The Young Karl Marx has just been released in the United States to positive reviews, with one reviewer liking Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Just two months from the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth, director Raoul Peck has struck a chord with an audience that has grown tired with the empty promises of capitalism and the political establishment that peddles them.

Raoul Peck : Marx is even more relevant today.
HAITIAN FILMMAKER Raoul Peck is on a roll and on the move. His documentary I Am Not Your Negro, based on a unfinished manuscript by writer James Baldwin, won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the British Academy Film Awards last month.

Peck though hasn't had too long to reflect on the award because he is now in the United States promoting his new film, The Young Karl Marx. He's on the interview circuit.

The movie was released in the land of Trump on February 24 and, so far, it has been positively received. This is another indication of the growing interest in socialism and socialist ideas in the United States. The usual right wing prejudices that would have normally greeted a movie about Karl Marx have largely been absent. The movie is being reviewed on its merits.

A.O. Scott, writing in the New York Times, describes Marx and Engels as "the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the European left, rock stars for an age of revolution." Scott continues “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” a slightly older Marx wrote, and what is most remarkable, indeed most exciting, about The Young Marx is how lightly that burden rests upon it."

Kenneth Turan  of the Los Angeles Times writes that The Young Karl Marx is an "audacious, engrossing film while gives it a 3/4 rating.

The Young Karl Marx has been released in America just two months from the 200th anniversary of Marx's birthday on May 5. Peck says he wasn't aware of that until someone told him.

"I never look at dates or anniversaries when I make a project. When I started it, I didn’t know that the project would take ten years. That’s not the type of film I make. I tend to try to be totally inattentive to any pressures from the outside. Like the James Baldwin film I Am Not Your Negro, when I started it nobody would have thought we’d have Obama as President. And then suddenly he became President. And then I never thought I’d have Donald Trump as President. Imagine if you curated your movie trying to follow any political actuality—you’re bound to make mistakes. And the same thing with Marx. When I started, it was before the crisis of 2008—it was almost taboo to speak about class struggle or profit. And it changed after 2009."

Bridging the nineteenth century with today, the closing credits transform into a montage of political events and personalities from the twentieth century, including Che Guevera, Nelson Mandela, and the Occupy movement - to the accompaniment of the music of Bob Dylan. It is Peck underlining  that Karl Marx's ideas are not  some kind of nineteenth century oddity, irrelevant to modern conditions. Both conservative and liberal commentators alike have tried to stick Karl Marx back into the nineteenth century - and repeatedly failed.

In an age which has seen socialism's main political rival, social democracy, collapse and surrender to neoliberalism,  Marx and the movement he inspired represent the way out of the capitalist-induced mess we now find ourselves in. As one of Marx's heirs, Rosa Luxemburg, wrote, it is either socialism or barbarism.

"Marx is even more relevant today because we have pushed back his analysis." says Peck. "Even countries like Russia and China are totally capitalist, with slightly different specifics. There is no part of the planet which is not totally engulfed in that system. Marx’s work, and the particular instruments he left us, are even more valuable today in a world where people don’t really know or understand, first of all how they got there, and secondly, how to get out of it."

Peck refers to the tragic shooting of 17 young people at a Florida school; "The school kids understand quite well the relationship between a group of people not wanting to change the law to limit gun access, and an industry totally bound to make more profit, no matter what it cost. They understand even if they haven't read Marx. They know the NRA don’t care how many people will die, because they will stick to the fact that we need to make more profit. That’s all that counts. And Marx totally deconstructed that view."

In a world where the one percent have accumulated more wealth than the entire rest of the world we are reminded of Marx's observation that “there must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery.”


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