself.

.. (Luther, for example, believed that while the Eucharistic bread and wine did not physically change into the body and blood of Christ, it still contained, spiritually and fully, Christ’s “real presence.” Karlstadt went farther, saying that the Eucharist was merely symbolic.)

.. When well over 100,000 peasants died in a fruitless quest for greater rights, Luther was aghast at what he had wrought (while strongly denying that he was the instigator).

.. For the last 30 years of his life, the disputatious Luther was in constant battles, largely unsuccessful, to control the forces both theological and cultural that he had unleashed. He argued not just against the pope’s hard-liners but against earnest reformers such as Erasmus who wanted to hold the church together; he argued on the other side against Protestant radicals such as (in addition to Karlstadt) Zwingli, Calvin, Muntzer, and the Anabaptists ..

.. He brought to the masses a belief that individuals of any class were commissioned to think about and understand the deepest questions for themselves, with the “freedom of a Christian” leading inevitably to a popular taste for, and later an insistence on, political freedom as well. (The political theories associated with the Enlightenment clearly owed much to seeds sown by Luther.)