Marxism, Communism, and Revolution

Here’s another documentary, this time focussing mostly on the Russian revolution. It helps you to understand the true social policies of Marxism, and you get to see them in action too. Its up to you whether you watch, but if you found any of my last post interesting I think you’ll really like this! I put it below twice, and don’t know how to fix it, sorry!

Marxism, Communism, and Revolution

Marxism: Part One of Two


The objective of this post is to give you extensive insight into Karl Marx’s economic theories, often merged together by the blanket-term ‘Marxism’. There will be two stages to the post, firstly: looking at Marxism as a political ideology. Then secondly: looking at Marxism as a perspective for literary analysis. Finally there’ll be a sort of ‘part two, part two’ or…’Part two A’ where I’ll try and point you in the right direction when it comes to analysing ‘The Help’ through the Marxist perspective. I can brush over ‘The Color Purple’ too but it’s recommended that we use named critics for our analysis of that text, rather than literary concepts, and perspectives.

I can be a bore, but please read all of it. It should be quite useful, maybe even interesting.

Part One: Marxism as a political ideology

Here’s a massive chunk of text, that’s pretty big and pretty ugly, but please read it anyway.

Marxism was never really taken in by Proletariat (working class), or Bourgeois (wealthy) readers when ‘Das Capital’ was initially published across Western Europe. Although honestly, I’m sure the working class would have loved to have read it- especially here in Britain where Karl Marx said Europe’s first revolutionary power shift, or balance as he would call it, was going to take place. The book wormed its way into the America’s and Eastern Europe as more translators began changing the world forever, and it was in these less developed where it was taken slightly more seriously. Before long it had made its way into Russia- where schoolboys and intellectuals with radical intentions would begin reading extracts out in factories and farms as if it were a holy book. In Russia, Revolution was no fantasy or idea, for those with any sense, it was an expectation. Many books were consequently banned in Russia, but ‘Das Capital’ surprisingly passed under the nose of Tsar Nicholas II’s secret police and was soon a hot topic in Russia. I would say, it was destined.

This is a random point that could get chucked in anywhere, so why not here? Karl Marx was inspired and mentored by Friedrich Engels, who in 1844 wrote ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, if you ask me this is more a forerunner to communism than any of Marx’s works and I have no idea why Engels let Marx rip him off and get all the glory, probably because he was a true socialist who didn’t care for book sales and glory but there you go. Another point, Marx’s parents were fairly well off upper class people, whereas Engels’ were practically aristocratic: I think Engels presented himself as more of an anthropologist (basically a sociologist who does more in-depth studies focussed not just on culture but on the psyche too, like combining sociology and psychology in a way) than a revolutionary because of his family name, and a rich posh young man would seem like quite the hypocrite if he were shouting revolution from the rooftops…

Maybe you think that’s quite interesting, maybe you don’t. But what’s important is that although initially unsuccessful, Marx’s work evolved into Communism and soon after, Bolshevism, which formed the essence of one of the largest and most productive empire’s ever seen: the USSR. This has got nothing to do with our English work but there were two main problems for the Soviet Union and the happy-chappy comrades within it: they were led by lunatics, and the entire world was against them, even their supposed allies China would rather trade with America than them! But admittedly most countries, especially the one most of us are in right now (United Kingdom), despised the idea of: social equality for everyone, shared labour thus shared profit, even distribution of resources, equal rights for everyone, and worst of all…those awful ‘Commies’ were dishing out free healthcare and education when us lovely capitalists were giving women five minute breaks so they could breast the child on their back in the factory! How sweet. Although so far this is slightly satirical and opinionated, it is true, but the USSR had bad apples on its tree too! For a long time it struggled to maintain the enormous army and population it had created, also true communism really died with Leon Trotsky (he’s snowball in animal farm, or at least the one that gets chased off by the other pig, who I think was Napoleon). Also forced labour was really the backbone of the USSR and helped make it what it became, so its legacy is really not all that different from that of the British Empire: greedy men playing toy soldiers with real human lives, and using the weak to make your country strong.

We’ve taken a quick stop at how Karl Marx’s work inspired Vladimir Lenin, who then took advantage of the Russian Revolution, and began a political Coup which established the world’s first socialist state(s). Which means I can now gun down  these quick –fire questions like a cowboy shooting bottles with a revolver, really just because I want to, and partly because it’ll help understand what Marxism really is as an ideology and not just in terms of literary analysis.

How did one man’s theory (theories) change the course of history forever?

It’s quite stupid, and very ignorant, to actually accept and believe that Karl Marx was Earth’s ever human in a developed society to turn around and say to himself, “wait a minute, why are they in charge of me? Why can I see her ribs poking out, yet he’s so fat his buttons pop out? Why can a bar of soap be made in less than a second and cost less than a penny to make? And I’ve just bought one for a pound”. Okay, so that’s not entirely accurate- I’m sure it wasn’t soap that inspired Marx, and he was German so he wouldn’t have been spending British Currency. Anyway. An early replica and forerunner of communism, were the Levellers, a group who came about during the English Civil War who were basically communists, they wanted to ‘level’ social class. The main thing is, today’s establishment would have you believe that capitalism is natural for humans to want and abide to, but the truth is we naturally seek to care for our tribe- ancient civilisations lived in very liberal, even socialist environments. If anything, being reliant on a global market in this supposed ‘New World Order’ is just unnatural.

All Karl Marx did was put these ideas into the context of the Industrial Era, and applied them to modern economics. This is why we say Marxism is an economic theory, in conflict with capitalism. It is communism that is the real ideology, but honestly they’re two of the same thing, one just came after the other.

Without Karl Marx and his economic theories, would the great wars of the twentieth century have ever of occurred?

This is difficult to answer as there is no specific cause to either of the Great Wars. But World War One was relatively unaffected by Marxism, and the real fear of communism in the eyes of the establishment came after the Bolsheviks took Russia in 1917, only a year before the First Great War came to an end.  The Second World War came mainly from the shabby peace brought about after the first, but also because of the ambitions of both Stalin and Hitler. One Communist leader, one Fascist (really National Socialism is no more than a sticker on Hitler’s jacket; Nazis were in my opinion undoubtedly fascist). World War Two began with the joint invasion of Poland, not many people know this for some reason but Hitler had arranged to carve up Poland with Stalin, who was invading from his side of the tracks- the East. Hitler had no intention of actually continuing his pact with Russia and began his Eastern campaign in 1941, by this time Russia was not truly a communist nation, more of just a dictatorship. Karl Marx’s legacy lies in the initial revolutions of the twentieth century, in Russia and in Turkey (transforming from the Ottoman Empire into the republic Turkey has today).

End of Part One. I apologise this hasn’t focussed on literary analysis, but I leave that to part two which will be produced before you can say ‘Marxist theory’. Not really, but I’ll have it done tomorrow.  In all honestly it’ll to be too much to digest having all of it in one post, and I’m really doing this because I doubt all of it would be read if it was too long and boring. It probably already is!

Marxism: Part One of Two

So do you want an A or not?

Here’s a great documentary about the segregation of African Americans in the twentieth century, the programme also looks at the similar situation in South African for the native African population there. It’s something I’d watched for my GCSE History paper and it really helped me out then, and should do now too. Watch this and you’ve got A05 covered for your course work.

Part of the television series ‘People’s Century’, released to celebrate the turn of a millennium and the passing of the twentieth century. My hope is you’ll find it as interesting as I have.

Once you guys have taken a look at this I can put up another one looking at the feminist movement, but you can find it by looking up “People’s century ‘Half the People'” on Youtube.


So do you want an A or not?

The Toome Road- ‘Tomb’

This post should serve as an analysis of Heaney’s poem ‘The Toome Road’, from ‘Field Work’ (on page seven). Also, the post will look at some of the abstract ways Heaney has used people’s memories in this poem, which could be compared with the way(s) this is done by Sheers for the comparative question in our exams.

‘The Toome Road’- It is one of the poems I have chosen to write about for the exam’s comparative question. I have chosen it because it links with the interpretation of ‘Field Work’ that states it as an experience where the reader follows Heaney through a recollection of Ireland’s struggle and the death, and devastation brought with it. For more reference to a similar sort of interpretation, ‘Chroniclesofelliott’ says:

“the general summary of ‘Field Work’…is a ‘meditation’ on the poet’s friends and relatives who have died”.  This is extracted from Elliott’s analysis of ‘A Drink of Water’, considering what he’s said is referring to another poem, what Elliott and I have both interpreted the underlying theme of the anthology to be must hold some truth to it. Because there a multiple poems with evidence to support it.

Although David Lloyd’s critique of ‘Field Work’ doesn’t include reference to the interpretation I’ve described. It does examine how Heaney actually presents it. Firstly the Irish struggle and secondly people who died as a consequence to this struggle, and the Troubles (see CathsLitBlog). However, what David Lloyd discusses isn’t actually directed towards ‘The Toome Road’- but because the themes run through a lot of the anthology’s poems, and because Lloyd also talks about the anthology as a whole, his points are still applicable.

So the next two paragraphs will (try to) look at what David Lloyd has said about ‘Field Work’ and then find evidence supporting this from ‘The Toome Road’.

“He has reconstructed the details of this terror”- so what Lloyd’s said here seems to be quite easily found in the poem. Its title “The Toome Road”, immidiately makes me think of an actual ‘tomb’, and with the word “road” next to it, the idea of a path to death is formed in my mind. This relates to the military convoy which the poem describes, making me think that this must be what Lloyd means when he says that Heaney “reconstructed…terror”, as the trucks, tanks, etc. are described as leading to death- for both Irish and English alike.

“The poem is a personal response to a social and political reality”, this is a really good quotation for our exam, we could use it for a whole load of Heaney’s poems, I suppose you’d just have to link it to whatever poem you’re doing somehow. But as for ‘The Toome Road’, we’re given the experience of the everyday Irishman(or woman), upon their first encounter of the British military presence in Ireland- which for them must have been foreign invader, or at least an unwanted presence. The poem is made into a “personal response” through the use of the first person, always followed with the telling of events. “I” is used heavily to emphasise the effect of personalisation, it can help the reader sympathise with Heaney even if they know very little about what has happened in Ireland. Here the personalisation can be seen: “I had rights of way” (military overtakes farmers in social standing), “I met armoured cars” (the military has no mention of the people in it, takes away the humanity from it, presenting it as alien), “should I run to tell” (a sense of emergency, the military presence threatens Ireland and her people).

“Heaney retains the hallmarks of his technique in tightly controlled rythm and syntax and intricately placed sounds”,  examples of all of these are to be found within ‘The Toome Road’, another reason why its a good representation of ‘a typical Heaney poem’ (for ‘Field Work’). All you must do to hear this rhythm is read ‘The Toome Road’ allowed, it seems deliberate that Heaney’s given the poem a pace thats like a marching rhythm. To make a mountain of a mole hill, this expresses the militarism featured in the poem and also makes a rhythm similar to a beating heart, the heart of the Irish people of the fearful farmer in the poem. The syntax (arrangement of words) is a good example of Heaney’s genius, in the poem a list military personnel and vehicles is later contrasted by a list of features in a rural area, showing how the army seems alien in Ireland. “Powerful tyres”, and, “headphoned soldiers” come into contact with “Silos, chill gates, wet slates”- also this full rhyme links to Lloyd talking about the “intricately placed sounds” that Heaney uses, the agricultural features are meant to stick in our head with an almost sing-song rhythm whereas the military list is to be an imposition in the beginning of the poem and meant to sound intimidating. Other examples of Heaney’s sensuous writing, especially when it comes to sound, in ‘The Toome Road’ don’t rhyme but still take effect. “Warbling along on powerful tyres”, would likely make the reader think of the sounds of a war film they have watched, associating the soldiers as being far from friendly.

That’s some of the things I’d like to mention in the exam, I really like ‘The Toome Road’ and its my favorite poem so far, I hope I get the chance to use it in the exam and hope you do too! Anyway if you think about how this poem uses people’s memories think of this as one someone could never forget. In ‘Field Work’ Heaney is showing the reader what Ireland’s trouble has done to him, and his “tribe”. It doesn’t matter whether the “I” in ‘The Toome Road’ is Heaney or not, it could just be a farmer Heaney has put himself in the shoes of to get his point across, both the Irish farmer and the Irish poet have shared the same experiences and felt the same hardships therefore it seems the “I” in the poem might as well be anyone bonded by the Troubles- as long as they’re Irish.




The Toome Road- ‘Tomb’

Poets using memories

In ‘Field Work’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Skirrid Hill’ by Owen Sheers; there are numerous examples of people’s memories featuring in the poems. However the reasons for this being done are dependent on the poet, and the poem.
In a lot of Sheers’ poems he uses his personal memories; they seem to give the reader a rich understanding of his personality. An example of Sheers’ personal memories can be found in ‘Late Spring’, which presents a childhood memory of Sheers helping his grandfather castrate labs on his farm. It’s also likely that this links the possible theme of ‘growing up’ in ‘Skirrid’, and the larger idea of ‘manhood’ or ‘masculinity’ which runs through the anthology as a whole.
In Heaney’s poems personal memories can also be found. Specifically in ‘Field Work’ the personal memories tend to cause the reader to sympathise with Heaney and what he has witnessed in his home nation, Ireland. A poem which does this is ‘The Toome Road’, describing the British military presence in Ireland during the late twentieth century. Heaney uses his personal memories to reference to how these turbulent times for Ireland have impacted his writing, which seems to be clearly demonstrated in ‘The Toome Road’.
Although both poets display their personal memories, they appear to have their own reasons for doing so.

In my next two blogs I will look at how the poets have actually used memories in these two poems. There are different ways to go about answering this type of question, in the actual exam I would prefer to use the structure ‘Whendionmetenglish’ has made.


Poets using memories


Seamus Heaney doing a lecture on poetry at the New Yorker Festival-

Background on the poet:

Seamus Heaney was: born on April 13, in 1939, on a farm in Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland, and he the eldest of eight children. In 1963, he began teaching at St. Joseph’s College in Belfast. It was here where he began to write creatively, joining a poetry workshop with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, and others sometimes mentioned by Heaney, under the guidance of Philip Hobsbaum. In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, and a year later in 1966 he published his first book of poetry, Death of a Naturalist. His other poetry includes Door into the Dark (1969), Wintering Out (1972), North (1979), Selected Poems 1965-1975 (1980), Station Island (1984), The Haw Lantern (1987), New Selected Poems 1966-1987 (1990) and Seeing Things (1991). In 1999 he published a new translation of the Old English heroic poem Beowulf. Not forgetting the 1979 anthology, fieldwork, of course the one we’re studying.

Seamus Heaney has been made a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1989 to 1994. In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney has lived in Dublin since 1976. Since 1981 he has spent part of each year teaching at Harvard University, where he is a Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. Writing about Heaney in 1968, Jim Hunter, said:

“His own involvement does not exclude us: there are few private references, and the descriptive clarity of his writing makes it easy to follow…Heaney’s world is a warm, even optimistic one: his tone is that of traditional sanity and humanity.”

below here is a good link describing different poetic techniques, it looks very good, I hope you find it useful.

Poetic techniques & terminology



Shadow Man


Shadow Man’s a poem, made up of six stanzas, which describes the works of Mac Adams. Mac Adams is a modern artist, using a camera as his brush and shadows and his paint. Sheers seems to have written the poem out of an interest towards the way Adams ‘uses a lack of light, colour, to create an image’, this is the near opposite to the way in which a traditional artist works, using light and colour. Sheers  himself is an artist, and within ‘Skirrid Hill’ explores many different art forms, even sex is portrayed as an art form as well as the human body (Steelworks talking about men going to the gym, night windows talking about presenting sex to an audience almost theatrically).’Shadow Man’ is a good example of how all art forms, past and present, are discussed in the anthology- it also is a good example of Skirrid’s over running theme of masculinity as it describes another male and the profession he has chosen.

Not a full analysis, but a point which could be made? Thanks for reading


Shadow Man