The following text contains quotes attributed to Karl Marx and others in which abhorrent words are used. They have been redacted, but remain recognizable. Please note, these comments are direct quotes and do not reflect the values of Communities Digital News or the writer.
WASHINGTON, May 28, 2014 — At many universities, it has been said that teaching Homer, St. Thomas Aquinas, Shakespeare and Dickens perpetuates the power of “dead white males” over women and minorities.
People once believed that Homer belonged to the world. It is a modern illusion that particular works of art, literature and music belong somehow only to those who can trace their lineage to the creators of those works. Shall only Jews read the Old Testament? Only Greeks read Plato and Aristotle? Only those of English descent read Shakespeare, and only Italians appreciate Dante or Leonardo da Vinci?
The study of Western culture is part of the group of disciplines called “the humanities.” Western culture is relevant to men and women of all races and backgrounds — to all human beings — particularly to those living in our Western society, but not just to them. The distinguished black intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois recognized this reality when he wrote more than one hundred years ago:
“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line, I walk arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls.
From out of the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously, with no scorn or condescension.
So, with Truth, I dwell above the veil.”
Ironically, one dead white male remains in vogue among campus radicals in the U.S., and with radical movements in the rest of the world: Karl Marx.
Often overlooked by those who keep 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 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 a dedicated anti-Semite. In fact, his book “World Without Jews” is considered by many to be a forerunner to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
Little, however, has been written about Marx’s racial views, the contempt in which he held not only non-whites but whole groupings of Europeans, especially the Slavic peoples.
In his book “Karl Marx: Racist,” Nathaniel Weyl shows how Marx privately developed an entire racial hierarchy and racial view 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 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 for 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 civilizational levels at which the more advanced portions of mankind had already left them behind.
“These 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 ‘n****r’ 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 n****r Lasalle.
“He 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 n****r) … The pushiness of the fellow is also n****r-like.”
Marx even championed slavery in North America. When Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, probably the leading socialist thinker in France at the time, published a book called “The Philosophy of Poverty,” 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. Wipe out 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., some leading socialists early in the 20th century adopted Marx’s racist views. On September 14, 1901, the “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 that the most acceptable white male in the curriculum for “diversity” on many campuses is Karl Marx, a world-class bigot. At one time, Marx referred to a Creole man who married his niece as a “gorilla offspring.” Marx also approved of European imperialism in Asia because he 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, who had some African ancestry, was running as a socialist in a district that also contained the Paris zoo, Engels observed:
“Being in his quality as a n****r a degree closer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.”
In his address to the freshman class at Yale in 1990—-which is as relevant, if not more so, today, Donald Kagan, at that time professor of history and classics and dean of Yale College, declared:
“The assault on the character of Western civilization badly distorts history. The West’s flaws are real enough, but they are common to almost all the civilizations known on any continent at any time in human history. What is remarkable about the Western heritage…are the important ways in which it has departed from the common experience…It has asserted the claims of the individual against those of the state, limiting the state’s power and creating a realm of privacy into which it cannot penetrate…At its core is a tolerance and respect for diversity, unknown in most cultures.”
Our unity as a nation is threatened, in Kagan’s view, by those who would replace the teaching of our history and culture with some other “multi-cultural” curriculum:
“…American culture derives chiefly from the experience of Western Civilization, and especially from England…I say this without embarrassment, as an immigrant who arrived here as an infant from Lithuania…Our students will be handicapped in their lives after college if they do not have a broad and deep knowledge of the culture in which they live and the roots from which they come…As our land becomes ever more diverse, the danger of separation and segregation by ethnic group…increases and with it the danger to the national unity which, ironically, is essential to the qualities that attracted many people to this country.”
Given the racial attitudes of Karl Marx, it is an irony of history that he remains immune from the criticism on the part of those non-whites and non-Europeans for whom he expressed such distaste. Of course, it has been said many times, that the one thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.
It is high time that we pay attention to the past so that we do not repeat its mistakes, or make heroes of those for whom we should have contempt. Karl Marx would be a good place to begin.