"We claim him as a Socialist."
With these words Eleanor Marx concluded her 1888 address on the politics of Percy Bysshe Shelley. I strongly recommend this essay to those who want to understand the Real Percy Bysshe Shelley. Marx offers a perceptive, shrewd analysis of the political philosophy that underpinned Shelley's thought. And she offered it in 1888 at a time when English society was doing its level best to wipe out all memory of Shelley's radicalism - a process that has continued in some quarters until this very day.
One excerpt to whet your appetite:
"More than anything else that makes us claim Shelley as a Socialist is his singular understanding of the facts that today tyranny resolves itself into the tyranny of the possessing class over the producing, and that to this tyranny in the ultimate analysis is traceable almost all evil and misery."
This happened almost exactly at the time referred to in Paul Foot's speech; which you can read here. It makes a nice interlude while I prepare Part 2 of Paul Foot's speech on Shelley from 1981.
Is there any doubt now why Paul Foot, the greatest crusading journalist of his generation, revered Shelley? Their gravestones are pictured below. My guess is that had Shelley been given the chance to select an epigraph, he would not have chosen this peculiar and quasi-religious quote from Shakespeare - a quote which subsequently became a key piece in the hagiography process he would have so violently abjured. Like Foot, Shelley would have wanted to be remembered as a revolutionary and had he lived would have remained always in the vanguard of socialism.
Enjoy this speech and let me know what you think.
If this interests you, here are some other relevant articles from my page on topics such as Shelley's atheism, his humanism, and his relevance to the 21st Century: