The Poisonous Fruit of Karl Marx’s Tree

November 27, 2017

— by Polydamas

On the occasion of the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, America’s newspaper of record, The New York Times, dedicated in 2017 a series of mostly laudatory essays about the history and legacy of communism. Most of the essays attempt to paint communism as a noble experiment gone wrong, focusing upon its unfulfilled promises of progress and equality while discounting the enormous costs communism exacted in human lives, the poisonous fruits of a poisonous tree.

According to Professor R.J. Rummel, hundreds of millions of innocent civilians were murdered by their own governments in the 20th century under the banner of socialism. Mao Tse Tung’s China (1949-1987) accounted for 76,702,000 murdered civilians, followed by the U.S.S.R (1917-1987) with 61,911,000, while National Socialism (“Nazi”) Germany murdered “only” 20,946,000 from 1933 to 1945. Other socialist Utopias included the Mao Soviets in China from 1923 to 1948 with 3,468,000, Cambodia under Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979 with 2,035,000, Vietnam from 1945 to 1987 with 1,670,000, North Korea from 1948 to 1987 with 1,663,000, Poland from 1945 to 1948 with 1,545,000, and lesser mass murderers. (

Even without the perfect hindsight of history, the poisonous fruit of communism could have been discerned by objective observers from a direct examination of the tree of its progenitor, the life of Karl Marx. The immortal words of the King James Bible, Matthew 7:15-716, caution us:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

The hundreds of millions of deaths inflicted by socialist governments upon their innocent citizens were mirrored by the death and destruction that Karl Marx wreaked in his personal life, which eventually claimed his wife, children, and grandchildren. Karl Marx’s baby son Guido died in the winter of 1849-1850 from the cold and malnutrition in the London hovel in which the Marx family lived. In 1852, his little daughter Francisca died, and, in 1855, his son Edgar died from malnutrition and the unhealthy living conditions in the Marx house. Marx’s daughter Eleanor committed suicide after her father continuously interfered with her free-love union with Edward Aveling. Marx’s destitute wife Jenny von Westphalen died of cancer in 1881. Marx’s other daughter Laura died in a suicide pact with her husband, after their three children died before them.

Paul Johnson, who wrote the excellent 1988 book Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, quotes from a report by a British government worker who inspected the Marx family home in a London slum in 1853 and described it thusly:

“[Marx] leads the existence of a Bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he is often drunk. Though he is frequently idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has much work to do. He has no fixed time for going to sleep or waking up. He often stays up all night and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday, and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the whole world coming and going through their room. . . .He lives in one of the worst, therefore one of the cheapest, neighborhoods in London. He occupies two rooms. The room looking out on the street is the parlor, and the bedroom is at the back. There is not one clean or decent piece of furniture in either room, but everything is broken, tattered and torn, with thick dust over everything and the greatest untidiness everywhere. In the middle of the parlor there is an old fashioned table covered with oilcloth. On it there are manuscripts, books and newspapers as well as the children’s toys, odds and ends and his wife’s sewing basket, cups with broken rims, dirty spoons, knives and forks, lamps, an ink-pot, tumblers, some Dutch clay pipes ash…a junk-shop owner would be ashamed to give away such a remarkable collection of odds and ends. When you enter Marx’s room smoke and tobacco fumes make your eyes water…Everything is dirty and covered with dust, so that to sit down becomes a hazardous business. Here is a chair with three legs. On another chair the children are playing at cooking. This chair happens to have four legs. This is the one that is offered to the visitor, but the children’s cooking has not been wiped away and if you sit down you risk a pair of trousers. . . . But all these things do not in the least embarrass Marx or his wife.”

Paul Johnson further describes Karl Marx’s disgusting slovenliness and his unhealthy living conditions:

“He led a peculiarly unhealthy life, took very little exercise, ate highly spiced food, often in large quantities, smoked heavily, drank a lot, especially strong ale, and as a result had constant trouble with his liver. He rarely took baths or washed much at all. This, plus his unsuitable diet, may explain the veritable plague of boils from which he suffered for a quarter of a century. They increased his natural irritability and seem to have been at their worst while he was writing Capital. . . . The boils varied in numbers, size and intensity but at one time or another they appeared on all parts of his body, including his cheeks, the bridge of his nose, his bottom, which meant he could not write, and his penis. In 1873 they brought on a nervous collapse marked by trembling and huge bursts of rage.”

Regarding Karl Marx’s penis, Paul Johnson reports that the married Karl Marx impregnated Helen Demuth, a young woman of peasant stock in her 20s, who worked as a live-in maid and housekeeper at the Marx family home. Demuth bore a son whom she named Henry Frederick “Freddy” Demuth. Karl Marx forbade his son from using the front door and he could only see his mother in the kitchen. Fearful of the loss to his reputation in the revolutionary community, Marx refused to acknowledge his illegitimate son’s paternity, and he implored and prevailed upon Friedrich Engels to falsely claim Freddy as his son. Friedrich Engels eventually admitted on his deathbed that Karl Marx was Freddy Demuth’s true father.

Mikhail Bakunin described the personality of his former friend Karl Marx:

“Marx is egotistical to the pitch of insanity . . . . Marx loved his own person much more than he loved his friends and apostles, and no friendship could hold water against the slightest wound to his vanity . . . . Marx will never forget a slight to his person. You must worship him, make an idol of him, if he is to love you in return; you must at least fear him if he is to tolerate you. He likes to surround himself with pygmies, with lackeys and flatterers. . . . In general, however, one may say that in the circle of Marx’s intimates there is very little brotherly frankness, but a great deal of machination and diplomacy. There is a sort of tacit struggle and compromise between the self-loves of the various persons concerned; and where vanity is at work there is no longer place for brotherly feeling. Every one is on his guard, afraid of being sacrificed, of being annihilated. Marx’s circle is a sort of mutual admiration society. Marx is the chief distributor of honors, but is also the invariably perfidious and malicious, the never frank and open, inciter to the prosecution of those whom he suspects, or who had the misfortune of failing to show all the veneration he expects. As soon as he has ordered a persecution there is no limit to the baseness and infamy of the method.”

How did Karl Marx end up living in a hovel with his destitute wife and their starving children is explained by a sympathetic biographer Otto Ruhle in his book Karl Marx:

“Regular work bored him; conventional occupation put him out of humor. Without a penny in his pocket, and with his shirt pawned, he surveyed the world with a lordly air . . . . Throughout his life he was hard up. He was ridiculously ineffectual in his endeavors to cope with the economic needs of his household and family; and his incapacity in monetary matters involved him in an endless series of struggles and catastrophes. He was always in debt; was incessantly being dunned by creditors . . . . Half his household goods were always at the pawnshop. His budget defied all attempts to set it in order. His bankruptcy was chronic. The thousands upon thousands which Engels handed over to him melted away in his fingers like snow.”

Karl Marx was a money-grubbing, irresponsible, and wastrel character who squandered every bit of money ever given to him. According to historian Rolv Heuer in Genius and Riches, when Marx was a university student in Berlin, his parents gave him 700 thalers per year in spending money when only five percent of the population earned more than 300 thalers per year. Yet, he wrote disparagingly and ungratefully about his mother in a December 2, 1863 letter to his friend Friedrich Engels, which is reproduced in their book Werke or Works:

“Two hours ago a telegram arrived to say that my mother is dead. Fate needed to take one member of the family. I already had one foot in the grave. Under the circumstances I am needed more than the old woman. I have to go to Trier about their inheritance.”

On March 8, 1855, Karl Marx wrote about his wife’s uncle in similar terms:

“A very happy event. Yesterday we were told about the death of the ninety-year-old uncle of my wife. My wife will receive some one hundred Lst; even more if the old dog has not left a part of his money to the lady who administered his house.”

Gary North writes in Yuri Maltsev’s 1993 book Requiem for Marx that Karl Marx received an inheritance in 1848 of 6,000 francs after his father’s death. In 1844, Marx’s German friends gave him 1,000 thalers, which was equivalent to three times a working man’s annual pay. North calculates that, while living in Paris from 1844 to 1848, Karl Marx’s income was over 15,000 francs, which was equivalent to over $100,000 in 1985 dollars. According to the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, Friedrich Engels provided Karl Marx with over 6 million French francs over the latter’s lifetime. However, Karl Marx’s poverty was the result of a combination of his refusal to obtain gainful employment and his squandering of his benefactors’ money in the stock exchange, on gambling, alcoholic binges, long trips to continental Europe, and out-of-control spending.

Gary North concludes that Marx’s poverty has been much exaggerated by his followers, that he lived in abject poverty during only fifteen years of his life, but, otherwise, his income was greater than 98 percent of his contemporary British citizens. Marx’s inability to make ends meet was not due to his idealistic socialism or to a failure of capitalism, but directly attributable to Marx’s profligate spending and chronic inability to live within even a munificent budget.

Karl Marx was the epitome of a freeloading parasite, the grasshopper from Aesop’s Tales who lived an indolent lifestyle on handouts from various benefactors and worker ants around him, yet prattled self-righteously about the middle class bourgeoisie’s exploitation of the working class proletariat. The only member of the proletariat whom he personally knew was Helen Demuth, and he exploited for her domestic labor as well as for her loins. Every member of his family as well as his friends and benefactors heavily sacrificed the best of their lives and their material goods to feed the bottomless maw that was Karl Marx. His economic theories have never been more than a freeloader’s faux intellectual scam to extort monies from productive ants and kindhearted people couched as an ideology about the undeniable right of grasshoppers everywhere to loot from their betters. Likewise, any person, group of people or countries that adopted Marx’s creeds of socialism and communism suffered on a grand scale from the same catastrophic failures that Marx experienced in his personal life due to his laziness and profligacy. The true legacy of Marxism is not altruistic idealism, but the curses of irresponsibility, exploitation of the productive, economic ruin, rivers of blood, and multitude of lost lives.

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