‘We’re enemies of the people now,’ says Compton.
‘Enemies of the proletariat,’ says Ren. ‘Didn’t you see the callouses on their hands? Sons of the toil, that lot.’
‘Whenever they were talking I got shivers up my spine,’ says Lily. ‘Not good shivers. The sort of shivers I expect you get when you hear a knocking on the door at 4am.’
‘4am? Won’t that be Jason?’ says Ren.
‘At 4am Jason’s knocking on my door,’ says Miles. ‘I have to triple-lock my place to keep him out.’
‘Is it wise to be making enemies with people in other Humanities departments?’ asks Douglas.
‘Don’t care,’ says Ren. ‘I’ll be gone from academia within a few years.’
‘Doing what, exactly?’ says Douglas.
‘Don’t know exactly, but something more exciting than teaching nominalism to uninterested kids destined to work in call centres, and having Communists as colleagues. Besides, Sociology and Psychology aren’t in Humanities at this University.’
‘Miles,’ says Compton. ‘I can’t say I’m too impressed with what I’ve seen so far of your department.’
‘Well, says Miles, ‘some of them are grad students, not lecturers. Plus half of them were from Sociology, not Psychology. But look, my department’s not all like that. Those are just the extreme lefties.’
‘Meaning the rest are just your standard lefties?’
‘Hmm, well, there are other extreme lefties, I admit, and the rest are standard lefties, yes. Although we do have one guy who is more of a centrist.’
‘Who’s that?’ says Ren.
‘Isn’t he about to retire?’
‘Well, yes. But mostly the rest of our department are concerned with psychology, not politics.’
‘But when I last saw your not-so-political colleagues they were all raving on about arresting George Bush,’ says Ren.
‘But you have to admit they talk a lot of psychology.’
‘Yes, they do, I suppose that’s true. They talk shop an awful lot. Or at least they talk about each other, and people in their field. But the other half the time it’s politics. Psychology and left-wing politics, that’s all you get from most of them.’
‘Your department’s not much better, though, is it?’ says Miles. ‘Whenever I’ve been around them they’re talking shop, all the time, interspersed with left-wing politics.’
‘The sad fact is,’ says Compton, ‘that while most academics might be intelligent and knowledgeable about their own fields, although even that’s not a given, they have very crude and simplistic political beliefs. They generally know little about politics. Or economics. Subtleties and complexities elude them in these fields. But they assume that because they’re intellectuals their half-baked, fresher-level opinions about politics must be insightful and sagacious, when in reality your average car mechanic has much more realistic and sophisticated views.’
‘I think part of the problem is that they hardly ever get exposed to different opinions,’ says Ren. ‘Look at the way Lucius’s lot ran away when tackled.’
‘You were pretty fucking aggressive towards them,’ says Miles.
‘Just giving back what they like to give out,’ says Compton. ‘They can dish it out, but they can’t take it.’
‘They don’t like it up ‘em,’ says Ren in his best Dad’s Army voice.
‘They’re not used to being disagreed with in such a forthright manner,’ says Lily. ‘Academics, at least the ones outside Economics, do live in a political bubble.’
‘That’s only going to get worse,’ says Compton. ‘The few conservative or non-left-wing academics there used to be are all retiring or already gone.’
Ren stand up and shouts at Lucius’s mob in a Russian accent again: ‘Comrades, need remind you that base and superstructure in dialectical relationship, da?’
‘I don’t think they can hear you, Comrade Ren,’ says Douglas.
‘I’ll shout louder then,’ says Ren, ‘while you go and get your round. Get me another lager with vodka in it.’
‘That’s two drinks, Ruskie. I’ll get you a lager.’
Ren turns and shouts: ‘Objective reason for revolution lies in development and intensification of conflict between productive forces and relations of production.’
Ren continues to shout Communist slogans at Lucius’s lot as they keep drinking.
‘I’m not sure they can hear me,’ he says.
‘I think they can,’ says Lily.
‘Here Miles, hold my drink,’ Ren says.
He walks over to them. ‘Comrades,’ he shouts, ‘objective conditions for socialism on campus have been met by exploitation of oppressed Sociology scarf-wearers. This is tangible source of oppression. Surplus value has been extracted from scarf to greatest possible extent. Nyet?’
He turns to walk back. He hears a shout of ‘Harry’, and seconds later it feels like a lion has jumped on his back. Or maybe a sloth. Someone is grabbing him around the neck, and is trying to wrestle him to the ground.
‘Look at the violence inherit in the system,’ Ren shouts. He can’t see who it is, but he can see that Harry is missing from Lucius’s group, so it must be him. Harry is stronger than Ren thought he would be, perhaps because he is filled with righteous rage at the heretic, but Harry has spent his last few decades sitting down and talking about Communism and socialism while drinking. The only exercise he has got in years is standing on picket lines, and selling the Socialist Worker. Ren, on the other hand, is a sporty type, and as a graduate student he took advantage of the flexible hours and his free college gym to regularly work out, so he’s currently strong, much stronger than Harry. (He is very drunk, but so is Harry, so they both cancel out on that score.)
‘Little cunthead,’ whispers Harry viciously in his ear.
‘Bourgeoisie incites workers of one nation against another in endeavour to keep them disunited,’ Ren says loudly in his Russian accent, making sure his audience can hear him. Harry’s has been trying to get his arm around Ren’s neck to strangle him, but Ren is using his chin to prevent that, so he’s still able to talk.
‘Stop it Harry, you silly cunt,’ he hears Miles saying. But nobody moves to do anything. He can see Lucius sitting watching with academic interest, stroking his chin, as though he’s at the cinema watching two dinosaurs wrestling on the screen and thinking of how he can draw out some psychological or sociological significance for a journal article. If it was two students wrestling then the other students would have broken them up by now, but perhaps because it’s two lecturers none of the students dare come near them. Or perhaps they just want to see what happens. Ren can hear excited chatter from the students.
‘You’re fucked, Thatcher boy. We’re going to fucking screw you over right and proper,’ says Harry, a bit too loudly for his own good. But Ren can hear the worry develop in Harry’s voice as Ren starts to overpower him.
‘In social order dominated by capitalist production even non-capitalist producer is gripped by capitalist conceptions,’ Ren intones. This seems to go down well with the audience, some of whom are chuckling.
Ren has managed to get a hold of Harry’s arms, and has forced him to the ground. He sits on top of Harry, holding his arms down with his hands, and feels the intensity of the fight in Harry sag.
‘Revolutionary dictatorship of proletariat lies between capitalism and communism. More proletariat presses bourgeoisie, more furiously bourgeoisie will resist.’
Ren pins Harry’s arms to the ground with his knees in order to free up his own arms. Then he starts doing ‘the typewriter’ with his fingers on Harry’s chest. This is an old schoolboy trick where you stab both your fingers into the other person’s chest in imitation of a typewriter. If you can do it hard enough it’s a bit painful, ticklish, and very annoying.
‘Technical apparatus of production and distribution,’ says Ren as he types, as though he is typing out a book, ‘functions as system which determines product of apparatus as well as operations of servicing and extending it.’ Students are laughing at this, so he keeps going.
‘Get the fuck off me,’ snarls Harry, who wriggles, but all the fight has gone out of him.
‘Communism is Soviet government plus electrification of whole country, based on static electricity derived from wearing scarf in summer.’
Lily comes and bends over them. ‘It might be a good idea,’ she whispers to them, ‘for you both to stop, and for the sake of appearances to get up, shake hands, and pretend if was all in good fun.’
‘Who says Lenin have gulags? Lenin open doors of all corrective labour camps!’ Ren shouts, as he gets off Harry, who sulkily gets to his feet.
‘You’re a dead man,’ Harry whispers. Ren grabs Harry’s arm and lifts it up in triumph.
‘Freedom to scarf wearers, who power Russia to start international revolution!’
Some in the crowd cheer. Harry shakes his arm free and stalks off back to his group, but is bewildered to find that Lucius and Lenora have disappeared. But some of the sociology grad students clap him on the back.
Ren is surrounded by students who shake his hand. He tries, not very successfully, to do a Cossack dance. A student buys him a triple vodka. He looks around for Lily, but she’s gone.