Excellent piece with lots of important insights. I would add to the lasting impact of Marx "if capitalism persists", his recognition that labor markets generally failed as efficient allocators of resources because they were subject to imperfect or asymmetric information. This is now a standard part of the economics of information, but its origin in Marx's distinction between "labor" and "labor power" is often ignored. This important insight into how capitalism worked led him to note that the market economy stopped at the door of the factory. Inside was a less democratic and more complex world than what neoclassicals envisioned, and we now teach to our undergraduates. Unless technology somehow removes the asymmetry of information in the exchange of labor, Marx's critique of capitalism will remain relevant.

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This is a nice overview; thanks for writing it. I think it's important to take the next step and be as precise as possible about *why* governments claiming fealty to Marx have tended toward extreme authoritarianism. In my view, it's primarily because Marx's system assigns "objective" interests to workers, interests given by his analysis of their place in the capitalist mode of production. If there is a clash between what workers subjectively believe and what the analysis says they should believe, the latter takes precedence. This is dangerous!

Also, like most other classic socialist thinkers (and before this the charismatic leaders of medieval messianic movements), Marx simply assumed a unity of interests within society once the force of class was removed: from class to universal interest. But this denies the need for a genuine politics within socialism; there can only be conflict between the universal interest promulgated by the revolution and all the partial or false interests outside it. Even after all these decades, we still await a conception of socialism that embraces disunity of interests and true political pluralism.

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Nice piece, insightful and pretty balanced.

In terms of Marx's responsibility, I'm inclined to be a bit more soft on him than you although I see where you're coming from. For instance on this point:

"But the ideas of a society deciding through its “associated producers” what to produce and how; the ideas of the end of commodity production, and the end of private search for profit were all in Marx. And they were applied: nationalization of large scale enterprises, then the more thoroughgoing nationalizations and ban of most private-sector activities, and finally the introduction of central planning and collectivization of agriculture."

Is a system of top down coordination by a small elite of planners over an economy composed of SOEs actually the same thing as implementing a system of 'society deciding through its “associated producers” what to produce and how'?

This isn't entirely a leading question- I've pretty much pulled my hair out trying to figure out what the tantalizing fragments in works like the Civil War in France and critique of the Gotha programme actually mean in terms of Marx's implicit vision of a post-capitalist society, I'm still not sure. But his strong dislike of bureaucracy as it manifested in capitalist countries like France and Prussia of his day makes me think that he wouldn't approve of this system, at best maybe on a very transitional basis where absolutely no other alternative strategies exist.

For me it's that 'ban of most private-sector activities' and general antipathy for the market as a coordinating mechanism that is Marx's biggest fault. My interpretation of him is that he thought finding an efficient coordination mechanism for his post-capitalist confederations of associated producers that would replace the "anarchy of capitalist production" seemed a much simpler affair to him than it turned out in practice. Since he and Marxists after him offered nothing in its place as a blueprint for economic coordination, once the Bolshevik revolution happened bureacratic methods inevitably filled the vacuum left by the destruction of the market.

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A good primer and overview of the spread of the influence of Marx and the principal participants in seeding its global spread.

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"He identified two crucial and historically original features of capitalism: insatiable need for gain..."

Forgive my ignorance......

1. Is the blame not being misplaced / projected onto (benign) "Capitalism"; whereas it's the preponderance of greed that lives in the human heart that might be more at fault?

2. Maybe it's the Western emphasis on individualism (and from there private property rights) that gives freer reign to the greed impulse; as opposed to (maybe wiser) traditional societies that root themselves in a more communal orientation (and bind themselves to this through communal land ownership)?

3. "Capitalism" as put to use by people / societies (if there is one) who still have a healthy balance of Me vs We surely leads to enormous positive development for all concerned?

4. Doesn't any enterprise (for profit or not) require (financial) Capital to start, grow and sustain itself?

Thank you

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