The bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the Communist as superhero’s and villains in a comic book
When you get an email about the Communist Manifesto signed with V. you are directly drawn to it. In the days following I learned more about German political scientist, Volker Eick, who is currently working on the German version of the comic book of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. “What we wanted to do is to bring this historical text into the context of current capitalism. We want to bring back a text that has been all but forgotten but that has played a significant role in the development of human history. Some right-wingers have already started to claim that we are heading for a new round of Stalinism but that's just crude nonsense. There is and has been no need to hide our names or our intentions for this comic book version of the Manifesto.”
About Volker Eick and the editor of the comic book, George Rigakos
To keep in line with my communication with Volker
Eick, I will use the letter V. when referring to Mr. Eick
throughout this interview. V. is based in Frankfurt/M., Germany,
and works as a political scientist in the Department of Social
Science at the Goethe Universität. At present, V. is doing research
on private security companies working in public spaces and fighting
what their public and private customers perceive as ‘undesirables’.
These include the homeless, beggars, and prostitutes in European
and North American cities. Other research if his relates to
workfare regimes and how such regimes are policed in what has been
called ‘actually existing neoliberalism’.
George Rigakos, the editor of the Communist Manifesto comic book, came across the idea of publishing the Manifesto about 2 years ago, and asked V., if he could support him in publishing the German version. The comic book of the Communist Manifesto is being published in English, French, Spanish, and German. V. will also help to do some advertisement for the German version in the German-speaking world. “We are expecting to have the German version of the Manifesto on the market this month, i.e. February 2011. Others support us in France, Spain, and Latin America.”
About Red Victor, the artist of the comic book
Rigakos was specifically looking for someone who would do images that equal that which would be considered to be a superhero or Marvel or DC comic book art. And he is more than happy that he got in contact with Red Victor and his colleagues who are working as a collective in Buenos Aires. Together they tried and still try to match up the words of Engels and Marx with contemporary images that would not only resonate with readers but rattle them, as Rigakos puts it. There are epic scenes such as an iconic representation of historical materialism in the form of a human pyramid that required tremendous back-and-forth between the artist and Rigakos but in other panels the artist even exceeded our imagination. Red Victor is the pseudonym for the Argentinean collective that works with us, and the main artist is Victor Serra who works for the illustration studio 'Enroc' in Buenos Aires.
About the original Communist Manifesto and its current value
The Communist Manifesto has been an uninterrupted publication since 1848 and has been translated into 25 languages. “The Manifesto is in itself a political statement, and we believe that the Manifesto is so significant, in fact, that it should rightly be considered as one of the most important texts of the modern era. This is our political statement” says V. Currently, there is a great interest in reading Marx on a global level. The “Capital” for instance, turned into a global book trade hit during the last years, and the German Karl Dietz publishing house – the main supplier for Marx and Engels' work – even had to announce that stocks for the “Capital” were sold out in 2010.
About the comic book version of the Communist Manifesto
The four chapters are organized as follows: The first volume deals with historical materialism, the second with the bourgeoisie; the third with the proletariat and fourth part with the Communists. Each chapter also contains a prologue. The target group for this comic book could be a very large audience including those with expertise in Marxism and those who do not know the Communist Manifesto at all. According to V. this is because the comic in itself is that kind of art that should inspire people to read the comic as a comic, and people definitely will enjoy the powerful pictures. “I have orders already from German colleagues of mine who are experts in Marxism and buy it for the fun of having the Manifesto in a different form. So what we did was to try to match up the words of historical wording of Engels and Marx with contemporary images. This is another way of presenting Marxian literature, and it may well be that we are going to publish other texts in this form as well. Our editorial collective is committed to the production of texts in formats that are creative and that will likely include more comic book style publications. We want to do this not only for classic texts but for original works that may also be scholarly. Rigakos even thinks that if Marx and Engels were writing today they'd be putting out graphic novels. I have to admit, I am not that convinced but comics can be a powerful tool.”
Question: The original Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels is controversial. One of the main reasons being that the former Soviet Union has led a cruel communist policy for years based on this (think Stalin). Why was the choice made to call or base a comic book on the Communist Manifesto? Some people might find this offensive. Was this considered while making the comic book?
“In fact, the cruel communist policy you are mentioning is one
important background for us and for the comic series, and as we
have stated in the introduction of the first volume and will do so
in those that we will publish in the future, the Manifesto is
“a political pamphlet that forged the ideological
foundations for one of the most idealistic yet repressive eras of
human history.” Our critique of what among others former
Soviet Union leaders did is clear, and we are well aware of the
inhumanity that came with it. But that it is not to say that the
Manifesto's analysis of capitalism is wrong. And I think, we
can go as far as to state that, given what has been done in
the name of communism over the last century, it’s unlikely that
even Marx and Engels would call themselves communists
Part of the proceeds from the sale will go towards scholarships for students
For the next year, Rigakos (who is also Associate Professor at the Department of Law at Canada’s Carleton University) plans to incorporate the Manifesto into one of his courses on police and capital. He believes it would do particularly well in an introduction to political science-type course, which is V.’s field. “Be it as it may, next year we will know better. As important it seems to me is that part of the proceeds from the sale of the Communist Manifesto will go towards scholarships for students. In a time of austerity and cutbacks to the educational system this is more important than ever” according to V.
Communism and the world today: the rich get bailouts and the poor get austerity
V. says that anybody who picked up the Manifesto in the last number of years would have been able to immediately see the connection between the structure of capitalism, its violent fluctuations and crisis as well as the wholesale theft of wealth from the working classes that we are currently witnessing – the rich get bailouts and the poor get austerity. “There is no doubt that the manifesto should be part of the discussion today but when we started this project we had no idea how relevant it would become. I would not speculate about any European country now but the crisis is neither over nor is, for instance, the conflict in Greece. In addition, what is currently going on in the Arab world shows that people are standing up and fighting for their rights.”
EUKN, Elizabeth Winkel
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