Karl Marx at 200

This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx, a cause for celebration in certain quarters, especially our universities, where colleges like Carnegie Mellon are literally celebrating Marx’s birth throughout 2018.

It’s an absurd prospect for a man whose philosophy opened the door to the greatest ideological massacres in history. Or did he?

Of course, he did. But deniers still remain.

QUOTE “Only a fool could hold Marx responsible for the Gulag,” UNQUOTE writes Marx biographer Francis Wheen. Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung, Wheen insists, created “bastard creeds,” “wrenched out of context” from Marx’s writings. Wheen wonders why some “enterprising journalist” hasn’t fingered innocent Karl a “prime suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders.”

Actually, Karl would get off easy with a comparison to Jack the Ripper. Ol’ Jack’s killing spree didn’t come remotely close to the Marxist butcher’s bill. The lethal results of Marx’s ideas include over 100 million dead. The totalitarian ideology bearing his name should not be separated from him.

Marx has been accused of ambiguity in his writings. That critique is often justified, but not always. In The Communist Manifesto, he and Friedrich Engels were quite clear that QUOTE “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.” UNQUOTE

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property,” they wrote. “But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population.” And this: “In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.”

Marx and Engels acknowledged that their views stood undeniably contrary to the “social and political order of things.” Communism not only seeks to “abolish the present state of things,” but represents “the most radical rupture in traditional relations.”

Toward that end, the manifesto offers a 10-point program, including “abolition of property in land,” “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax,” “abolition of all right of inheritance,” “centralization of credit in the hands of the state,” “centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state” and the “gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.”

In the preface to their 10 points, Marx and Engels acknowledged their coercive nature: “Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads.” In the close of the Manifesto, Marx said, “The Communists . . . openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”

They were right about that. Human beings would not give up fundamental liberties without resistance. Seizing property would require a terrible fight, including the use of guns and gulags. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and a long line of revolutionaries and dictators candidly admitted that force and violence would be necessary.

We’re told the philosophy was never the problem—that Stalin was an aberration, as were, presumably, Lenin, Trotsky, Ceausescu, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, the Kims and the Castros, not to mention the countess thousands of liquidators in the NKVD, the GRU, the KGB, the Red Guard, the Stasi, the Securitate, the Khmer Rouge, and on and on.

Couldn’t any of them read? Yes, they could read. They read Marx. The rest is history—ugly, deadly history.

For American Radio Journal, I’m Paul Kengor. Check out my latest books, A Pope and a President and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism.