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The symbiosis of Marxism and Neoliberalism

The current problems with social democratic parties world-wide stems ultimately from an ideological failure. Insofar as contemporary socialism has any ideology at all, it is Marxist. There is a fundamental flaw with Marx which is these days not widely known and understood. He conflates land and capital. They are separate entities.

There are two factors of production, not, as Marx postulates, capital and labour, but land and labour. “Land” here means the surface of the planet and its resources. Labour works on land in order to produce wealth. Without access to land, there is no production and people cannot survive.

Capital is wealth set aside to produce more wealth. The use of capital is one of the factors that distinguishes humans from animals. At its most basic, capital is the coconut shell used to gather berries instead of eating them straight off the plants where they are growing. “Capital” is the artisan’s tools, the fisherman’s boat and tackle, the industrialist’s factory building and the machines inside it, the shopkeeper’s stock.

Industrialists, fishermen, artisans and shopkeepers – even street buskers and beggers – all need to conduct their activities on an area of land. If the land is “owned”, productive labour has to pay rent to the owner or work for wages on the owner’s terms. The relentless but unnoticed flow of rent to landowners means that they also tend to be the owners of capital, which is the origin of Marx’s error.

But land and capital are separate entities. The focus of attention away from landowning onto capital suits the promoters of liberal capitalism; neoliberalism flourishes because Marxism has prepared the ground. Neoliberalism feeds on Marxism in a dangerous symbiosis.

The theft goes unnoticed on both sides, except for moments when it comes to attention, for example recently when the Duke of Westminster died. The Grosvenor landholdings in London go back to a swindle that can be traced back to 1623, which in turn can be traced back to the theft of Westminster Abbey land holdings in 1538, the rents of which had been used throughout the medieval period to pay for a hospital for lepers. It is significant that none of this even made the news as part of the background story.

The systemic robbery is beneath the radar. Marxism fails to pick it up.