November 1989, Moscow
During the Polish anti-Communist revolt, spearheaded by the workers, a joke swept through Poland. According to the story, the Communist dictator couldn’t figure out what to do in order to put down the uprising. So he went to Moscow to visit Lenin’s tomb for inspiration, and the Soviet authorities closed it down to let him meditate there.
“Oh, Lenin,” said President Wojciech Jaruzelski, the situation is terrible. “The country is in turmoil, the economy is collapsing, counterrevolutionaries are everywhere, the imperialists are subverting Poland, and the church is backing the revolt. What should I do?”
Suddenly, Lenin, mummified as he was, came to life, sat up, and shouted: “Arm the workers!”
November 2011, New York City
The bear-like man with wild hair and long beard waddled down the lower Manhattan street. That “old mole,” revolution, had stuck its head up into the air again, sniffed the carbon dioxide-laden firmament, and didn’t scurry back down into the hole. A specter was haunting the world all right.
He was excited to see it first-hand. But the sight was a shock. This was no organized group of class-conscious proletarians, but the flotsam of bourgeois society. Drug users and sex fiends, spoiled brats from the upper bourgeoisie, and anarchists.
He had written about:
“The social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.”
Perhaps his first impression was misleading or perhaps this movement was indeed a tool of reactionary intrigue. He must investigate further.
Marx takes aside a young man. He notes the fellow is altogether scraggly, dressed in tattered clothes, unbathed and unshaven. No doubt he is starving, having been cast aside by the factory where he was hitherto overworked and underpaid. With his keen eye, Marx notes he is wearing some kind of canvas shoes, not even being able to afford leather ones! On all of his clothes are small logos. How disgusting, Marx thinks, he must bear the free advertising of giant corporations or go naked!
“Excuse me,” says Marx, “have you been thrown out of your 12-hour a day factory job due to over-production? Is that why you are here?”
“No. I have $150,000 in college loans to get my degree in conflict resolution and I don’t want to pay it back.”
Marx was puzzled: “But then you took a factory job as a wage slave to support yourself?”
“No,” was the reply. “I’m waiting for a job resolving international conflicts. Until then, I’m living in my parents’ mansion.” There was a strange musical sound. “Sorry, dude, can’t talk to you right now. My smart phone is ringing.” The young man presses a button on the strange device and speaks into it: “Hey! Did you get the email I sent you from my computer? What? Oh, sorry, it must have been from my iPad II. Speak louder, I can’t hear you because my MP3 player is on too loud!”
Marx was astounded. As he wandered around the make-shift camp, he saw support for many strange causes and reflected about what he’d written in “The Communist Manifesto”:
“Economists, philanthropists, humanitarians … reformers of every imaginable kind,” who never really understood society.
The more he walked around, the more suspicious Marx became. This supposed revolutionary protest was being supported by the government and financed by speculators like George Soros. That same government was subsidizing big corporations that made large donations to its election.
He must look further into these issues. So he rented a car and drove on and on, from California to the New York island; from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. And as he drove down that ribbon of highway, here’s what he didn’t see:
– “All the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labor.” Yet the working people had the strongest and most loving families.
– “The bourgeoisie … has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest. … It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor … in the icy water of egotistical calculation.” Yet the people have not become so depraved. They’re still clinging.
– “Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. … Slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine … and, above all, in the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.” Yet such nineteenth-century conditions have nothing to do with contemporary life.
– “The increasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious.” Yet progress has brought higher living standards.
– “The proletarian is without property. … Subjection to capital … has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion are to him so many bourgeois prejudices.” Yet all of these things survive.
– Freedom in such a society merely means “free trade, free selling and buying.” Yet the people treasured freedom.
– “Those who acquire anything, do not work.” Yet such people worked very hard.
– “The workers have no country.” Yet the people loved their country.