Monday, August 07, 2006

Comrade Bananas

A correspondent asks me whether any human clubs are open to gorillas. A surprising number of them are, in my experience. A few of them, in fact, were quite eager to enrol me once they got over the initial shock.

I very nearly joined the Communist Party. It all started when I read one of their pamphlets, which said that workers were being short-changed by greedy capitalists living off the fat of the land. As a hard-working circus ape, I thought I’d go along to their next branch meeting for some tips on how to get a pay rise. When I arrived at the mostly-empty hall, I found a gang of humans who were as sullen and sinister as the crocodiles of the Congo. They turned in my direction as I entered, glaring at me in suspicious silence.

I decided that a big gesture was required to break the ice with these grim-faced zealots. “Power to the workers!” I shouted, punching my fist in the air. “Fraternal greetings from apes toiling in the circuses and safari parks!”

After some confused muttering, a balding chap with a thin moustache took the floor. “Comrades!” he proclaimed, “our hairy friend is a natural ally of the working classes. Who would know more about our struggle against oppression than he? – an ape who was abducted from his rightful habitat and forced to perform bourgeois tricks in front of an audience of sell-outs and lackeys!”

How everyone applauded! His potted biography was not entirely accurate, but I wasn’t going to risk the goodwill of the assembly by quibbling about minor historical details. I basked in the adulation of the moment and declared that a broad popular front of workers and apes would terrify the powers-that-be. At the end of the meeting, the chair proposed a motion making me a provisional party member – and it was carried unanimously!

Before getting my party card, I had to take some lessons in Marxist theory from my assigned mentor. This fellow, called Bert, had a scruffy beard and spoke with a northern accent. He seemed to have a lot of time on his hands, because he’d turn up at the circus almost every day and invite himself to lunch with the performers. He spoke a lot about coal miners, benefit cuts and the evils of international capital. When we were doing a show, he got a free seat as my guest and stayed for supper. But after a couple of weeks of indoctrination, I was still none the wiser on how to get more money. It’s all very well learning about class struggle, but what purpose does it serve if you’re no richer at the end? After being entertained generously at our expense, I felt it was about time that Bert came up with some practical suggestions – and after a particularly boring lesson on dialectical materialism, I told him so.

“Being a communist isn’t about feathering your own nest, GB,” he opined. “We’re a vanguard movement that protects the interests of all the workers.”

After a dozen free meals, this sort of talk was wearing very thin. In fact, I lost all patience with the bearded git. “If the workers had more money, maybe they wouldn’t need a movement looking after their interests!” I blurted out irritably. “And I’m fed up with all your talk about the workers anyway. You’re the first human I’ve met who’s always going on about workers but never does any work!”

Bert tugged his beard furiously and glowered at me as if I’d peed in his soup. “I should have realised that a species renowned for chest-thumping and polygamy would be reactionary to the core!” he snapped. “Come the revolution, you’d better take the first plane to Africa, because you’ll definitely be on our list of class enemies!”

He stormed off in a huff, and his departure marked the end of my brief association with the Communist Party.

Shame it didn't work out for you. You'd've made a great stand-in for Brezhnev at their shindigs. I can just see you taking the salute as they all shuffle past with their moth-eaten banners...
"Our" shindigs, don't you mean, Ivan?
In my experience, Africans (human or otherwise) are not natural socialists. Too much rhythm and sense of fun.
It's well known that Karl Marx was part gorilla. His grandmother had an affair with one at Trier zoo.
It takes more than a beard and a German accent to make you part gorilla, Aunty. Marx clearly lacked our ability to socilise and get on with all types of human.
There's only one thing Communists are generally right about--who will end up on their enemies' list. It's a trivial prediction, but lethal nonetheless. Good thing you kicked out the fewllow before it was too late. Many a Western humanities professor could stand to learn form a clear-headed gorilla like you, GB.
The statue in that photo looks like Kelsey Grammer in X men 3!
My brief exeriences with communists happened at university in Glasgow where they had some stiff competition for the far left position in the firely red Scottish Socialist Party.

I learnt that joking of any sort was rowned upon, with any sort of humour at all being viewed suspiciously as some sort of a bourgois luxury or affectation.

I also learned that young male communists must not eat, sleep or shave very much in order to remain thin, pale and retain the air of being too busy for such trivial worldly cares as personal grooming (although not quite ready yet to squeeze out the full beard they covet).

They must also peer and sulk a lot, as if they've seen the dark soul of humanity and nobody will believe him about just how dark and awful we all truly are.

Conversely, the young female communists must be larger than their less extreme sistren, but also as ill-shaven. I think the young communist men like them that way.

Why things should be this way, I have no idea. I knew perfectly reasonable non-communist skinny men and large women at the time too, but there is no denying how young Glasgow communists broke down along these gender and appearance lines in the mid 90s.
You went to university in Glasgow,
Sam? That's a long way from home. It's funny how communists change appearance when they get into power. I think Desargues lived in a communist country, so he'll be able to confirm this.
They are, indeed, petty bourgeois at heart. Once they find themselves safely ensconced in the armchairs of political power, they get over their former inhibitions. Mid-level party apparatchiks start inquiring after French soap for their mistresses, and North Korean thugs develop a fondness for Courvoisier VSOP.

There's only one thing they can't bring themselves to get rid of: the ridiculous haircuts.

If frowning upon humour is a sign of latent Communism, what does that make America's liberal bien-pensants?
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