You are here:   Features > A spectre haunting Europe: Karl Marx
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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July 23rd, 2018
9:07 PM
Karl Marx was a noted backer of Abraham Lincoln for his abolition of slavery. He also spoke out for freedom of the press. Evidently the writer of this article knows little about the man. Whether he was the father of Fred Demuth has been strongly questioned by at least one leading historian - Terell Carver.

July 2nd, 2018
3:07 PM
Socialism is the delusion that everyone can have everything they want. All you need to see it fulfilled is to identify the deplorables who obstruct its arrival and set about destroying them. It's a tough job, but there are many prepared to do it.

June 25th, 2018
12:06 AM
Good and thorough article on the historical influence of Marxism and its devilish roots.

Lawrence James
June 20th, 2018
9:06 AM
Exonerating Marx from the horrors perpetrated in his name does have a moral equivalence to exonerating Jesus from say the Albigensian crusades. Remember He endorsed the Old Testament with its injunctions to slaughter neighbouring tribes. Anonymous's remarks about the Liberty claimed by the Founding Fathers is preposterous: ask a slave on Jefferson's estate, or a Sioux or Seminole.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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