Most helpful critical review
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Might make a good educational resource.
on September 19, 2002
In the introduction to "Marx in Soho," Howard Zinn says that he "wrote the play at a time when the collapse of the Soviet Union brought an almost universal exultation in the mainstream press and among political leaders: not only was Marxism gone, but the ideas of Marxism were discredited." So Zinn wrote this play in which he sets out to show that "Marx's critique of capitalism remains fundamentally true in our time." In order to do this, Zinn invents a scenario in which Karl Marx is inexplicably returned to the land of the living (and to contemporary New York, no less) to defend his theories, reflect on his life, tell a few stories, and occasionally just talk. If this sounds like a weird way to defend Marxism, it is. But it does allow a passionate and excited (though fictional) Marx to talk to us directly in a more conversational and less academic or inflammatory manner. And while Zinn was bending the rules of time and history, he decided he'd go ahead and submit Marx's idea to an anarchist critique as well, and wrote in an account of a fictional night of drinking with Bakunin. This allows for what Zinn calls "a dialectic of opposing viewpoints," but interestingly so in a one-man play. The play humanizes Marx a little by spending time on Marx's family relationships.
Stylistically speaking, this play clearly has its weaknesses. A lack of interaction (there's only one character!) makes the dialogue the only show in town, so to speak, and thus puts a lot of weight on not-too-strong shoulders (Zinn's dialogue writing didn't wow me). And there are some really awkward stabs at humor. Those things said, I only read the play, and maybe I'd be surprised at how well this comes off in the hands of the right director. But what this play does succeed in doing is offering a succinct and engaging summary and interpretation of the writings and ideas of Karl Marx, and encourages further reading (even pointing the reader in the right direction at the end of the script). Myself, after finishing this I marched straight to the bookstore and picked up "The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts," which I'd have to say I've gotten a lot out of and, dare I say it, even enjoyed.