New biography of Marx

Paul Flewers paul.flewers at
Tue Sep 28 23:22:23 MDT 1999

All this stuff about Marx and Engels using objectionable language about
gays, blacks and Jews must be taken into context. We are talking here
about two Victorian (or the German equivalent of which) gents using the
language that was typical of the time amongst their social peers.

It's interesting to note the improvements that took place over the next
generation. Recall how Lenin reacted sharply to Plekhanov's comments
about the Bund that made reference to the trader mentality, that is, to
the prejudice that Shetl Jews were petit-bourgeois, that is, a
prejudiced statement that was not as objectionable as Marx's words about
Lassale. If Lenin had been heard saying anything vaguely racist, it
would have been broadcasted loud and clear by every Cold War hack in the
world -- I've never seen any accusations being made on that point.

The only objectionable thing I've come across by Russian socialists in
the early twentieth century was a jibe by Grigori Aleksinski in 1907
that as the Mensheviks had more Jews than the Bolsheviks, would it not
be a good idea to have a pogrom in the Russian Social Democratic Labour
Party. This, incidentally, was happily repeated by Stalin in the obscure
Baku paper he ran -- and republished in his Works, Volume 2, in the late
1940s, when the Soviet bureaucracy had gone on an anti-Semitic binge.
Aleksinski, by the way, had became an outright reactionary by 1917.

It is interesting that what was commonplace language amongst those born
around 1820 had become unacceptable -- and rightly so -- with those born
half a century later, and in a more backward country.

Paul F

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