The Holocaust Historiography Project

Karl Marx (Part B)

The Russian Anarchist Michael Bakunin was originally taken in by Marx’s rhetoric. In 1868 he began to translate Das Kapital into Russian, but he abandoned the project when he began to realize the true nature of Marxist theory, and the man behind it. He wrote:

“We met fairly often, because I very much admired him for his knowledge and for his passionate and earnest devotion to the cause of the proletariat, although it always had in it an admixture of personal vanity; and I eagerly sought his conversation, which was witty so long as it was not inspired by petty spite — which unfortunately happened very often. But there was never any real intimacy between us. Our temperaments did not allow it. He called me a sentimental idealist; and he was right. I called him morose, vain and treacherous; and I too was right. “

E. H. Carr: Michael Bakunin, (p 129).

The friendship did not last long. When Bakunin began to emerge as an ideological rival to Marx, the latter resorted to every dirty trick in the book to discredit him. In 1848 he published some tittle-tattle in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung that it was rumored that Bakunin was a Tsarist spy. This totally mendacious smear was afterwards withdrawn. Later, when the two actually did contend for the leadership of the First International, Marx referred to Bakunin’s “Russian cunning” and described all his followers as “Cossacks.” According to Nathaniel Weyl:

“Marx won the battle for control of the International, primarily because he had rich friends who paid the travel expenses of the delegates he needed to give him a majority. Bakunin lacked such connections.”

Bakunin was quick to realize that there was more to this “Marxism” than met the eye. In Max Nomad’s Apostles of Revolution he is quoted as saying:

“That minority, the Marxists say, will consist of workers. Yes, perhaps of former workers. And these, as soon as they become rulers or representatives of the people, will cease to be workers and will look upon the entire world of manual workers from the heights of the State. They will no longer represent the people, but themselves and their own pretensions to rule the people. Whoever has any doubt about that does not know human nature.”

Later, Bakunin would become even more embittered, and even more insightful:

“Marx is a Jew and is surrounded by a crowd of little, more or less intelligent, scheming, agile, speculating Jews, just as Jews are everywhere — commercial and banking agents, writers, politicians, correspondents for newspapers of all shades; in short, literary brokers, just as they are financial brokers, with one foot in the bank and the other in the socialist movement, and their arses sitting upon the German press. They have grabbed hold of all newspapers, and you can imagine what a nauseating literature is the outcome of it.

“Now this entire Jewish world, which constitutes an exploiting sect, a people of leeches, a voracious parasite, closely and intimately connected with another, regardless not only of frontiers but of political differences as well — this Jewish world is today largely at the disposal of Marx or Rothschild. I am sure that, on the one hand, the Rothschilds appreciate the merits of Marx, and that on the other hand, Marx feels an instinctive inclination and a great respect for the Rothschilds. This may seem strange. What could there be in common between communism and high finance? Ho ho! The communism of Marx seeks a strong state centralization, and where this exists, there the parasitic Jewish nation — which speculates upon the labor of people — will always find the means for its existence …

“In reality, this would be for the proletariat a barrack-regime, under which the workingmen and the workingwomen, converted into a uniform mass, would rise, fall asleep, work, and live at the beat of the drum. The privilege of ruling would be in the hands of the skilled and the learned, with a wide scope left for profitable crooked deals carried on by the Jews, who would be attracted by the enormous extension of the international speculations of the national banks …”

Michael Bakunin: Polemique contre les Juifs, 1872.

Bakunin must have had a crystal ball, for his native homeland became the first to fall victim to this enormous and cruel confidence trick. Incited by the Jewish Bolsheviks, the Russian people rose up against the ruling class, only to find that the Tsars would be replaced by the Bolsheviks, and the country turned into a financial strip-mine for western Jewish capitalists from Olaf Aschberg and Jacob Schiff who financed the Bolshevik takeover, to Armand Hammer, who makes vast profits from exclusive trade deals with the supposedly “anti-Semitic” commissars today.

Unlike Marx, who had studiously avoided physical involvement in revolution on the streets, Bakunin had manned the barricades in the 1848 rebellion in Dresden and the 1870 rebellion in Lyons. For his troubles in Dresden, he was to spend many years in the Peter and Paul prison in St. Petersburg from which he emerged prematurely aged and toothless. In 1873, Bakunin wrote of Marx in State and Anarchy:

“In origin, Herr Marx is a Hebrew. He unites in himself, one may say, all the characteristics and shortcomings of this gifted tribe. Nervous, as they say, to the point of cowardice, he is extraordinarily ambitious and vain, quarrelsome, intolerant and absolutist like Jehovah, the Lord God of his ancestors, who is like Marx himself, vengeful to the point of madness. There is no lie or calumny that he is not capable of inventing against anyone who has had the misfortune of arousing his jealousy, or — which is the same thing — his hatred.”

Bakunin was not the only one to attribute Marx’s character to his ancestry. While Editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Marx had chosen as his Vienna correspondent a notorious Germanophile and anti-Semite, Eduard von Muller-Tellering. After the relationship soured (did Tellering discover his Editor’s ethnic origins?) the Austrian authored the very first pamphlet to attack Marx. He called Marx “cowardly … garlic-smelling … arrogantly Jesuitical … a Chief Rabbi.” For the first time in his life, Marx was speechless for a response.

An insight into Marx’s psychology may be garnered by examining his attitudes towards bodily functions. According to Weyl “his favorite expression in his correspondence with Engels is shit". In his attack on the Jewish editor of the Daily Telegraph Marx wrote that just as “all the lavatories of London spew their physical filth into the Thames” so too did all the “social filth” pour into the “central sewer called the Daily Telegraph." He suggested that, as Levy was the presiding alchemist of this sewer system, he should have a plaque on his office building inscribed “Wayfarer, stop and piss". In attacks on everyone, Marx would call them “that shit". Even when he was tired of writing his own books, he would describe his work as “this shit". When an infant daughter died, Marx wrote Engels that “this time the whole shit has affected me deeply". After his death, Marx’s youngest daughter made a diligent effort to piece together scraps of information about her late father’s childhood in Trier. Although she “idolized her father and made up the most beautiful legends” there is a ring of truth to this vignette of his childhood:

“I have heard my aunts say that as little boy, he was a terrible tyrant to his sisters whom he would 'drive' down the Markusberg in Trier at full speed. And worse, he would insist on their eating the 'cakes' he made with dirty dough and dirtier hands. But they stood the 'driving' and the 'cakes' without a murmur for the sake of the stories Karl would tell them as a reward for their virtue.”

Two familiar Marxian characteristics emerge from this story. First, Marx’s passionate need to dominate others; and second, his almost obsessional preoccupation with dirt and excrement, or as he would put it in his correspondence with Engels, crap ("Dreck") and shit ("Scheiss").

Marx also exhibited many of the personality characteristics described by Eric Fromm in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973) as “necrophilous". Although Fromm focussed on the German National Socialist leaders Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, he might well have found a better candidate for this particular dysfunction in Karl Marx. In Marx’s early, feeble attempts at poetry, his world is one devoid of joy, happiness, or sunshine. When nature appears to Marx it is a hostile and destructive force grim, menacing and implacable. The following lines are typical of his approach:

Marble pillar towers high,
Jagged summit saves the air.
Putrefaction, life’s decay,
Moulders in the abyss down there.
Grim the cliff that upward climbs,
Clamps the ground with iron limbs.

Karl Marx: Collected Works

Further lines from the same collection include: “Waves are murderers every one; they gnaw his ancient skeleton” … “The Mannikin plucks out his eyes, digs himself a hole deep down; Digs his own grave and lies, buried, buried underground.”

Inspired by his own self-praise, Marx then set out to write — but never finished — a tragedy play called Oulanem. The characters — mostly projections of Marx’s own personality — seethe with hatred against the world; and vow for its destruction. Several characters appear to be also synonymous with the Devil. Perhaps Marx sometimes thought of himself as Satan. He would often sign his letters “old Nick” (a Victorian form of slang for Satan), and would tell his children endless ghost stories which bordered on the horrific.

Marx’s legitimate children (three out of six survived infancy) were soon exhibiting the same neurotic symptoms as their father. Marx doted on the three girls, and they on him; maintaining a cool distance from their mother. In many ways their relationship was potentially incestuous. But in any case it was certainly kronist. Kronism, named after the Greek god Cronus, is used to describe those animals which devour their own young. Although certain historical tribes — particularly the Biblical Hebrews (see Judges in the Holy Bible) and the Carthaginians — sacrificed their first-born, in this case we mean that the children were psychologically devoured by their parent.

Marx’s favorite among the girls was Jenny, the eldest, who was born in Paris in 1844. She was the image of her father, and she emulated his career almost to every detail. As a school-girl she attempted to write poetry in five languages. She was prone to fantasies. She helped her father with his political agitation. But soon, she would suffer from a long series of psychosomatic ailments, including asthma, chronic coughing and insomnia. Her marriage to the Socialist Charles Longuet was a disaster, lurching from one crisis to the next. However, they still managed to produce six children. Longuet deliberately tried to act as a father-substitute to Jenny, but when this failed he was overcome with guilt. Eventually Jenny died at the age of 39, after suffering cancer of the bladder.

The Marxes' second daughter Laura was born in Brussels in 1845. Also committed to her father’s ideals, Laura helped out in translating both her father’s and Engels' writings into various languages. She fell in love with the French-Creole Paul Lafargue, and despite her parents' racist epithets, married him. All of their three children died in infancy. Lafargue drifted from his medical profession into Socialist politics. But one day in November 1911 they committed suicide together, and were found stone dead sitting side by side in their Paris home.

The youngest daughter Eleanor was born in 1855. Whereas her sister Laura was somewhat cool and aloof, Eleanor was highly charged emotionally. She was dark and Semitic in appearance, and initially was something of a tomboy. From an early age she wanted to go on the stage. Then in 1872, at the age of 17, she fell in love with a 34 year old Frenchman. Her father forbade the relationship, and she eventually acceded to his wishes. But the price was a lifetime of neurotic, psychosomatic ailments. When Marx finally died, and she no longer had to be his “little princess” she took her revenge by taking up with Edward Aveling, an evil rogue who was condemned by everyone within and without Marxist circles. Aveling, who was already married to another woman, lived and travelled with Eleanor for 14 years. Eventually, he (bigamously) married a young actress, and in desperation Eleanor swallowed cyanide. There is some evidence that Aveling had promised her a suicide pact and betrayed her.

Marx also sired an illegitimate son, Freddy, by the household servant Lenchen Demuth. But in order not to upset his wife, he prevailed upon Engels to acknowledge paternity over the boy. No one was taken in by this feeble ruse, but at least it enabled Marx to renege on any financial responsibilities for the boy, and pass these over to the gullible Engels.

Eleanor grew very close to Freddy Demuth, and experienced great difficulty in reconciling her adulation of her father with his treatment of the boy — leaving him to sink or swim in the London slums. Two months before her suicide she wrote Freddy:

“I sometimes feel like you, Freddy, that nothing ever goes well with us. Of course, poor Jenny had her full share of sorrow and trouble, and Laura lost her children. But Jenny was fortunate enough to die, and sad as that was for the children, there are times when I think it was fortunate. I would not have wished Jenny to have lived through what I have done.”

In choosing a relationship with the sadistic exploiter Aveling, was Eleanor reenacting the masochistic role that her father had thrust upon her when he insisted on her rejection of her French suitor and instead taking care of the number one man in her life — Daddy? Were the suicides of both Laura and Eleanor — and the psychosomatic death of Jenny — belated and indirect acts of rebellion and aggression against their tyrannical father? Psychohistorian Arnold Künzli argues:

“It is a frequent experience of depth psychology that the unconscious conflicts in the psyche of the parents break out in the children. The suicide of the daughters can be interpreted as a delayed, surrogate suicide of Karl Marx himself. 'I will take proud revenge on myself' he had written as a young man … Thus in the tragic destiny of the daughters of Karl Marx, the existential alienation of the father was repeated in shattering fashion.”

Arnold Künzli. Karl Marx, Eine Psychographie, Vienna, 1966.

Perhaps the most profound summary of all was provided by Karl Marx himself a short time before his death of bronchitis, at the age of 64, in 1883. In a rare moment of candor, he had told his octoroon son-in-law Paul Lafargue: “Ce qu'il y a certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” — “One thing I am certain of: that is that I myself am not a Marxist.”

What better summary could there be of a man who was tormented throughout his life by hypocrisy. On the one hand he despised workers, Slavs, Negroes, and proletarians generally. Yet at the same time he wrote about the eventual takeover by the working class. He loathed Jews and Jewish characteristics, yet he knew deep down that he himself was a Jew through and through, and that that could never change. He was pursued by the hereditary Jewish fixations on excrement, death, putrefaction, and dirt. And yet he sought to conquer those primeval fears through over-compensating pushiness, arrogance, manipulation, demanding, and even megalomania. He sought refuge with his WASP aristocratic wife Jenny von Westphalen and with the Germanic Friedrich Engels, but nowhere could he escape the eternal truth of his own origins. He was rebelling against himself. He was caught up in an eternal Jewish struggle — the underlying self-hate, and the overlay of compensatory arrogance and “assimilation".

The eternal struggle became too much for his daughters, who tried to wriggle free of the vice-like grip of their own psyche. Each of them rebelled against the eternal truth of their own Jewish genetics, and took up with Gentiles (curiously, all Frenchmen). But each in turn was dragged back by their father into the cauldron of torment that is being Jewish. Like a drowning man clutching at the river bank they tried to save themselves from being swept away. But swept away they were; in Laura’s case taking her rescuer with her. The other two sisters went on a course marked “self-destruct” and whether that course was labelled “groin cancer” or “falling in love with a sadist and then committing suicide” makes no difference. Each was but a terminal symptom of the disease we must surely recognize as “Jewish self-hate.”