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So why does Marx still arouse such admiration — even from centre-Right figures such as Juncker? It is in part a romantic desire to see in him the eternal rebel. The young Karl rebelled against everything: his family, his teachers and the censors. Though proud of his doctorate in philosophy, Marx abandoned an academic career to become an itinerant agitator. Finding Germany provincial, he moved to Paris, got himself expelled, then stirred up trouble in Brussels. Arrested there in 1848, he fled back to Paris, then to Cologne. After being kicked out of both Germany and France, like most Continental revolutionaries he ended up in London. With his lifelong collaborator and benefactor Friedrich Engels (himself a champagne socialist who lived on the proceeds of capitalism), Marx founded the Communist League and later took over the First International, but by his death in 1883 the idea of a Communist party was just that — an idea.

Only in 1848 did Marx find himself in the middle of a real revolution. Convinced that his time had come, he published the shortest (and hence most widely read) of his works: The Communist Manifesto. The celebrated and often paraphrased final words of this pamphlet read: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!” In fact, Marx plagiarised the first sentence from Jean-Paul Marat, the sanguinary French revolutionary who was stabbed in his bath by Charlotte Corday. (It was typical of Marx to side with the tyrant rather than the avenger.) He stole the last sentence from another German journalist, Karl Schapper.

This was not the only example of Marx the plagiarist. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” was plundered from Louis Blanc, a French socialist. Yet though his prose is often turgid, Marx did have a sinister gift for the chilling phrase. Only he could have come up with “the dictatorship of the proletariat”.

An unforgiving polemicist, he devoted entire books to character assassination. In his letters to Engels, he revealed extreme racial prejudice. For example, he refers to his Cuban son-in-law and acolyte Paul Lafargue as a “n**ger” and his socialist rival Ferdinand Lassalle as a “Jewish n**ger”. Having married an aristocrat, he became a crashing snob, sneering at self-made businessmen while denigrating the underclass as criminals, the lumpenproletariat. He saw no contradiction between his own inveterate sponging and denouncing “parasitical” capitalists who exploited their workers.

Marx was also a domestic tyrant — and a cheat. Having spent all his posh wife Jenny von Westphalen’s money, he expected her to live in squalor with their three daughters in a tiny flat in Soho, above what is now the restaurant Quo Vadis. Their maid, Helene (“Lenchen”) Demuth, devoted her life to the family for no wages — an early example of modern slavery. Marx also fathered a son, Fred, by her, thereby further humiliating Jenny, who was obliged to live in a ménage à trois. Fred and his mother, the only proletarians for whom Marx ever had personal responsibility, received nothing in his will and after his death the whole affair was covered up for many decades. Marxists, it turns out, minded rather a lot about the bourgeois respectability of their hero.
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Anthony Fountain
June 9th, 2018
2:06 AM
Perhaps, Murray, you could provide us an example where Marx's name wasn't "hijacked" and all went went swimingly.

Penrod
June 9th, 2018
2:06 AM
The world would be a better place if Karl Marx’s mother had smothered him in his crib. Marxists can hardly criticize the concept of murdering an innocent for the sake of 100,000,000, either, unless they claim the 100,000,000 were the correct ones to be murdered.

LL
June 8th, 2018
11:06 PM
"If you're going to be outraged by acknowledgement of Marx because of the atrocities committed by people who hijacked his name and philosophy to achieve their own ends, are you disparaging Jesus for the same failing? " No one hijacked Karl Marx. What happened, the millions of deaths is the corollary of an ideology that does not have limits to its power, neither to its reach. You should acknowledge that Karl Marx started an ideology of social supremacism that made possible to exterminate social classes, people, others. Acknowledge also that Karl Marx was an Hitler avant la letre with a book on "Jewish question" translated rightly "To the end of Jews" and several anti semitic articles because he saw that the Jews didn't disappeared in the culture where they lived which also made them not disappear in the socialist inferno that Marx wanted to build.

Pat
June 8th, 2018
11:06 PM
Brilliant piece. Students in high school have NO IDEA what Marx stands for and is responsible for...and how my Jewish colleagues can not see the roots of the current anti- semitism is beyond me.

anonymous
June 8th, 2018
11:06 PM
Dear Murray, Fuck off with your leftist posturing. Where did Jesus ever say to enslave, rape or murder one's opponents in the name of "equality"? By giving Governments the world over the philosophical tools to centralize power in the name of "equality", Marx paved the way to Governmental oppression. If America's Founders thought it wise to protect Private Property and Liberty in the 1700's, it must be because Governmental abuse had already long existed.

Lance
June 8th, 2018
9:06 PM
Thank you for this well-written synopsis of a troubled man with troubled and flawed ideas of how society should be run.

formwiz
June 8th, 2018
9:06 PM
In the space of a century, Communism took the lives of 125 million people. Not even Islam killed that many in that space of time. Fact is, the abject failure of Communism has required the liquidation of so many dissatisfied with it.

Tom Billings
June 8th, 2018
9:06 PM
The idea that Marx did not know the quality of what his disciples would do is belied by his own writings. He knew. Marxist reaction against the market freedoms of action, of other people, has been a standard of 20th Century academia, because academics always assumed the State would be there for them. Mostly, they've been right about that. However, that may be coming to an end. In particular, the collapse of the definition by Marx's funder Friedrich Engels' of the industrial revolution, will bring joy to many. Engels' definition was used to justify calling "the socialist camp" an industrialized" society, when it barely reached the productivity of pre-industrial society. It will be interesting to see the progress under the definition academics shoved aside in the 1920s for that of Engels, by Arnold Toynbee: “When a society moves from allocating resources by custom and tradition (moderns read here, by politics) to allocating resources by markets, they may be said to have undergone an industrial revolution” Arnold Toynbee-1884 This was the standard definition in 1920. Then came academia's romanticist infatuation with a certain Communist State, and the substitution of Engels' "hunks of stuff" definition. Toynbee's won't be the last word, but it is a far better starting point than Engels.

TMLutas
June 8th, 2018
8:06 PM
Proletarian logic is probably the least covered and the worst of Marx's innovations. Denying the legitimacy of criticism based on the class origins and non-proletarian thoughts of those who are anti-communist means never having to admit you are wrong. This makes it so much easier to keep defective philosophies alive and has led a collection of nonsense ideas to gain a patina of marxism by association and by that association survive their own challenges and debunkings. Until proletarian logic and truth become unacceptable in academia, Marxism will always have a safe haven there and we will never be rid of the stuff.

Jacob
June 8th, 2018
7:06 PM
@Murray Amongst those who study Marx's teachings, those (like myself) who absolutely despise him have a very specific reason for doing so; if you accept Marx's ideological foundations/premises as he presents them (even if you disagree with everything else), then there is no possible future for humanity except slaughter, misery, and variations of slavery. If LotR has the One Ring, then our world has Marxism; a vile influence that breaks good people and turns them into cowards, liars, and backstabbers. I'm not angry that Marxism is being acknowledged. I'm angry that it is promoted as a good and decent thing when it has produced literally nothing good. Consider his rants against religion, particularly his famous "opium of the people" statement. Religion is defined and separated from other ideologies by the presence of faith: the deliberate choice to believe in something that does not necessarily have solid evidence of its existence. Such a choice is risky, but faith is a necessity in the messy, complicated situation we call life. Although the people responsible for these advances were not always religious or even spiritual, the religious propagation of the concept of faith, and its concurrent promotion of the idea that acts of faith can accomplish impossible things, is the root cause of some of the greatest technological achievements of our time. The Wright Brothers testing their aeroplanes at Kitty Hawk, the discovery/definition of genetics by an Augustinian friar (followed by the discovery/definition of DNA in a drug fueled haze), the many advances in architecture from the Pyramids to the skyscrapers... Without religion, without faith, without the constant driving force that there is more out there even if we can't see it, that there is more to be accomplished for no greater reason than "I believe it can be done", these things and many more like them would not exist. Marxism begins with religion, and his blanket denial of all things "intangible" directly refutes faith in its entirety. Such a premise condemns Marxists to failure and mediocrity because they never strive to create something new, only to take what others have already produced.

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