Commentary Magazine


Karl Marx Makes a Strange Appearance

In November 2010, the New York Times published a puff piece on the Brecht Forum, a club in New York where, to hear the Times tell it, cuddly Marxists hang out and play. “In a city known for cynicism, the Brecht, which survives on donations, is a surprisingly open and idealistic place,” the reporter wrote. The piece came in for a fair amount of ridicule. “Try to imagine,” Newsbusters dryly noted, “the Times getting so cozy among a group of mainstream Republicans, much less Tea Party supporters.”

I thought of that story when I was perusing the Times’s “Caucus” blog today and saw the following teaser to a Times Magazine piece on Paul Ryan and Austrian economics:

In a column in this week’s New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson writes, will Friedrich von Hayek be the Tea Party’s Karl Marx?

Ahem. First of all, the magazine piece, which is already online, does not ask that question at all. Karl Marx isn’t mentioned in the article—so this isn’t the fault of Adam Davidson, who wrote a pretty fair snapshot of Hayek and the right. Since the blog item was just a teaser to another story, it had no author listed. So I will just ask a few questions here.

First: Is the Caucus blog, or the person responsible for it, admitting that Marx was a dangerous man with dangerous ideas that inspired the murder of millions of innocent people in the name of leftist utopianism, and thus is trying to scare readers about Ryan and Hayek? If so, it’s nice to see the newspaper acknowledge that Marxists aren’t so sweet and cuddly. However, does that mean he or she is also accusing Hayek’s followers of being right-wing versions of Lenin, Stalin, or Mao? Because it doesn’t get a whole lot more offensive than that.

Second: Is the Caucus editor passing Marx off as a quirky economist, and nothing more? Because that would be a Herculean whitewashing task—and also, by the way, offensive to the many victims of Marxist violence.

Third: Is the Caucus editor suggesting that the Democratic Party’s left wing is heavily influenced by Marxism? Because that would be quite the admission.

The author of that teaser doesn’t seem to know much about the subject, but he or she has certainly done a disservice to Davidson, who would no doubt recoil at the comparison with which his article has been burdened.