This month marks the 200thanniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. The following column was published in The Kamloops News on March 30, 1977, very likely the last time I mentioned the man in a column. I republish it now in abbreviated form, as I used to get a little wordy.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I once read Das Kapital cover to cover. I was toiling through junior college in Washington, trying to raise my grade point average high enough to meet the out-of-state requirements for the University of Washington.
I figured the prof was going to be impressed by anybody who would do a paper on four volumes of the dullest book in the history of mankind. Instead, he brushed me off as one of those crazy Canadians and gave me an ‘A’ to get me the hell out of his history class. By the time I finished Das Kapital, I don’t think I was playing with a full deck anyway.
I can’t say I mastered Karl Marx and his theories through that ridiculous exercise and I don’t think anybody else could, either. The trouble I had with Marx was that he seemed to have a thing about not wanting to waste one single word of what he obviously thought was great stuff. He thus had a habit of explaining everything several dozen times in different ways, often sounding like he was coming to different conclusions each time. My mind became very boggled over the whole thing.
Since my remarks about dialectical materialism last week, a lot of people have been trying to unboggle me. Others would rather see me permanently boggled, while still others feel I reached that condition years ago.
Descriptions of me in the past few days have ranged from fascist to communist. Cripe, I didn’t even write the story everybody’s so upset about.
One guy wrote me a couple of letters I can’t reprint in full, else I would have to sue myself as a party to libel and defamation of character. But here are a few choice tidbits:
“Please inform Comrade Rothenburger to get a little education before he publishes any more of his small town uneducated country bumpkin trash slanted RED! All you need to work on the Kamloops News papers, is a Communist edition of a dictionary…. Take the dictionary off Mel Rothenburger’s desk and he would have an IQ slightly above a vegetable.”
Same fellow also referred to me and Greenpeace as anti-Christian “perverts.”
Well, back to Marx. What seems to upset so many people about Marx is his idea about revolution. To Marx, you see, everything boiled down to a class war between capitalists (nonworkers) and the proletariat (nonowners).
As Marx sat in the dark corners of the British museum researching Das Kapital, he developed the theory of history that class struggle repeats itself. For example, the master class creates a slave class, which destroys the master class. In other words, each new system creates new classes which, in opposition, create a new system.
The only way for the proletariat to overcome the capitalists was for the proletariat to rise up in revolution to destroy private ownership of the means of production, along with such frills as the family unit, religion and nationalistic states.
In his Communist Manifesto, co-authored with Engels, Marx had stated that working men have no country because they have no loyalty except to their own class.
So when somebody suggests, horror of horrors, that there are Marxists in the local NDP, we think Commies and revolution. Any practical socialist, though, has learned that Marx was off-base in a couple of critical areas.
Capitalism has experienced change in many parts of the world without the need of violent revolution, unlike Marx predicted. And there is no evidence to indicate that, where the proletariat has come into power, it has suddenly become wise and humane. Had that been the case, it would undoubtedly have put an end to the same class struggle which Marx claimed would never happen. Marx was contradicting himself.
Among the visitations to my office and via the telephone have been those bearing the following “information”: The new NDP executive should not be characterized as a bunch of Marxists. It should be characterized as a bunch of Marxists, college pseudo-intellectuals and wimzlibbers.
Personally, I don’t think NDPers are bad guys. Some of my best friends — in fact, some of my best brothers, sister-in-law and parents — support the NDP. And they’re wondering right now how I got screwed up and became a slightly left-of-centre moderate conservative (as all newsmen in Kamloops are).