Reality depresses me so much that I vowed now was the time to get back to Marx. It had been a while since I’d read him closely, and twenty years since I’d taught him at university, in my former academic days in America. Thus my pledge to get back to Marx, back to Capital, back to his thought, really reading it again, closely. I know it might sound pretentious to say reread Marx, but that would be truer, since I must have read Volume One of Capital, first published in German in 1867, a half-dozen times, at least. I remember the first time I’d read it, in 1986, during Thatcher’s second term, in what is now a tatty Penguin edition (originally published in 1976). Those old annotations I can see have to make way for new scribbles and underlinings, appropriate to our current conjuncture. Marx spoke to me in dark times in the 1980s and he can still speak to us in the even darker times now.
I thought this as I walked up the hill of Swain’s Lane, on my way to Highgate Cemetery, to its East Wing, going to pay homage to old Moor myself, to see what was happening to his vandalised grave. The brutality of the attack shocked me. Some of the red paint had already been scrubbed off. Yet the plinth had been assaulted with terrifying force, by someone verging on the demented. Scary that they’re still walking London’s streets. (We might wonder what kind of world we’d have if this type ever seized power?) I took a photo of the damage, along with the little bunch of daffodils some gentle soul had placed there.
One suspects that the perpetrator was himself an underdog, someone who feels a bilious rage inside, enough to lash out rightwards. There are a lot of bouquets at the base of the grave, from all over the globe, and a sign, on A4 paper, sellotaped on the plinth, left by the Turkish Revolutionary Path movement. Torn but intact, it reads, in red uppercase: “YOU CAN DESTROY MARX’S GRAVESTONE, BUT YOU CANNOT DESTROY HIS IDEOLOGY.”“Normally,” said Ian Dungavell, in charge of Highgate’s 53,000 graves, “we take signs down, but on this occasion, I think we’ll leave it.” It’s a nice thought: that that ideology, that those ideas, might still be blowing in the wind, alive and kicking, despite the hammer blows raining down on them, trying to destroy them.
—from MARX, DEAD AND ALIVE (forthcoming Monthly Review Press, NYC)