[Marxism] Marx's Racist Put-Down of Lassalle

Glenn Kissack gkissack at nyc.rr.com
Wed Aug 22 01:06:15 MDT 2012

In his brilliant book Marx at the Margins, author Kevin Anderson writes:

"In his often-cited letter, Marx also makes some very problematic personal remarks, referring to 'the Jewish nigger Lassalle' (der judische Nigger Lassalle) and writing as well that 'the impertinence of the fellow is also niggerlike" (niggerhaft) (MECW 41, 389, 390). That Marx was capable of making such racist remarks in private should not obscure the fact that a major part of what had made him so angry with Lassalle was the latter's indifference to the Civil War and the issues of slavery and racism in America." (page 266, note 22)

Marx wrote a great deal about the Civil War and the abolitionist cause, which he avidly supported. In an 1862 letter to Engels on the conduct of Northern military strategy, Marx predicted:

"The North will finally wage war seriously, adopt revolutionary methods, and overthrow the domination of the border state statement. A single nigger-regiment would have a remarkable effect on Southern nerves …."

Anderson comments: "In the block quote above, the term "nigger-regiment" is written in English in the middle of a German sentence. This is an instance of Marx using what today would be considered a very racist phrase to make an equally strong anti-racist point. Ironically, it is here that Marx makes his strongest case to date on the issue of Black troops, not only for military reasons, but also for political and psychological ones."

Anderson notes that in the same month Marx wrote the letter quoted above, he also "publishes several critiques of Lincoln's failure to abolish slavery."

In short, Marx consistently took anti-racist positions, despite his unfortunate use of contemporary racist terms.


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