“ Marxism is now a world faith and must be allowed to enter into a continuous dialogue with other world faiths, including religious faiths”
After nine days in the bush, the expedition was disheartened but not disillusioned. They had known that Marxism was well established in the heartlands of Africa; what they hadn’t realized was quite how much it had entered the African way of life. In each little Manganesian village they entered there was the vast portrait of Marx at the entrance, the small Marxist bookstall in the main street with its unsold copies of the New Statesman and the grey-suited African graduate who acted as the local Marxist pastor, smiling, confident and sun-glassed.
In the nine days the British Labour Party Fact-Finding Expedition to Manganesia had made no converts at all.
‘Of course, we’re not really here to make converts”, said Arthur Belper, Labour MP for Bitminster. “We’re only here to find facts. Still and all, it would be nice to persuade someone that the closed shop was a good thing, or that the Common Market and the bomb are bad.”
“We’ve got to face up to the fact that they’re tremendously parochial in Manganesia”, sighed George Taverner, Labour MP for Pawley, South-West. “They don’t seem to worry about Brussels at all, or the unacceptable face of capitalism. You’d think they have some opinion in the bush about Tiny Rowland. I thought the man was meant to be a household name in Africa.”
“Let’s face it”, said the third and last member of the plucky trio, Lord Marginal, a Labour peer who’d always wanted to see the dark continent, ’we don’t know as much about Africa as we thought we did. There’s only one man who’s a household name out here.”
From their camp on the edge of the village they listened to the muffled drumbeat and the frenzied chanting of the evening Marxist discussion group session. They turned and looked at their guide, Sam.
‘It is nothing” said Sam. ‘They are just saying, ‘Death to the Social Democrat Fact Finders’. It is an evening prayer routine, that’s all.”
‘We’re not bloody Social Democrats!” expostulated Arthur. “Go and tell them we’re good grassroots workers!”
‘All the same to them”, said Sam. “Anyway, grassroots workers to them means snake. But you not worry. Soon we come to village with new god. Not Marx. Brand new god.
For the next four days they heard much about this new god, who breathed fire and ate his enemies and would not touch strong drink. George and Arthur thought he would turn out to be Chinese. Lord Marginal privately thought he sounded like Henry Kissinger, but said nothing. Sam, who was being paid £36 a day by the British taxpayer to keep these men safe, said nothing and thought they were crazy.
On the fifth day they came to the village.
‘I don’t believe it”, said George.
At the entrance to the settlement there was a vast portrait of a pipe-smoking white man, with evangelistic eyes and eager eyebrows. It was Tony Benn. The villagers themselves scurried round, pipes clamped between their teeth, in a purposeful way, that they had not seen before. Over the village well hung a sign reading: “Workers’ Co-operative Water Supply”, and halfway down the street was a slogan saying, “Don’t Trust the Fleet Street Vendetta Smear Campaign”.
‘I don’t bloody believe it”, said Arthur.
“Lord Tuni Benn can do anything”, said Sam. “So these people believe. They say he his holier than Marx and stronger than Haig. Myself, I think it is superstitious talk. Myself, am a Jenkins man. But from here there could be a new fanatical wave with Lord Tuni Benn as their prophet.”
Arthur looked at his two colleagues.
“I vote none of us says a dicky bird about this when we report.”
There were two silent nods. As they went back the way they had come, they could hear the village loud-speakers start up: “Comrades! What we need is more socialism not less…”