(OPE-L) The last years of Karl Marx

From: OPE-L Administrator (ope-admin@ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 27 2003 - 19:24:59 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <j.bendien@wolmail.nl>
To: <gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM>
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 4:03 PM
Subject: The last years of Karl Marx

 Hi Jerry,

 You wrote:

 I have no doubt that the defeat of the Paris Commune of 1871 -- and
the  ending of the First International -- led to a change in the amount
of time that he  allocated to theoretical projects vs. more direct forms
of political activism,  but he was a revolutionary to the end and his
theoretical and  historical studies  have to be placed within the
context of his larger revolutionary  project in  order  to be properly
comprehended. He might have been in despair  personally,  given  his
poor health and the poverty of his family, but I think he died  with
(overconfidence, perhaps) in the future success of the communist

You are correct I think. See on this issue Saul K. Padover, Karl Marx:
An Intimate Portrait, Chapter 24: Final Years. Although Marxological
research has advanced since that time, this is still a useful
reference.  At this time, Marx suffered from multiple health problems,
partly due to the way he had lived his life, partly due to what must
appear to us now as whacky medical care (for example, for the pleura,
the medical remedy was tattooing the chest and back with iodine -
Padover, p. 337). The death of his wife Jenny affected him very
greatly, as far as we can establish from the documentation, as much as
the death of his first-born.

KM wrote to his daughter Laura in English on December 14, 1882:

"Some recent Russian publications, printed in Holy Russia, not abroad,
show the great run of my theories in that country. Nowhere my success is
to be more delightful; it gives me the satisfaction that I damage a
power which, besides England, is the true bulwark of the old society".
(quoted by Padover, p. 340 in the abridged edition).

So there is a sense in which Marx felt vindicated, and happy that he had
been able to put a nail in the coffin of a decaying social order
(although I believe Marx was a little Eurocentric in his view of
Russian society, he could not see any positive features of peasant
society). I'm sure there is a lesson in this for Marxists though,
namely that, if you take your own ideas seriously, you ought also to
look after your own health in a practical, no-nonsense way. Agreed, good
medical care is often expensive these days, but there are many
conditions which we can prevent on own initiative, through personal life
style changes. Admittedly, one of the tragic features of life in class
society is that it drives people to become totally reckless with their
health, through alienation, despair and relentless exploitation.

Padover also mentions Marx's interest in mathematics and econometric
modelling at the end of his life - as I said on your list once, Marx
anticipated the econometric modelling of economic fluctuations.

I conveyed my condolences to a friend of Mark Jones.



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