"Any Marxist will tell you that 'real' Marxism was never tried. That said, just about every time something called Marxism was tried, it traveled down much the same course, and failed in much the same way. "Perhaps, I'm not the one to comment, since I neither consider myself to be a Marxist nor do I disagree with Klein's take on American conservatives.
It is simply untrue that "every time something called 'Marxism' was tried", it failed. Eduard Bernstein was called a Marxist "revisionist" - this was not a compliment by the communists. Bernstein's argument was important in the development of the Second International's line. And this version of Marxism is still being implemented in western Europe.
I also wonder what it means to "try" Marxism. The last of Marx's theses on Feuerbach is, famously:
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world differently, the point is, to change it."The world still needs transforming. One finds few formulae in Marx, however, for what to do after the revolution*. Marx's longest work is more about analysis of existing society than unfounded designs of some far-distant future society. In the afterword to the second German edition, Marx notes that in Capital he is not "writing recipes (Comtist ones?) for the cookshops of the future." Perhaps some of Marx's analysis is still worth retaining.
Here's one part of Marx's analysis to consider:
"The general conclusion at which I arrived and which, once reached, became the guiding principle of my studies can be summarized as follows. In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure." -- Karl Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political EconomyI do not see how the horrors of Stalinism or the 1989 collapse of "actually existing socialism" can invalidate the above general conclusion. In fact, that collapse would rather seem to illustrate Marx's conclusion.
* Caveat: Marx is probably most explicit on the design of post-revolutionary society in The Civil War in France and in the Critique of the Gotha Programme. It is in the latter, that Marx's makes his distinction between post-revolutionary socialism, in which laborers receive their proceeds in proportion to their contribution, and "the higher phase of communist society", in which
"society [can] inscribe on its banners: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!'".Lenin draws on this distinction in his State and Revolution and in his attacks on the "renegade" Kautsky.