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Z Q. [? : \ RegionalRe1 CHESAPEAKE What's ¿f ofMarx? The May 18th meeting of the Chesapeake Region at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland , was prompted by a recent New York Review ofBooks piece by Robert Skidelsky, biographer ofJohn Maynard Keynes. In a devastating review of a new biography of Karl Marx (the first since 1 970) by British journalist Francis Wheen, Skidelsky calls the book "a product of the post-modern sensibility. In its jokiness, its startling juxtapositions , its disjunctions between style and content, it continuously subverts our expectations of what a biography of Marx should be like." By focusing on "Marx the man," Wheen, like many postmodernists, gives short shrift to Marx's thought, which, according to Skidelsky, was "the most powerful, coherent, and influential secular system of ideas ever designed to explain man's past, analyze his present, and predict his future." We invited four distinguished scholars to consider "What's Left of Marx?" in the post-Cold War world. Two of them, Martin Sklar (Bucknell University ) and Mark Tushnet (Georgetown Law Center) see Marx's ideas as still very influential, and two, Michael Ledeen (American Enterprise Institute) and John Fonte (Hudson Institute) see him as an important historical figure with little relevance today. Tushnet focused on Marx's influence on western and particularly American jurisprudence, arguing that his emphasis on materialism presented a model of the law as a mirror or reflection of society rather than a set of legal and moral abstractions. Ledeen also thought Marx's materialism was important, representing a healthy shift away from Hegelian abstraction. He credited Marx with reminding historians that "you can't do history by ideas alone." For Ledeen, Marx is an important historical figure whose ideas reflect an understanding of industrial Europe up to the First World War. But then events in Russia, western Europe, and the United States made those ideas obsolete and dangerous. For example, Ledeen pointed out that European Marxists in the 1930s could not understand the popularity of fascism, seeing it as the last gasp ofa dying capitalist order. Marx, for Martin Sklar, was neither a Marxist nor a revolutionary, but a social scientist who wrote little about revolution or how to bring it about. According to Sklar, few who call themselves Marxists have read his work and those that have don't understand it. Sklar's Marx is "the ultimate Whig," or proto-progressive, who predicted that industrial capitalism would evolve toward democratic socialism in western Europe and especially the United States after it abolished slavery. If postmodern Marxists misinterpret or ignore Marx, who is their new intellectual mentor? Fonte suggests that neo-Marxists have turned to Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist who died in 1937. Gramsci emphasized cultural more than economic factors and reeducation toward a new consciousness rather than revolution as a mechanism for change, making him more popular with the New Left culture warriors. The lively discussion with the audience that followed centered on Sklar's characterization of Marx as a misunderstood Whig or liberal who correctly predicted a painful but inevitable shift in industrial nations toward democratic socialism. Ledeen argued that Sklar was an apologist for Marx, who authored the Communist Manifesto and was a revolutionary willing to use dictatorial means to bring about his Utopian dream. Sklar insisted that Marx's revolutionary writings were much less important to him than Das Kapital and other works he spent most of his life writing in a small corner of the British Museum. "Ideas have consequences," Ledeen replied. "And many terrible things happened because ofthose ideas." "Karl Marx was no democrat," he concluded . "He had a very dark side." "Yes," Sklar admitted. "Marx was human and had a very dark side." The last word belonged to Robert Skidelsky: "There was something grand about Marx's vision and heroic about the intellectual system he constructed to support it. Its collapse is a relief, but also leaves one with a sense of loss." The next meeting of the Chesapeake Region will deal with a new book, Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, edited by Ronald Radosh, Grigory Sevostianov, and Mary Habeck and published by Yale University Press. Radosh and Habeck...