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Hipster Marxism

Feb 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 20
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Since applied Marxism is responsible for 100 million or so corpses over the last century, it’s hard to imagine an ideology more worthy of scorn. But hipsters didn’t get the memo. Radical chic is alive and well in—where else?—Brooklyn. Naturally, the New York Times is eager to report on this exciting development.

For the sake of brevity, we’ll sum up the Times’s profile of 23-year-old Bhaskar Sunkara. He was raised in Westchester County, one of the country’s wealthiest suburbs. He attended the George Washington University, ranked as America’s most expensive college while he was there. After college, he settled in Bedford-Stuyvesant, founding the country’s most exciting neo-Marxist journal, Jacobin, which recently published a “radical analysis of the Onion’s online reality-television satire ‘Sex House’ ” and is named after a movement whose signature achievement was the Reign of Terror. Naturally, all this merits glowing coverage by the Times, even though Jacobin doesn’t have enough subscribers to fill a minor league baseball stadium.

Sunkara, you’ll be pleased to hear, has book deals now and makes regular appearances on MSNBC, so he seems to be getting what he wants out of life. But how is this supposed to help the masses? We don’t know, and we doubt Sunkara has a clue either, though he does seem desperate for attention:

 When Seth Ackerman, a graduate student at Cornell University, turned in a scathing analysis of the Constitution’s inherent conservatism for the second issue, Mr. Sunkara knew it needed something to really pop. “Seth had a title with nine words and a semicolon,” he recalled. “I crossed it out and wrote ‘Burn the Constitution.’ ”

 

Sunkara hasn’t figured out yet that the only reason a rump Marxism survives in America is that soporific academics have done their best to obscure what it’s really about. Still, Sunkara is managing to fool some of the people some of the time: 

 

Mr. Sunkara also plans to keep writing for Vice magazine, where he has compared outrage over rich professional athletes to outrage over “overpaid” public-sector employees, all of whom he sees as just trying to negotiate their fair share. That time, Mr. Sunkara’s editor wrote the headline, the Vice-like “Jeremy Lin Is Not Greedy, You’re Just Stupid.” But when it comes to Jacobin’s goal of smuggling radical analysis out of the intellectual ghetto and into the mainstream Mr. Sunkara’s motto seems to be: by any means necessary. It helps, he said, “that liberals think we are relatively sane.”

If mainstream liberals start to embrace Marxism again, that hardly means Sunkara is sane. It might, however, prove they’re stupid. 

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