Karl Marx responds to David Simon - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Karl Marx responds to David Simon

Baltimore icon David Simon had some choice words on Marxism during his talk “Some People Are More Equal Than Others” at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia earlier this month. This article appears on behalf of Karl Marx, who was personally unavailable for comment. [Photo: YouTube]

Dear Mr. Simon,

It’s an honor to have caught the attention of such an admired and gifted author as yourself, especially given your meticulous and deeply moral chronicles of the class struggle in Baltimore. Your work continues to inspire America’s workers – and it inspires me, as well.

You begin many of your speeches – so you say – by disclaiming that you are “not a Marxist.” So I thought to begin my letter with praise to set a different tone. And besides, on that point we already agree; I said so quite plainly in 1882.

I rejected those so-called revolutionaries who, in my name, rejected practical progress – within a capitalist society, no less! – towards goals we share in common. A minimum wage. Equal pay for men and women. Time off from work. And so on. When the “Marxists” argued that those were “reformist illusions,” I replied that “I myself am not a Marxist!”

So it is disheartening to hear you say that when it comes to economic progress “the only thing that actually works is not ideological,” as if that is some kind of indictment of me – and that “it’s pragmatic,” as if that is not what I have insisted upon all along.

In fact, listening to your recent talk about “two Americas” – a recognition of the class struggle if there ever was one – I get the sense that you do not know me very well at all!

Marx_oldHave you read my books?

For instance, quite early on in your speech you remark that “if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that [my] imaginings of how classical Marxism…would work when applied…kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that.”

Comrade, that book says no such thing! As a matter of simple topic matter, Capital is about capitalism. Hence the title. It does not describe a society after capitalism. I do not propose a political program or speculate about how an economic utopia would work or anything like that, with platitude or otherwise.

In fact, I’ve never written much about that. I refer you to your contemporary Noam Chomsky, who understands me quite well: “For the most part, Marx was a theorist of capitalism … [he] had very little to say about a future society.”

Your joke about Cliff Notes suggests, I fear, an unfortunate fact: few of my critics have actually read me.

Please accept this invitation.

I know that this is a letter that I could write to many people in America – socialism is “a dirty word” in your country, as you put it. But I’ve written to you, in particular, for two reasons.

First, because as an author, I’m sure you can appreciate how extraordinarily irritating it is to have your work misunderstood. Especially by those who have not actually seen it or read it.

Suppose I praised The Wire’s astute critique of economic and racial oppression in the 21st century – but insisted that the show’s theory about how to fix everything was far too dogmatic and ideological, and that Richard Belzer got too much screen time. Suppose I did this in front of a large, sympathetic audience. Would anyone begrudge you your frustration?

So I would like you to invite you to read Capital, Volume I.

That brings us to the second reason I’ve written to you: I suspect you’ll find, if you read Capital, very little that you actually disagree with. An ill-advised tangent here, a dubious aside there, but that’s inevitable in a book this long.

I fear more than anything you’ll just be bored, because I certainly don’t have your talent for drama  – I am, in the end, a dry nineteenth century economist, and I write like one. But you’ve expressed your appreciation for my criticism of capitalism, and that makes me optimistic that you’ll appreciate the overwhelming majority of what I have to say.



About the author

Carl Beijer

Carl Beijer is a writer who focuses on the Left, linguistics, and international affairs. Contact the author.


  1. Carl Woodward says:

    lol you’re confused about what you read

  2. Newbourne says:

    The fuk did I just read?


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