From TIME MAGAZINE article on May 19, 1947, Karl Marx is man is examined under the light of a man named Schwarzchild who had just written a book about the notorious political philosopher. My, how times have changed.
"If a name had to be found for the age in which we live," says the author of this book, "we might safely call it the Marxian era. For, in one way or another, the most important facts of our time lead back to one manKarl Marx."
Biographer Leo Schwarzschild is no admirer of Marx or Marxism. He is pointing to the fact that since World War I no other mind has so potently influenced the political and economic thinking and action of our times. There are masses of unconscious Marxistsmen & women who have never read Marx's Capital, and who would rather be found dead than reading the Communist Manifesto, but whose thinking about the role of economic forces in history, the responsibility of government for the individual, and the importance of economic security v. political freedom has nevertheless been profoundly influenced by the choleric expatriate from Prussia.
Even the efforts to fight Marxism with its own weapons have inevitably taken a Marxist turn. Both Naziism and Fascism, Biographer Schwarzschild points out, are Marxist mutations whose predestined political form is therefore the police state. In Nazi concentration camps, as in Russian forced-labor camps, Karl Marx was the presiding genius. In the name of human progress, Marx has probably caused more death, misery, degradation and despair than any man who ever lived.
Complacent & Patronizing. For a mind whose consequences have been so monstrous, this biography is singularly debonair. It is certainly the most readable life of Marx available. For those who wish to see so alarming a monster debunked, it is a complacent job of debunking. Nor need readers fear exposure to the rigors of Marxist political theory or economics. Biographer Schwarzschild lightly writes off those arid involutions.
Schwarzschild's indictment is most effective when describing Marx's personal and political life from 1818 to 1883. Here is Marx the boy taken to a church in Trier, in the recently Prussianized Rhineland, and baptized a Lutheran. His father, the first lawyer in an interminable line of distinguished rabbis, admired Prussia and its official religion. Here is Marx the future socialist, unsocially shunning his school fellows while his mental acrobatics charm Ludwig von Westphalen, a much older man of a much higher social position. Marx later repaid Westphalen for this early interest by marrying his daughter, Jenny, against the wishes of her family. And here is Marx the frustrated poet, wasting his time, and his father's (and later his widowed mother's) slim resources as a shiftless college student. Marx finally received a kind of mail-order degree from the University of Jena.
Boring from Within. Marx got his start in life as editor of the Rhenish Gazette. This newspaper had been founded by a group of solid businessmen turned publishers. Like other publishers since, they were presently bewildered to discover that their paper had been infiltrated by socialists and was being used as a mouthpiece for revolutionary ideas. Marx lost his job. Then began his lifelong career as an expatriate and professional revolutionist.
In Paris he hobnobbed with Friedrich Engels, elegant, fox-hunting scion of a prosperous German textile tycoon. With him Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto (1848), with him he shared his ideas, hopes, miseries and triumphs. Engels gave him implicit intellectual and political obedience, supported him most of his life and finally settled an annuity on him. In 1848 both Marx and Engels were neckdeep in the revolutionary wave that swept over Europe.
With the first gunshots, Marx rushed back to the Rhineland to edit the New Rhenish Gazette. The chapter on this episode shows the extent to which Marx's tactics are still standard Communist equipment. The New Rhenish Gazette was a tight little dictatorship of the proletariat run by a back-room clique of case-hardened Communists. But communism or socialism were rarely mentioned in its columns ; the paper posed as a liberal organ. The Communists posed as liberal patriots. In the name of liberalism, Marx shouted for war between Prussia and Denmark. He knew that war is good growing weather for communism. The result, as always, was the gradual discrediting of the liberals.
Character Assassination. Other enlightening chapters describe Marx's tactics of character assassination (still standard Communist practice) against anybody who threatened his exclusive leadership. One of his victims was Wilhelm Weitling, a tailor's apprentice, one of the few proletarians who has ever become an intelligent Communist leader. Marx falsely accused Weitling of being a literary crook and hounded him to the U.S. Another target was Ferdinand Lassalle, brilliant founder of the German Social Democratic Party. Marx somewhat inconsistently referred to Lassalle as "Baron Izzy" and "the little Jew."
Another victim was Michael Bakunin, an ardent Russian anarchist who threatened Marx's, control of the First International (founded in 1864 in London). Marx charged Bakunin with shady financial dealings and with being a Czarist agent. He could not make the charge stick, but Bakunin withdrew to lick his wounds.
After the collapse of the 1848 revolutions, Marx spent the rest of his life fighting off creditors, plotting against the public peace, burying his son,* suffering from attacks of carbuncles that sometimes covered him from head to foot, grinding away at economics so that he could "prove" (in Capital) that capitalism was inevitably doomed and that socialism was its inevitable successor, lashing his enemies with invective sometimes worthy of an Old Testament prophet and sometimes unprintable. When he was buried in a cemetery in Highgate, London, only eight friends were at the grave.
Author Schwarzschild's biographical facts are true, as far as they go. But the Marx he presents is a man with his brain cut out. Hence the facts add up to a caricature. Schwarzschild's thesis is that Karl Marx was 1) a rabbinical thinker whose pyramids of abstract logic were brilliant, but had nothing to do with facts; 2) a vicious egomaniac determined to ruin any man or group that he could not dominate; 3) a political seer whose prognostications were almost always wrong; 4) a self-styled "scientific" socialist whose science was about as scientific as astrology; 5) an economist whose economic knowledge was perfunctory and puerile. Marx's mind was undoubtedly diabolic (history is studded with malignant political geniuses). But it is no help in understanding or combating Marxism to deny its author's perverse brilliance.