Friday's New York Times promoted what they called "A buddy movie about Communism," reviewed by film critic A.O. Scott. It was somehow an occasion for whimsey. The headline in the paper was "Red Squares: A Bromance of Ideology." Online, it was "A Scruffy Specter Haunts Europe." Scott began:
The history of the world may be the history of class struggle, but the history of class struggle — at least the decisive chapter chronicled in “The Young Karl Marx” — turns out to be a buddy movie. Marx (August Diehl), a scruffy journalist, and his sidekick Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske), a renegade rich kid, meet in Cologne, Germany, in 1844 and overcome some initial wariness by bonding over their shared contempt for the Young Hegelians. (Man, those guys are lame.) They set out to write a “Critique of Critical Criticism,” and when it’s published (as “The Holy Family”), it’s something of a hit. By the time the revolutions of 1848 are ready to happen, Marx and Engels are the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the European left, rock stars for an age of revolution.
Scrupulously faithful to the biographical record, “The Young Karl Marx,” directed by Raoul Peck (from a script he wrote with Pascal Bonitzer), is both intellectually serious and engagingly free-spirited. The founders of Communism, full of intensity and ambition and sporting contrasting beards, look and act like pioneers of brocialism.
So in the Times, the National Rifle Association spread a contemptible ideology enabling murder, but the founders of communism are scruffy rock stars and "pioneers of brocialism." Scott explains that in the film, young Marx has "a series of volatile alliances" with European leftists like Wilhelm Weitling and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon:
Those names are fairly obscure today, while Marx’s is still attached to an -ism, however battered. (Does that count as a spoiler?) He and Engels stage both a theoretical and an organizational coup, replacing utopian nostrums about the brotherhood of man with a doctrine of conflict between the proletarian and the bourgeoisie. The rest is history, bloody and contentious and not yet finished.
"Not yet finished"? Like many a leftist, Scott somehow thinks the jury is out on the mass-murdering record of Marxism on Earth. He can only evaluate it by comparing it in ruthlessness to rapacious capitalism:
Marx and Engels’s takeover of a stodgy workers’-rights group called the League of the Just is a premonition of the tactical ruthlessness that would become characteristic of Communist parties in the 20th century. To put it in the language of 21st-century capitalism, the founders of Communism are disrupters and innovators, in possession of the entrepreneurial doggedness and the self-righteous zeal required to bend the world to their will.
Scott concluded "The great virtue of The Young Karl Marx is its clarity, its ability to perceive the way the eddies of personal experience flow within the wider stream of history."