George Walford: True Marxism

We all know the answer given by the British Museum Library attendant, asked if he remembered Karl Marx: ‘Why, yes, I remember Mr. Marx very well. Came every day for years, he did. Then he stopped coming, and nobody ever heard of him again. I often wonder what became of him.’

He may have been closer to enduring truth than we sometimes think. Alan Brinkley reviews a book by Paul Buhle, Marxism in the United States; Remapping the History of the American Left. He comments on its ‘often impenetrable, jargon-laden prose,’ quotes the author’s concluding remarks that American radicals must content themselves with their ‘undying revolutionary faith’ and their effort to ‘keep a light in the window’ and comments:

What that means, apparently, is that the left will reside for the moment primarily in and around academia, that radicalism will remain an almost entirely intellectual and cultural commitment. In America, at least, Marxism has reverted to what it was in the beginning: a pursuit confined to the modern equivalent of the British Museum reading-room. (TLS 18-24 Sept 87)

from Ideological Commentary 33, May 1988.