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My Marx

Tadzio Müller: Capitalism is the virus

Tadzio Müller is a political scientist, LGBTQ+ and climate activist and the co-founder of Ende Gelände

Tadzio Müller, eco-Marxist. Photo: POP-EYE

If I had to describe myself, I would say that I am a post-structuralist eco-Marxist.

Politically I am a communist, but analytically I would say I am a Marxist because the reality we live in is capitalism and Kalle understood this system best. If you are an anti-capitalist, you need
to have a positive relationship with at least part of Marx’ theories, otherwise you cannot understand our system. And if you don’t understand your opponent, you lose.

As I became familiar with eco-Marxism, which is a sort of battle-cry against productivist Marxism, and simultaneously became gayer and gayer, I noticed that queer stories didn’t exactly have much space in Marx’s work. Foucault, for instance, understood a lot more about topics like these than Marx, so I formed my own way of Marxist thinking. You start to soften the strictly theological Marx into someone who said clever things but also spouted absolute drivel.

There is only one biography of Marx which is relevant to him as a person, and it is by novelist Francis Wheen, who portrays him only as the person he was. He was obviously a bit of a nutter and an extremely arrogant pig, whilst still being marginalized: I identified with that!

A lot of what Marx wrote in his time was pretty contradictory. You have to read Marx against Marx. Fundamentally, Marx was a productivist; he believed that you produce your way from the realm of need into the realm of freedom.

There are only two sentences that Marx has written that propel the eco-Marxist movement forwards. The first sentence is in Das Kapital Volume I, and talks about how capitalism “undermine[s] the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the worker,” which forms the basis of leftist criticism of capitalist growth.

The other one comes later, where he talks about forestry in Prussia, declaring that it is not sustainable. He describes it as fictitious commodities being ripped out of their non-commodity cycles and being placed into our fantastical cycle of goods. This is a much more useful thought than the first, as it illuminates how the second things turn into goods, they enter cycles that don’t follow the rules of other natural cycles. So the commodification of naturally occurring things must always undermine the ability of the reproduction of ecological systems because the logic of our capital cycle is a fantastical one.

I do not think that the climate crisis can be slowed or stopped inside the realm of capitalism. We have a natural and a capitalist metabolism, and they cannot coexist. Green capitalism has never existed, which does not mean it never will, but the accumulation of capital always means that more energy, more resources and more labour is needed. Sadly, we don’t know what it means to defeat capitalism. What does a revolution look like when there is no Winter Palace to storm?

It is not that easy. Strategically it is a problem because the pressure to grow is based on the structural dynamics of the market, but there is not one single place where this pressure is created. It is the centre of capitalism but it does not have a location.

It is a logic – almost a kind of algorithm. This algorithm exists on every device in the system, so in every single one of us, and we are reproducing it every day. And no one knows how to delete it! I would love to destroy that fucker, but I don’t know where it lives! Capitalism can be seen as a kind of virus, which reproduces and mutates at lightning speed and every vaccination against it makes it stronger. A sort of pandemic in itself.