Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:05

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling

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The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling
by Samuel Raynard

To mark the 170th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Raynard presents his new poem, a 'poetic coupling' based on the text of the Manifesto.

Counting in at around 12,000 words, has there ever been a more influential book containing so few words, than the Communist Manifesto? The 21st February, 2018 is the 170th anniversary of its publication. Written in a six-week rush, after the Communist League imposed a deadline on Marx, its take up and influence has been phenomenal, and it is as relevant today as it ever has been. 

Much is planned to mark the occasion, especially as it is also the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5th. I have read the Manifesto a number of times over the year. However, as a poet, I hadn’t given it much thought in my writing until I was introduced to a poetic form called ‘coupling’, devised by the poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text. It can be applied to any text but I think works very well with political writing, either as a way of making it relevant to today’s readers, or as a (satirical) polemic against it. In writing a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto I took the former approach but - in the spirit of Marxism - with a critical as well as creative eye.

I hope to complete the poem over the next few weeks, and the plan is that Culture Matters will then publish it in May in time for the 200th anniversary. Below is my coupling of the infamous ‘preface’ of the book, as well as Marx’s ten ‘commandments’ of communism.

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling

by Peter Raynard (with Karl Marx)

“In accordance with my state of mind at the time lyrical poetry was bound to be my first subject, at least the most pleasant and immediate one….Poetry however, could be and had to be only an accompaniment; I had to study law and above all felt the urge to wrestle with philosophy.” [Marx’s letter to his Father, November 1837]

PREFACE

A spectre is haunting Europe
               innit though

 — the spectre of communism
               that loose blanket in need of tucking in

All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre
            this unholy spectre come to remove the opium and Xanax flow from the ennui of its existents

Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
            Pope and President, Merkel Macron, autoimmune free radicals of capitalism, each playing I spy with my belittling eye

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power?
               Karl saw a gap in the market before the market had been fully formed

Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism
               no-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care, we are commies, new-born commies, we are commies from over there

against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
               we are coming with sickles and fists, hammers and molotovs, balaclavas and masks, & pen and paper (just in case)

Two things result from this fact:
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power
               albeit a power with a crackly track record of misuse, one dictatored by substance abuse

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world
               come out and tell it how it is FFS, it has been 170 years but it’s never too late!

publish their views, their aims, their tendencies,
               they tend to hang to the left, last I heard, but added ingredients can make it absurd

and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself
               ring a ring a roses you pocketful of posers, atishoo, atishoo, we will knock off your crown

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London
               to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, to honour his will, to update his worth

and sketched the following manifesto
               give him a deadline and he’ll give you a tract, the theory, the practice, revolutionary acts

to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages
               & Bakunin translated it into Russian, and we all know how that turned out

PR Workers by Peter Kennard

Workers, by Peter Kennard

Marx’s Ten Commandments of Communism

            ………..in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable
                       behold, the secular ten commandments, scribed in the original Manifest der kommunistischen Partei   

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose
                 I suggest we begin with cutting the hedge funds, the casino capitalism, the prospecting close your eyes and pick a card path to prosperity

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
                in the heated climate of today’s reprobates, they’ll not be much need for public debate

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
                Can I keep my granddad’s watch, it’s broken, it’s worthless, it means a lot?

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
                there’ll be no more capital flight, those runways closed at midnight

    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly
                credit where credit is due, an economy not founded on a global debt of $233 trillion, phew!

    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
                yes traveller I’m just putting you through, can you believe it, no trains overdue

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State
                of factories, mere metal filings remain, big data now is the name of the game

    the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan
                I sat upon the shore/ Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/ Shall I at least set my lands in order (TSE)

    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
                you might need a little marketing advice, industrial armies doesn’t sound nice

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country
                the green with the grey, cosmopolitan hue, no borders, no hoarders, no get in the queue

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
                with child labour/girls denied education/born into sex work we mustn’t forget this is not done-and-dusted, those wheels have not come off yet, though they may be a little rusted

Marx’s Final Words

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            With links made of debt, disease, war, racism, sexism, capitalism, and more

They have a world to win
            and win it they will, for as Prometheus was Bound to say, ‘defy power which seems omnipotent’

Working Men of All Countries, Unite
            and women as well, and all those between

PR walterbenjamincopy

Portrait, by Peter Kennard

Read 866 times Last modified on Saturday, 23 June 2018 11:06
Peter Raynard

Peter Raynard is a writer and editor of Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives. He has been widely published and his debut collection Precarious will be published by Smokestack Books in April 2018. His poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto will be published by Culture Matters in May, 2018. 

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