Learning about Marxism

From the Progressive Review, 1999

In the last week or so:

– A reader wrote in to describe TPR as rightwing maggots, fuck heads, and pro-fascists.

– Your editor was described on-air by conventional liberal public radio commentator Mark Plotkin as “the bad Smith,” in contrast with his historian wife, who was “the good Smith.”

– I became the subject of low intensity philosophical debate on a Clinton scandal bulletin board that included these comments:

“If those who began life as Marxist have evolved into more thoughtful individuals, then as far as I’m concerned they are welcome aboard. Would any here consider the ‘enemy’ even if he chooses to espouse a number of untenable positions, which positions, I suspect in the long run will not prove significant?

Which produced this response from Billy:

“That completely depends on what we’re calling ‘significant.’ Personally, I’ve lately said in private correspondence that, for a commie, Sam’s not a bad sort. He most certainly is to be roundly commended for his stalwart intolerance of The Lying Bastard, that’s for sure. However, if not for that particular disaster that happens to bring him and me together, it’s clear to me that we could be serious antagonists over other matters.”

Just for the record, I read Marx but never enjoyed him. I avoided the fate of Ring Lardner Jr. who became a Marxist because he attended the first weeks of his afternoon Harvard economic classes during which Karl’s virtues were explained, but missed the professor’s later criticisms because the Boston Red Sox season had begun.

I firmly believe that Groucho Marx revealed more of God’s ways than Karl did. The difference was best explained by James Thurber:

        You may remember that on one occasion when a suspicious plainclothes man, observing that, whereas only two Marxes were seated at a certain breakfast table, there were nevertheless covers laid for twice as many, said sharply: ‘This table is set for four.’ Groucho, in no wise confused, replied, ‘That’s nothing, the alarm clock is set for eight.’ If nothing else set off the Marx Brothers from Karl Marx that would. Karl Marx had the sort of mind which, when faced with the suggestion that the stolen painting was hidden in the house next door, would, on learning that there was no house next door, never have thought to build one. Here is where, again, he parts company with the Marx Brothers. The significance of this divergence becomes clear when it is known that the Marx Brothers recovered the painting.