Was Marx for real?: Simon Carr tests the sense of 'from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs'

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Company chairman: My abilities include being able to get to work every morning well before noon. I can hold a set of accounts and look over my glasses at the people round a boardroom table. My lunch skills are exceptional (it is almost impossible to intoxicate me entirely before dinnertime). I am at my most able when instructing chauffeurs to pick me up at a certain time, in firing rivals, in hiring hostesses and chalet girls. I am familiar with modern techniques of making people work harder and faster for less money by shouting at them.

I need, therefore, pounds 145,000 a year with a two-car allowance, 24- hour drivers, a course of helicopter lessons, a masseuse, club subscriptions, medical plan, children's university fees, an office with an antique desk and a bar, and - for reasons that are not immediately apparent even to myself - a nanny with a very crisp apron over a short black dress.

AMERICAN BRAT: My abilities are these, okay? I can spit grape pips 15ft. I can burp The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Like any other 12-year-old boy in America I can make a rhythm section for a Conga band using only the palm of my hand, my elbow and my armpit. I can pronounce 'schism' correctly. I can spell Czechoslovakia. I can make my sister give me money by sitting next to her, and almost touching her but never giving her really enough cause to complain. I can make my parents give me money by repeating the same phrase over and over again ('Give me money or I'll tell you sexually abuse me').

My needs are as follows. The Miss Nude America aerobics video. A remote controlled model helicopter with a super-zoom video camera for looking in through windows. Shoes with a mirror on the toe cap. And exam results, lots of exam results. When I grow up, in roughly five years' time, I'll need a Ferrari Testarossa, a credit card, hairdresser, a tie with a naked woman on it who dances a hornpipe when you pull the end, and a pair of aviator sunglasses that squirt water at fools when they talk to you.

MEDIA CONTROLLER: As a man from the Moors, a wanderer from the North, a man who came to London as a researcher for a television programme and who now controls much of the artistic output of the electronic media, my considerable abilities have to do with ventilating the anxieties, appetites, and sensual affections of the 20th century as refracted through the soul of a writer comparable with Lawrence, Hardy, Updike and Nabokov.

My needs are simple, indeed singular. All I need is a virtual reality body suit and the software to have virtual sex with Madonna.

KILLER BIMBO: In my spandex cycle shorts I have one ability: to make men put their hands over their stomachs and go 'Phwurgh] Orrggh] Worgh]' as I walk past.

What I need is to be taken seriously as an actress. Or failing that to be taken seriously as a model. Or failing that to be taken seriously. Or failing that to be taken for a bimbo by a millionaire on his boat in the Mediterranean where he and his friends use me as a plaything and give me drugs to wipe out the horror, and money so I won't tell the papers, and a flat in Pimlico so I can be near them when they come to London in their executive helicopters . . . But only if I can't be taken seriously as an actress, okay?

THE CANDIDATE: Hi, I'm a 43- year-old Mid-Western, draft- avoiding rich boy lawyer who can't spell 'potato'. . .

. . . and my needs include a federal job in a Republican administration. Whoa] Really? Are you sure? Fine, thank you so much.

EXILED HISTORIAN: My abilities were demonstrated in the field of historical research, wherein I organised data to demonstrate through a process of dialectical materialism that class conflict was the driving force of history, and I showed how capitalism was required to collapse under its own internal contradictions. I influenced generations of intellectuals, radicals, revolutionaries, actresses and hairdressers. Unfortunately I failed to influence Communists.

My needs are simply to be unalienated from the product of my labour. I need the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, I need the world's hungry to rise up to reclaim their stolen property from bourgeois rentiers. I need a global revolution of the international working class. I need a dictatorship of the proletariat - and I need it inevitably. I also need a good barber but if I have to choose I'll wait for the hair.

Wallace Arnold is on holiday.