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An Evening with Karl Marx: In Which “the Moore” agrees to be Interviewed, Postmortem.

In "I only read WOOF for the interviews!" forum on July 18, 2019 at 8:50 pm

Following our embarrassment back in 2013 [viewable here] when he persuaded us to go ahead with a story based on his psychic surety that Obama’s presidency was doomed to collapse that very year, (which our historically adroit readers will recall it did not), we at WOOF severed ties with our long-time official psychic, Dr. Gootensteiner Johannes Walters, resident of beautiful, historic, Zug, Switzerland,(nestled against the breathtaking azure placidity that is Lake Zug) and for quite some time WOOF’s official seer, prophesier and mystic, was banned from these pages, relieved even of his editorship of ODD, WOOF’s fabled Occult Divination Division, now expertly overseen by Grayson Moseley Straith as part of his duties as editor of our Science and the Paranormal forum.

Doctor Walters

Recently, however, Dr. Walters approached us with an exciting proposal. Reminding us of his (admittedly somewhat innervating) skills as a necromancer and a medium par excellence, he offered us exclusive rights to one of the most astonishing interviews ever conducted—and with the interviewee of cur choice. Why, you may ask, (or may not, we don’t pretend to know) would such an interview provoke astonishment? Because, Goot insisted, it could be with anyone we cared to name–so long as the interviewee was dead. As you might surmise, considerable debate ensued in the WOOF Cave as to whether the Doctor’s proposal was too bizarre to pursue, and simultaneously, concerning which dead person should be chosen in the event we proceeded. We agreed to rule out religious figures because Dr. Walters caused us enough trouble with his Obama predictions, and we knew all too well his methods often affronted orthodox sensibilities–ours included. But after bruiting about several possibilities, we settled on a preference–and in so doing, essentially acquiesced to the project.

Given his tremendous influence on nearly every Democrat presidential contender approaching 2020, the faith placed in his teachings by waves of millennials, his pervasive influence on our entertainment industry (rhetorically, that is, although never practically), and his largely unsung but near total dominance of higher education, we decided on Karl Marx. A fortnight elapsed, and we received word from Goot [Dr. Walters] that the interview was arranged, and that only two conditions obtained: We could ask no more than 20 questions, and we could only send one interviewer. We agreed, and prepared to dispatch a staffer to Switzerland.

Beautiful downtown Zug, Switzerland.

Alex arrives in Zug.

Alex arrives in Zug.

We initially chose a Woofette who was fluent in German. But economic expediency took over once Dr. Walters assured us Marx spoke quite understandable English, on which basis we reassigned the interview to junior-assistant Tech-Elf Alex, because he was already booked on a flight to Bern for entirely unrelated purposes. While this proved a budgetary blessing, it meant handing the responsibility for the interview to a callow youth of 20, whose relative inexperience was worrisome. This in mind, we supplied Alex with a list of 20 questions for Marx, although. in the event, this method met with only partial success.

The redoubtable Mrs. Heffelfinger

It is young Alex’s unshakable testimony and firm belief that he witnessed the shade of Karl Marx summoned in the candlelit ambiance of Dr. Walters’s Victorian parlor,snugged in Zug’s Old Town district at the foot of beautiful Mount Zug. There, at twilight, May 1, 2019, Alex insists he interacted with the ghostly presence of “The Moore,” Karl Marx, and addressed him directly, Unhelpfully, Dr. Walters lapsed into a trance (also observed by Alex) and remembers nothing of the event after Marx’s materialization. The only additional witness apart from Dr. Walters’s cats, Rudolf and Helena, was his loyal secretary of several decades, Mrs. Heffelfinger, who confirmed Marx’s appearance—and who dutifully transcribed the dialogue between Alex and the ghostly presence, she being adept at shorthand, and fluent in English.

What follows, then, is what we believe may well constitute a record of a phenomenal event–an interview conducted by Tech Elf Alex. (last name withheld in deference to his WOOF affiliation and consequent anonymity) and the legendary founder of the sociopolitical-cum-historical philosophy generally known as COMMUNISM! We invite you to judge for yourselves. –Editors

Dr. Walters's study in Zug, scene of interview.

Dr. Walters’s study in Zug, scene of interview.


Alex: Doctor Marx, I can see you—at least I guess it’s you—you look kind of like Brahms.

Marx: Young man, I am most definitely not Brahms—I am, as you clearly perceive, Karl Marx: philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist, New York Tribune columnist, author of Das Kapital, and revolutionary. Brahms was a composer, and I cannot possibly discuss aesthetics in fewer than six or seven lectures, except to be dismissive of Wagner. You are not an admirer of his, I hope?

Alex: Uh—not really….

Marx: I should hope not. His romanticism in the service of what amounts to a total falsification of primitive times is intolerable. Also, it’s nationalistic propaganda—which is a betrayal of the potential of the musical arts. Brahms? You said Brahms? I prefer Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel. Engels liked Wagner; can you believe it? I couldn’t cure him of it!

By way of comparison, Johannes Brahms. Maybe Alex had a point, but not much of one.

Alex: Okay.

Marx: You also don’t need to call me “doctor,” I am not reliant on such elitist honorifics.

Alex: Okay. I’m sorry—I thought I read where you were in the Doctors’ club, or…

Marx: The Docktors Club? Ha! That club was for students! I joined while I was convalescing in Stralau—having been diagnosed with a weak chest. It was a good group of young scholars devoted to the philosophy of Hegel—are you familiar with Hegel’s works?

Alex: Well, I….

Marx: They say I plagiarized Hegel—can you plagiarize a man whose thought you amplified to cover the entire span of socioeconomic oppression through the ages, and in greater detail than his philosophies ever touched upon? So did you say you are familiar with Hegel?

Alex: Well, no ….I…

Marx: No? You must begin at once—pick up his Science of Knowledge, young man—but be warned, his metaphysics are deficient and mystical to a fault—No, it is his pure theory of dialectics you must grasp—because it will assist you in grasping my own theory of dialectical materialism.

Alex: The dialectical part—that’s what they say you sort of stole….

Marx: Liars! That is the part I perfected and trimmed of its gauzy esotericism! It formed the perfect backbone of my thinking—it permitted me to demonstrate the inevitability of the revolution of the proletariat, not to mention….

Hegel–who regardless of the dialectics controversy, doesn’t seem to resemble Brahms at all.

Alex: So I’m sorry, I didn’t know you weren’t really a doctor– and as for the revol–

Marx: Did I say I wasn’t? I said I abjure such bourgeois titles. If you must know, then, I earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1841 from the University of Berlin. Quite an accomplishment, by the way, given that even then the bourgeois state and its functionaries in the academy were set against me—determined as they were to obstruct any scholar who embraced Hegelian dialectics as a revolutionary philosophy! Also, I must admit I was pretty drunk most of the time in those days, which marginally impeded my—

Alex: Drunk? I never thought of you as–

Marx: Well of course, I overcame that defect. Mostly. But at the time I was somewhat prone to the bottle, and prone to getting into quarrels about philosophy, politics, religion, society—yes, I was quite outspoken. One might even say insolent. Back in Bonn I was tossed in jail for drinking and disturbing the peace. That’s also when I fought that duel.

Alex: I didn’t know you were ever in a duel!

Marx: Almost two of them–even three. The first time, I was drunk enough to show up—and the martinet who challenged me nearly killed me—he nicked the side of my eye—so, of course, I missed him completely. The other time was in England—I was supposed to duel someone on behalf of Engels, but I didn’t show up—why risk it, given the importance of my survival to the workers of the world? And just as a point of history, I was challenged also to a third duel by some idiot Prussian named Willich.  I declined, but a friend dueled Willich on my behalf and was wounded for his troubles. Anyway, after the dueling got out of hand, my father enrolled me at the University of Berlin because he wanted me to study law.

Karl Marx, reluctant gunfighter.

Alex: So, I guess you learned about law at that point…

Marx: Law? The law is mask for the enrichment of the holders of the means of production! The invalid erection of statutes serving only to protect bourgeois property…which is improperly called property, but never fear! The very autocracy that creates the chimera of law shall prove the means by which communism advances. It’s dialectically inevitable, but since you don’t understand dialectics, I suppose there’s no point in my continuing. Anyway, yes, I received a degree in law—big deal–a reward from the bourgeoisie for imbibing the juridical pretexts empowering the ruling class!

Alex: But I—I’d like to know about…

Marx: About how I evolved my critique of the bourgeoisie? Of course! It depended a lot on where I was, because I got thrown out of a lot of places. I think one of my first breakthroughs was in France—there was this guy, Bruno Bauer, a Hegelian and a mentor to me in the early days—you’ve heard of him?

Alex: Umm…possibly not—

Marx: No matter. Bauer is unimportant, except as a transitional figure whose misconceptions found antithesis in my correct ones. I first noticed he was wrong about Jews—he wrote this completely absurd tract about how Jews could become politically emancipated in Prussia—but he didn’t understand Jews at all—he failed to grasp that Jews are not understandable in a religious context—they can only be understood economically.

Bruno Bauer,–getting Jews all wrong, apparently even Jesus.

Alex:: Really?

Marx: Is that your first question?

Alex: No, no—I just meant, I always thought part of being Jewish was religion—maybe—

Marx: Ach, you’re as hopeless as Bauer! The real Jew is not understood through his religion, but rather by the real secret of his religion!

Alex: You mean, like—the Kabbalah?

Marx: Ach, that is such a stupid question, I won’t count it either. No, of course not—mysticism and transcendence are absurdities—they can never lead to truth—they only distort it in order to make it seem bearable to the masses—they are a principal tool of oppression!! The secret of the Jew, as I wrote in my essay–which you obviously haven’t read–is his practical need, his racial self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering! What is his worldly God? Money! His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general…of capitalism! And then, I ended with this really snappy line, where I explained that in the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism! A little dialectical humor, get it?

Alex: But aren’t you Jewish?

Marx: All right, hold it right there, my young friend! Your inappropriate fixation on my lineage is irrelevant to matters fit for philosophical discussion, but since you’ve introduced the subject, let me just say, for your information, neither of my parents was a Jew!

Alex: Really? I–

Marx: Really! They both converted to Protestantism! And I? I, sir, was baptized Lutheran!

Karl Marx, lifelong Lutheran–nevertheless keeping company here with a well known Jew.

Alex: So–umm–

Marx: I can show you Jews, young man! Take that embarrassment to the socialist cause, that ignoramus Lassalle—

Alex: Who? Or wait—did that count as a question?

Marx: It certainly does not count as a question, for the simple reason that Lassalle doesn’t count as a human being—that repulsive combination of Jewry and negroid substance—that’s what I called him, and rightly so!

Alex:: I’m confused—he was Black, this Lassalle guy….but he was–

Marx: Not entirely, but you could see it in him—not just his simian cranial shape, either! His pushiness was also [N-word deleted]-like…

Ferdinand Lassalle–called “simian” by the Interviewee… not by us!

Alex: Oh! Uh, sir…sir, I think we have a policy against racist terminology, I don’t know if…

Marx: Das ist blödsinn! Your corporate overseers may indulge themselves in all the bourgeois conventions they like, young man, but you will find my remarks on Lassalle quoted in all the most important compendia of history’s great thoughts and thinkers! They wouldn’t dare deny my voice– and I was quite vocal about Lassalle! It was completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descended from–very well–let us simply say Negroes, isn’t that the current bourgeois idiom?.

Alex: Uh—not really, but meanwhile, you were telling me how you came up with Communism.

Marx: Well! First, let us define our terms, since philology is essential to intellectual accuracy—that is, once relieved of capitalist distortions and falsities—so, in the interest of linguistic clarity, Communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes and money.


Alex: Wow—that’s a really good, understandable description—is that a quote from you, or Engels, or–

Marx: Wikipedia. But they draw heavily on Engels’s “The Principles of Communism.”

Alex: That’s what my Senior Editor says, too.

Marx: Pardon me?

Alex: But you died in 1883, right? So how do you know about Wikipedia?

Marx: Is that your first question?

Alex: Uh—no—can I take it back?

Marx: Yet another question! Out of my sympathy for those, including yourself, whose ignorance has been imposed upon them by the holders of the means of production, I will allow you to withdraw both! Besides, as a member of the proletariat, you should be vitally interested in hearing the rest of what I have to say about that embodiment of scientific socialism fondly called Communism by the grateful workers of the world!

Alex: Okay. But I still don’t understand how you know about Wikipedia.

Marx: Stubborn! It happens to be very popular hereabouts—so is Twitter—and Google is especially esteemed.

Alex: So by “hereabouts,” you mean….?

Marx: Ha! You are trying not to ask another stupid question—that shows progress. And to conserve your allotment of interrogatives, I will answer you before you can formulate the question. I, dear boy, am in Hell—I thought you knew.

A church in Montenegro displays this controversial fresco depicting Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and former Yugoslav leader, Tito, in the fires of Hell. WOOF is uncertain why the artwork is deemed controversial–possibly some religious leaders believe Tito is only in purgatory. 

Alex: Hell!?

Marx: There you go again!

Alex: Sorry! I meant Hell! So you’re in Hell….that must be horrible.

Marx:  It’s Hell, was kann ich sagen, right? I have attempted to persuade Lucifer that by the dictates of the materialist forces governing history, he should yield to the inevitability of a proletarian ascendancy, and abolish himself as an antiquated relic of pre-industrial, manorial  theology–but he won’t hear a word of it. So, besides the environmental difficulties, which I will mercifully leave to your imagination, and the obvious torment of one’s genius being routinely disregarded, we have also the daily work demands worsened by demonic abuse by—well—demons. Vestiges of proletarian alienation, I say, but they pay me no heed.. You know what Lucifer said to me? He said, “You yourself described the spread of religion as ‘the soul of soulless conditions,’ and that’s what we have here! Why are you complaining?” And if you call him an insipid, pedantic, leather-tongued oracle of mundane bourgeois sophistries, he just makes your life more miserable—so what’s the point?

Alex: I guess –yeah—it must be difficult—

Marx: Well, there’s some intelligent company at least—Ho—Alger Hiss—I learned this great joke about me and Hiss being down here in Hell, want me to tell it to you?

Alex: Maybe later. We were on the part where you invented Communism.

Alger Hiss–intelligent company in Hell?

Marx: Well, not the term, I didn’t. That came from another source, although an inferior thinker by any estimation. Another transitional figure, you might say—his name was Victor d’Hupay. He scribbled a minor work he called Projet de communauté philosophe. He lacked dialectical insight, so he wrote garbage like “share all economic and material products between inhabitants of the commune,” and—

Alex: But isn’t that pretty much what you wrote? No wait, I didn’t mean that as a question, I meant—

Marx: It’s not whether I said it, it’s how and when I said it! Without the dialectical forces of history and economics having time to advance the dictatorship of the proletariat, all you have is a bunch of hippies stealing each other’s granola! That never works! Believe me, we’re flooded with ’60s radicals down here who don’t know scheiße about socialism! Look at all the attempts at revolution that failed because the idiots charged off to explode a few post offices without absorbing my teachings!

Alex: Please give me some examples.

Marx: First, good job avoiding an interrogative clause, young man! You’re getting better at this! But to your point, yes! Look at the Paris Commune! In 1871 a bunch of undisciplined, uneducated French dimwits ran up the Red Flag and got slaughtered. Who would suppose that Engels or I could support such uniformed, historically paradoxical tantrums? We wrote at the time, warning those dullards that trying to overthrow the government would be—to quote myself exactly—”desperate folly.” Build the future, we told them! Advance your class organization, don’t sacrifice yourselves like heedless idiots! But did they listen? Mais non! So when it got to the point where the violence was unstoppable, we changed our rhetoric and affected full-throated support for the revolutionary commune—what else could I do?

Alex: And in the end, they won your sympathy and support!

Marx: Ach, my dear child, you are getting better at dodging the interrogatives, but still hopeless at grasping the obvious! No, they didn’t win my sympathy–ach du meine Güte! Most of those French upstarts weren’t even socialists, much less communists! But when It became obvious they were determined to get slaughtered anyway, we thought why not pretend support and shout them on? That way, at least we created martyrs for the cause—the only contribution to history those halfwits were capable of! And it still pays off! Let the romanticizers inspire the unwitting masses! Take that stupid, nauseatingly saccharine French musical you Americans all swooned over! Okay, so it’s about the June uprising in 1832, but so what? It all melts into one big propaganda piece in your minds. You know nothing about your own history, why would you know anything about France’s?

Alex: So, it was just that you were exploiting them—

Marx: No! No! I do not exploit, young man! The bourgeois class exploits! I was simply crafting a place for the wanton slaughter of those French nincompoops—to which they were determined to submit themselves—as historic contributors.  I knocked out a manifesto with exactly that aim! I called it, “The Civil War in France!”

Alex: Catchy!

Paul Lafargue, pride of the zoo district?

Marx: Right? Of course it was mostly, how do you say it in American? Bologna! But it served a materialist purpose, so it was dialectically justifiable. You see,, communes and that sort of thing—at least in France–should have been transitional frameworks, but leave it to a bunch of Frenchmen to lose their heads and go charging off to certain defeat! But what was to be done? Well, instead of calling them idiots, I wrote all this nonsense about honoring the name of the Commune and those who died for it. and I painted them as true-blue, doctrinaire communists to a man, even though most of them were clueless rabble. My version made Communism the martyr, not those illiterate peons trying to stop grapeshot with garden tools! I can reveal this now quite freely, because my so-called comrade, Paul Lafargue, spilled the beans a while back. Lafargue, now there was a case of hollow pomposity combined with congenital weak-mindedness!  A perfect example of racial inferiority on display! You know, Engels discovered that Lafargue was one-eighth [“n-word” deleted], which hardly surprised me!

Alex:  Oh [expletive deleted]! Uh…Dr. Marx, my editors just won’t allow that kind of racist language–

Marx: Then your editors are idiots–and probably racial inferiors in their own right! 

Alex: Well, maybe so, sir, but I’m just saying, they’ll probably censor that word–it’s just not-

Marx: Let them censor all they wish–my sentiments on these matters are available everywhere in the educated world–your editors are Lilliputians vainly attempting to bind me! Now back to Lafargue–ha! Here’s a joke about him–he was running for a council seat in Paris–oh, and I need to tell you, this district of Paris contained the zoo–so anyway, Engels wrote to Lafargue’s hopelessly benighted wife and told her that “Being in his quality as a n*g*er, and therefore a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom… he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.” So, get it? because the zoo– 

Alex: Yeah, I get it. So, I guess you really hated this Lafargue guy, was he some sort of major rival to you, or some sort of arch enemy?

Marx:  Lafargue? Mach dich nicht lächerlich! He lacked the substance to be any of those things–no–he was my son in law.

Alex: Your son in law? So he was married to–

Marx: To my daughter, obviously!  My daughter Laura–but what can one do? In time they both saw the errors of their ways, I suppose–since they committed suicide together.

Alex: Gosh! I’m so sorry…

Laura Marx: Unlucky in love.

Marx: Well, it is hard to lose a daughter, even one married to an anthropoidal cretin whose existence was often a pain in my ass! In fact, my supposed comrades and supporters were often a bigger pain in my ass than my boils and carbuncles!

Alex: Carbuncles?

Marx: Ja! You don’t know about my boils and carbuncles? Why, I wrote about them extensively–they were a constant agony to me; not to mention the endless streams of money I paid out for salves and potions prescribed by legions of quack-salvers like that amiable idiot Dr. Croaker in London!

Alex: Dr. Croaker? I mean—his name being “croaker,” that’s kind of funny.

Marx: Really? I don’t get it…but I’ll tell you what’s really funny—I made a joke to Friedrich one time—you know, Engels—because he paid for my medicines with money he had because his father was a capitalist factory owner—

Alex: Because—wait—his father was what? Okay, let me check my notes here–oh, wow, so in other words–

Marx: Let me finish, this is good! So I tell Engels, “At all events, I hope the bourgeoisie will be as plagued by our political writings as I am by my carbuncles! Then they’ll remember my carbuncles until their dying day!” Right? They say having painful boils and carbuncles all over my face, crotch, penis and backside, affected my attitude and made me more bitter, more belligerent, than had I been spared the affliction—but when I can make a joke of them as good as that one, how can they persist in such arguments?

Alex: Gosh, I don’t know. I’m sorry for you, though—you kind of remind me of Job!

Marx: Ach! We must abolish the idea of God—if not because he is a mythical artifice of the ruling class, then at least because we would abolish him anyway for his cruelties to Job! Don’t remind me!

Job’s afflictions: Endured with disappointingly counter-revolutionary obeisance.

Alex: But Job ‘came forth as gold,” right? And you wrote Das Kapital, right? So you both–

Marx: I am nothing like Job! Job was an idiot and blindly subservient to the ruling class as personified by his fictitious Jewish God! His behavior made no sense at all.  He should have risen up against such torment!  He should have cast off the chains of superstition and denounced his oppressor! Why did he not, I ask you?”

Alex: Well—I guess you’d have to ask Job.

Marx: He isn’t down here. So what else should we discuss?

Alex: Well—since you seem to be good at keeping up with at least some of our current events from down there—have you followed the stories about Russian collusion affecting the government?

Marx: I only stay abreast of your temporal trivia insofar as certain aspects of it interest me in their dialectical nature—the important stuff, in other words. But as it happens, I am an expert on Russian collusion, I know a great deal about it, and I’ve written extensively on the problem! It’s very real!

Alex: So, wow– you agree it really had an effect! But how could you have written on it before it —

Marx: An effect? It was massively influential! It changed the entire course of history! Did you know the British foreign office was completely undermined by Prime Minister Lord Palmerston? And do you know why? Aha! The maniac was colluding with Russians! He was a paid agent of Czar Nicholas! I exposed him at the time! The fools wouldn’t listen! Britain should have crushed Russia in the Crimea, but no! All because Russia had connived with Palmerston and his plutocratic co-conspirators—and the French –they were useless of course. Okay, one more joke: When the French arrived to help liberate Silistrain, the Russians had already mopped up and left town, so I wrote: “”there they are, the French doing nothing and the British helping them as fast as possible!” Right? I ask you, how can they say my boils embittered my thinking, when I was getting off corkers like that? Hmm?

 Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, the original colluder with Russia–just look at those beady eyes!

Alex: I don’t know, sir. Let me touch on another current problem in my country. One of the big issues is border security. Many liberals believe immigrants should be allowed to enter the country without meeting any of the qualifications to come here legally—they should just come across when they please with no interference from–

Marx: That’s crazy talk—who does that? But, in truth, in your particular case, I will say that Canadians are harmless, or as I like to call them, the watered railway stock of the provinces. The Canadian bourgeoisie will enforce political centralization, the better to tax the citizens—and only time will tell how long it will take Canadian workers to learn their lesson—to learn that their laborers’ fortunes will never rise with the progress of industry, but sink deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and—

Alex: Okay, but—

Marx: But no matter! Let them swarm southwards into Main, into Michigan, into Idaho and I forget where else—and to what avail? They will be shackled like performing monkeys to the will of the bourgeoisie no matter where they run. Only the rise of the proletariat can provide the escape they yearn for!

Militant illegals from Canada swarm across the northern border demanding asylum in Detroit. (Okay, not really.)

Alex: But they aren’t Canadians, sir—Canadians pretty much stay where they are, unless maybe when they need medical treatment. These immigrants are Mexicans and other races–

Marx: Mexicans?! You said Mexicans?!

Alex: Yes sir, its our southern border, the liberals believe—

Marx: That’s disgusting! Only a thoroughly degenerated, utterly decadent society would open its borders to Mexicans! Is your plutocracy mad? Haven’t they read Engels? He put the matter plainly enough that any blockhead could grasp the point when he wrote “In America we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will be placed under the tutelage of the United States.” An extreme sentiment with which one might quibble, normally, if one lacked a refined comprehension of antithesis, but not so extreme when you consider the subject is Mexicans! As I remarked at the time, it could hardly be regarded as an injustice that so magnificent a territory as California was ridded of the lazy Mexicans who had no idea what to do with it! True, you Americans foolishly allowed them to retain their own governance in that cesspool they call a Republic, but at least—at the very least—they were driven out of Texas and California. I ask you, what could those lazy brown malingerers have done with California? What they always do with everything–nothing! Anyway, it was a great achievement to be rid of them—and now—now you want to let them back in—and in swarms? Are you mad?

Alex: So you’re saying you’re against open borders?

Marx: If the border is with Mexico, yes! I am utterly opposed to letting a single one them creep across! On the contrary, my friend, keep them out at all costs! Mein Gott, Build a wall if you have to!

Alex: Well—okay—let me get now to the actual questions I’m supposed to ask…

Marx: Finally! So what do you want to know?

Alex: Well—in Kapital—your most famous book…

Marx:  Three volumes in all—although Engels edited the last two after I wound up here.

Alex: Okay—but you wrote about the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Marx: Indeed! A concept fundamental to my philosophy! Why else be a Communist if this ultimate elevation of the worker does not beckon, like a Utopian promise stripped of the falsities of religion–one made inevitable by the ineluctable course of historic materialism–not by the prophecies of some ragged, nomadic Jew—

And the art will be terrific, too!

Alex: So the first question I’m supposed to ask, is how exactly will the dictatorship of the proletariat come about, and why hasn’t it happened yet?

Marx: Well—first, realize that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not the final phase of Communism, but rather the final transitional phase that leads to  pure Communism. So you could say it actually has happened, several times—it’s just that once the defining effects occur—which is to say, once the industrial workers rise up and abolish capitalism, and once they suppress all resistance to socialist revolution, we get to a place where the whole thing breaks down–so far, at least. But only so far. Transitional phases, it seems, can be tricky; they can take—

Alex: So you mean, the dictatorship of the proletariat starts up, and then it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?

Marx: Welll…it gets set up, more or less, but one cannot always count on the materialistic forces of economics and social evolution to put exactly the most informed or enlightened people where you need them to achieve the transition—so okay, maybe they destroy all social relations that came from the class system, and create a new, classless society, all good so far, right? But that can just amount to, let’s say, Cambodia– meaning Cambodia under Pol Pot, of course–before it backslid. But then it all—

Alex: It all gets screwed up–just like in Animal Farm by Orwell? .

Marx: Well—you actually have a point there. But remember, I am the hero of that novel, or rather, I am the obvious model for the pig named Old Major! Old Major was a visionary who saw the future the revolution was meant to spawn—the problem was Snowball and Napoleon! They took over and –well– Die kacke am dampfen!

Damn! Looks like Old Major sold out to the bourgeoisie!

Alex: I’m sorry, what does that mean?

Marx: Probably exactly what you think it does.

Alex: So like in Russia—that’s an example of the wrong people trying to do communism?

Marx: Ach! Russia! Of all the ridiculous misadventures imaginable! How can industrial workers rebel in a society emerging from serfdom? I famously remarked that the last place communism could succeed would be Russia—that they were, if anything. a threat to revolution elsewhere. I made it clear that it was the more advanced industrial states that would host the revolution!

Alex:  But that didn’t happen, did it? It was the poor agrarian countries like Russia and China….or Vietnam….

Stalin–laughs at his own jokes.

Marx:  True, I said the Russian peasantry would never rebel in sufficient numbers to overthrow their Czar—okay, I made one mistake! And not even a real mistake, because World War I really drove the Germans to back Lenin’s destabilization of Russia. So the real mistake was theirs, but the bigger mistake was Lenin’s because he misapplied my doctrines and then after him came that maniac Stalin—I mean, he’s okay, but a bit on the paranoid side. Laughs at his own jokes. Too affable by half if you ask me–never really shows his cards!

Alex: You knew Stalin?

Marx: Well, no—not then. I humor him occasionally down here, however.

Alex: I get it. But I’m still not clear how the proletariat’s dictatorship transforms into pure Communism or when it actually does—or will—I mean, how does it happen, exactly?

Marx: I’m not certain you possess an intellect capable of understanding the intricacies of the process—but perhaps your oppressors—the autocrats who dictate terms back at your newspaper–will make sense of it, if I keep it simple.

Alex: Not a newspaper, really—it’s actually–

Marx: No matter! The ruling class dominates the flow of information in your oppressive society—any voice they control is certain to spew falsehood and distortion! The channels of the establishment will all voice identical propaganda!

Alex: Wow–right there–again– you sound a lot like my editors!

Of course, the ruling class’s flow of information is only effective if people tune in!

Marx: Good! Then perhaps they stand on the brink of social evolution despite the siren song of class privilege! Anyway–as Engels and I made clear in our epochal work, The Communist Manifesto, our “ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” So there it is.

Alex: But you already said that happens a lot—and that’s where stuff goes wrong. So when it eventually goes right, how will that happen?

Marx: Well, put another way, one must view the proletarian dictatorship as the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, during which the means of production are nationalized–removed from private hands and placed in the hands of the collective.

Alex: Okay—right–but then what has to happen to achieve true Communism?

Marx: Well, as I informed the well-meaning but lackluster journalist Joseph Weydemeyer in a letter intended to clarify his imperfect conceptions of Communism, even bourgeois historians described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, just as bourgeois economists detailed its economic course—way before me! My own contribution was simply to show that class struggle proceeds through various historical phases, but always inextricably linked to the means of production. This, then, leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, although this dictatorship itself, serves merely as the preface to a classless society…

Alex: Yes, but—

Marx: Hold on! Now let’s examine my equally famous and highly instructive “Critique of the Gotha Program,” in which I state quite matter-of-factly that many difficulties will naturally crop up in the initial stages of organizing the workers’ state. Any collectivist structure built on the bones of capitalistic society is bound to include certain defects held over from capitalism, accounting for the occasional counter-revolutionary misstep! Is that clear to you? Understand this, at least: the manorial economy of feudalism was best adapted to develop the forces of production in its time. When industrialization arrived, capitalism replaced feudalism. In turn, by the dictate of the forces of production, capitalism will be replaced by socialism, and prove vastly more productive and humanitarian.

Alex: Why socialism? What makes socialism the only choice? Why not—

Marx: How many ways can I say it? Synthesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and yes, antithesis–before you see the obviousness of the point?

Alex: Okay, about the “forces of production–how can you be sure they decide everything humanity does? Aren’t you leaving out creativity? Even love? Patriotism? Talent? Innovation? Genius?

Marx: Ach du lieber, young pawn of the obsolescent bourgeoisie, can you not grasp the brilliance of these vital elaborations? All right, all right, then! As a final word on the subject, I tell you—as plainly and simply as I can–and just as I told the members of the Central Committee to the Communist League back in 1850: The workers can only guarantee true socialism by avoiding any temptation to restrain excesses of revolutionary excitement! On the contrary, it must be sustained as long as possible to underscore the fruits of socialist victory! Far from opposing extreme acts of vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings linked to hateful memories, such violent actions should be encouraged and given direction by the collective!

Alex: Wow, your carbuncles must’ve really been acting up when you wrote that part!

Mao Tse Tung’s Proletarian Cultural Revolution–avoiding any temptation to restrain their revolutionary excitement! (Mao knew his dialectics, all right!)

Alex: But I’m beginning to think Das Kapital doesn’t really explain this—and you’re saying socialism will prevail and become communism if enough violence gets committed?

Marx: Bilge! Typical capitalist revisionism! Look, the process has already been witnessed and remarked! Does it satisfy you to know that at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev declared an end to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and announced that government by “all the people” had dawned at last?

Alex: Wait!–is Nikita Khrushchev in Das Kapital? Wasn’t he later on? Didn’t you say Russia was the last place—”

Marx: I will now say that what Khrushchev described might have been dismissed as meaningless, except that it was first described by me—and its arrival in October of 1961 only ratified my already-established premises—even though I’d been dead for 78 years.

Alex: But you don’t really think the Soviet Union was an example of—

Marx: Enough! I’m finished attempting to justify my writings on a point your impoverished mental faculties clearly cannot grasp! Ask me your next question!

Nikita Khrushchev, declaring the end of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” before anybody else in Russia even noticed it beginning!

Alex: And how do you know for certain Khrushchev had your predictions–your description–in mind when he–   

Marx: He told me so! 

Alex: How could he–oh, wait–I get it.  So he’s— 

Marx: Next question!                                             

Alex: Okay, the next question on my list is about your theory of surplus value–am I saying that right?

David Ricardo–who invented but apparently misunderstood surplus value.

Marx: Say it loud, say it proud! Ja–but it is not my phrase, originally. The concept is often attributed to the British economist David Ricardo who formulated a similar concept, but blundered in supposing it compatible with laissez-faire economics–can you imagine? But he was a Jew, and his theories were absurd.

Alex: So you based your theory on a theory you think is absurd?

Marx: I improved it a lot.

Alex: Okay, so you adopted the theory as part of your dialect—um—dia–

Marx: Dialectical materialism, dummkopf.  Anyway, what I refined from Ricardo’s ravings I called Mehrwert, a German word that roughly translates as–well–surplus value. Unlike that imbecile Ricardo, I recognized this concept as the very basis of capitalist oppression—and, ironically, its eventual dialectical death knell!  Say, that alliterates nicely in your language, doesn’t it!

Alex: So, can you explain it—the theory, I mean?

Marx: Simply stated, surplus value is equal to the new, or additional value generated by workers in excess of the cost of their labors, and appropriated by their capitalist bosses as profit.

Smart ways to keep  “surplus value” in the right hands!

Alex: Um…. I’m not sure I get the idea—

Marx: I’m shocked! Okay, as simply as I can put the matter, the core of capitalism is exploitation. The value exacted for a product by the capitalists is always greater than the actual price of labor—greater than the wages the workers are paid for producing the product. It cannot be otherwise.”

Alex: Okay,

Marx: If you can perform some elementary arithmetic functions, like, say, subtraction, perhaps, you will quickly note that the product’s value is greater than the outlay of wages required to make the product. Surplus value, see? Now before you ask me where the extra value goes and I start tearing my hair out, allow me to remind you: The extra is confiscated by the bourgeois owner of the company. Obviously, it is the only way he can earn his ill-deserved profits! Are you getting any of this?

Alex: So– the owners are ripping off the workers—

Marx: Quaintly phrased, but correct. It is the formula for exploitation that universally infests capitalism and invariably immiserates the workers of the world! It is the—

Alex: So, what about if the worker gets a promotion, or a better job, or gets into management? What if he has a hit song that goes viral on You Tube?

Marx: Ach du Lieber! I am less tormented in Hell than I am by this beardless poltroon!

“Ach du Lieber!”

Alex: I can hear you, you know! –What’s a poltroon?  Anyway, what about time-and-a-half for overtime? Are the bourgeois owners so dedicated to your surplus value equation they sit up late at night figuring this all out with calculators before they give some employee overtime, or offer him a raise, or a bonus, an expense account? Or a paid vacation? Do they actually make sure the surplus value is–

Marx: Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless!

Alex: Okay, I’m sorry. Just let me read from my notes here of things I’m supposed to ask you—

Marx: I’m giddy with anticipation.

Alex:  Okay, so I quote: “Isn’t it simplistic to subscribe to a mechanical dualism based totally on value and the amount of labor expended to produce value, without admitting that value is based largely on demand?” And then it says, “isn’t value properly understood as the subjective desirability placed by buyers on a commodity, and so complexly dependent on individual assessments and needs in a competitive, free-market framework, that it cannot be predicted by pretending that labor and mark-up constitute unvarying, ironclad determinants of worth?” Well– what do you think?

Marx: I think you may inform your editors that cloaking blatantly specious reasoning and sophomoric paralogisms in the dazzling finery of studied magniloquence does nothing to render them one whit less insipid!

Alex: Yeah—we get told that a lot, I think–mostly on Reddit.

Marx: As well you should!

Alex: Okay, so the next question was, can you please give us an exact description of the workings of dialectical materialism? For example, it says on my list here, I should ask where in Das Kapital is it explained in detail?

Marx:  Do they want pictures? Perhaps a graph? Let’s begin with an important distinction! In contrast to Hegel, who saw experience as dependent on the perceptions of the human mind, my dialectics disposes of such indefensible idealism and emphasizes the importance of real world conditions, meaning class, labor, and specifically, the modes of production! The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle exemplified today by the contradictory relationship of capitalism to the working class.

Alex: Doesn’t it matter that the working class doesn’t notice these–uh– contradictory relationships? If the workers don’t know or care about this stuff, does it still control their lives? Like, most Americans don’t think they-

“But you know what still gets me, Margaret? Sometimes I just can’t stop thinking about how the history of class struggle is exemplified today by the contradictory relationship of capitalism to the working class…”

Marx: Oh, please! Don’t remind me of the obtuseness of the American working class! You give some people a NETFLIX subscription and they think they’re the gottverdammt Vanderbilts! But I see what your masters—whom you slavishly refer to as “editors,” are up to! They think to force upon me a situation in which I must admit that dialectical materialism is not described in my works with sufficient mechanistic precision to allow precise predictions of the nature one might expect scientifically—but they are fools to think me so easily ensnared! You see, I explicitly reject teleology. As I explained in my brilliant and insufficiently appreciated book, The Poverty of Philosophy, any attempt to interpret history as the inevitable advance of social formations toward a present state of affairs is to misunderstand the historical movement!

Alex: Okay—that sounds a little like your theory can’t make very good predictions, but it still makes sense because you already said it couldn’t.

Dialectics for those who require a chart.

Marx: Next question!

Alex: Okay, then, I guess. I have some current-events questions, you might say. I get the feeling you may or may not be up to speed on such topics?

Marx: I may or may not be—but I needn’t deny you my thoughts on matters simply because I haven’t remained abreast of them. Any topic you broach can be readily fitted to my existing socioeconomic teachings—so what do you want to know about?

Alex: How about “the universal prostitution of women?”

Marx: What about it?

Alex: —It says here you might have a thought or two about that?

Marx: How is that current?

Alex: Well, the “me-too movement” is a big deal just now, and Feminists tend to support radical leftist views and causes, so…you know…calling for universal prostitution is kind of weird.

Marx: I did not call for it, young man, I simply acknowledged it as an inevitable phase of raw communism. Do you blame the prophet for distasteful prophecies? What I said in my essay, “Private Property and Communism,” is that in the same way woman will abandon marriage for general prostitution, so the whole world of wealth, that is, the objective being of man, is to abandon the relation of exclusive marriage for the relation of general prostitution within the community.

Alex: So, this just sort of happens before the dialectic advances—

Marx: Yes! Exactly! You’re getting smarter, young man–and had you lived through such eras as the radical ’60s, you’d know it’s already happened a time or two!

Alex: But in the meantime….

Marx-era prostitute, excitedly awaiting universalization.

Marx: Sure, in the meantime, to borrow your uninspired phraseology, let us agree that while prostitution is only a graphic expression of the universal prostitution of the worker in capital-driven societies, its universalization during the period in which raw, unperfected communism thrives will occur because the vulgar instinctual drives of the masses will demand equal sexual gratification.  But ultimately, women too will benefit from the communist revolution. Anyone who knows history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval, but as I told Engels in a letter back in 1868, “social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.” Do you doubt me? Why, at that very time, the International actually elected a female to the General Council–and a rather ugly one, too, as I recall, which bodes well for the distaff sex, once the prostitution phase resolves itself, anyway.

Alex: I guess you’re famous for saying you have to beak some eggs if you want to make an omelet.

Marx: Stalin is famous for saying that–which he did…but Joseph Chamberlain said it before he did, attempting to rationalize the colonization of Africa in 1897.”

Alex: Sorry. I guess I got that confused with “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Marx: That’s in Kapital, but I didn’t say it first. It sometimes gets attributed to Samuel Johnson, but he isn’t down here, so I can’t ask him—and wouldn’t bother even if he were. I believe it’s earliest was by John Ray.

Alex: Who’s John Ray?”

Marx: He recorded The Little White Cloud that Cried.

Alex: He what? The little wha-?

Not the road-to-Hell one, though. 

Marx: HA!! I’m screwing with you.

Alex: Oh? Oh, okay. Well, I still don’t really see how the revolution of the proletariat gets here, or why the historic dialectic makes it happen, but can you tell us what communism will finally look like once it reaches perfection?

Marx: Simply this, young man: a society in which no one lives by the exploitation of another. That should be clear enough for even your beclouded mind to apprehend.

Alex: Yeah, it’s clear, but it also seems like it’s clearly impossible. Are the workers of the world going to be a bunch of angels? What’s going to guarantee they’ll all be as virtuous as saints?  Won’t some people always seek to exploit others?.

Marx: I weary of your insolence, you ineducable lumpen-proletarian whelp! I warn you, do not further tax my patience! The true communist society will result from advances in socioeconomic development resulting in a superabundance of material wealth, which will in turn allow entirely new methods of distribution based entirely on need. When the class problem of anomie–alienation resulting from the working class’s failure to find meaning in its empty toils–is dispensed with through the fulfillment of the historic dialectic, crime and what we might consider pathological deformities of thought, will vanish.

Alex: Because private ownership will go away?

Marx: Of course! In communism the people hold natural resources and the means of production in common!

Alex: Won’t they disagree with one another a lot? Won’t there be fights over how to do stuff, and who should do it? Who decides who gets what?

Marx: There will be little motivation to seize control of production assets in an environment of material abundance.

Alex: So why will anyone work if abundance is all over the place?

Marx:  You do not understand how the Realm of Freedom will change humankind in the era of pure communism.

Alex: The Realm of what?

Marx: Ha! Thought so! All right, A communist society will free individuals from long working hours  through automation and equally shared labor. This is what I famously called the transition from the “realm of necessity” to the “realm of freedom.” In the Realm of Freedom an intellectually-inclined population with both time and opportunity to pursue its creative inclinations will have ample time to pursue their creative passions

Alex: Won’t most of them go bowling or sing at karaoke bars?

Marx: No, you imbecile, they will not!

No karaoke bars in the Realm of Freedom!

Alex: And who designs and maintains these wonderful new automated factory machines? Doesn’t that require a profit motive? You can’t collectively design a robot, can you?

Marx: Ach! One more time and I must depart! With scarcity eliminated, there will be no need for profit, and  formerly alienated workers will be free to pursue individual goals…like designing machines! Let the most advanced capitalistic societies pioneer the science of automation! If you grasped dialectical materialism, you would see the perfect revolutionary irony–the Sophoclean mordancy inherent in capitalists competing to devise and perfect the very devices that will ensure their extinction! It is by these very oppressive exertions that the masses will be set free!

At least the dratted British let him have a library card!

Alex: Sounds to me like the idea of freedom from labor to pursue your own goals is a lot like you being able to hang out at the British Museum and write Das Kapital all day long. Is that more or less the same idea?

Marx: If you are suggesting I was an exemplar of the ideal, I concur! And just as matter of fact, I was in London only because I was tossed out of France and Germany–exiled by Prussia–and even the British wouldn’t consider me for citizenship! “Drat the British!” as I famously declared–but meanwhile I took advantage of them in order to put my theories on paper in London–the world capital of exploitative capitalism and subjugation! I was able to use their museum to undermine their economic system–a system for which I had no tolerance whatever!

Alex: But my notes say–like you started to admit earlier–you only had that kind of time and freedom because Engels supported you with money his father made running factories that you say exploited workers—so isn’t that…

Marx: No, it isn’t! It isn’t that, whatever you think that is, because you obviously cannot grasp a single concept I put forward! It was synthesis, for your information–that’s what it was! But I am done wasting my time with you, you pathetic dullard! I am returning to the infernal regions! Good evening and good riddance!

Alex: Wait! Wait! Just one more question, okay?

Marx: One more idiotic example of your complete inability to fathom a word I say—and then I am out of here! I’m overdue for my midnight apéritif with the Rosenbergs–who are actually rather stimulating for a pair of yids!

Alex: They serve apéritifs in Hell?

Marx: Not really—we just pretend–it’s really mostly just discussion, at least until that autocrat Satan comes along, and—

Apéritifs in Hell?

Alex: So that’s my final question! Before you go back to Hell, could you tell me, is the Devil a Communist?

Marx: Ach, you are an irretrievable moron if you haven’t at least comprehended already that he could not possibly be!

Alex: Why not?

Marx: Because, obviously, if the Devil were a communist, Hell would be paradise!

Alex: Oh yeah—I see. So how did you end up in Hell, anyway?

Marx: It should be equally obvious! God is also not a Communist! In fact, God, if you ask me, is the most detestable specimen of—

Alex: So, is he, maybe…Catholic?

Marx: Is who Catholic?

Alex: God.

Marx: Ach! Let that crowning idiocy end this ordeal! I bid you good evening, you pathetically obtuse lumpen-proletarian nincompoop! I return now to my lodgings in Hell, where one can at least rely on finding agreeable companionship! Auf wiedersehen!

Alex: But…hey, no, wait!


Editors note: And here ended this remarkable experiment in the paranormal. Alex and one of the two additional (living) participants in the parlor (the formidable Mrs. Heffelfinger) insist Marx’s shade vanished in a blinding sheet of flame, leaving behind a swirling fog-like haze, powerfully redolent of sulfur dioxide. This climactic departure seemed to rouse Dr. Walters from his trance, which, spanning the evening’s events, rendered him oblivious of developments following Marx’s initial manifestation, and until the pungency of brimstone shocked him rudely awake upon Marx’s departure.

Was Alex truly able to elicit comments from the real Karl Marx, albeit phantasmagorically summoned by Dr. Walters, or are he and WOOF somehow the victims of a spiritualist flimflam? And if so, perpetrated by whom? Our differences with Dr. Walters in the past derived from his inaccurate predictions about the Obama administration–but we have never had occasion to doubt his sincerity.  As the architect of the interview and the interlocutor who, before succumbing to insensibility, conjured the personage of Marx by certain arcane rites alien to our understanding, his assurances that Alex met and conversed with the real Karl Marx merit consideration.

If, in fact, it was Marx, as Dr. Walters insists, and as Alex and Mrs. Heffelfinger certainly believe, we are left to conclude that, whatever else the event may mean, it certainly underscored William Shakespeare’s contention, famously expressed by Hamlet, and presented here with only the slightest periphrastic adjustment, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Comrade Marx, than are dreamt of in your dialectics.”

  1. WOOFERS, you outdid yourselves – if that is even possible!
    Even though prepping for a much awaited vacay, I had to read this and respond, too.
    Now, I am sure that Marx – having been a cranky and rabble-rousing sort – would “disapprove” of my destination (after all, I am not part of the ruling class, you know, those who scream “equitable distribution” but live like kings and queens), that is, Belvedere Island, CA. But no matter. I refuse to “apologize” for living like a queen…or princess….due to my Doc’s (surgical) success, as part of the so-called one percent, owning real estate here and there……

  2. Thanks as always Adina–enjoy your “vacay!” On the other hand, we modestly submit we did nothing to “outdo” ourselves, except to send Alex to Zug–and on the cheap, at that! Meanwhile, we rejoice in your living like a queen–who better? –Your devoted fans in the WOOF cave.

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