My Marx: We spoke with seven Berliners on what Marx means to them today. Check out the previous profile here.
I first started reading Marx after a school strike, where students organised protests against the reduction of the education budget, first turning against the district government, then the state government, and lastly the federal government. They all blamed it on economic constraints.
Were they lying? That would not be a very good sign for democracy. Or were the decisions not being made in the sphere of politics, but of economics? That would be even worse for democracy. That’s why we needed someone who could decipher the economic system in a critical way, someone like Marx.
Many people feel a strong sense of spontaneous discomfort when confronted with social injustices: Some are allowed to cross borders, some are not. Some can start a family without the fear of being beaten to death, some cannot. Some people can spend as much as they want without fear of running out of money, some cannot. People often repress their feelings of discomfort with arguments like, “That’s how it’s always been”, “Nothing can be changed”.
There is not just one Marx. There are thousands of spectres of Marx: an authoritarian, libertarian, economic, colonialist, anti-colonialist and of course also a feminist Marx.
I have never really been interested in Marx as a historical figure, but as a political theorist he gives that discomfort a voice – in a language that is, on one hand, very clear, but on the other hand is able to deal with the complexities of social reality.
What we need to understand is that there is not just one Marx. There are thousands of spectres of Marx: an authoritarian, libertarian, economic, colonialist, anti-colonialist and of course also a feminist Marx. In my work I have shown how queer feminism and materialism or Marxist feminism complement each other. The queer feminist perspective shows us that gender oppression, forced heterosexuality and the outdated construction of only two genders are all intertwined, and to combat one we need to attack all of them. Material feminism shows us how to do this, by creating a link between this gender order and other social relations, in particular economical relations.
The goal of my book Communism for Kids was to lift the heavy mood after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which reflected the so-called end of history. I wanted to enable people to dream radically again.
With the world economic crisis and movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy and Black Lives Matter, as well as ecological and feminist protest movements, the end of history has itself come to an end. Ongoing crises, for instance the pandemic or the climate crisis, have made clear that capitalism is not the answer and that it’s crucial to find alternatives. Marx said I am not a Marxist, which was a deconstruction of identity. Stalin on the other hand proclaimed that he was a Marxist. We need to be clear that Marx had less influence on Stalin than Stalin did on Marx. That’s the topic of my book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow. On the Loneliness of Communist Spectres and the Reconstruction of the Future.
We can not go back to Marx without confronting this history.
Bini Adamczak is a philosopher, author and artist. Her book Communism for Kids (2004), has been translated into 20 languages. She’s also part of anti-capitalist jour fixe initiative Berlin.
My Marx: We spoke with seven Berliners on what Marx means to them today. Check out the next in the series here.