Saturday past marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of the philosopher Karl Marx.
It was celebrated in the town of his birth, Trier, with the unveiling of a 14ft statue donated by the People’s Republic of China by none other than the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. His speech was an impassioned call for people to judge Marx positively and not associate his writing with the evil deeds of his followers such as Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao and other repugnant murders.
Marx should not be celebrated; he should be condemned as the 19th century philosopher and economist who was the progenitor of so many horrors of the last century. The count of individual deaths (and I intentionally use the word “individual” because each human being’s death was a conscious act of murder) that can be attributed to the followers of Marx’s writings, rhetoric and teachings is unassailable in the order of man’s inhumanity to man. The only point of challenge is whether or not one accepts the “least” or “most” damaging estimates to the numbers killed.
The individual deaths, through the policies of not war but communism, in the China that funded the statue, vary between 65 to 80 million. Think about that. The dispute is whether or not an additional 15 million should be added to the baseline figure of 65 million that were sacrificed on the altar of Marx by Chairman Mao Zedong.
Using the pessimistic numbers the deaths caused by disciples of Karl Marx are: Communist China 65m; Communist Soviet Union 30m; Communist Cambodia 2m; Communist North Korea 2m; Marxist-ruled African states 1.7m; Communist-led Afghanistan 1.5m; Communist-ruled Eastern Bloc states 1m; Communist Vietnam 1m; Marxist-led Latin and Central America 150,000. The conservative estimate is over 104 million, I shan’t repeat the least generous claims but they amount to nearer 150 million.
Imagine celebrating the birth of Hitler or Mussolini, I’m sure there are a few idiots and deranged people that do, but one would not expect the president of the European Union to unveil a statue to either murderer and make a speech eulogising them. Yet it is a fact that both Mussolini and Hitler drew on the philosophical justifications of Marx – and of course saw communist parties as the best source of recruitment for their Fascist and Nazi parties. The only difference between those national and international socialists was, after all, the adjective, not the noun.
Hitler railed against Marx, often citing the threat of “Jewish Marxism”, yet he drew upon Marx’s teachings that whole groups of people could be sacrificed to deliver a new world order. Mussolini was a Marxist intellectual, but rather than disavow himself of revolution and class war developed an Italian-nationalist form of socialism that became Fascism. We do not attribute the further 30 million deaths from Nazism and Fascism (not including deaths through war) to Karl Marx, but there is a reasonable case for it, and that would take the total that could be laid at the feet of Marx closer to 134 to 180 million.
It is possible that had Lenin’s Bolsheviks not been successful in turning the Menshehvik Russian Revolution on its head that Karl Marx would have become a minor philosophical figure, but Lenin triumphed and Karl Marx was used by all Communists for the rest of the 20th century as the seer and prophet that would justify all violent and anti-democratic interventions.
The true alternative to Marxist teachings was not the mirror image of Fascism and Nazism but Liberalism – individual rights under the rule of law to protect people from each other’s excesses – and it was advocates of Liberalism, essentially supporters of democracy – that were always the main enemies of the Marxist collectivists of any type, and the first to be put to the sword.
Some people argue there have never been any victims of Communism, for we have never had true Communism (due to a long list of ever-changing reasons). This is absurd; Hitler never achieved his own vision of a pan-European racial state, do we then say there were no victims of Nazism because he never achieved the “right” sort of Nazism? The story of Marxism is actually very simple; rulers come to power promising socialist nirvana; the nirvana does not arrive so they take ever more powers to force it to happen; it eventually collapses under its own weight of contradictions resulting in economic catastrophe, abject poverty, real shortages and hardship – if a country is lucky it will have escaped before the gulags and death squads; then, no sooner has a Liberal democratic order been restored and people are proclaiming the “right” Communism had not been tried; after a number of generations pass a collective amnesia of just how bad the Marxist-inspired solutions were and people turn to them again. (Repeat the process.)
Those that argue mass murder is not an inherent trait of Marxism always ignore the fact that in every Marxist-inspired revolution in countries around the world providing different causes and contexts and across time mass murder results. Did those disciples all misread their Marx?
Possibly the most unknown fact about Marx is his racialist bigotry, evidenced by his own personal writings and that of his great friend and financial sponsor Frederick Engels. When Marx wrote to Engels in 1862 about “the Jewish n*****, Lassalle” leaving London he wrote his “combination of Germaness and Jewishness with a primarily negro substance creates a strange product. The pushiness of the fellow is also n*****-like”.
Marx repeatedly justified revolutionary terrorism as a means to an end, and included whole groups of “national trash” from Slavs to Basques to Scottish Highlanders as being expendable.
So it is both sad and terrifying that John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, addressed a meeting on Marx’s 200th birthday to talk positively about Marxism as a force for change today. As the author of so much enslavement, starvation and murder Marx offers no relevance – other than to remind us why collectivists such as McDonnell should be rejected at all costs.