It's odd that a glorified pamphlet that inspired so much bloodshed should be celebrated in 1998, but celebration is nevertheless taking place. New editions are being produced, some in splendid color and most, irony of ironies, with the money of international capitalism behind their publishers. The booklet that fuelled the ideologies and murderous policies of Stalin, Mao and a legion of dictators and war criminals is once again fashionable.
The predictions and analysis of Marx and Engels were fundamentally flawed. World revolution was certain, they said. Germany would soon be a socialist paradise, they said. Capitalism would wither away, they said. The people would embrace communism, they said. But they said much more, most of it conveniently forgotten.
Of a mutual Jewish acquaintance, Engels wrote to Marx, "As a true Jew he was always only too ready to exploit anyone for his private purposes under some party pretext. Then his eagerness to thrust himself into elegant society, to climb up, if only for appearance, to plaster over the grimy Breslau Jew with all kinds of pomade and make-up - all this was always repugnant."
Marx himself was Jewish but he was perversely self-hating, which may explain some of his overall bitterness and misanthropy. "What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest," he wrote. "What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money."
Of the Chinese, Marx said they were a people of "overbearing prejudice, stupidity, learned ignorance and pedantic barbarism." About Turkey he lamented the country had "the misfortune to be inhabited by a conglomerate of different races and nationalities, of which it hard to say which is the least fit for progress and civilization."
Engels and Marx seemed to hate the Slavonic peoples as well. The former wrote a future conflict would "wipe out all these petty, hidebound nations down to their very names. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward."
Of the Irish, Engels said they were "little above the savage" and "his very crudeness makes him incapable of sharing, his filth and poverty, all favor drunkenness."
Both men were violent imperialists who wrote in enthusiastic support of the brutal conquest of Mexico by the U.S., Algeria by France and India by Britain. This was the only way, they claimed, that socialism could be advanced. They believed, "the most determined use of terror" would be essential.
So it really should come as no surprise the followers of these two authors exterminated millions of people merely because of their ethnicity or class and incarcerated and oppressed an entire continent. What is surprising is there are still governments and movements that believe Marx and Engels were not only great but correct. We conduct international trade with some of them.
Ask two questions. Why did so many ostensible intellectuals and progressives take these callous individuals seriously? And how did they and their followers get away with it for so long? The answers speak volumes.