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Marx 200 Mayakovsky on Marx

Extracted from Lenin by Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated by Rosy Carrick, available from Smokestack Books,

        His portrait’s grey-framed sternness
                  grips one.
But what a gulf
           between impressions
                     and his life!
What we see
        immured in marble
               or in gypsum
seems a cold old man
         long since past care and strife.
But when the workers took —
            uncertain yet in earnest —
the first short steps
                   along their revolutionary path,
into that giant,
           blazing furnace
      fanned up his mind and heart!
As if he’d drudged whole shifts
              in every factory
     callousing his hands,
                    each tool and job had handled,
Marx caught
        the pilferers
              of surplus value
                           with their pelf,
Where others quailed,
           eyes dropped too low
                    in awe
to peer up
    even as high
            as a profiteer’s umbilicus,
         to lead the proletariat
                    into class war
to slay the golden calf,
            by then a bull,
                      immense and bellicose.
Into the bay of communism,
                      still fogged
                           with blinding mystery,
we thought
    the waves of chance alone
                      could bring us
                     from our hell.
     disclosed the deepest
               laws of history,
put the proletariat
                 at the helm.
    Marx’s books
            aren’t merely print and paper,
not dust-dry manuscripts
                 with dull statistic figures.
His books
              brought order
           to the straggling ranks of labour
and led them forward,
           full of faith and vigour.
He led them
       and he told them:
                      ‘Fall in battles!
The proof
               of theories
                   are concrete deeds.
He’ll come
    one day,
                            the genius of practice,
and guide you on
               from books
                    to battlefields!’


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