Tearing Down With Marx

September 9, 2020 Updated: September 10, 2020


Among the many questions I’ve received in doing interviews about my new book, “The Devil and Karl Marx,” one has been particularly interesting and unexpected: What does Marx have to do with today’s statue movement? That is, the movement storming streets and towns with chains and spray paint vandalizing and tearing down statues.

Those targeted are, of course, no longer just statues of Confederate generals; we’re way beyond that. They now include Union generals who defeated the Confederacy (i.e., Ulysses S. Grant), no less than Abraham Lincoln, even black abolitionist Frederick Douglass (try to figure out that one), and everyone from Washington and Jefferson to Francis Scott Key and Teddy Roosevelt.

They go as far back as Christopher Columbus and Saint Louis and Saint Junipero Serra, founder of the California missions. They’d rip down Mt. Rushmore if they could. And if you haven’t noticed, even churches have come under attack, with statues of Jesus Christ and his mother hacked and desecrated.

What do these figures have to do with George Floyd or police reform? Well, obviously, nothing. They represent a tearing at the very fabric of our nation, culture, and its social and political order. They strike at the root of this country’s Judeo-Christian foundation. They literally seek to tear down.

And alas, it’s there that the comparison to Karl Marx is apt, regardless of whether those tearing down could even spell the words “Communist Manifesto.”

The goal of Marx and the Marxist project from the outset was one of fundamental transformation, of pursuing permanent revolution and unrestrained criticism of everything. Marx’s ideas were so radical, and so (as Marx openly conceded) “contrary to the nature of things,” that they inevitably raze the foundation.

Marx, in the “Manifesto,” said that communism represents “the most radical rupture in traditional relations.” It seeks to “abolish the present state of things.” No small task. In a remarkable statement, he said that communists “openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” Chew that one over. Marx closed the “Manifesto” with, “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.”

In a letter to his friend Arnold Ruge, Marx called for the “ruthless criticism of all that exists.” Imagine.

Marx was particularly fond of a line from Mephistopheles in Goethe’s “Faust”: “Everything that exists deserves to perish.” If you know what Goethe’s “Faust” was about, and who Mephistopheles was (a devil/demon), then you know that’s a rather chilling thought from Marx.

Marx—in his essay declaring religion the “opium of the people,” the “heart of a heartless world,” and the “soul of soulless conditions”—said that “the criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism.” In that essay, he used the word “criticism” 29 times.

Beyond ruthless criticism for Marx, there was ruthless abolition. The word “abolition” is omnipresent in his writings.

As Marx biographer Robert Payne noted, the word almost seems to jump off every page of the “Manifesto.” “And after he has ‘abolished’ property, family, and nations, and all existing societies, Marx shows little interest in creating a new society on the ruins of the old,” observed Payne. “He had written in a poem to Jenny [his future wife] that he would throw a gauntlet at the world, and watch it crumble. Comforted by her love, he would wander through the kingdom of ruins, his words glowing with action, his heart like the heart of God. The ‘Communist Manifesto’ was the gauntlet he threw at the world.”

It was indeed. And it wasn’t merely the “Manifesto.” A key focus of my book is Marx’s genuinely hellacious poetry and plays, which display a savage obsession with the dark side. He wrote of suicide pacts, pacts with the devil, “Hellish vapors,” of the “Prince of Darkness” selling a “blood-dark sword [that] shall stab unerringly within thy soul,” of “Heaven I’ve forfeited, I know it full well, My soul, once true to God, Is Chosen for Hell,” and of violence, vengeance, flames, rage, death, despair, and destruction.

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“The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration” by Paul Kengor. (Tan Books)

In one of his most unsettling writings, a play called “Oulanem,” which two Marx biographers (Robert Payne and Richard Wurmbrand) say is a sacrilegious inversion of the holy name “Manuelo” or “Emmanuel,” the principal character, who serves as a sort of mock Creator, rises and declares of the world: “I shall howl gigantic curses at mankind” and “I will smash to pieces with my enduring curses.”

Payne, who was a respected British professor of literature, interpreted it this way: “Oulanem was Marx as judge and executioner.”

Marx’s defenders want to frame the likes of Lenin and Stalin and other tyrants as aberrations of Marxism, as the nasty totalitarians seeking to annihilate the old order. In fact, they were merely following Marx, the ultimate revolutionary and rebel. Marx wanted to burn down the house long before Lenin and Stalin were even born.

In an interview with Dennis Prager regarding “The Devil and Karl Marx,” Prager kept coming back to those lines from Marx in my book. Lines such as, “Everything that exists deserves to perish.” He told me, “It’s just pure nihilism.”

It is indeed.

And again, not a single revolutionary standing with torches aside a statue in this or that town need quote Karl Marx in the process. They need not be a Marxist. Marx, however, would approve of them in this sense: As he said at the close of the “Manifesto,” communists support “every revolutionary movement” that goes against the existing social and political order.

So long as today’s revolutionaries are seeking that purpose, Marx would surely approve. They exhibit, whether they know it or not, common cause with Marx’s desire to tear down.

Paul G. Kengor, Ph.D., is a professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, a GCC think-tank. He is also a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University and author of many books, including his most recent, “The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration,” from which this article is drawn.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.