Friday, March 14, 2008

Karl Marx and John Steinbeck

Karl Marx died today in 1883. Though I consider communism to be largely a failed experiment, I do agree with many of Marx’ tenets. Here is the opening paragraph of The Communist Manifesto:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Today in 1939, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was published. The following passage typifies the message of the book which made Steinbeck and his novel a capitalist-socialist battleground.

One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and I am bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other…

When word of the book burnings, bannings, denouncements and death threats reached Congress, an Oklahoma representative rose up to “say to you, and to every honest, square-minded reader in America, that the painting Steinbeck made in this book is a lie, a black, infernal creation of a twisted, distorted mind.”

I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse to know that truth that threatens the status quo has always been suppressed, and its proponents ever maligned. But remember that those on the fringe are the ones whose positions provoke a rethinking of assumptions, who spark epiphanies and change the course of human history. In the immortal words of another rabble rouser, Henry David Thoreau, Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. Let’s do!


T.R. said...

Brava! And in Sally Kern we have yet another Oklahoman with a twisted, distorted mind.

Thanks for the reminder!

P. Ollig said...

Fantastic post! Marx and Steinbeck are two of the greatest, yet most misunderstood minds of the 20th century.

And I agree, those of us on the edge of society are the most interesting! ;-)

...states the left-wing socialist liberal. You know I've actually been called a commie pinko? When the guy said that to me I couldn't help laughing and asking what decade he's living in. After that I thanked him for the compliment.

Sasha Lynn said...

Thank you for the reminder. Delightful reading this morning. Now I have to go dig out my copy of Walden.

Lyndel said...

Interesting to know.