Karl Marx: The one dead, white, racist male still popular with progressives
WASHINGTON: Back in1987, Jesse Jackson led a group of students at Stanford University in chants of “Hey, Hey, Ho Ho, Western Civ Has Got To Go.” A Stanford professor declared that the study of Western civilization was “imbued with whiteness” and had to be largely abandoned. More recently, this campaign has once again been gaining strength. All over America, once revered figures such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Aristotle are being castigated as “dead white males.”
Martin Luther King’s goal of living in a society in which men and women would be judged on “the content of their character” and not “the color of their skin” has been set aside by those who now embrace a much different, race-based, vision for our future.
Not too long ago, students at the University of Pennsylvania removed a large Shakespeare portrait from the staircase that students and faculty members of the English Department walk by every day. In its place, the students put up a photograph of Audre Lorde, the black feminist poet. At universities around the country, the study of ancient history and classical literature is under increasing attack because of its alleged “whiteness.”
Karl Marx – Rising like the Phoenix
It is interesting to note that one “dead, white European male” who remains in vogue is Karl Marx. Marx’s influence continues among radical movements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. What has been widely overlooked by those who are keeping the Marxist flame alive is the blatant racism of Karl Marx. Largely unknown to his non-white and non-Western admirers is the contempt in which Marx held for all non-European peoples and cultures.
Much has been written about the fact that Marx, although of rabbinical descent on both sides of his family, was an extreme anti-Semite. In fact, his book, “World Without Jews,” (free PDF) is considered by many to be a forerunner to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
Little has been written about Marx’s racial views
Including the contempt in which he held not only non-whites, but whole groupings of Europeans.
In a book entitled “Karl Marx: Racist,”. Nathaniel Weyl shows how Marx privately developed an entire racial hierarchy and racial views of history by the 1860s. In the middle of that decade, Marx was casting about for some scientific or pseudo-scientific justification for his racial notions, which he found in the work of Pierre Tremaux.
He and his friend and benefactor Friedrich Engels went so far as to advocate wars of extermination against Slavic peoples and the destruction of Russia. How ironic that the Soviet Union later proclaimed itself a “Marxist” state.
“Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,”. Weyl writes, “were neither internationalists nor believers in equal rights for all races and peoples. They opposed the struggles for national independence of those races and peoples that they despised. They believed that the ‘barbaric’ and ‘ahistoric’ peoples who comprised the immense majority of mankind had played no significant role in history and were not destined to do so in the foreseeable future. They regarded them as obstacles to the forward sweep of history. They considered them as objects rather than subjects. They were people who ought to be conquered and exploited by the more advanced nations. Some of these inferior stock were people who ought to be eradicated and swept from the surface of the earth.”
Marx took from Hegel, another German philosopher, the idea that certain races, peoples, and nations were “ahistoric.”
Either they had never played any role in history and never would, as in the case of black Africans. Or they were insignificant peoples whose history was irrelevant, or they were frozen at civilization levels at which the more advanced portions of mankind had already left them behind.
“There were ideas,” Weyl notes, “which Marx would adopt and transform…Publicly and for political reasons, both Marx and Engels posed as friends of the Negro. In private, they were anti-black racists of the most odious sort. They had contempt for the entire Negro race, a contempt they expressed by comparing Negroes to animals, by identifying black people with ‘idiots’ and by continuously using the opprobrious term ‘ni**er’ in their private correspondence.”
Marx, for example, wrote to Engels on July 30, 1862, about one of the leaders of socialism in Germany and his rival Ferdinand Lasalle, whom he referred to as “that Jewish ni**er, Lasalle.” Marx wrote:
“It is now absolutely clear to me that, as both the shape of his head and his hair texture shows—-he descends from the Negroes who joined Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on the paternal side hybridized with a nigger)…The pushiness of the fellow is also ni**er-like.”
Marx championed slavery in the United States.
When Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, probably the leading socialist thinker in France at the time, published a book called “The Philosophy of Poverty.” (PDF file) Marx replied with a vitriolic rebuttal entitled “The Poverty of Philosophy” (1874). Proudhon had advocated the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. Marx replied,
“Without slavery, North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipeout North America from the map of the world and you will have anarchy—-the complete decay of modern commerce and civilization. Abolish slavery and you will have wiped America off the map of nations.”
In the U.S., socialists early in the 20th century adopted Marx’s racist views.
On September 14, 1901, Wisconsin’s Social Democratic Herald characterized black Americans as inferior, depraved elements who went around “raping women and children.” In an article in the paper dated May 31, 1902, Victor Berger, one of the national leaders of the Socialist Party, wrote that “there can be no doubt that the Negroes and mulattos constitute a lower race.”
It is ironic indeed that the most acceptable white male in the curriculum on American college and university campuses is Karl Marx, a bigot, and supporter of slavery. On what basis, one wonders, is Marx more acceptable than John Calhoun or Woodrow Wilson, not to mention Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis?
Marx not only referred to black Africans as “ahistoric” people but praised the thinking of French technologist Pierre Tremaux who argued that the human race was the product of evolution but that blacks resulted from so-called regeneration. Hailing Tremaux’s work as making “a very significant advance over Darwin” and termed a Creole man who married his niece a “guerrilla offspring.”
Marx also approved of European imperialism in Asia
Because Marx considered the Asian culture so inferior that it was incapable of entering historic development without a European push. Of China and India, he said they were “semi-barbarian and semi-civilized” and had “no history at all, at least no human history.”
Marx’s colleague, Friedrich Engels, was equally racist in his views.
When he learned that Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, who was partially of a black background, was running as a socialist in a district that contained the Paris zoo, Engels observed,
“Being in his quality as a ni**er, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.”
Before his death, the respected black economist Walter Williams wrote a column entitled, “Did You Know That Karl Marx Was a Racist and an Anti-Semite?” He noted that,
“Most people who call themselves Marxists know very little of Karl Marx’s life…Marx is a hero to many civil rights organizations …what most people do not know is that Marx was a racist and anti-Semite. When the U.S. annexed California after the Mexican-American War, Marx wrote: ‘Without violence, nothing is ever accomplished in history. Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?’”
Given the racial attitudes of Karl Marx, it is difficult to understand why he remains immune from criticism on the part of those non-whites and non-Europeans he held in such contempt. If there ever was a public figure who believed that black lives don’t matter, Karl Marx is it.
About the Author:
Allan Brownfeld is a veteran writer who has spent decades working in and around Washington, D.C. Brownfeld earned his B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary. His M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia, and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonwealth, and The Christian Century. Visit his Writers Page to learn more.