Marx and his traducers [John Spargo Karl Marx]

Nothing hurts the master class more than the truth. This is not to be wondered at when we consider that for the upkeep of the present system of society, lying, cant, and hypocrisy are almost as important as force itself. How the master class will spend their money on political, religious, and philanthropic movements, which exist for the purpose of misleading the workers ! Capitalist society would not last long if the peo­ple understood their social position in the true light.

None knew this better than Karl Marx, the pioneer of modern Socialism. By his analysis of the methods of capitalist production, and his exposition of the law of social development, he gave capitalist philosophy and criticism their death-blow.

At first capitalist representatives, together with the pseudo-Socialists, treated Marx, if not with silent contempt, at all events with dumb respect. But when it was seen that his teach­ings were being spread broadcast amongst the class who had everything to gain from their dissemination, these misrepresenters of the truth had to abandon their policy of silence, and be­stir themselves to promulgate a false, perverted Marxism.

One of the sycophants engaged in this busi­ness of misrepresentation is John Spargo, who has written a work entitled : “Karl Marx, his Life and Work.” He opens out by discrediting a work on Marx by the man who, next to Engels, was most intimate with the great Socialist philosopher—a work, moreover, which Spargo quotes more often than any other in his own book. The work referred to is Liebknecht’s “Biographical Memoirs of Marx.”

Spargo’s objections to this book are two-fold. Firstly, he contends that Liebknecht errs when he says that Marx’s father left the Hebrew faith for the Christian for the sake of official position. Secondly he asserts that Liebknecht is wrong when he claims that Karl Marx’s life was a re­venge against his father’s act in renouncing Judaism.

As regards the first point, although it is attested by those most qualified to judge, includ­ing Karl Marx’s daughter (as Spargo admits) yet our bold author, to reconcile his views with those of the Christian “Socialists,” says that Marx’s father, who was previously of the Hebrew persuasion, became a disciple of Rousseau and Liebnitz, changed his religion, because he sincerely believed in the Christian faith.

How well it speaks for Christianity that a man of the intellect and calibre of Marx’s father should see the noble purity of the Christian religion ! Yet how remarkable it is that he changed his religion at the very opportune time when a law was passed that none but Christians could hold official positions !

Mr. Spargo’s next point is really too absurd. Leibknecht certainly meant that Marx’s teach­ing is the deadly enemy of religion—and none but perverters can say otherwise.

The main idea of Spargo in writing the book—and of the capitalists in booming it—is to make an idol of Karl Marx by proving that he stood for the policy of opportunism. Because Marx endeavoured to get the workers of all lands together through an international organisation, so that they might discuss matters and formu­late schemes, and because, with such an object in view, and the circumstances and conditions of the time, when his views were known to very few indeed, he acted in a manner such as those circumstances demanded, Spargo affects to be­lieve that a similar course of action is needed at the present day, and would be advocated by Marx were he now living.

How singular it is, though, that at a later date than the “International,” this same Marx fought so sternly against the amalgamation of the Eisenachers with the Lassallians—in which his unerring judgment has been confirmed by the lapse of years ! The so-called German Social-Democratic Party is re-actionary, and all its votes don’t make it otherwise.

Marx’s work with the International Working-men’s Association was glorious. It gave em­phasis to the idea that the workers, to bring their battle to a successful issue, must be orga­nised internationally. And to-day, with the development of the capitalist system, society has reached the stage where it is rotten to the core. Reforms cannot help. Opportunist methods are false and useless. Years of opportunism have not bettered the condition of the workers, have not brought the toilers any nearer to their eman­cipation. Nothing fbut opposition to the capi­talist class everywhere and at all times can ensure success.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the book is that portion in which it is claimed that Marx was the most misrepresented and misunderstood of men. When it is considered how utterly un­scrupulously he is misrepresented in the book under notice the delicious irony of this is fully appreciated. John Spargo’s own words will best serve to illustrate this.

On page 14 we read : “No man has been more grievously misunderstood and misrepre­sented than Karl Marx,” while on page 331 we have : “Marx was, in fact, a good deal of an opportunist, and of the two wings of the present day Socialist movement, popularly denoted as ‘Opportunist’ and ‘Impossibilist’ respectively, the former is much more truly Marxian than the latter, at least in its fundamental principles. In its application of these principles the opportu­nist wing of the present-day Socialist movement may at times cease to be Marxist, or even Social­ist of any description, being scarcely or not at all distinguishable from bourgeois reformers. Theoretically they are Marxists as regards political tactics, but Marx, opportunist as he was, never ceased to be first and foremost a Socialist and a revolutionist.”

But whilst Marx “never ceased to be first and foremost a Socialist and a revolutionist,” the opportunist wing of the “present-day Socialist movement,” Mr. Spargo tells us, “may cease to be Marxist, or even Socialist of any description, being scarcely or not at all distinguishable from bourgeois reformers.” Truly, the man who at­tempts to reconcile these two attitudes has good ground to complain of other people misrepre­senting Marx.

Again our author says on page 121 : “Many shallow-minded Socialists claim that the more the workers are oppressed the more likely are they to revolt, and the sooner they are reduced to abject misery the sooner will they rise and overthrow the existing social order.”

Now if anyone depends for success upon the poverty of the people more than others it is the opportunists and sentimentalists. Instead of educating the workers in Socialism they are always appealing on behalf of the starving children, the crippled, the unemployed, etc. “Send us to Parliament and we shall see them right !” they plead, thinking of themselves and the flesh-pots all the time.

Only the Socialist Party of Great Britain realise the situation. Despite reforms the con­dition of the mass of the people tends to become worse, and it is up to us to teach them now, not when it is too late, their status in society, so that the workers may consciously organise to overthrow capitalist society and introduce in its stead the Socialist regime.

Spargo has a knack of quoting private letters written by Marx to his friends as if they were meant to have public importance, and as if they stood for all time as well-thought out theories. It seems necessary to remind our author that it is essential to know exactly the other side of the correspondence, as well as the whole nature of the argument, before it is possible for one to give a correct judgment en the matter. For instance, letters from Kugelman are quoted without us knowing what the latter had said. This is a pretty method of putting into Marx’s mouth words to support the opportunist policy.

Speaking about Hyndman Spargo says in effect that we “should not drag Hyndman’s actions of the past into consideration ; if Marx could only see the splendid work that Hyndman has done on behalf of the Socialist movement he would be sorry for what he had said about him.” The present writer thinks different. The fact re­mains that Hyndman is no Socialist. He thinks too much of the safety of capitalist England and capitalist heroes to be of any value to the work­ing-class movement.

In placing Marx in the Ricardian school Spargo’s sole object is to twist him into a sup­porter of the false, futile, and distinctly reaction­ary and anti-Marxian policy of opportunism.

L. M.

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