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IS MARX STILL A THREAT?

A brief editorial note on our special Extrablatt, published in dialogue with the DHM’s Marx und der Kapitalismus exhibition.

  • Feb 07 2022
  • María Inés Plaza Lazo & Max Haiven
    Max Haiven ist Autor und Lehrer und kanadischer Forschungslehrstuhl für Kultur, Medien und soziale Gerechtigkeit. Seine jüngsten Bücher sind Art after Money, Money after Art: Creative Strategies Against
    Financialization (2018) und Revenge Capitalism: The Ghosts of Empire, the Demons of Capital, and the Settling of Unpayable Debts (2020). Haiven ist Herausgeber von VAGABONDS, einer Reihe kurzer, radikaler Bücher von Pluto Press. Er lehrt an der Lakehead University und leitet dort das ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL).
    Solange Manche contributed to the editorial process of this issue. She’s
    a PhD candidate in French thought at the University of Cambridge where she is now on strike for better working conditions for postgraduate students and staff.

Rewriting Dante’s Inferno as a descent into the modern “social hell” of the capitalist mode of production, Marx, writing in Kapital I, cast himself as a Virgil for the proletariat.
-William Clare Roberts


Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.
-Mao


In this hellish age, when Marx’s ideas are read in business schools, canonized in state museums and (mis) quoted by celebrities, are they still a threat to capitalism? In a moment when far-right grifters successfully mobilize mobs around the bogus threat of a satanic
“cultural Marxist” conspiracy to destroy civilization, is there reason to hope Marx might still be our guide to collective liberation?

Was Marx just another ‘great white man’ whose thought today “weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”? Or was he a disabled, poor, (quasi-)racialized refugee community organizer from whom we still have much to learn? Does recognizing Karl’s humanity, including his racism and sexism, threaten the immortal power of his ideas? In an era when the capitalist class are driving the world towards climate ruin, do we, more than ever, need Marxist conspiracies to abolish their power? Is Marx still a threat? A threat to whom? A threat of what?

Arts of the Working Class (AWC), the multi-lingual street journal on poverty, wealth, art and society which you are holding in your hands, offers this Extrablatt of provocations in critical dialogue with the Deutsche Historische Museum’s (DHM) 2022 exhibition Karl
Marx und der Kapitalismus. The Extrablatt is part of AWC’s Issue 19, ANTICRISTOS, in which the newspaper seeks to learn from conspiracy theories and subvert their mechanisms. We squat accountability and care in order to make speculative promises of a different kind of future.

Edited by AWC’s founding co-editor María Inés Plaza Lazo and scholar and activist Max Haiven, this Extrablatt begins with excerpts from the DHM Marx exhibition catalogue from curator Sabine Kritter and research advisor Jürgen Herres, as well as from the museum’s President Raphael Gross and cultural theorist Rahel Jaeggi. Departing from their approach to Marx as a 19th century German figure, our other contributions take up Marx’s legacy and importance to thought and social struggles in the 21st century. Here, we take inspiration
from the DHM exhibition’s key topics – Religions- und Gesellschaftskritik, Revolution und Gewalt, Neue Technologien, Ökonomie und Krise, Kämpfe und Bewegungen, Rezeptions- und Wirkungsgeschichte - to ask: is Marx only a German historical figure, or is he and/or are his ideas still a threat?

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This text was published in the Extrablatt of ISSUE 19: ANTICRISTOS, a dialogue between AWC and the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM), in the frame of the exhibition Karl Marx und der Kapitalismus, opening on February 10, 2022.