1. According to Bob Dylan
On Rough and Rowdy Ways, the album Dylan released on the eve of turning 80, there's a song called "My Own Version of You" in which he shows us Karl Marx burning in Hell and getting the skin whipped off his back (along with Sigmund Freud).
Stand over there by the cypress tree
Where the Trojan women and children were sold into slavery
Long before the first Crusade
Way back before England or America were made
Step right into the burning hell
Where some of the best-known enemies of mankind dwell
Mr. Freud with his dreams, Mr. Marx with his axe
See the rawhide lash rip the skin from their backs
The songwriter is confident that his political perspective is accurate because, he asserts, "I can see the history of the whole human race." If anyone has a right to make that claim —so grandiose it would be absurd in straight prose and could only be made by a created character — it's Dylan. He's brilliant, he reads all the time, there's nobody more widely traveled, he runs with people from all walks of life, he studies Arabic and Sanskrit to improve his mind (it says in My Own Version of You).
This isn't the first time that Dylan has taken a shot at the co-author of The Communist Manifesto. On Slow Train Coming (1979) an album celebrating his admiration for Jesus, there's a song with a simple, basically political message for America: "Strengthen the things that remain. " Politically charged verses decry social breakdown and those watching it happen:
Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all of your thoughts
Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, and Henry Kissinger's got you tied up in knots
You got innocent men in jail Your insane asylums are filled
You got unrighteous doctors Dealing drugs that'll never cure your ills
Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools
You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules
Spiritual advisors and gurus to guide your every move
Instant inner peace and every step you take has got to be approved
Then Dylan asks and answers what is to be done:
Do you ever wonder just what God requires?
You think he's just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires
There's a Man up on a cross and He's been crucified for you.
Believe in His power that's about all you got to do.
Possibly a coincidence: Kissinger and Freud, the two monsters with whom Dylan equates Karl Marx in his songs, were Germanic Jews, like Marx himself. Probably not a coincidence: both his put-downs of Marx occur as Dylan is dedicating himself to Jesus. On the new album he sings,
If I had the wings of a snow white dove
I'd preach the gospel, the gospel of love
a love so real, a love so true
I've made up my mind to give myself to you
Maybe, while everyone thinks of Marx as the ultimate communist, Dylan, who practices a creed that's been long abandoned, sees him as the ultimate atheist. Or maybe he resents the graduated income tax proposed in the Communist Manifesto. I wish he'd write a song explaining how to live by the golden rule under this system without going broke.
2. Cameos in The Investigator
At the height of the McCarthy Era, a group of leftwing theater people in Canada produced a satiric hour-long radio play called The Investigator in which the Senator dies in a plane crash and launches a loyalty probe in Heaven (where everyone goes provisionally). Wikipedia informs us that The Investigator debuted on the Canadian Broadcasting Company in May 1954 and that "Attempts to schedule it for broadcast in the US met with great opposition from, amongst other groups, the American Legion. The play was denounced as communist propaganda by none other than Ed Sullivan."
A record was pressed by a US company called Discuriosities and leftists who owned copies had their friends over to listen and to take heart. No one had ever heard McCarthy taken down so deftly and so professionally. Some 20 years later the US media would be full of stories about Soviet dissidents cautiously passing around their samizdat publications. In New York the Investigator had been shared in exactly that careful but upbeat spirit.
I'm putting my whole critical rep on the line here — it's great. Not just the Shaw-quality script by Reuben Ship, but the acting and direction are first-rate. (Scenes are separated by brief musical bits.) Too bad Wikipedia doesn't provide credits for the cast. The actor who plays McCarthy in the afterlife perfectly mimics the Senator's nasal, insinuating, contemptuous voice as he bullies witnesses and sets off a wave of deportations from Up Here to Down There. A running joke is that every witness named Karl Marx turns out to be someone other than the famous communist. There's Karl Marx the cobbler, Karl Marx the piano tuner, Karl Marx the pastry chef... Finally, in frustration, McCarthy orders the deportation from Up Here to Down There of everyone named Karl Marx. This is too much for Satan, who complains that the newly arrived radicals are organizing and that Karl Marx is inspiring them with leaflets urging "Workers of the Underworld, unite!"