(Or Why Societies Openly Question Their Economic and Political Elites?)
In memoriam: Dan Georgakas (1938-2021)
I hope that you are well and that your inspiration keeps flowing. The “American Dream” is still hovering over America like a ghost (the phrase is an indirect reference to you that you never set foot here).
There are many times when I see things, and the first thought that comes into my head is, “Karl Marx should have seen that.” A few examples, the pharmacies of the richest country on earth had no PPE at the beginning of this pandemic (a newspaper wrote that the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine had one major obstacle: big pharma). The parking space they prepared in Los Angeles for the homeless, while all the hotels were empty. The billionaires live in their private yachts, and become richer during the pandemic…
At a moment, I was looking at my hat and I thought, “Hmm, my friend Karl has got a hat like that” (please do forgive me for calling you my friend, but you have let me into your brain – via your writings– and I have been very happy there in a friendly sort of a way). I’ve seen him wearing the same style hat in photos in old books and pamphlets. How did my hat fly between New York City and Paradise while I never saw it leave its place over the television at home?
For many readers, you are a modem day monk. In my imagination, I see you, yes as a monk, but one who is searching in an enormous library for a book. I don’t know which one. Is it a book with financial data? I let you know, that in America, we were likely already in a recession. Millions of workers filed for unemployment, not unqualified, but people with university degrees. People are struggling to survive, many lose their job –automatically they lose their health insurance– and face absence of any income for weeks (Capitalism is not built on winners! The only exception is the capitalist system of Norway that works for all!). People are losing income while their bills pile up. You know what it means not to have an income, don’t you? The jobs now are coming back. It’s a rocky way to recovery with inflation becoming the new threat…
I have dreamt several times that I lived in ancient Athens with you as my friend. The last dream is the reason for my letter. In the dream, I was the servant of Aristotle. You wanted to understand what it was like to be his servant. I tried to explain the humility I felt. But you seemed to know how I felt already. You wanted to ask other questions, about modern day America, the NYSE and what they say about you. Yes, they say, you didn’t work (work = the everyday capitalist obligation) as a laborer a single day of your life! I am so sorry, but they know it, and again, your own mother who said (imaginative more than a fact) that, she would have preferred, you had accumulated capital rather than write about it! Hmm? It seems that, you knew, that we have gathered enormous wealth and so much knowledge. A Las Vegas casino is more regulated than the capitalist system, you said.
But your burning question was: how it happens and we still have so many poor people in the big cities? How it happens 50 billionaires in the U.S. are worth as much as the poorest 165 million? You mentioned, too, the words Bernie Sanders wrote in a recent article at The Guardian: “A job should lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it.” Thus, societies openly question their economic and political elites. Economic inequalities will one day lead, not to strikes, but to city riots of unimaginable scale. And a bit later, during the same dream, you wanted to ask about Engels, your best friend. And I told you; when you died at your London desk in 1883, Engels started seeing with half an eye anyone who had injured you during your fruitful life. A true friend indeed! (At your funeral, at Highgate Cemetery, North London, just eleven people attended.) Engels could not talk in his last years, because of cancer in the esophagus and was chalking his thoughts on a slate continuing to elaborate on Marxism. Suddenly, you said angrily to me, don’t use this term, just read my work.
One week ago, I happened to be walking on Fifth Avenue, by chance some parchments and The National Herald were in my hands. I saw a gentleman who resembled you so much, the same beard, the same shape of glasses, same hat, and suit, tie, the lot. Without hesitation, I called “Karl, Karl Marx!” I was overcome with that silly joy that all fans feel. The man stopped and turned round to face me. He said very aggressively, “Do I know you?” I said, “No but you are a theorist and an economist, aren’t you?” He looked at me blankly. But still as he turned round to enter a baker’s shop I again called “Karl Marx!” I am asking you now as it really not you? You possibly came to New York to write a brief history of city riots, to observe the cataclysmic changes and why capitalism has still a baby mind or, to view our era as a pre-angel of the new 1929. If not, I imagine that the poor man will write a letter to tell you this story from his point of view. He may say in his letter, that you became and remain famous and he is suffering as a result (even 139 years after your death).
I, myself, write mini-articles on America. (I am a new and proud immigrant, too). In order to understand why capitalism is so hungry for more growth, which ends up polluting the environment, leads to habitat loss and ruins the lives of so many people. To understand better, too, your magnum opus of 1867 Das Kapital (= labor is the source of all wealth). Life’s adventures, during the pandemic, have brought me to write to you. You know that economic arguments win over political arguments; it may be the time that this changes. Theorists that read your work, and lightly influenced are back, but nobody talks about it. Keynes and his spiritual sons are back, too. You can’t even imagine the quantity of the USD that is being printed now, and Joe Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, jobs, and reshaping the economy.
I know that you are interested in everything, and I hope that you will show some interest in me in order to find time for a quick reply. I have much more to say to you, but next time. Do continue to search in books and let me hope that one day you will happen to find mine (a small book on the same issues, like this letter to you, dear Karl).
P.S. The Soviet Russians destroyed so many of your ideas under the unskilled comrade Stalin. Thus, we don’t need you any more Karl Marx! We try to fix the problems that our society faces. It is so wrong that all the wealth that is generated each year, ends up, in 5000 pair of hands. Hmm? At the same time, the workers at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama need to be reminded that their interests will be better served if they are united…
Dimitris Eleas is a writer, independent researcher and political activist. His writings in the Greek language have appeared in books, journals and newspapers. You can contact him via e-mail: email@example.com.