Yesterday evening I went to the Friends' Meeting Hall in Euston for a book launch, hosted by the Marx Memorial Library: celebrating the publication of the final volume of the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, a project which has taken decades to complete. My late great-aunt had a number of the early volumes, and passed them on to me. They are long since disappeared, as, indeed, am I.
When I was setting out on the road to socialism, something like twenty-five years ago, I would usually expect to be one of the younger people at any given meeting I attended. I have noticed, as the time has passed, that this has usually remained the case, as if history had cut us out as a chunk, and carried us through time with the only changes to our numbers occurring when they were diminished by our deaths. You do get that feeling sometimes: that we were like the speakers of some dying language, part of its vocabulary lost for ever with each one of us who passes on, its whole history to come to a close when the last one of us is gone.
Perhaps, I mused, the event was like the attempts the anthropologists make, to record the speakers of those languages before they die, so that some, at any rate, of what they understood might be passed on to future generations. Or perhaps it was like Arthur C Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God: at the conclusion of the project, the world would come to an end. But I feel like that most evenings anyway.
Anyway, most of the audience were a good thirty years older even than I: it was like being in Brian Aldiss' Greybeard, a novel I should read again, just as I should get round to properly reading Capital, one of whose translators, David McLennan, was on the platform along with Eric Hobsbawn and other notables. Once McLennan and Hobsbawn and the others has spoken, the meeting came to a close - no anthems, no Internationale even. It being a commemorative sort of event, I went and bought myself a mug depicting the Communist Manifesto, a keyring depicting William Morris and a postcard depicting the Peterloo Massacre.
Before I left the main hall, though, there was a small commotion a few rows ahead of me, when one of the attendees discovered that somebody had walked off and left an item of property behind them. The item was waved about a bit, but its owner had probably long gone and could not, anyway, be found. They had left and forgotten to take their walking stick with them. Their walking stick. Evidently, they had entered the hall requiring its assistance and yet left the hall without it.
The healing power of Socialism. It is evidently time for a revival.