When Karl Marx died in March 1883, only about a dozen people attended his funeral at a cemetery in London, England, including family members. Yet, for more than a century after his death – and even until today – there have been few thinkers whose ideas have been as influential on various aspects of modern world history. Indeed, as some have said, no other faith or belief-system has had such a worldwide impact as Marxism, since the birth of Christianity and the rise of Islam. . . .
Marx’s only real jobs during his lifetime were as occasional reporters for or editors of newspapers and journals most of which usually closed in a short period of time, either because of small readership and limited financial support or political censorship by the governments under which he was living.
His political activities as a writer and activist resulted in his having to move several times, including to Paris and Brussels, finally ending up in London in 1849, where he lived for the rest of his life, with occasional trips back to the European continent.
Though Marx was “middle class” and even “Victorian” in many of his everyday cultural attitudes, this did not stop him from breaking his marriage vows and committing adultery. He had sex enough times with the family maid that she bore him an illegitimate son – and this under the same roof with his wife and his legitimate children (of which he had seven, with only three living to full adulthood).
But he would not allow his illegitimate child to visit their mother in his London house whenever he was at home, and the boy could only enter the house through the kitchen door in the back of the house. In addition, he had his friend, longtime financial benefactor, and intellectual collaborator, Fredrick Engels, claim parentage of the child so to avoid any social embarrassment falling upon himself due to his infidelity. . . .
In temperament, Marx could be cruel and authoritarian. He treated people with whom he disagreed in a crude and mean way, often ridiculing them in public gatherings. Marx had no hesitation about being a hypocrite; when he wanted something from someone he would flatter them in letters or conversation, but then attack them in nasty language behind their backs to others. He often used racial slurs and insulting words to describe the mannerisms or appearance of his opponents in the socialist movement.
For instance, in an 1862 letter to Frederick Engels, Marx described leading nineteenth-century German socialist, Ferdinand Lassalle, in the following way:
The Jewish Nigger Lassalle … fortunately departs at the end of this week … It is now absolutely clear to me that, as both the shape of his head and his hair texture shows – he descends from the Negros who joined Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on the paternal side hybridized with a nigger). Now this combination of Germanness and Jewishness with a primarily Negro substance creates a strange product. The pushiness of the fellow is also nigger-like.
. . . .
Many found Marx’s personal appearance and manner off-putting or even revolting. In 1850, a spy for the Prussian police visited Marx’s home in London under the pretense of a German revolutionary. The report the spy wrote was shared with the British Ambassador in Berlin. The report said, in part:
[Marx] leads the existence of a Bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he is often drunk. Though he is frequently idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has much work to do.
He has no fixed time for going to sleep or waking up. He often stays up all night and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday, and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the whole world coming or going through [his room] …
There is not one clean and solid piece of furniture. Everything is broken, tattered and torn, with half an inch of dust over everything and the greatest disorder everywhere …
When you enter Marx’s room smoke and tobacco fumes make your eyes water … Everything is dirty and covered with dust, so that to sit down becomes a hazardous business. Here is a chair with three legs. On another chair the children are playing cooking. This chair happens to have four legs. This is the one that is offered to the visitor, but the children’s cooking has not been wiped away and if you sit down you risk a pair of trousers.
. . . .
He stated that the goal of the organization was “the overthrow of the privileged classes,” initially in cooperation with the petty and liberal “bourgeois” political parties. Marx warned that these democratic parties only want to establish a liberal agenda of reduced government spending, more secure private property rights and some welfare programs for the poor. Instead, Marx said,
Its our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world …
Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.
In the process of overthrowing the liberal democratic order that assumes power following the end of the monarchical rulers, Marx said that the revolutionary proletariat needed to form armed “councils” outside of the democratic government’s authority and control. This is the very method Lenin insisted upon in Russia in the form of “Soviets” after the abdication of the Russian czar . . .
In addition, Marx said, the communist leaders must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary,
… it must be sustained as long as possible. Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction.
In other words, Marx was insisting upon fostering a frenzy of “vengeance against hated individuals” that clearly meant terror and mass murder. And this, too, was the signpost that Lenin followed in assuring the triumph of his revolution in Russia. . . .