Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Karl Marx


Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen



Karl Marx’s two hundredth birth anniversary was celebrated on May 5th of this year.  His philosophy, as expressed in the Communist Manifesto and other writings, is revered by some and reviled by others. The purpose of this article is not to discuss Marxism, but to bring to light some odd facts about this influential thinker.

1)      Ironically, Marx didn’t like Russians. A lot of his antipathy came from his fellow Germans who, at that time, regarded Russians as barbarians. He also considered Russia, under control of the Tsar at that time, to be the biggest enemy of communism and thought his revolutionary ideas best-fitted for England, France and Germany.

2)      He named all his daughters “Jenny” in honor of his wife Jenny von Westphalen. It appears that he loved his wife dearly, but there is evidence that he had an affair with their housekeeper, Helene Dumuth.

3)      One of his maternal uncles founded the Phillips Company (later Phillips Electronics) and became an extremely wealthy man. Loans from his family were crucial for Marx’s financial solvency

4)      He had to use pseudonyms to rent houses or flats in order to escape surveillance from authorities. He remained quite poor for most of his life.

5)      He worked as a reporter for an American newspaper, the New York Daily Tribune, founded by Horace Greeley in 1841. It provided a source of regular income while he lived in London.

6)      Marx suffered from terrible health. He drank copiously, smoked excessively and slept poorly. This aggravated an existing liver problem and caused him much pain.

7)      He suffered from “carbuncles,” or painful boils on the skin, brought about by his poor liver, bad diet and habits, and was blamed for his sarcastic and insulting nature, which he displayed even to his closest friends. The abscesses were so bad that he could neither sit nor work in an upright position.

8)      He died a stateless person. Though Prussian (German) by birth, he was exiled because of his radical activities. He also lived in France and Belgium, both of which ordered him to leave. He finally settled in London, where he wrote most of his famous works.

9)      Only between nine and eleven persons attended his funeral, including his two surviving daughters and their husbands. His tomb is located in the East Highgate Cemetery, London.

10)  In honor of Marx’s bicentennial, the Government of China gifted a 4.5 meter (15 foot) statue of the man to Germany. It was installed in Trier, the small Westphalian town where Marx was born, on the fifth of May, 2018.


Mohan Ashtakala is the author of The Yoga Zapper, published by Books We Love.


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