Callinicos ’04 [Alex, Director of the Centre for European Studies at King’s College, The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx, 2004 pg. 196-197]
Capitalism has not changed its spots. It is still based on the exploitation of the working class, and liable to constant crises.The conclusion that Marx drew from this analysis, that the working class must overthrow the system and replace it with a classless society, is even more urgent now than in his day. For the military rivalries which are the form increasingly assumed by competition between capitals now threaten the very survival of the planet. As Marx’s centenary approached, the fires of war flickered across the globe—in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, Kampuchea, southern Africa, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and the South Atlantic. The accumulation of vast armouries of nuclear destruction by the superpowers, missilerattling in the Kremlin, talk of ‘limited’ and ‘protracted’ nuclear war in Washington—these cast a shadow over the whole of humanity. Socialist revolution is an imperative if we are to change a world in the grip of economic depression and war fever, a world where 30 million rot on Western dole queues and 800 million go hungry in the Third World. To that extent, Marx’s ideas are more relevant today than they were 100 years ago. Capitalism has tightened its grip of iron on every portion of the planet since 1883, and is rotten-ripe for destruction, whether at its own hands through nuclear war, or at the hands of the working class. The choice is between workers’ power or the ‘common ruination of the contending classes’—between socialism or barbarism. Many people who genuinely wish to do something to remedy the present state of the world believe that this stress on the working class is much too narrow. The existence of nuclear weapons threatens everyone, whether workers or capitalists or whatever. Should not all classes be involved in remedying a problem which affects them all? What this ignores is that what Edward Thompson has called ‘exterminism’— the vast and competing military apparatuses which control the arms race—is an essential part of the working of capitalism today.No sane capitalist desires a nuclear war (although some insane ones who believe that such a war would be the prelude to the Second Coming now hold positions of influence in Washington). But sane or insane, every capitalist is part of an economic system which is bound up with military competition between nation-states.Only a class with the interest and power to do away with capitalism can halt the march to Armageddon. Marx always conceived of the working class as the class whose own self-emancipation would also be the liberation of the rest of humanity. The socialist revolution to whose cause he devoted his life can only be, at one and the same time, the emancipation of the working class and the liberation of all the oppressed and exploited sections of society. Those who accept the truth of Marx’s views cannot rest content with a mere intellectual commitment. There are all too many of this sort around, Marxists content to live off the intellectual credit of Capital, as Trotsky described them. We cannot simply observe the world but must throw ourselves, as Marx did, into the practical task of building a revolutionary party amid the life and struggles of the working class. ‘The philosophers have interpreted the world,’ wrote Marx, ‘the point, however, is to change it.’ If Marxism is correct, then we must act on it.