This post is part discussion, part confession. We’ll get the confession part out the way first: last Tuesday, I went for a flight in a private jet.
Specifically, I took off from Leeds Bradford International Airport and flew for about half an hour in an aircraft that would have set the buyer back by £3.6M. I didn’t pay for it: it was a very generous (and amazing) gift from GlobeAir, but one that meant I could get a glimpse of a multi-millionaire’s lifestyle, and certainly made me feel just one degree more removed from the kinds of people my politics serves to do justice to.
So, whilst eating complimentary snacks and admiring the idyllic views over the Yorkshire countryside, I was well aware that the reality of my circumstances didn’t match up to the ideological self-portrait I’m putting up for others to see. In fact, the irony is so great it’s almost blatant hypocrisy. Sorry if it ruins any puritan image you had of me.
But then again, if this makes me a hypocrite, then I’ve always been a hypocrite. I’m spreading the word about equality and justice by writing on an iPhone 5S that was most likely built in a sweatshop. I firmly believe in redistribution of wealth, yet live a very comfortable life within the confines of my centrally-heated home. It’s easy for me to raise issues I have no experience with, yet I do it anyway. Does that make me a hypocrite? Possibly…
But I’m going to at least acknowledge this irony. If I live in a capitalist country, I lead a capitalist lifestyle, and as a beneficiary of this system, that means I lead a very privileged one. I’m not saying that there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m saying that I’m too lazy/ignorant/selfish/all of the above to break out of the mould that’s been cast around me. So I think that this acceptance is at least something; I’m not pretending I’m exploited; I’m not claiming to be a victim of capitalism; I know very well that I don’t represent the revolutionary cause, but I’ll continue to serve it in this way all the same.
The same can be said for many in my position, and I think just ‘talking the talk’ is a common strategy among those who recognise that the world they live in is wrong, but have spent all their life enjoying it’s privileges. Karl Marx was a journalist and the son of an affluent family. Friedrich Engels, a man with a direct insight into exploitation, came from a family of factory owners. Lenin was a lawyer. Trotsky was the son of one the wealthiest farmers in southern Ukraine. Even Stalin, son of a cobbler and something of a working class-oddity among the Bolsheviks, trained as a theologian. It’s a trend I’m copying, not one I set, but I’ll nonetheless admit to this dishonesty. Without giving up the kind of the live I live, that seems the most decent thing to do.
At risk of making myself look like Donald Trump, here’s a photo:
You taught me a few things tonight Max, fascinating to know the social context of your predecessors…we can’t help what we’re born into its what we do with it that counts…the world needs more people like you Max…especially with the emerging and terrifying possibility of Donald Trump in power…the more polarised it becomes the more likely a revolution…I’m certainly not shouting for Trump but his rise to power might tempt me to revolt…I feel much appeased to know it’s ok to be a middle class communist…The more I read the news the more I’m joining you!
PS: you pull off a baseball cap infinitely better than Trump…if I may say – you are a trailblazer of a “Cool Guy”
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Hey Gina, now that Max has flown in a private jet can we admit we discussed property prices and Location, Location at his book launch?
Fortunately you don’t look like Donald Trump at all. I struggle with the same stuff as you regarding ownership of weath and my socialist views. However l do think more can be achieved by circulating ideas and challenging the status quo than by giving up my iPad, which would benefit no-one in particular. 21 years ago l set a small company dedicated to improving sex and drug education in schools. We have trained lots of people of various ages to deliver our work and they have gone on to other professions. I’ve always tried to be a fair employer and to treat our staff with respect. We are a profit making company but we make a difference. We promote equality and fairness. Sorry to bang on. I’ve felt strangely moved by my own back story! Thanks for being the catalyst – l’m glad you got to do the jet thing. Why not?
You’re making me go back to my leftie beginnings. Also loving your book xxx
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Yes, it really reminds me so much of my communist youth in the 79s when I was a member of the local Maoist student group in my teens but becoming pretty disillusioned with the expectations of unquestioning obedience and moving to the young socialists instead. It is great to see this kind of political idealism and intellectual curiosity when most kids, to my endless frustration my own included, think politics irrelevant and boring.
We’re all hypocrites at the end of the day but we also have beliefs that can only be formed by what we are exposed or by what we consciously expose ourselves to.
I admire your passion, strength of beliefs and your self awareness…..something most people never achieve in their lifetime…..
And no one will ever speculate about the origins of your hair;so the right colour for an A.R.
“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Isaac Newton. I’ve greatly enjoyed the insights, ideas and honesty in your blogs. Your self-awareness, again evidenced in your writing today, is amazing. Always a fresh idea and perspective in the context of today’s society. Thank you for helping me to see a little further.
That looks like a sweet ride AR. But there’s nothing wrong with a little luxury now and again – you’ve earned it. And you’ll never be mistaken for Donald T. Never.
Ok – so I have Judith Stef a bottle of sparkling French rose with my sister who is visiting from Australia, and as a genuine ‘non-regular drinker’ this response may ramble – but I request some leniency in advance!
My first reaction – hypocrite – hmmm – almost heretical I would say 😉
It then reminded me of something I had thought at some time and noted down in the ‘reminder’ app on my phone (iPhone 4 – almost vintage – so I am one up on you there!). Anyway – it says ‘How to manage privilege and foster humanity/causes well beyond self preservation’ / so I basically get your drift!
It is a tricky one – because without that privilege, which I think generally comes from access to education, you may not learn to think about what the world presents to you in a certain way or understand how to place it, and represent it, so that it can be managed better – or whatever you seek to do with it.
But, as you say, your interpretation is quite possibly completely unreal because it is not your true, everyday, every breath reality. Core hard truths of actual experience elude you – but should that mean that you ignore them? I don’t think so. I think you recognise your limitations but appreciate your strengths and focus on somehow bringing the two together so that it is about an honest relationship, reflecting different realities but both very real realities, and let’s face it, mirroring the truer machinations of the world, and working to guild something that is as beautiful and as honest reflection of your inner beliefs and values and skills. Long sentence there – that’s the ramble – hope it makes some sense!
I think my final comment is that despite privileges, many of which you have just been lucky enough to receive, it’s not about living in denial – you only move further from the truth & yourself. Embrace all that you are, all that you have & share what you can – and of that means living the high life for a bit – hey, why not! Life is a very broad spectrum and because it is life, it will serve up enough of the other end to boot! Enjoy! We would ALL do the same!!
‘Judith Stef’ is not some strange colloquialism from down under – predictive text for ‘just finished’ – or ‘just necked a couple’ in the case of your dear cousin Gina! 😉
This is one of the truest things I’ve read, I’ve thought many a time about beneficiaries of the system and their place in the communist cause and achieving social justice and this has finally cleared that up. We must do what we can with what we have, with complementary snacks much appreciated, and try to make changes for the many that need them, rather than change out own small lives simply to make ourselves feel better. That being said, donations for a private jet are being accepted.
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I suppose if we go all the way back we’d have to concede that there was no meaningful philosophical or political thought until after the discovery of agriculture. Prior to realising that you could sustain yourself and your community if you hung around in the same place long enough, small bands of folks either followed the animals about or starved. So, once you plant the crop you wait. First time in human history that we waited instead of chasing something just to survive. And now you’ve got more time to look at the moon.
But you have to defend the crop so you build a wall. Now you need people not just planting and harvesting, but building and fixing walls, and getting material for the walls and new things called houses and streets, and shaping the material and making food for all the people who are doing the other things etc. etc. …. And eventually, the leisured class arise. The people who have to stand back, look at these complex things called towns and make sure they work. They come in many guises, most famously, perhaps, Plato’s Philosopher Kings. Yes, there are different ways of going about giving yourself thinking time but I would argue even the Buddha was a variant on the philosopher king model.
So, what I’m saying is .. you’re part of a great tradition. Paradoxically perhaps, leisure – thinking time sired by agriculture – is itself the great grandfather of division, class and political theory. If while sitting in a private jet you think the thoughts that move us closer to peace and sustainable equity, you are little different from the earliest town dwellers who didn’t have to fight off bears but, sat in warm homes, wondered if, just maybe, the moon wasn’t God. We’re still doing that.
A former pupil of Bromsgrove School, A.E. Housman, captured it over a hundred years ago when midway through a poem called Wenlock Edge he wrote:
Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.
I hope the flight was great!
Very impressive blog. Thanks for making me think!
Many thanks Max. Another Saturday morning read which makes me take stock and reflect on my role in society. We have no control as to what we are born into but we do have some control as to what we accumulate and covet on the way. Gina’s right..it’s what we do with it that counts..Your reference to ‘talking the talk’ is quite self effacing . You continuously raise issues in relation to fundamental fairness, equality, unconditional respect and love for stratas of society. In so doing, highlighting the harrowing plight of refugees and asylum seekers, discussing the worldwide perspective of the Islamic state and the struggles of Yemen all contribute to raising awareness and allow us to question the inequality and partisanship around us.
As for your article in today’s Guardian…..brilliantly written. I’m afraid I am not as stoic as you…and I see your achievements as so very very much more than a ‘modest success’. For crying out loud …I was only delivering newspapers at you age (Mersymart!) .. Not writing them! Well done! Immensely proud.xx
Hi Max, completely agree with Gina. It is so refreshing to read your blog and feel your passion and energy, especially in someone so young. I’m looking forward to reading your article in today’s Guardian and your book which I found yesterday on Waterstones website. You write with such honesty and maturity. As for Donald Trump, we are having so many discussions around the dinner table. The fear of him becoming the most powerful leader in the world is, I hope, generating a passion for politics in my children that you have found Max. Well done Max xxx
Very thoughtful blog, thanks. I’d be interested to know how you got into Marxism. Good luck and very best wishes to you
I dont think you are a hypocrite Max. You have no choice as to what you are born into. The choices come later; and at a young age you made yours. The choice to think about how to organise the world differently, in a fairer way.
You didnt have to come from Soweto to know that apartheid was abhorent.
I remember at school in 1980s Liverpool, when everyone was trying to outdo each other with their working class credentials, Mat Redmond, he of the solidly middle class, Fabian, teacher parents, asked a brave question: “What’s so good about being working class ?” – tumbleweed.
You are responsible for the choices you make but not for the accident of birth.
Hi max ,
Honestly , i dont really underatand polotics .However, i do think that we are all hypocrits in some way , shape or form .I think if we were all offered a private jet plane we would definetly take it ! Unfortunatley i cant give indepth view on stalin and capitilisim but maybe in a few months im going to do some research . I stress on the maybe.
Hi Max, Congratulations on your book publication. Well deserved, your relaxed writing style makes your thoughts and arguments accessible to all readers.You pose for us all the conundrum of having the benefits of a rich society with the moral issues which challenge us all. I am in Greece at the moment and the topic is of course the refugees. Many of the ideas you put forward are so pertinent to this global humanitarian crisis. And no you are nothing like Donald Trump.Keep the blogs going it is such food for thought. Best Wishes Mo
Good morning Max
There are two kinds of hypocrites : ones that don’t believe they are and ones that know they are . Hypocrisy does the most harm if you fall into the first group – that’s not you, Max .
Ps the private jet suits you – jury’s out on the cap …..
Pps your Guardian article is absolutely brilliant … Packed full of original thoughts which surprise & engage the reader – that’s an unusual talent . I have learned from reading your stuff that one of your outstanding characteristics is having the
courage to express thoughts . Lesser writers are inhibited and don’t find that intellectual bravery.
Best wishes Sue ( Helen’s friend)
I loved your article in the Guardian today. It really touched me. You’re a very brave and wise person.
As someone who was a Marxist at your age (some 40+ years ago), I now consider Marxism to be illogical in respect of its appalling disinterest in non-human animals and their plight. As all other political isms, Marxism is human-centrered and that is why it is not credible.
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Great post thanks. Experiences like that allow you to make informed judgements and observations…which you have wisely shared with others. It’s only hypocrisy if you buy a private jet with the proceeds of your book 😊.
I have been musing on your writings this morning and wanted you to know how reminiscent I find these of the work of Doreen Massey the Marxist geographer. You/your family might be interested in some of her ideas. She was my PhD examiner.
Re privilege and your concerns: I think the important thing is to recognise it – but not that it should make us inactive! Many of your antecedents – as you rightly point out – were commenting from similarly “conflicted” perspectives.
Michelle (Helens friend)
Your iPhone is unforgivable, but everyone should get to fly above the clouds at least once.
Your eyes are made of the six elements –
earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness.
They are made of these only, but they are beautiful.
Should I make them mine?
Should I try to make them last for a long time?
Should I try to record them?
But I know that what I can record would not be your true eyes.
Your voice is made of the six elements, but it is truly lovely.
Should I try to make it mine? Should I record it?
But I know that what I can hold on to or record would not be your true voice.
What I get may only be a picture,
a magnetic tape,
or a book.
Your smile is made of the six elements,
but it is truly wonderful.
Should I try to make it mine?
Should I try to make it last for a long time?
Should I try to own or record it?
But I know that what I can own or record could not be your true smile.
It would only be some of the elements.
Your eyes are impermanent.
Your eyes are not you.
Yes, I have been told, and I have seen it,
yet they are still beautiful.
Just because they are impermanent,
they are all the more beautiful.
The things that do not last long
are the most beautiful things –
a shooting star, a firework.
Just because they are without a self,
they are all the more beautiful.
What does a self have to do with beautiful eyes?
I want to contemplate your beautiful eyes, even if I know
that they do not last even if I know they do not have a self.
Your eyes are beautiful.
I am aware that they are impermanent.
But what is wrong with impermanence?
Without impermanence, could anything exist at all?
Your eyes are beautiful.
I am told that they are not you, they have no self
But what is wrong with the nature of non-self?
With self could anything be there at all?
So although your eyes are only made of the six elements,
although they are impermanent,
although they are not you,
they are still beautiful,
and I want to contemplate them.
I want to enjoy looking at them as long as they are available.
Knowing your eyes are impermanent,
I enjoy them without trying to make them last forever,
without trying to hold on to or record them
or make them mine.
Loving your eyes, I remain free.
Loving your eyes,
I learn to love them deeply.
I see the six elements which they are,
the six wonderful elements.
These elements are so beautiful.
And I learn to love them too.
There are so many things I love-
your eyes, the blue sky,
your voice, the birds in the trees,
your smile, and the butterflies on the flowers.
I learn each moment
to be a better lover.
I learn each moment
to discover my true love.
Your eyes are beautiful.
So is your voice, your smile,
I love them. I vow to protect them. Yes.
I know to love is to respect.
is the nature of my love.
I was just thinking that the jet represents technological progress as well as the status symbol it undoubtedly is…and in that respect it reaches back along a very bumpy and chaotic line of technical and social progress to the agricultural transition Chris references.
Progress comes through questioning (as you do so effectively) whether we are the best we can be and by not accepting the status quo. To appreciate and enjoy the jet is also to appreciate and enjoy the incredible engineering skills of the people who designed and built it.
Should Elon Musk burn so much money trying to get into space at the moment? Absolutely, because without testing new frontiers humanities spirit is impoverished even if the money could be spent reducing global poverty or on many other worthy causes. In the long run the progress made by these “moon shots”, such as in the Apollo programme, will benefit all of mankind.
Thanks for sharing another thought provoking post.
I love your spirit, your thoughts and your writing. It prompted me to visit my book shelf and pull out a book on Hundertwasser – have you come across him? He is an architect with a philosophy and utopian dream. He had two major premises one ecological and one aesthetic – his work is inspired by the natural world and anything compatible with nature must be compatible with humanity. His work is extraordinary and beautiful. You reminded me of him.
Your Guardian article today and this post made me think again of the message in one of my favourite poems – which I think has in it the wisdom that you have shared with us. It is called The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry:
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives at be
I go and lie down where the Wood Drake
Rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron feeds
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives
With forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free
Just read your incredibly inspiring article. Reading it reminded me of the best Montaigne essays on death which are comforting in every way. Your family must be immensely proud of you xxx
Have come to your site via your inspirational article in the The Guardian.Great thought provoking writing- thanks so much.Your blog is also excellent
I see you are a musician as well as Marxist-you might like to read ‘Different Every Time’ the bio of Robert Wyatt,which I read last week knowing really nothing about him.Wyatt started out as the drummer and singer for Soft Machine in the 70’s,he shared a stage with Pink Floyd and toured America with Hendrix He learn’t much of his drumming,when young, in Robert Grave’s backyard in Mallorca.
His life took an abrupt turn after falling from a fourth floor window at a party and he was paralysed from the waist down.Wyatt went on to become a singer and composer with a string of records that combined the personal and political.
Wyatt joined the Communist Party of GB in 79-this was much against the grain as Communism was ‘in disgrace’ at the time.
I think you will like Wyatt-his views chime with yours and mine.
Best wishes,Patsy and Michael.
Max, i love your blog. Now I’m just wondering how I get you book to Australia. I will figure it out! Allison
Absolutely fantastic! You are the epitome of Chekhov’s saying, “On a man everything has to be beautiful, his face, his clothes, his soul and his thoughts.”
Go easy on yourself, Max! Believing in equal rights, opportunities etc. shouldn’t mean that we have to denty ourselves systematically any opportunity to have experiences that may enrich our life, help us to understand or – just enjoy the craic, once in a while! 😀
Hi Max! You are not an hypocrite simply because you have the consciousness of what you are doing and why! Go ahead with your fight, my darling! You’ll be awarded … never give up!! Never….
courage and big hugs!
Mat from Italy
Hi Max I can only agree with all the comments made by far more literate people than myself. But one thing I would like to ask is -where did your interest in Marxism begin? Love Joy
What a truly inspiring young man you are. Your family must be so proud of you and you are spreading such a brilliant message.
Congratulations too on a brilliant article. And I certainly i hope you enjoyed the flight without any guilt ….and live long enouhh to experience much more of this amazing if complex world. I am rooting for you wholeheartedly. The only thing that you have said that I take exception to is your seeming acceptance that you are dying (soon) With your amazing brain we need you to stick around long term Max! So please do allow yourself time amidst your studies to explore all the wisdom about metaphysical causes of Illness and read and use that extraordinary brain of yours to work with the docs and your body to heal yourself. Doctors are brilliant and have obviously helped you loads but they have nt infinite knowledge about how every illness progresses with every person……there are others powers at work too. It’s not about god or beliefs (or lack of belief) in religion or an afterlife …it’s about your own (often hidden) powers of self healing. Access them with meditation or eastern medicines and traditions or read ‘365 steps to practical spirituality’ by David Lawrence Preston for an introduction to it all. i particularly recommend the book ‘all is well’ by Louise Hay and Dr ML Schultz
We so need people like you on the planet for the long haul! I know you can do it. Love to you and all your family xx
Hi Max – flying over the Yorkshire countryside sounds like a wonderful experience!
You raise some really important issues about our different situations in the world, and especially the differences between people in terms of material wealth, and what this means for our role in progressive struggle. I think that that central to any vision of socialism or communism is the belief that what unites us is greater than what divides us and that we all have something to gain by achieving a much more equal and fairer society. I don’t see striving for political change as something that will just benefit others, much though I, like you, am much more comfortably off than many others in this country, let alone around the world. I see it as trying to build a world that I want to live in, want my children to live in and want everyone else to be able to live in – in which the economic relationships between people are based on equality, not exploitation, where consequently the link between wealth and power has been broken and everyone has the opportunity to contribute to an ever-changing cultural life and intellectual exploration.
Personally, I see avoiding certain companies and products, unless it is part of an organised boycott, more as a very legitimate but ultimately personal decision about what you are comfortable about your money going to than something that contributes to collective political struggle – though perhaps there is a connection between the two and reflecting on one’s personal situation and place in the world is a prerequisite for playing a useful role in political change. Ultimately, I believe that we all have a responsibility to change the world, and that this responsibility should not be left to those at the bottom of the leaning tower of capitalist exploitation – those of us higher up have our own part to play too.
Your blog is part of toppling that tower, and long may you continue writing it, apple iPhone and all!
Very best wishes,
Janet (Helen’s friend)
ps it was lovely to see you at your London book launch – and I would love to hear about your meeting with Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband
I have been following your blog and think these are really interesting ideas, what makes a revolutionary, as well as what revolution might look like in the 21st century (and what might follow). I think discussion of these ideas has been closed down for much too long. We all seem to have fallen into thinking of capitalism is inevitable or natural (for all its evils) when human history tells us otherwise. Have you been following the Story of China on the BBC? Cyclical history does not fit at all well into the western ‘progressive’ narrative.
I like to believe that some sort technological revolution will occur in future where ownership of knowledge can no longer be controlled by a few, but I admit to finding it hard to imagine any future political system, without work. The much forecasted bot revolution may remove paid work for a very large proportion of populations. Humans worked long before becoming capitalists.
Please keep on thinking and writing about this stuff!
With very best wishes
Hi Max. I wonder if you’ve ever discussed your views with anyone from a communist or post communist country. It provides a good reality check for the philosophy which might sound grand but is so detached from reality and incompatible with the human nature that it can never possibly work. And if it did what a scary world it would be!!! I don’t think you could call people, voluntarily and complacently living under ‘true’ communist state, human.
Just finished reading your article in the Guardian. Thank you for sharing your insights. You’ve certainly given me food for thought. What an amazing guy. Stay strong x
Max, your article in The Guardian is brilliant. I so admire your stoicism, and the elegant, understated way you share your ideas – very wise and comforting ideas. Keep writing x
Hi Max, just read your article again, it’s phenomenally well written. I’m sure you speak for others in the same circumstances 🙂
Max – your article in the guardian was extraordinary. I held my Grandfather when he passed away last year. I hoped that I would somehow have clarity or insight into this thing, this experience which we all will ultimately all share. There was nothing, it happened. No magic. Just part of a day, part of life. This is what so touched me about your experience and connected with me.
You are a talented writer and a brave soul. Thank you for sharing your experience. Death is something so shrouded in mystery, we fear rather than embrace. Thank you for telling your story and being so brave to share it.
Something I find comforting to think about, when I try to comprehend life and grieved for my Grandfather is the enormous universe. This planet we live on will one day die and we will all be part of a puff of smoke in the universe, and that we all have our moment be it long or short to shine in the sun.
I read your blog couple days ago and Im doing it again. Deep down I really hope you will make it to the college, and future, we lefties are gonna need you in the revolution. Take care little friend
I’m among the thousand people who read your article on The Guardian.
I’m a 39 yo lawyer and teacher of political economy, i’m Italian and i live in Milan.
I was astonished to learn your point of view on life and death, that is so similar to the one I developed at your same age, so lucid yet uncontaminated by adult experiences. It is still the way i think and afford my life.
By the way, I also started to read your blog, and I was even more surprised. You are such different than the other kids, writing about a very peculiar subject with a deepness and a competence that are very rare to encounter (with your colleagues that probably would manage blogs only about the latest talent show). My compliments, truly.
So, I hope you will get over your health problem, recovery and be able to go on with your studies. I’m agnostic, so I don’t find anything wrong with praying: I’ll do for you and send you all my positive vibrations.
I have, at the end, a question to submit: last year I read an interesting essay about certain issues of Real socialism.
The regimes had a very negative perception of the religious phenomenon, as part of the power structures that had to be overturned.
The socialist regimes not only fought against the religious institutions, but, it’s possible to say, against all the spiritual instances.
The idea of the author, regarding this aspect, was that the policy concerning religions was among the mistakes that the soviet regimes has done, eventually driving to the fall of the regime: as the human is a self-conscious animal, always carries on a certain spiritual instance.
The thesis of the author, in other words, was that a human cannot share a 100% materialistic vision of the reality and the society where he lives, because we have an inherited and innate spirituality that couldn’t be suppress.
So, the URSS policy concerning the religious phenomenon, that not only fought against the religious institutions but tried to get rid of any related instance, drove to a lack of sense of identity among the soviet citizens and contributed to the fall.
As you are proudly atheist, I’m curious about your point of view on the matter.
What an example of courage and dignity. This blog has not just been about Marxist ideology but so much more.
Keep flying young man, and no, you’ll never look like Trump!
Max died yesterday, he inspired more people in his short life than many of us would ever dream of.
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You’re nothing like Donald Trump. He doesn’t have the dank Marxist analysis and the solid ideological grounds
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