Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve finished two political books. They are being added to my 2019 book list.
And Yet… (2015) by Christopher Hitchens
Published posthumously, this is either the second or third collection of Christopher Hitchens’ essays that I’ve read. I do believe that I found the others more interesting. It’s not that the writing is bad but they often failed to catch my attention. Partly this is because the topics he writes about are often far from those that I am familiar with. On the one hand, that does make reading them good for growing my general knowledge but, on the other, with no framework to fit them into, they fade far more quickly from my mind than other pieces that I have read.
Two of the essays did catch my eye; both written in 2008 and both attacking Hillary Clinton. I don’t think I was paying all that much attention to politics back then but it was interesting how the essays could just as easily have been published far more recently. But I guess a lot feels like it’s just repeating itself these days. This year sees a new Godzilla, a remake of Child’s Play and a new take on Spider Man. That’s not even mentioning Disney’s, completely unnecessary and unwanted, remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King.
There was a third essay that I found particularly interesting. All the way back in 2004, Hitchens wrote about how we should embrace partisan politics and mudslinging and he lamented how big issues were ignored because no one wanted to be controversial. Given the way politics has shifted now, particularly in the US, I couldn’t help wondering whether he would still encourage polarisation.
The Communist Manifesto (1848, translated 1888) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The Communist Manifesto was originally published in German in 1848 before being revised and translated many times but the 1888 translation is, apparently, the standard English version. As it is one of the most influential political works – and very short – I figured I really should read it. On the whole, I found it disappointing.
It’s written in a rather strange manner. I didn’t find most of it to be particularly clear or relevant, especially as it often addresses events and situations which were contemporary over 100 years ago. The overarching theme is still relevant but I didn’t feel that they really made their future desirable. At best I had reserved agreement with some of their points but the way it was all presented was quite off putting.
To me, it was a huge contrast with The Conquest of Bread where Peter Kropotkin outlined his ideas of anarchist communism. While there were certainly some areas that were not completely clear, his message was for more positive and the ideal world that he described seemed far more desirable than that of Marx and Engels.