Michael Heinrich, Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Berlin

19 November 2019

There is no doubt that communism was Karl Marx’s political goal. Nonetheless, he never published a book or an article with a clear and extensive demonstration of what communism means. In the 20th century, we can find a number of different approaches that claim to articulate alternative social systems that follow from Marx’s ideas. These approaches range from central planning by a ‘socialist’ state to ‘socialist market economy’. In addition, there were also tendencies that simply refused to formulate alternative social systems, on the grounds that to do so would be utopic, or constitute an immanent contradiction to the idea of a free, self-determining society. Marx’s conception of communism was not, however, as vague as is often supposed. Although there are changes in Marx’s view of communism, we can identify some of its basic features, which are founded in his critique of political economy. Furthermore, to treat communism as a concrete political project, and not just as some kind of philosophical alternative, seems to me to be more and more a political necessity today, in a world where nationalism, xenophobia, anti-feminism and homophobia are giving rise to a kind of horrible utopia for a growing far-right movement.


Michael Heinrich was Professor of Economics at the Hochschule fuer Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin until 2016. For several years he worked as a collaborator on the MEGA (Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe) edition of Marx and Engels’ complete works, and for 20 years, he was the managing editor of PROKLA, one of the leading leftist social science journals in Germany. He is currently engaged in producing a multi-volume biography of Marx, titled Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society. The first volume of this work has just appeared in English. At present, Michael is perhaps best known in English for his highly accessible An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Marx’s “Capital”.

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