Deep in a pile of half discarded books, in a lacklustre suburban library far from the bright lights of the chich inner city there sat a book. It was alone. It was an old book, a Penguin Classic, yet despite its prestigious pedigree it had been rejected from its place amongst the library’s collection, to be sold to the general public for a mere price of 50c. Perhaps it was the stained plastic contact which lay over it’s surface, the decaying binding, or the graphite lines which underlined much of its pages. Perhaps it was the small print. Perhaps a newer, shinier more user friendly version of the same book had arrived to replace it. They were all viable options. But equally viable was the possibility of conspiracy. Conspiracy most fowl.
For this book was controversial. It was radical. Extremist. It had been written in a time of tumultuous change by a bearded German journalist, and another bloke who was also German, probably a journalist and probably bearded too. It was the Communist Manifesto…
Hurrah! It seems I have obtained, that is to say, the people have obtained, a copy of the Communist Manifesto. It was written in 18 somethingty-something by those twin German spunks Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They probably wrote in a coffee shop. I’m pretty sure they did actually, in London. Amongst all the workhouses, pickpockets and other cliches, minds fixed on how to create a system of government that was perfect, utopic and would provide them with a bucketload of sex. Well, perhaps if you are a fan of Freudian psychology, and if sex was measured in buckets. If anyone’s is I’d be impressed in an unsettled way.
Reading through the manifesto, which has a foreword and series of prefaces longer than the manifesto itself, I realised I wasn’t half as clever as I thought I was. To fully comprehend what these blokes were saying, I had to read the words aloud and slowly, pausing every couple of paragraphs to think, relating what they’d said to today’s society, my own experiences, and other totally random things that burst into my thoughts. Like fairy bread. Strange.
As of now I haven’t finished reading it. TV requires much less effort to concetrate on, and bearing in mind time, space, mood and the presence of an omnipresent deity that may or may not be insectoid in fashion, just as productive and valuable. What I have noticed so far is the context of it. It was written in the late 19th century, when people in Western Europe actually worked in factories that made things. Crazy right? I know. Many of the predictions and assumptions made rely upon things that seemed evident at the time. For instance it doesn’t take into account the existence of aliens. A fatal oversight in my humble opinion. It also does not go into detail much about hippies, Indians, hedgehogs, sheep, radical fundamentalism, music and other stuff which I thought about, but have since forgotten. It’s also too sure of itself.
I, for instance, cannot commit to anything. Except relationships. I’m really good at committing to relationships. And complimenting women. I’m a quite nice guy, I give to charities when I have spare change, I’m not fat and I like short walks on the beach, where I stare wistfully out into the horizon, contemplating existentialism and whatnot. If that interests you, my email’s on my Gravatar thingy. Get in touch.
Apart from relationships, I can’t commit entirely to many things. I cannot consciously believe in that many things with every iota of my being like some people can. That’s why I’m not religious. It’s also why I’m not an atheist. Additionally it is why I am not a Marxist. Whilst I may agree a lot with what that chubby bearded lovecat may spout, and share many of his sentiments along with a vague Rheinish heritage, I cannot say I’d agree with every bit of his doctrine. I’m sorry but it just won’t work.
And that is why, although I’m reading his seminal work (sounds vaguely dirty doesn’t it?), and I’ve bought his book it does not mean I’ll undergo a wholesale and pentecostal conversion to Communism, waving little red flags around, calling people Comrade who I don’t actually know, and keeping a small yet virile mongoose under my bed for uses “come the revolution”.