I wish I could say it as well as Rosa did!
When asked for my influences there are obvious choices on both sides of writing. From horror there is of course, Stephen King, Goosebumps and the copious amount of horror films I consume and the political side begins with John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and more recently Kalinda Ashton – but also on both sides, China Miéville who both writes speculative fiction and is also a card carrying red.
But these are not the most interesting or unusual choices except for China who is amazing in how he tells fantastic (in more ways than one) stories whilst seamlessly weaving in his natural view of the real world in the texture of his fantasy worlds.
What I want to talk about – and this fits into the theme of International Women’s Day – is the stylistic influence that kind of bridges the gap between the political and the horrific and best done by a woman no less!
Reading a lot of political fiction written recently is, for better or worse, often stylistically straight up, dry or kind of not very imaginative, there are exceptions of course, but whenever I raise politics in regards to writing, people cite that it’s boring or “in your face” etc. and even when it’s straight up political essay or non-fiction, the play with language is lacking especially for my taste as a speculative fiction writer and poet. And so I can understand how, even if they might agree with the politics of a said piece or writer, they might feel put off by the current styles.
But in my wading around in the depths of classic Marxist literature, I was tickled in nice ways by the language and imagination used in describing the world we live in. Of course there is Marx himself describing: “capital [invested money] comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt” and “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks” which are great quotes but Marxists aren’t immune to ignoring women due to the ideas of society pervading our minds in the most unconscious ways so you have to dig a little deeper to find someone special, and that woman is Rosa Luxemburg.
This long-winded introduction to my article is my way of saying that Rosa Luxemburg is at the head of the early Marxist writers that tickle that horror writer inside me in describing capitalism in some gruesome and colourful ways. And I like to think that Rosa can rub off on me so I can describe today’s world in metaphors just as thick and emotive as she did describing the early 20th Century.
Below, I leave it Rosa to demonstrate this herself with my two favourite quotes or passages from The Junius Pamphlet in which she wrote before the start of the First World War:
“Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth – there stands bourgeois society. This is it [in reality]. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics, order, peace, and the rule of law – but the ravening beast, the witches’ sabbath of anarchy, a plague to culture and humanity. Thus it reveals itself in its true, its naked form.”
“Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” What does “regression into barbarism” mean to our lofty European civilization? Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism. The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery…In this war imperialism has won. Its bloody sword of genocide has brutally tilted the scale toward the abyss of misery. The only compensation for all the misery and all the shame would be if we learn from the war how the proletariat can seize mastery of its own destiny and escape the role of the lackey to the ruling classes.”
Benjamin Solah is tingling from the chance to share that with you all and hopes you enjoy Rosa’s turn of phrase even if you don’t quite agree with what she’s saying. You can read more of Benjamin’s thoughts on dark fiction and radial politics at Blood and Barricades.