Who says communism is dead? Not Karl Marx, who came to the College in the form of actor Robert Weick in the one-man show “Marx in Soho,” written by Howard Zinn. The performance, co-sponsored by All College Theatre (ACT) and the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), was in the Black Box Theatre on Wednesday.
Pink Floyd’s “Money” set the stage for this politically ideological monologue performance of Marx’s life. Weick was bearded and dressed like the 19th century German philosopher, revolutionary and writer of the “Communist Manifesto.”
In the play, Marx was given the chance to return to the Earth for a short time to discuss the state of the world and tell his life story, reminiscing about his wife, Jenny, and his children, as well as his difficult life as a poor man in the Soho section of London.
“You weren’t put off by all those idiots who say Marx is dead, were you? … Well I am, but I’m not. Now that’s dialectics for you,” Marx said, addressing the audience with his story, discussing both his life in the 1800s plus the current state of the world and his problems with capitalism.
He referenced a merger of Fleet Bank with Bank of America, in which thousands lost their jobs. However, stocks rose, which financially makes this merger a good thing. “And you call this progress,” he said, also mentioning the beggars that sit on streets dirty, hungry and cold.
Weick’s Marx also spent time clarifying some aspects of the real Marx’s philosophies. “Yes, I did describe religion as the opium of the people,” he said, “but no one reads the whole passage.” He then read the passage, a section that also calls religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.”
The audience learned about his wife, who he called his toughest critic. “She said, ‘Do you know why the censors allowed you to publish ‘Das Capital’? Because they couldn’t understand it.'”
His monologue also helped to differentiate between his communism, where there is no person at the head of the government and everyone has an equal share in governing, and the communism of Soviet Russia. “They claim that communism is dead because of the fall of the Soviet Union,” he said, raising his voice in agitation. “Do they think that a system run by a thug who kills other revolutionaries is a communist?”
He spent time talking about other revolutionaries, including his wife and daughter and their interest in female emancipation and the Irish struggle against England.
He told the story of a Paris commune, in which a socialist government ruled Paris for slightly over two months in 1871 and ended in a massacre.
Weick’s Marx expressed his frustration with the state of the world several times throughout the play, with a very convincing haranguing of the audience and the world at large. “People must get off their asses,” he said. “Does that sound too radical to you? Remember, to be radical, people must get to the root of a problem. And the root is us.”
Referencing a medical malady of his own, Marx advised the audience to “pretend you have boils; that sitting on your ass gives you great pain. So you stand up.”
Weick contacted Dave Weinstein, president of PSA, directly to bring the performance to campus. Weick is friends with author/historian Howard Zinn, who is scheduled to speak at the campus on April 25. “After (Weick) contacted us, we got together with ACT to make it happen,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein said he felt it went well. “There was a nice crowd and the performance was superb,” he said.