I do apologise for featuring Daniel Hannan on this blog.
Yes, that is one of the right's leading intellectual lights. In his own words. His own stupid words.
I've picked this out not because Hannan's criticism is interesting and hasn't been said millions of times before, but because it has been repeated ad nauseum for the last century and is as banal as anti-communist boiler plate gets.
What strikes me is the method of argument, which in typical Hannan fashion drips with bad faith. It begins with that old warhorse, the "Marx is responsible for 100 million deaths", a point so risible that to take it seriously impoverishes the standards of political debate. Hannan has after all argued Hitler was a socialist because National Socialist innit, so we shouldn't be shocked to find him trading in bankrupt political stock.
Also of interest is the strategy chosen to prove his "thesis" that Marx was wrong about everything, which is assimilated to everything he predicted being wrong. It goes like this. Look, no revolution! Look, no sign of the poor getting poorer! Since 1848, the year the Communist Manifesto was published, there have been hundreds of revolutions. Hundreds. Some have succeeded, and have typically had fairly modest objectives. The overthrow of dictatorship or authoritarian government and its replacement by liberal democracy is the contemporary form. But even then, counterrevolution can win out. If Hannan wants his socialist revolutions, he can have them. Russia, obviously, but also the failed revolutions in Germany between 1918 and the mid 20s, and France 1968. Sorry Dan, you won't find anywhere in Marx's works a prediction that socialist revolutions would automatically be successful. They everywhere and always depends on the balance of forces. i.e. Politics.
On the poor getting poorer, that firstly wasn't a phrase Marx used - more dishonesty. And secondly, he did note that wealth would increasingly concentrate in ever greater quantities in an ever-diminishing number of hands. And, not that Hannan would notice or even care, there are plenty of people on this planet who work long hours and earn an utter pittance. Poverty reduction and the expanding middle class on a global scale Hannan approvingly noted was, in recent years, largely accounted for by China, a state noted for taking a very hands-on approach to economic policy and a self-identified socialist one to boot! And let's look at some of Marx's other predictions: capitalism's chronic tendency to crisis, the diminishing of the law of value, the replacement of living labour by dead labour (i.e. machines), the constant revolutionising of production and ceaseless churn of social life, the persistence of movements and parties founded on class struggle, the use of foreign labour to divide workers and keep the values of wages down, the non-disappearance of unemployment - need we go on? There are a number of things Marx didn't predict, but from the distance of 150 years since Volume One of Capital was published, perhaps Hannan would like to tell us how each of these don't exist, weren't forecast, and are a figment of the left's dogmatism?
Such as it was, Hannan's argument has to fight shy of the actual facts, of any kind of exegetical engagement with what Marx actually said and the historical record for it to maintain a smidgen of plausibility. And yet being demonstrably false, fake history if you will, it comes back time and again. 50 years from now there will still be people making exactly the same argument. How is this possible? It's because, in politics, truth and evidence are always secondary. Politics is war by less violent, peaceful means, and that means our fabulous parliamentary democracy is always conditioned by the necessity of managing a necessarily contradictory, necessarily conflicting social system crisscrossed by the struggle of interests. Hannan is the son of privilege and spent his formative years in elite institutions. There is little doubt he is a convinced hard right ideologue, and lacking the wit and empathy to think beyond the boundaries of his gilded berth he assumes the air of an expert, the ruling class analogue of front. Something we've seen a bit of lately. With this imagined authority, which is materialised by the platform provided by the Conservative Party as a MEP and the "intellectual" personality conferred by the rightwing media (and any media that treats with him as a Person Who Matters), he has the apparatus to say pretty much what he likes. He can be critiqued and shown to be full of it, but the political economy of Tory punditry protects him. There's an audience for the mendacious and the idiotic, and as a good disciple of free markets he's dutifully supplying a demand. Coincidentally, this position also helps reproduce the intellectual case for the sorts of interests he embodies, which in turn assists the conditioning, tone, and borders of public debate.
This then is Daniel Hannan, an intellectual evasive of intellectual inquiry. A self-styled historian who fights shy of the historical record. A representative of a layer of pundits, commentators, and "thinkers" for whom truth is passé, a tedious, conformist and boringly unoriginal chunterer without a scintilla of merit, let alone credibility and honesty. He is a product, a vessel of interests, and a not terribly sophisticated one at that.