Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Marx Anniversary

Today in 1883, Karl Marx died.

His friend Engels said simply and unsentimentally 'the greatest living thinker has ceased to think'.

Marx is not always easy to read and nowadays some of his ideas need qualification and placing in historical context. But ever since I first read the Communist Manifesto aged 15, I keep returning to the simple fact that no other thinker before or since has explained so well how human society works.

In his lifetime Marx said that he didn't have much regard for those who called themselves Marxists. Unfortunately to most people today, their impression of Marx comes from the legacy of those oppressive regimes in Eastern Europe who so distorted his thinking, or from the petty and joyless types who dominate the political sects of the left.

Marx would have recoiled from both.

may not be the easiest of reads, but his writings on the way that capitalist society crushes the human spirit are entirely in the liberal tradition and even border on the poetic. As for joylessness, this was a man with a keen sense of mischief whose idea of a good night out was a pub crawl from Soho to Camden Town, getting arrested on the way for breaking street lights.

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