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It’s been nearly 100 years since Karl Marx’s ideas triggered the world’s first communist revolution in Russia on March 8, 1917.
Every so often, there seems to be a renewed interest in Marx’s ideas here in the West. In a recent example, protesters could be seen displaying communist hammer-and-sickle flags at demonstrations and marches opposing newly-elected President Donald Trump’s victory and inauguration.
But some of Marx’s viewpoints may not have been all that progressive or in keeping with modern values on tolerance. In some of his writings, the architect of communism has expressed overtly racist ideologies, even going so far as using the “n-word” and slandering the Jewish faith.
Yes, you read that correctly: The founder of communism, whose ideas swept across the world many decades after his death, had ideas that many ideologues with views left of center nowadays would find reprehensible.
One might argue that Marx’s ideals are merely an outdated product of the mid-19th century.
For example, in a July 1862 letter to Engels, in reference to his socialist political competitor, Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx wrote, “It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a n*****. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also n*****-like,” according to the book “Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy.”
Regarding Mexicans, during the Mexican-American War, he wrote: “Without violence, nothing is ever accomplished in history.” But then he asks, “Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?”
And Engels, the co-author of the famed (or infamous) “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” added: “In America, we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will be placed under the tutelage of the United States.”
Marx—whose grandparents were Jewish, but whose parents converted to Christianity—wasn’t a fan of his ancestral religion either, writing in his essay “On the Jewish Question”:
“What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money . … Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist,” Marx wrote in the book—which critics have later described as virulently anti-Semitic.
And in what sounds like a 19th-century version of a screed penned by a Holocaust-denying, white supremacist on a web forum, Marx continues:
“Money degrades all the gods of man—and turns them into commodities. … The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. … The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.”
And even further, he explains: “In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism,” which, according to some critics, suggests he’s arguing that man can only be free when Jews “no longer exist,” according to The Philosophers’ Magazine.
In 1856, Marx took it a step further when he penned an article, “The Russian Loan” for the New York Daily Tribune.
Marx opined: “Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets.
“The real work is done by the Jews, and can only be done by them, as they monopolize the machinery of the loanmongering mysteries by concentrating their energies upon the barter trade in securities,” he added.
Many would argue that Marx’s 19th-century views on race are outdated. Maybe the same could be said about his collectivist grandstanding.