[Marxism] Marx's Grave

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Fri Dec 24 11:35:42 MST 2004

I recall visiting Marx's grave in 1984. I had some spare time in London, so 
off I went to the Marx Memorial Library and to Highgate. It was a cloudy 
day, a grey sky. I remember the London people were friendly and courteous, 
but I felt lonely all the same.

Arriving at the monument, there was a boy there raking up fallen leaves 
nearby. I stood there looking at the monument, noticing how it only featured 
Marx's head, nothing else. The boy asked me, "so, what do you think of it?".

I said, "I don't think much of it, it's rather ugly", basically because I 
had a very different idea about Marx and my taste in sculpture really had 
more in common with Auguste Rodin. The bust just seemed dull, passionless, 
austere, lacking expression. The boy asked, "so why do you come here then?". 
He had a point.

I explained I was a tourist from New Zealand and just visited out of 
curiosity. "Oh", he said, and went on raking up the leaves. I looked at the 
boy, and I looked at the inscription on the monument, and thought "I've had 
my poetry for the day".

Marx was dead, it was an idea, and I was alive. Yet his spirit and ideas had 
reached me on the other side of the world, over 90 years later, through a 
whole chain of human beings and generations. I left Highgate musing how 
astonishing that was, really.

I mean, what would be the statistical probability of anybody still knowing 
anything about me, over 90 years later, on the other side of the world? 
Astronomically small, I would think... unless I did something that was truly 
memorable (rather than, for instance, make an ass of myself in hopeless 

Would I have put the 11th thesis on Feuerbach on his gravestone, though? At 
the time, I thought I wouldn't have, basically because I thought that Marx 
had been too hard on philosophy, which had been my first passion; and also, 
to change the world, it also needed to be interpreted, which is surely what 
Marx also did. So the line that really came to my mind, was "To be radical 
is to go to the root of things, but the root of man is man himself." 
(Whether you can put something like that on a gravestone is a moot point of 

A tile that I have hanging at home quotes a Friesian saying (my mother's 
family is of Friesian origin) which says "Doch dyn plicht en lit de lju mar 
rabje" (meaning "do your duty, or do what you need to do, and let people 
talk as they will"). Which is not unlike Marx (slightly mis-)quoting Dante: 
"Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti".

Sometimes that seems like the most difficult thing in the world, and you end 
up thinking "beam me up, Scotty." Ah yes. "People make their own history, 
but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under 
circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, 
given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead 
generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living."

Or is it perhaps, that we make our own nightmares?

I'll drink to new light, new life.


Love can make you weep
Can make you run for cover
Roots that spread so deep
Bring life to frozen ground
Something so strong
Could carry us away
Something so strong
Could carry us today.

- "Something so strong", Crowded House 

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