Check Your Receipts: Karl Marx

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Marx is a dominant figure in just about every class in the Social Sciences Department. His theories are regurgitated over and over again, and students are invited to worship at the altar of Communism. But does anyone ever stop and think, “who was this guy that we are being told to learn about?”

Gather around, children, because it’s time to learn everything that your professors don’t tell you about Uncle Karl.

Bathing was bourgeoisie

Marx had horrid personal hygiene, barely ever bathing or cleaning his home. A Prussian policeman investigating Marx in London in 1850 reported on his room: “Everything dirty and covered with dust, so that to sit down becomes a hazardous business.”

Marx was plagued with festering boils and broken cysts that many people say may have contributed to regular eye infections that slowed his writing close to the end of his life. In an 1883 letter to his pal, Frederich Engels, Marx wrote that “the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles to their dying day.”

And oh, how we do. Thanks, Marx!

He let his parents down

Like so many of us, Marx was a disappointment to his parents. Marx thumbed his nose at his successful father’s insistence that he take a similar career path in law, and instead flocked off to arts school to study philosophy. He never worked, mooching off of his parents until they had to cut him off, when he lived in dire poverty until befriending wealthy heir Frederich Engels, and then mooching off of him.

In fact, he was so salty about his parents’ refusal to continue to subsidize his lifestyle that he neglected to go to his father’s funeral out of spite. Marx’s mother would later write, “I wish Karl would start to accumulate capital instead of just writing about it.”


He didn’t pay his own workers

Marx’s most famous diatribes ramble on about the oppressive nature of the bourgeoisie – i.e. the owners of the means of production. The purchasers of labour and human dignity. But despite his insistence about the evils of exploiting the working class, Marx was an exploiter himself. He had the services of a housemaid, Helen Demuth, who he did not pay. Hmm… I wonder if there’s another word for ‘unpaid worker’.

But the drama doesn’t stop there, fam..

He impregnated his “unpaid worker”

Helen Demuth bore a son named Frederich in 1851 while working for Marx and Engels in London. Marx, worried that this would impact his marriage and reputation, had Engels claim responsibility for the child. Frederich Demuth was given away to be raised by a working-class family, and was never acknowledged by Marx. When he visited his mother later in his life, after Marx’s death, he was only allowed to come through the servant’s entrance, and was completely ignored by Engels.

Neither Marx nor Engels provided him with any financial legacy after their deaths, though one of Marx’s daughters gave him a small portion of their estate. Demuth died in poverty after spending a hard life as a factory laborer.

Marx was anti-Semitic and racist

While ol’ Karl was born to Jewish parents, he wrote excessively about his dislike for his own people. “What was the profane basis of Judaism?” he wrote. “Practical need. Self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.”

Marx also commented on the US annexation of then-Mexican California during the Mexico-America war, saying “Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?”

So, there you have it! Five things you didn’t know about Karl Marx. Maybe you should think twice before declaring yourself a proud Marxist…

Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.