London Review of Books
Raoul Peck’s The Young Karl Marx is the best buddy movie since George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969. It’s also among the most important films in decades, bringing to a mass audience not just the revolutionary ideas of Marx and his friend and collaborator Frederick Engels in the early days of modern capitalism, but an approach to politics and history that still has no peer.
Saying Marxism is a science is preface. Add organized sarcasm and we come closer to mocking not so much intimate feelings associated with worldly illusions but their form in a particular perishable world. It aims to give new form to certain aspirations, the better to regenerate them. Yet if Marxist movements are to be effective, they must create new tastes and a new language for struggles to be born. Sarcasm then is about what outrages our sense of what should be.
Shortly before his death, James Baldwin wrote that in the U.S., “White is a metaphor for power,” an observation that is deep background for much of the discussion in the masterly book under review, where race and class are intertwined, yet surface differences are used to split the labor force and maintain capital’s hegemony. The book can usefully inform debate on race and class and aid in reconstructing a revolutionary project in the context of Trumpworld.
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