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Take, for instance, the article “Hungary” of 1849, published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the German newspaper of which Marx was then editor. It was written by Engels under Marx’s direction, and it advocates the “total extinction” of “ethnic trash”. It concludes: “The next world war will cause not only reactionary classes and dynasties, but entire reactionary peoples to disappear from the earth. That too is progress.”

This justification of genocide was republished in 1913 and so has been known for more than a century — yet Marxists ignore this and other texts that might reveal their hero’s feet of clay. During the 1930s, indeed, Stalin became so alarmed about the damaging material that might emerge from the complete edition of Marx and Engels then being prepared in Moscow that he had its editors liquidated.

One reason why Marx did not care how many individuals, classes or peoples were sacrificed on the altar of revolution is that he believed in historical determinism. In 1871 he encouraged the Paris Commune (which was led not by Marxists but more moderate socialists), watched in grim satisfaction as its supporters were slaughtered by the forced of the Third Republic, and mythologised the whole episode into a communist uprising. Violence was inevitable — and anyway the revolution required martyrs.

Another reason for his ruthlessness is that he never bothered to understand how wealth is created. Marx’s theory ignores the prosperity generated by free markets or the benefits of private property. He denied the contribution made by the middle class (or “bourgeoisie”) to the unprecedented riches of Victorian society, insisting that their profits consisted of “surplus value”, labour stolen from the working class (or “proletariat”). Marx stuck rigidly to the idea that value was created solely by labour — an idea that was refuted in his lifetime by economists such as Menger, Jevons and Walras. Marx never understood the role of markets in determining the price of both goods and labour.

Marx was also certain that if the rich got richer, the poor would get poorer, by a process he called “immiseration”. Eventually, the whole capitalist system would collapse — and the most advanced industrial economy would be the first to do so. In the 19th century, that meant Britain. As he toiled away on his magnum opus in the then new Round Reading Room of the British Museum, a British revolution seemed to Marx inevitable. Though he never used the word “capitalism” in Das Kapital, he looked forward to its downfall. The proletariat, led by the party, would take over the means of production from the hated bourgeoisie. Finally, the state would “wither away”.

What happened was the opposite. As the rich got richer, the poor got better-off too. By the time the first volume of Das Kapital appeared in 1867, it was obvious that Victorian England was in no danger of revolution. The working class was more prosperous than ever before, thanks to capitalism. Most were not radicals, either — just the opposite, indeed, because they had too much lose. That year, Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative Prime Minister, doubled the number of voters with his Second Reform Act. Many turned out to be working-class Tories.
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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.

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.

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