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Film Review - The Young Marx (2017)

Brian Hughes

17 May 2018

Raoul Peck, the director of the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, has made a new film that shows us – once again – that there is a way forward despite the despondency that many socialists can feel in the midst of the slaughter of Palestinians by the Israeli army and the ongoing rampages of austerity.

The Young Karl Marx leaps out of the screen with its positivity and call for change.

This is a film where talk, argument and provocative ideas are unleashed on audiences. The importance of The Communist Manifesto has not dimmed with time as this timely movie points out.

Marx is played by August Diehl: fierce with indignation. Engels, played by Stefan Konarske, is the rich kid whose father is a mill owner.

Marx’s wife Jenny (Vicky Krieps) is shown as an intelligent woman in her own right as is Mary Burns who is married to Engels.

Mary (played by actor Hannah Steele) in an early scene challenges a mill owner about conditions at his factory. She stands her ground even after she is sacked.  Although the workers fail to rally to her, we relish her dismissal of capitalism and its arguments.

Marx, despite his economic situation, had a rapier-like wit. We watch as he takes on the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who had declared all property theft. Proudhon wrote The Philosophy of Poverty, and Marx responded with The Poverty of Philosophy. He wants to change the world not interpret it as it is.

The ferment of ideas and argument, which existed in the 19th Century, is in stark contrast to what passes for debate today.

I, for one, would relish the scene of a combative Marx challenging Theresa May at the dispatch box in the House Of Commons at Question Time rather than Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of socialism which fails to confronts the right wing forces in his party.

The Young Karl Marx ends with a Bob Dylan song and a montage of historical events from the 20th Century.

History in perpetual motion with Marxism as a tool for the working class.

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