Marx in Soho

Marx came stomping in through stage left as “Money” by Pink Floyd played, demanding why we must always declare him dead. The answer is simple: by declaring him dead, we declare his ideas dead along with him. Yet “Marx in Soho” clearly shows how Marx’s ideology is very much still alive by relating his work back to the present day. By stating the flaws of today, he clarified just how in need of revolution society is. His many examples of contemporary problems revealed the necessity for something such as communism. Relating his ideas to problems not previously discussed in his work made the concept of communism all the more astounding and necessary. But then he would take moments to discuss his family, reminding his audience of his humanity. He made a joke about how Jesus was not coming back, and instead he did. Yet this is exactly what this performance was. Marx came back to clear his name, and to bring clarity to the people who had the potential to make a change. The way he weaved his personal story in with his explanation of communism was meant to constantly remind the viewers of his humanity; Marx may have been ahead of everyone else in his ideas but he was still a flawed human being. The actor, Bob Weick, made himself vulnerable, which in turn made his argument even more tangible. His critique on today’s capitalist society was spot on, and how he demonstrated that Walmart and its treatment of its workers was not dissimilar to the factories in London during his time really put into perspective how little the world has changed. The performance in and of itself was profound, and because the message was so precise, Marx’s ideas are going to be given much more consideration.

Response to Marx in Soho

The first question to arise upon hearing of “Marx in Soho,” a play by Howard Zinn, would naturally be this: why is there a play of Karl Marx and his ideas at this time? It has been over a hundred and fifty years after the Communist Manifesto, and with the dictatorship in the name of communism displayed in Russia, China and North Korea, the general public does not regard Marx with a positive light.

This did not stop Bob Weick, in his act as Karl Marx, in fiercely defending the revolutionary socialist. Alone on the stage, he paced around in a heated one-sided discussion on Marx’s ideas. It was a one-man play; Weick was the only one on the stage, and he was the only one who talked throughout the whole show. There was no evident involvement of the audience, aside from showing them simple props of books and articles, and shouting out questions with no expected contributions.

This forced the focus onto Marx’s ideas. His personal life and context of the time were used only to provide challenges and support to his arguments. This was also aligned to Weick’s argument that the ideas are separate from the person—that personal flaws are not necessarily linked to the arguments presented by the person, and the time in which the ideas were spawned does not necessary limit them to the era. In other words, that ideas are immortal.

The setup of the stage, which consisted only of simple props, two chairs and a table, and a stool in a corner, is also notable in its simplicity. The empty chair and the scarf placed upon it alluded to the second character—Marx’s wife, Jenny—but only enough to enforce Marx’s quality as a round, sympathetic character. His costume was not very dramatic at all, either, and none of the colors were very vivid. The simplicity not only assisted the focus on the ideas rather than the setting or the story, but also made the play more relatable for the present. There were few details to make the audience belittle the play into a theoretical story of a time gone past, nor was the modernity of it forced enough to be unconvincing.

What more could prove the immediate relevance to Marx’s ideas, theories and his criticisms than the sheer consecutive size of the audience that enabled Weick to perform the same show, over 250 times so far? Every detail of the show was designed to be relatable—to convince the audience that Marx and his writings are still relevant to this time, and are crucial for insightful searches into the system of modern world. And on this mark, it was definitely successful—the people walked out of the play wondering why, and how, the problems stated by a man who had lived nearly two hundred years ago, are still far from solved in the twenty-first century.

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Marx in Soho

Emily Armando
In his play Marx in Soho, playwright Howard Zinn resurrects Karl Marx and his ideas by asking his twenty-first century audience to reconsider Marx as more than just a name in a textbook. Through this creative one-man play, Marx comes to life as a relatable human being. He “clears his name” from being associated with failed attempts at communism and establishes a one-on-one relationship with each member of the audience, asking them to consider “What would Marx think?” He lets each of them in on his disappointment and frustration that the same problems he offered solutions for in the nineteenth century continue to be perpetuated almost two hundred years later. He cites the continuous mistreatment of workers, obsession with private property, and disparity of wealth as proof that little has changed since the time of his writing The Communist Manifesto. Marx in Soho humanizes Marx in order to prove to its twenty-first century audience that although he may be dead, his ideas and analyses of capitalist society remain relevant and useful. By presenting Marx as a human whose ideas are just as vivacious as he once was, Marx in Soho proves that problems brought onto humanity by capitalism and private property are still prominent and in desperate need of being re-examined and resolved.
Although disappointed with the current state of society, the character of Marx reiterates his belief that people are still fully capable of inciting a revolution that can better society. Despite failures of so-called “Marxism” and “communism” in the past which have given the ideas (and Marx) a negative connotation, his true theories are still valid and applicable to the twenty-first century. Once the workers themselves recognize the injustice of the capitalist system as well as the power the have in numbers, they have both capability and responsibility to start a revolution for a more equal society.

Marx in Soho

In Howard Zinn’s Marx in Soho performed by Bob Weick, Karl Marx was introduced to the 21st century world, in which capitalism and money still rules.  Money exists as the anchor of 21st century society, and while people that have money are loving the idea and stability of capitalism, the poor despise the current system.  Capitalism exists as a way for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer in Marx’s eyes.  It exists as a way for people to squander their gains and simply consume.  In the play, Marx tells that capitalism does not create citizens, but rather consumers.  Advertising is an attribute to humans being consumers rather than citizens because it attacks people’s vulnerabilities and forces people to consume what they want instead of what they might need.  As long as people keep spending more and more money, the corporations of the world will profit and be happy while the rest of the world, which is the majority, suffers tremendously in this capitalistic society.

In the play, Marx’s flaws as a man and a father, but also flaws in his ideas.  Marx had no way of telling the future, but he thought that after a revolution occurred, the people would take to rule and there would be his dream of a dictatorship of the proletariat.  This idea was one that Marx did not have a complete understanding over at the time because even though a dictatorship run by the people or the proletariat is a revolutionary idea, it simply cannot be attained.  In the play, Bakunin, a revolutionary Russian anarchist, asserted that Marx’s idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat is simply unattainable because no dictatorship has ever lasted and the proletariat did not have the ability to rule a whole society.  Putting people in power that have never experienced power before is a risky situation because they will abuse their new found power without realizing the consequences of their decisions.

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Marx in Soho

Bob Weick’s performance as Karl Marx in the play Marx in Soho, by Howard Zinn, shines a light on the man behind the controversial ideas and shows how relevant his ideas are in our world today. Communism is associated with either corrupt leaders or tumultuous times in history. Marx is thought of as a madman, who should be feared because of his radical views. Weick shatters this stereotype and shows a different side of Marx. His concern as a father is clear as he introduces his three children. He promotes his thoughts because he believes they will allow his children to have a better life. His adoration for his wife is evident as he lovingly recalls her endless support of his work. Most importantly, he shows his humbleness as he regrets his infidelity and his inability to provide for his family. He is not this untouchable figure who thinks he is superior to everyone. Marx is only a person who wants to the world to reach its full potential.

This play forces the audience to confront reality and see the validity in Marx’s view: that capitalism is killing society with its voracious appetite for more. Some disregard his ideas because they fail to see how applicable they are in our world. However, his ideology may have even more truth now than it did when he wrote it. Those who hold all the money and power are few and far between. The majority works for the advancement of the minority and receive very little in return. The solution to this fraudulent system seems easy yet we have been brainwashed into thinking there is no necessity for a solution. Thus, Weick preaches these ideas in the hopes of provoking a response from the audience and helping them discover the root problem.

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The Psychology of Ivan IV

As a young child, Ivan IV was a victim of the same caprice and cruelty that would later characterize his own reign. After his mother’s “haughty and arbitrary”  ((RS 101)))  regime, the young Ivan lived under chaotic boyar rule where “imprisonments, exiles, executions, and murders proliferated.” ((RS 133))  The boyars who had served Ivan as an autocrat while his mother was alive became neglectful and cruel of the young heir in his private life. Ivan seized his rule at age 13 and insisted that he be crowned as tsar (rather than Grand Prince) at age 16. Though he enjoyed a happy marriage to Anasatsia of the Romanov boyar family, Ivan’s personal traumas continued. Soon after his wedding a great fire razed Moscow, leading to riots that killed his uncle and nearly killed Ivan himself. Riasanovsky and Steinberg call the riot “one of the psychological crises that were periodically to mark his explosive reign.”

I found Ivan’s psychology intriguing, since he – like Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin – was a fearsome ruler who grew up in a home marked by violence and trauma. Ivan’s psychological profile seems to be a topic of interest in Russian history, since the 1897 portrait by Victor Vasnetov is characterized as a “psychological portrait.” The actions that characterized his Reign of Terror (such as the founding of the oprichniki) don’t seem so much like sadistic punishments of his people as a they do a measure of personal protection.


Discussion questions:

What were Ivan’s motivations for his Reign of Terror? What events in his life made him paranoid and fearful for his personal safety and hegemony?

Ivan IV, the Confused Puppy

The regime of Ivan IV was not terrible as his epithet might scream. Ivan’s reign was filled with rather level-headed ideas of the time such as more control over your kingdom and personal safety from enemy assassins. His creation of the district elders in cities and later other parts of the country made complete sense. Criminals needed to be punished without every petty crime involving the Prince. Ivan increased the amount of justice served in Rus’ and the communities in which these elders resided were happy to be rid of crime.

To protect his person from bodily harm, Ivan instituted a body of government to weed out those who were against him, publicly or  not. It was here that Ivan received his title of “the terrible” because of how this institution, the oprichnina, operated and more so because of Ivan’s mental disability that impaired his judgement on who was actually out to get him. He was so paranoid that everyone was inherently against him that there were seven “[y]ears of absurd denunciation, sudden arrests, and horrifying executions”1 carried out by the oprichnina.

Ivan IV was not a ruthless leader who would stop at nothing to harm innocent citizens in a sadistic type of way. Ivan simply wanted a guarantee that no one would hurt him. He was an important Grand Prince and world leader of orthodoxy; there’s a price to pay for that kind of power and Ivan thought it was in his safety. But, he was not “the terrible”. He was more like a wayward puppy, confused as to who was friend or foe, and not being able to see the difference between the two.

1Crummey, Robert O. Ivan IV: Reformer or Tyrant? in Daniel H. Kaiser, and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860’s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. p 162.

Marx in Soho

Bob Weick starred as Karl Marx in Howard Zinn’s production Marx in Soho, a monologue about Marx’s life and his idiosyncratic ideas on the flaws of capitalism. Weick acts around a scene set up of one table with a red tablecloth, two chairs, a large bag, newspapers, books, papers, a beer with a glass, and a scarf in remembrance of Jenny.

The basis of the play is to have Karl Marx come back to life to explain how his preachings are still relevant today with the rise of capitalism, poverty, and exploitation of the worker. All of which Marx had warned the world would happen if drastic change didn’t come. Marx gives examples of the destructive nature of capitalism by mentioning the increase in large manufactures like Wal-Mart, bank mergers, student loans, and a rampant boost in consumerism. Marx disapproves of these because they all add to the concentration of wealth of the 500 individuals who own 3,000 billion out of the 5,000 billion dollars of America’s gross product.

Marx provides solutions to these problems unlike other philosophers who he claims, “Only interpret what is wrong with the world”. He states that in order to put an end to the reign of the Bourgeoisie the Proletariats need to lead a revolution that would abolish private property. This in effect would distribute the wealth to the actual workers.

Zinn’s reasoning behind creating this play could be that he sees how many of the problems Marx wrote about are still abundant today yet no one has correctly executed a revolution of the working class, for the working class. Zinn is trying to draw focus to these problems and hoping to influence change through his writings. And attempts to allow people to understand that change is plausible as long as the workers unite under the unified cause of economic and social equality.


Marx in Soho

Marx in Soho is a unique play that showcases Karl Marx’s life and ideas with a twenty first century application . Marx in Soho illustrates the flaws in capitalism that have continued into the twenty first century such as overproduction and the disparity in wealth between classes leading to massive social and economic problems in the future for society.
In modern day America, the overproduction of goods is a major problem, discussed by Marx. This materialistic idea hurts the proletariat because an increase in production reduces the wages of the workers in order to keep the capitalists (Bourgeoisie) gaining a profit. This has lead to a growing gap between the classes which some think as insurmountable. Capitalism is fair to the bourgeoisie who control the flow of capital, and refuse to share their wealth evenly for the benefit of society. Hoarding wealth causes poverty and a decline in education. These problems do not affect the rich capitalists who generate their profits from the poor proletariat.
The statistic that 49 percent of the United States wealth is controlled by 1 percent of the population is evidence Marx’s was right about capitalism. Capitalism has the bad habit of prioritizing profit over the well being of workers. When this profit is held by few, it creates problems for the rest of the country and economy. Much of this wealth is not cycled through the nation, and prevents the growth of: schools, businesses, and the economy. This creates a gap between the bourgeoisie and proletariat while shrinking the middle class down to almost nothing. When the middle class shrinks, the consumer base shrinks while the rich are unable to create the capital needed to sustain their business model. In the United States these problems are evident by the idea of falling into a depression or recession, because the rich 1 percent have few restrictions on their trade and business.
Marx in Soho’s main goal was to paint the picture of the twenty first century in terms of Marx ideas. He intended to create a dialogue of the current and past problems of capitalism.

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Marx in Soho

The nineteenth-century based play Marx in Soho written by Howard Ziin is performed by Bob Weick, a monologist, who interprets philosopher Karl Marx’s life and relates it to twenty-first century America. Through satirical and witty rhetoric, Bob Weick emphasizes how humans create social institutions based on economic factors resulting in income inequality and class division. Under these conditions a minority of the population control a disproportionate amount of economic power over the masses breeding poverty and oppression in both the nineteenth and twenty-first century.

Throughout the play, Bob Weick, as Karl Marx, explains how the social structures in the nineteenth century and the twenty-first century are similar in that the wealth gap continues to widen creating an impoverished, powerless, and uninformed working class. Mr. Weick makes the case that while in the twenty-first century the United State’s Gross Domestic Product is around 5,000 billion dollars, only one percent of the population controls half of the nation’s wealth. To have the top one percent of the population hold the majority of the wealth emphasizes the severity of the growing wealth gap. An effect of having a minority population of ultra rich and a majority population of poor leads to worsening drug and alcohol abuses, overcrowded prisons, and flawed public education institutions. In fact, nineteenth century Europe is not so different, in terms of income inequality, as twenty-first century America. In Europe, the working class was viewed as expendable given just enough money to meet the bare minimum requirements that a human being needs to survive.

Marx explains how capitalism continues to triumph in the twenty-first century and will continue to “breed rebellion”. The disproportionate lack of power that the working class has in the nineteenth and twenty-first century will precipitate social, economic, and political inequality until the rise of a communist revolution.

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