Magazine article The Spectator

Youthful Aberration

Magazine article The Spectator

Youthful Aberration

Article excerpt

Marx and Engels. What a scream they were! And so misunderstood. We've got the poor little darlings so wrong. Lovable old coves really. All they were trying to do was understand money and how capitalism worked. It wasn't their fault their ideas encouraged 'disciples' to murder millions of people who didn't see it their way. 'They were,' as Francis Wheen put it on Radio Three last week, 'one of the great double acts . . . Morecambe and Wise, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy . . .'

He was speaking on Night Waves, the arts programme that last week assessed the legacy of Marxism concluding with a broadcast debate from the Marx Memorial Library in London. Wheen has just brought out a biography of Marx which is said to explore the human side of the man rather than the philosophy. In the programme, the Marxists and ex-Marxists couldn't quite bring themselves to disavow the man whose ideas brought such misery to the world and which still do in countries like China and North Korea, and they skated over the horrors his later followers created in his name.

I don't know if Wheen has ever been a Marxist but he is certainly a great defender of the man and his ideas. On Night Waves he told an appreciative audience that you can't hold God responsible for the Reverend Ian Paisley as if somehow Paisley is on a par with Lenin, Stalin and all the other Marxist butchers of our century. It was a perfect example of how the left-wing mind can be completely off the wall. Wheen repeated the remark to knowing chortles on Start the Week with Jeremy Paxman on Monday.

Paxman raised the thorny problem of Marx's Communist Manifesto of 1848 (Friedrich Engels was credited as the coauthor but Marx actually wrote it) and quoted the line, `The victory of the proletariat is inevitable.'

'He was wrong wasn't he?' Paxman asked.

Wheen sighed, `The Communist Manifesto has plagued him all these years. This is a manifesto dashed off in a matter of days. The Labour party manifesto of 1997 already has several things that are out of date.' For Wheen the Communist Manifesto was a bit of youthful aberration. He preferred to see Marx as something of a Victorian novelist, his Das Kapital as a satire on capitalism. …

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