[Marxism] Two Marx myths
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 25 13:54:45 MST 2006
Two Marx Myths
In his racy popular biography of Marx, Francis
Wheen demolishes the common belief that Marx
wrote to Darwin expressing a desire to dedicate Das Kapital to him.
The claim was first popularised by Isaiah Berlin
and has been repeated many times since. As Wheen
demonstrates, Darwins letter declining the offer
of a dedication was written not to Marx but to
Edward B. Aveling, author of a simple guide to
evolutionary theory, The Students Darwin.
In his blog
Ken MacLeod addresses another myth, which is that
Karl Marx predicted that the first socialist
revolution would be in advanced capitalist
England, but instead it happened in backward feudal Russia.
A glance at the Communist Manifesto shows that
Marx and Engels expected, in 1847, that the first
proletarian revolution would take place in
Germany - the bourgeois revolution in Germany is
imminent, and they expect a proletarian
revolution to immediately follow it. Turning back
a few pages, we find them proclaim in the 1882
preface to the Russian edition that 'Russia is in
the vanguard of revolutionary action in Europe'
and conclude: 'If the Russian Revolution becomes
the signal for a proletarian revolution in the
West, so that both complement each other, the
present Russian common ownership of land may
serve as the starting point of a communist
development.' Not quite how things worked out, of
course, but a shrewd sentence for all that!
For another insight into Marxs acuity we need
only consider one of the more bizarre moments of
his life his three hour lunch with Sir
Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff MP at the
Devonshire Club, St Jamess, in 1879. The MP had
been sent on a mission to quiz the infamous
revolutionary by Queen Victorias eldest daughter.
Duff discovered that Marx was not a bloodthirsty
maniac but rather an agreeable sort of chap, and
wrote to the Crown Princess praising Marxs
immense learning and dry humor (Frank E. Manuel,
A Requiem for Karl Marx (1995), p. 222.
Marx told Duff that he expected a great and not
distant crash in Russia. Marx forecast that the
collapse of Tsarism would be followed by a
revolt against the existing military system in
Germany (cited in Wheen , p. 362)
Which is pretty much what happened 38 years
later. Though this last aspect tends to be
muffled in British historiography, which often
obscures the real cause of the end of the First
World War. As Ive pointed out before
The sudden, wholly unexpected collapse of Germany
had nothing at all to do with military defeat,
because the German army was never defeated.
Germany collapsed because a revolution broke out.
Marx also forecast that arms spending would go on
increasing, telling Duff that as science advances
The improvements in the art of destruction will
keep pace with its advance and every year more
and more will have to be devoted to costly engines of war.
He wasnt exactly wrong there, either, was he?
# posted by Ellis : 5:36 PM
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