From time to time Axel Kaiser feels compelled to pronounce on relevant ideas in the contemporary history of mankind. One of them: Marxism. It was the year 2018 and the bicentenary of the birth of Karl Marx was commemorated. Kaiser, staunch defender of the liberal revolution sheltered under the dictatorship of Pinochet and sworn enemy of socialism, had to say something. “Marx, the impostor” (El Mercurio, 11.9.2018) was his answer. But Kaiser forgot the essential, reading Marx. For this he had to cover his ignorance of the German thinker’s ideas with something more like a war tribunal than a well-founded judgment. For someone who claims to be in the battle of ideas – or was it the battle against ideas? – the fact that everything he wrote were ad hominem allegations is not surprising.
Kaiser wants to convince us that Marx was: “An imposter, a fraud both humanly and intellectually”; someone who was “never interested in the truth” but was “advancing a political agenda”; a champion of “intellectual dishonesty”; a polemicist whose strategy for “dealing with his opponents” was “insulting”; a being full of hatred and contempt for humanity”; a character fascinated by violence”; an “aggressive and intolerant” personality; a plagiarism; a racist; an anti-Semite; someone who lived at the expense of others and “practically didn’t work”; a being who has reduced his family relationships to asking for money to pay off debts, who has never made an effort to alleviate the needs of his sons, exposing them to hardship and even to death, and who has not educated his daughters to use them how do you serve. In short, “hatred, envy and contempt for human life fed Marx’s heart.”
Hard to imagine a more monstrous character than the one that emerges from the above description. Even Hitler, an evil genius, had a true love for his partner, Eva Braun, and opposed the Goebbels’ sacrifice of their six children. Edda Göring (1938-2018), only daughter of Hermann Göring, one of the leaders of the Third Reich, referred to her father with great affection and her testimony seems sincere (Anna María Sigmund, Women of the Nazis, p. 72 ). The case of the daughter of Heinrich Himmler, feared head of the SS and the Gestapo, is the best known. However, when he separated from his wife Margarette in 1940, Himmler “tried to be as close as possible to his daughter Gudrun, whom he adored and loved above all else”. He called her almost daily and he too “spent as much time as he could with her” (Tania Crasnaki, Children of the Nazis, p. 31). To recap, three of the greatest criminals in human history, responsible for the deaths of millions of people, clearly had feelings of pity and Marx did not.
Nihilism, hatred and violence
Marx lacked, according to Kaiser, the most basic feelings of love and pity. His hatred was pure and hard towards all humanity. Marx would have human life as an enemy (that is, in one piece). Like Wagner’s Wotan, he would then desire the very collapse of everything: “Do you know what Wotan desires? The end” (Quoted by Adorno, Aspekte des neuen Rechtradikalismus, 1967). Marx’s would not be a political agenda, but one of total destruction, imaginable only by the Antichrist of the Apocalypse, since not even the most radical Russian nihilists, such as Nechayev, supporter of “vehement, complete, general and ruthless destruction”, believed it as an end in itself, but as a condition for moving on to the new socialist society (Juan Avilés Farré, La daga y la dinamita, pp. 52-62).
What Marx really argued is that a revolution was not possible without violence, but violence alone, contrary to what leading anarchist currents claimed, could not lead to revolution. The essential condition, as he sets it out in the well-known Prologue of 1859, is that the material basis of society undergoes a great convulsion, which then extends to the political, juridical and intellectual spheres: the superstructure. In his last years, Marx hoped that there would be a crisis in developed capitalism, which would unleash working-class mobilizations, since “every class struggle is a political struggle” (Manifesto, 1848). Both moments (the economic-material one and the political one) are necessary. Violence seems recently to consolidate the revolutionary process: “Violence is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power” (Capital, vol. I, chap. 24). And with this character it also served the development of capitalism, inseparable from the process of European colonization of the world. Hanna Arendt, the great German political theorist, not at all suspected of Marxism, reiterates what she has said: «The new and undeniable glorification of violence by the student movement is completely disconcerting even for those who have read Marx or Engels» (Arendt, On Violence , page 32).
In the Manifesto (1948), Marx indicated as one of the essential measures that the labor movement had to implement: “Free public education for all children”. Marx was consistent with this principle. Passionate about Shakespeare, he instilled this interest in his daughters: “his three daughters knew many of his works by heart”, as one of his biographers, Francis Wheen, recounts (Karl Marx, p. 26). Obviously they went to school. When the family’s financial situation improved and they were able to move from Soho to a middle-class section of Kentish Town, Jennychen and Laura were enrolled in a women’s college, where they “soon won prizes in all subjects” (pp. 202-203). .
Marx’s eldest daughter Jenny was a prominent politician and journalist. Laura was also a politician and writer. Eleanor devoted herself to theatre, was a politician and defender of women’s rights, managing to write six books and a dozen translations in her 43-year life.
From the foregoing it can be deduced that Marx not only defended the right to education for women, but also, together with the mother of the girls, Jenny von Westphalen – who was also a prominent intellectual – was concerned that they attend good schools and, moreover, , himself, as a father, gave them a high-level literary and cultural education. Isaiah Berlin, an outspoken opponent of Marxist ideas, recalls that Marx had boundless admiration for Shakespeare, with whom he educated the whole family, who dedicated Sundays to his children and, later, to his grandchildren, concluding: he continued to be – even with the difficult Eleanor – warmly affectionate” (Karl Marx, 1939, pp. 260-261). All of Kaiser’s allegations in this regard are false.
Faced with such an accumulation of grievances, and we regret for lack of space that we cannot respond to others, one might wonder who it is who insults his opponents, for this is clearly the strategy used by Kaiser to refer to Marx, as we just showed. And of Marx’s ideas, Kaiser says practically nothing and what he says, he says second or third hand. Kaiser has not made an intellectual or biographical portrait of Karl Marx, but a caricature so grotesque that, if there were a single trace of truth, it would go completely unnoticed among so many lies. They would be fragments of truth in the service of falsehood (Adorno).
One might also wonder where Kaiser has so much personal knowledge of the author that he seeks to destroy at any cost. Biographies, letters, works of Marx himself, etc.? A minimum of rigor obliges to prove the claims of even the most modest “intellectual”. Kaiser admits he has read Antonio Escohotado, a Spanish liberal who accused Marx of starving his children! Ludwig von Mises; Paul Johnson and Jean Francois Revel, all fiercely anti-Communist. All we need is the author the article is supposed to talk about: Karl Marx. Apparently, the one who doesn’t care about the truth at all is Kaiser himself.
It may be interesting to remember that Marx had as his motto: de omnibus dubitandum est, “one must doubt everything”. When a young Kautsky asked Marx in 1881 about the publication of his complete works, he replied that “they all had to be transcribed.” That Marx’s ideas are and have been the subject of reasoned criticism is beyond dispute, but this is not the place to discuss it. Rather, it is a question of highlighting Kaiser’s lack of a minimum of honesty, rigor and adherence to facts, procedures which, in his case, have already become an intellectual and political style.
Anyone who claims a (neo)liberal revolution made at the hands of a dictatorship that has committed massive human rights violations can hardly make a credible claim about freedom. A value that Marx recognized beyond the validity of his political proposals. Remember what was said in the Manifesto regarding communism as a society in which “the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all”. Anyone who has written reckless works such as “Fatal ignorance: the cultural anorexia of the right in the face of progressive ideological progress” (Instituto Democracia y Mercado, 2009), apparently suffers from the same disease. In intellectual debate and, above all, in the field of controversy, various strategies are usually used, including irony and sarcasm, but never “fatal ignorance” regardless of whether one is defending ideas of the right, of the left or simply ideas. Of course you need to have some first.