On the 170th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto, British graphic novelist Martin Rowson has produced an illustrated adaptation. Apart from a few pages of prose, the whole work is presented in the style of a graphic novel.
The preface describes how the middle-aged Rowson became smitten by Marx and Engels' exciting prose when he was only 16. Aside from expressing his great admiration for Marx’s writing, as well as his own critical stance, he furnishes the reader with some historical backdrop to the completion of The Manifesto. Marx had been commissioned to write it by a socialist group in the summer of 1847, but, under pressure, succeeded in producing it at the beginning of 1848. Significantly, that was before the outbreak of revolutionary movements in Europe later on in 1848. Rowson goes on to explain that the initial publication failed to attract the attention of many people. Only after the events of the Paris Commune in 1871 did the pamphlet receive a wide audience and a publication renewal.
The illustrations create an atmospheric accompaniment to the Marx figures whose speaking balloons relay the text of The Manifesto. The graphics pair nicely with the text with dense images that impart the feeling of the clashes of historical forces (classes) or with the dramatic rendering of the first lines of The Manifesto in which a spectre appears, so Hamlet-like in two dark and foreboding images to haunt the reader’s mind. There is plenty of theatricality too: images of Marx interacting from a stage with a hostile audience (Rowson’s added flourishes added to enhance the exposition in a stimulating theatrical way). Read the rest
From the early days of the Russian Revolution through the space race and Cold War, a small but dedicated collection of communist UFOlogists believed in and sought out signs of extraterrestrial life, believing that discovery aligned with their goals of raising up the worker. Read the rest
For the crime of talking to a western media outlet about his native tongue, Tashi Wangchuk has been sentenced to prison.
Back in 2015, Mr. Tashi spoke to the New York Times about his concerns that Tibetans were in danger of losing their native language. It was a problem that had been brewing for a while. Tibet declared independence from the much larger nation in 1913. They had their culture, their Dalai Lama and their territory. Things were good… for around 36 years. In 1949, Mao Zedong got China all hot and horny for Communism. Looking to regain the lands that they felt belonged to them, for political and defensive reasons, The People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet in 1950, invaded Tibet, scourging the nation’s culture, language and beliefs in an effort to bring it into line with China’s political doctrine.
China’s never relented its stranglehold on Tibet’s politics but, over time, it did come to allow a certain amount of levity for ethnic minorities, not just in Tibet, but in other Chinese territories (both traditionally recognized or taken by force). Diversity in custom and language were begrudgingly tolerated. In 1984, China went so far as to protect the right to the preservation of language and culture, so long as it didn’t get in the way of their political agenda, under the law. So, when Mr. Tashi chatted with The Grey Lady, he assumed that he and the Chinese government would be cool.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
The most recent iteration of the Central People’s Government holds a more assimilationist approach to governance: One people, one language, yadda yadda. Read the rest
Karl Marx was born in the German city of Trier 200 years ago and lived there until he was 17; to celebrate his bicentennial, the city has installed a Marx-themed pedestrian signal light designed by Johannes Kolz, with another to come.
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Maryam Omidi crowdfunded a photographic tour of Soviet-era sanatoriums, and the resulting book, Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums is like a weird 1970s sci-fi catalog. Read the rest
Como identificar um comunista. Read the rest
This summer, the Barbican is mounting Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction. As part of that, they will be displaying some rare Soviet-era sci-fi collectibles from the seminal Tekhikia – Molodezhi magazine, according to a great overview by It's Nice That. Read the rest
This 26-page pamphlet from 1965, with 168 meticulous footnotes, outlines the dangers of The Beatles and "the Communist master music plan." Also available in audio form. Read the rest
Over the course of 12 years, photographer Christopher Herwig traveled more than 18,000 miles around Eastern Europe to photograph the incredible, brutalist, experimental, and downright bizarre bus stops built during the Communist era. He compiled the results into a new book titled Soviet Bus Stops.
“I’d never seen such a variety of creative expression applied to a public structures before,” Herwig told Vantage. “The designers pushed the limits of their imaginations. They did not hold back and sometimes, maybe, even they went too far...These bus stops are less about the Soviet Union as a whole and more about the local regions and individual artists … people who were often creatively oppressed.”
Soviet Bus Stops (Amazon)
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Lawrence and Wishart, a radical press founded in 1936 and formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, has asserted a copyright over "Marx-Engels Collected Works," a series of $25-50-ish hardcovers, and demanded that they be removed from the Marxist Internet Archive. As Scott McLemee notes, the editions in question were "prepared largely if not entirely with the support of old-fashioned, Soviet-era Moscow gold" and consist, in large part, of arguments about the moral bankruptcy and corrupting influence of claims of private property.
Marx-Engels Collected Works will be removed from Marxists.org on May Day. Here's a torrent of the full set. Read the rest
Holly Case on Joseph Stalin, editor. [via Kottke]
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Stalin always seemed to have a blue pencil on hand, and many of the ways he used it stand in direct contrast to common assumptions about his person and thoughts. He edited ideology out or played it down, cut references to himself and his achievements, and even exhibited flexibility of mind, reversing some of his own prior edits.
A Russian communist holds placards with portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin during a rally to celebrate International Workers' Day, or Labor Day, in Moscow on May 1, 2012. Related: our large photo gallery of May Day demonstrations around the world. Read the rest