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.
To build the new socialist society, it is necessary to develop new, socialist concepts.8 So, let me end by paraphrasing Che from his Man and Socialism in Cuba: the pipe dream that socialism can be achieved through capitalist accounting and capitalist concepts of efficiency can lead into a blind alley. And you wind up there after having travelled a long distance with many crossroads, and it is hard to figure out just where you took the wrong turn.
This book is an important addition to U.S. left wing movement history. This brief author interview appears on the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). James and Grace Lee Boggs were independent Marxist revolutionaries who worked in Detroit beginning in the 1940s, were among the earliest theorists of 1960s Black Power, and were influential in the revolutionary movement in Detroit as well as nationally and internationally.
On the centennial of the Russian Revolution, John Reed's first-hand look at the uprising of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors is fit reading about a mass movement that overthrew the old aristocracy and then the bourgeois class itself. An exposition on ordinary people making history for themselves, the book is a gripping account of events in Petrograd, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks lead the various workers councils in finally seizing state power.