MARX THE MONSTER; More Than 150m Have Been Slaughtered in His Name. His Genocidal Disciples Include Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot - and Even Mugabe. So Why Has Karl Marx Just Been Voted the Greatest Philosopher Ever?

Article excerpt

HIS ideas justified the slaughter of more people than any other philosophy since time began.

His creed of 'equality and freedom' became a fanatical religion that ruled half the world and enslaved hundreds of millions.

Under his name, oppression, torture, starvation and genocide became the routine practices of brutal governments all over the world.

Yet yesterday, Karl Marx, founder of communism-progenitor of socialism and hater of the capitalist bourgeois classes, was announced the greatest philosopher of all time in a BBC Radio 4 poll.

How can it be that a man in whose name despots have justified grotesque levels of barbarism is hailed as a hero of the civilised world?

Perhaps it boils down to a matter of interpretation. The 'greatest' philosopher might be the one whose legacy has been greater than any other's - and Marx's influence has, indeed, been as colossal as it was utterly disastrous.

Marx himself wrote: 'Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.' That he certainly did. As Francis Wheen points out in his superb biography, 'within 100 years of his death, half the world's population was ruled by governments that professed Marxism to be their guiding faith'.

Without Marx, there would have been no Cold War. Without Marx, no Iron Curtain, no Gulag.

So yes, his influence on world affairs has certainly been greater than that of any other philosopher. But ' greatness' surely implies approval. How can we approve of a man whose beliefs spawned so many monsters?

Without Marx, Lenin and Stalin would have lacked the ideology with which to inflict the terror across their land that resulted in 60 million deaths.

Mao would never have been the worst mass murderer in history, responsible for the slaughter of 75 million.

Britain and the West are rich and free precisely because we are not living in a Marxist state and have embraced the democratic capitalism that Marx so despised.

I find it breathtaking that people who are both humane and intelligent - as I'm sure Radio 4 listeners are - can lionise a man whose work gave rise to more misery in our world than any other individual.

Ah, say Marx's apologists. You are missing the point and being simplistic.

Marx, they say, cannot be held responsible for those who misinterpreted his creed, those who abused it to justify their own ends.

The monsters and dictators wilfully discarded great tracts of his philosophy, selecting the bits such as the victory of the proletariat that would resonate with their people.

Marx, they point out, would have been appalled by the crimes committed in his name.

This might be true, but does it absolve Marx from the horrors that have have been committed in his name? I don't think so.

To explain why, we have to study what Marx actually espoused. We have to examine where he came from and whether he could have foreseen the consequences of his philosophy.

While his followers massacred millions, Marx personally never hurt a fly and lived the poverty-stricken but bourgeois existence of an intellectual in Victorian Soho.

Born in 1818 in Trier, Germany, to a comparatively prosperous Jewish family that converted to Christianity, Marx became a radical journalist after university who advocated the 'merciless criticism of everything existing'.

In 1843, he went to Paris, but was banished from the capital as a dangerous revolutionary. In 1848, in Belgium, he wrote The Communist Manifesto with his wealthy patron, Friedrich Engels.

It was in 1852 that he moved to London where he wrote his masterpiece, Das Kapital, in 1867.

Married to a beautiful aristocrat Jenny von Westphalen, he could be vain, spiteful, unpleasant but, as Francis Wheen showed, Marx was also a loving husband who suffered grievously from the tragic deaths of three of his six children. …