Reading Marx in Bucharest
“It’s difficult to read Marx. When I read 50 pages by him, I have the feeling that everything I have ever read in Romanian language hasn’t prepared me in any way to understand this author. His text is so dense, so sublime. Marx is something really different. He has not only been a great economist, but is also probably the only one that has given meaning to the Hegelian dialectics. Marx transforms the whole continental philosophy into arms for the understanding of reality. It is not sufficient for somebody to have studied philosophy in Cluj Napoca or Bucharest, in order to understand him. Marx is something much larger”, said Dan Chiță (Neumann) – the author of the book “Marxian economic theory”, during its presentation on 14 June 2017 in the cultural centre of the left in Bucharest “Macaz”.
The dimensions of his effort upon the volume seem unimaginable. Who reads Marx today? If somebody has ever tried to understand “The Capital”, has he gone beyond the first few pages?
To read Marx in the contemporary life at a high speed and easy fulfillment of desires is in itself an act of courage. It looked like the public in “Macaz” understood that. “You have passed the point of no return”, shouted somebody at Chiță while the discussion was unfolding, underlining the author has done something which is one of a kind. Practically no one run the risk of commenting the book itself. Even the invited university professors Gheorgiță Zbaganu and Alexandru Popovici didn’t do it. The first one, who is the vicepresident of the Romanian socialist party, focused himself upon his own connection with Marxism, admitting that he hasn’t read Marx, but recognizing the thinker has formulated the objective laws that show how the modern society of alienation can be overcome. The second one – a lecturer in the Romanian-American University, presented an introduction in to the development of Marxism in the decades of the XX century.
No one spoke about the contents of the book. Apparently, just as the mystical experiences, Marx can’t be told with words, he should be lived and understood. But now there is a new chance for him to be reflected upon in Romanian language and Chiță’s book is thought exactly as an introduction into the universe of Marx.
The 250 pages of “Marxian economic theory” offer a meeting with the process of capital accumulation, the process of its circulation and the process of the capitalistic production. Notions such as added value – relative and absolute, rotation of capital – whether constant, variable, social, financial or commercial, the theory of value, price and profit, and many other complicated ideas from “The Capital” are presented in the book, which is published by the publishing house “Ars Docendi” at the University of Bucharest. The book uses mathematical formulas and 337 footnotes. Apparently, Chiță’s effort is impressive, also because his searches can give sense to many people inside the Romanian cultural space that need “left food” for their minds.
Dan Chiță formulated best the meaning of his own effort for the larger public: “This is not technical literature. I am not an expert on Marx. This is a book of Marxian introduction for the public with humanitarian interests.” In Chiță’s view if we want to discuss Marx, we need to pass through his economic theory: “It’s one thing to say that society is artificial… It’s completely another thing to claim that when somebody works, he labours daily 5 work hours in order to withstand himself financially, and the rest of the time he works for free, in other words for the added value. When you read such thing in Marx, you immediately feel there’s something wrong. And it means we should do something. Exploitation is not a joke. It’s a reality of our daily life.”
But Chiță went even further on, adding that he doesn’t want the left space to remain fixed only upon the negative. In the author’s view, it is necessary not only to negate, but to build something. A large part of the public’s reactions were exactly in this direction – how Marxism should be presented publicly and what should be done so that the left in Romania touches the people and they connect with it.
The veteran leftist Claude Karnouh reminded that spiritually the right Romania is very corrupted. He approached the people in the hall: “The problem is what you do with regard to this manipulative group of people? Here your impotence is seen. You have forgotten what it means to fight, to be militant!”
There was also criticism directed at the Faculty for Political Sciences at the University of Bucharest, where according to many of the people present the left sources and critical thinking are not tolerated. The goal in the speaker’s view is to prevent the Romanians from dealing with the real problems of their life, with the fact that their country is in the last places of many European rankings for the standard of life and social problems.
Others asked for solutions that could make Marxism more viable, to take him out of marginality. The solution, which Chiță formulated was that the left needs to answer the problems of the real life. If people don’t get their salaries, if it’s dirty on the street, if there is poverty and inequality, then the left should offer its solutions. If they are present, people would join the leftist organisations and will follow their ideas, which are now shared only by some intellectuals.
For those who search for sense and motivation in the Marxian theory, Alexandru Popovici offered its recently created site Marxian Ecnonomics, that has gathered a large number of classical and modern Marxist works in English, Romanian and other languages.
„It’s important what we do so that the left ideas finally start to emerge on the surface. The respective ideas should be produced and be available at the moment, when people, who are ready to support them, appear. Perhaps it will be the moment of a new crisis. When something is broken, it’s important to exist an alternative language of people”, underlined Alexandru Racu, the author of another book, that has recently stirred discussions in the left spece („The Antisocial apostolate”).
Chiță’s book seems to be part of this tendency for a larger presence of the left voices inside the Romanian public space, including through printing of books and online discussions that follow their coming out. The moderator of the event Vasile Ernu, recognised through his literature works and the interviews he makes for the site Critic Atac, said how until recently there were only translations of leftist books in Romanian languages, but now the Romanian left wing authors have started printing books of their own.
The spring of 2017 gave the left public space the new books of Florin Poenaru, Ovidiu Țichindeleanu, Alexandru Racu and other authors. Apparently Chița is also a part of these critical voices. However, he has occupied with a topic which is very difficult to comprehend.
One of the speakers commented that there are not even 100 living Romanians, who have read Marx. The German might has been the author of the communist Bible for the Eastern European states with authoritarian regimes before 1989 such as Romania and Bulgaria. But 27 years after the changes it looks like he has never existed as a dogma in these societies. As his capacity of a norm is taken away from him, Marx gets the chance to become what he has originally been – a possibility for mobilisation and resistance against the status-quo. The introduction to his thought, written by Dan Chiță, opens possibilities for the left to connect with the great philosopher and economist of the modern times.