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26 year-old Karl Marx embarks with his wife, Jenny, on the road to exile. In 1844 Paris, he meets Friedrich Engels, an industrialist's son, who investigated the sordid birth of the British working-class. Engels, the dandy, provides the last piece of the puzzle to the young Karl Marx's new vision of the world. Together, between censorship and the police's repression, riots and political upheavals, they will lead the labor movement during its development into a modern era.
Marx Thinks as does Engels...a glorious collaboratopn
Rauol Peck has never shied away from difficult subjects: Lamumba and James Baldwin. Now, he has taken on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 'Young Karl Marx'.
This film won't earn him much in the US, a country which has done much to suppress Marx's thoughts and has waged a ferocious campaign to emasculate its own Communist Party and wither on the vine democratic socialism.
Marxism is taught drily and negatively on university campuses today, as a failure and a foil to triumphant global capitalism.
Peck's film , splendid in the use of the camera, capturing as it does, the ravages of early industrialization in the textile mill the Engels owned in Manchester, the miserable condition of workers, child labor, misery of the cannon fodder that fed what Blake called 'Satanic mills', and the general impoverishment of the laboring class. In Germany, in Prussia, the reign of the feudal king who exercises the rights of a feudal lord with it heavy burden on the peasantry, but in whose university slowly burns revolutionary thought that await the flame to blaze, and in Guizot's France tightly held on a leash any attempt other than fancy theories to arouse the people as they did in 1789.
Americans find in general history tiresome, being a society open to the future where the past counts little. They little tolerance for grand theory or discussions, fiery public meetings, respectful exchanges of ideas that command our attention, but mostly in the mouths of demagogues. Like the majority of Americans, they have little tolerance for philosophical discussions, and abstractions bore them no end. The millions that in slavery and wage slavery that built capitalism count for little.
So, Peck's 'Young Marx' plunges into the tense, tight theories of Socialist theory of romantics and materialists in the first half of the 19 century, that left its mark even today in the 21 century.
Peck's camera and his principal actors August Diehl as the spirited Marx and Stefan Kornaske ass his life long partner and collaborator in struggle as Engels, wage serious battle against Proudhon and Wietling and Bakounin for example, against the Young Hegelians, against Bauer and Feuerbach and Rugge ..names that have some resonance today, and are best read of say in the works of GDH Cole or Wilson's 'To the Finland Station'. Argumentation and debate were fierce, and Marx suffered fools not gladly, nor did Engels who had a smoother manner.
Marx and Engels love and turning the other cheek in the fight for the working class whom they saw as the future, and a spearhead of equality that even today's America fear seek through the courts to weaken further so that the the coupon clipeers and the ruling finace capitalists can fully have their way and increase profits and political power and control globally in the full expression of raw exploitation.
Marx insisted that 'philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it'; they have put theory on its head, but he and Engels turn it around and put it on its feet. And the fruit of their theoretical struggle and intimate knowledge of the material conditions of the working class came to fruition in the writing (jointly) of the 'Communist Manifesto' that signaled the outbreak of revolution. So on top of the moment were this pair that the Revolutions of 1848 broke only weeks later, sweeping away the vestiges of feudalism in the German Holy Roman Empire, and spurred the national struggle throughout an industrializing Europe. The 'Manifesto' is wonderfully written and still hold water today, despite attacks...even in our age of reaction.
'The Young Marx' is in three languages: German, French and English. Peck has assembled a first rate cast and with flair and much artistry conveyed the passions of the young Marx and Engels.
Peck's film hasn't a wide distribution, alas. And yet, in the small art house I saw it, the 100 seats were fully occupied, by people of all ages and 'middle class' conditions. The film reviewers on the whole have sort to express impatience in seeing the 'Young Marx",making large yawns and little effort to understand Peck's cinematic vocation in tackling Marx and Engels' thinking and activism. At the end Peck has footage of how wide and vast Marx's influence is: May 1968 in France, Vietnam War protest in the USA, Lumumba, and Mandela, for example. When Marx died Engels tribute sums his life up: Marx didn't die, he ceased to think.
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