Re: [OPE-L] Marxmyth or Marxfact? (M&E on economic equality for women)

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Mon Sep 12 2005 - 21:27:36 EDT

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From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
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Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 2:14 PM
Subject: Marxmyth or Marxfact? (M&E on economic equality for women)

Marx revealed his own thinking in the 1844 Paris Manuscripts as follows:

"In the relationship with woman, as the prey and handmaid of communal lust,
is expressed the infinite degradation in which man exists for himself -- for
the secret of this relationship has its unambiguous, decisive, open and
revealed expression in the relationship of man to woman and in the manner in
which the direct, natural species- relationship is conceived. The immediate,
natural, necessary relation of human being to human being is the
relationship of man to woman. In this natural species-relationship, the
relation of man to nature, is immediately his relation to man, just as his
relation to man is immediately his relation to nature, his own natural
condition. Therefore, this relationship reveals in a sensuous form, reduced
to an observable fact, the extent to which the human essence has become
nature for man, or nature has become the human essence for man. It is
possible to judge from this relationship the entire level of development of
mankind. It follows from the character of this relationship of this
relationship how far man as a species-being, as man, has become himself and
grasped himself; the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation
of human being to human being. It therefore demonstrates the extent to which
man's natural behavior has become human or the extent to which his human
essence has become a natural essence for him, the extent to which his human
nature has become nature for him. This relationship also demonstrates the
extent to which man's needs have become human needs, hence the extent to
which the other, as a human being, has become a need for him, the extent to
which in his most individual existence he is at the same time a communal

Of interest also is the following passage from the same source:

"Just as women are to go from marriage into general prostitution, so the
whole world of wealth -- i.e., the objective essence of man -- is to make
the transition from the relation of exclusive marriage with the private
owner to the relation of universal prostitution with the community. This
[petit-bourgeois, pseudo-] communism, inasmuch as it negates the personality
of man in every sphere, is simply the logical expression of the private
property which is this negation. Universal envy constituting itself as a
power is the hidden form in which greed reasserts itself and satisfies
itself, but in another way. The thoughts of every piece of private property
as such are at least turned against richer private property in the form of
envy and the desire to level everything down; hence these feelings in fact
constitute the essence of competition. The crude communist is merely the
culmination of this envy and desire to level down on the basis of a
preconceived minimum. It has a definite, limited measure. How little this
[primitive attempt at] abolition of private property is a true
appropriation, is shown by the abstract negation of the entire world of
culture and civilization, and the return to the unnatural simplicity of the
poor, unrefined man who has no needs and who has not yet even reached the
stage of private property, let along gone beyond it."

Marx could, of course, be wrong about all that. Saul K. Padover provides
detailed commentary on Marx's personal relationships in his very insightful
book "Karl Marx: An Intimate Biography" (a useful complement to Francis
Wheen), quoting Marx's letter to Kugelmann of December 12, 1868: "Social
progress can be measured accurately by the social status of the beautiful
sex (the ugly ones included)". The fact that Marx repeated this view
several times, suggests that it was a real principle or belief of his. But
just how utterly clueless Marx could be, in regard to women in real life,
and how he  might fancy himself a "knight in shining armour", coming to
the emotional  rescue of women, is illustrated by this quote:

 " his early years in London... [Marx] was riding in an omnibus with
 Wilhelm Liebknecht when he heard a shrill female voice screaming 'Murder!
 Murder!'. At this sound of the strumpet, Marx leaped from the carriage and,
 followed by a reluctant Liebknecht, rushed to the rescue of the lady, who,
 it happened, was a drunken wife whom her husband was trying to get home. As
 Marx, obviously an alien and speaking broken English, barged in, the
 wrangling couple, instantly reconciled by the onset of a stranger, turned
 furiously on him, the intoxicated female going after his provocatively
 magnificant beard. A crowd soon joined in the attack on the "damned
 foreigners", who were finally rescued by two burly constables." (op. cit.,
 p. 266, abridged NAL edition 1978).

 Although Marx could be extraordinarily bawdy in male company, it appears
 from the evidence that his actual intimate experience of the range of women
 there are was, in truth, rather limited, and that, on the whole - give or
 take a few episodes, such as getting Helene Demuth pregnant - he was a
 pretty loyal husband, who deeply loved his wife and children, who, in turn,
 were very loyal to him, even although he was very poor at providing for
 them, materially.

The general picture you get from the evidence is, that Marx, like sexual
radicals like Charles Fourier and Paul Lafargue, was honest and radical
enough to think through the relevant topics to the very end, but at the
same time, could not help being the real person he truly was, within the
given epoch of history - the evidence is, that he could see well beyond
that epoch, yet at a personal and intimate level, he often also remained its
prisoner, since he could not very well "jump out of society" as it really
was, and had his own emotional sensitivities and vulnerabilities, which he
could not very well deny, beyond getting into a terrible temper at times.
In the famous parlour game he played with his daughter Laura, he said he
thought his favourite virtue in men was "strength" and his favourite virtue
in women was "weakness" (their capacity to yield). Today one might regard
that as "sexist", but a moment's sober logical thought will lead to the
conclusion that Marx really thought that women could be very, very
strong...  stronger than he, in which case their weakening could really be a
"virtue",  from his own point of view. Presumably, his replies to his
daughter were  also specifically intended for her own education, and not
simply a confession of personal faith.

It would be great, I've often thought, if somebody would finally write a
genuinely comprehensive, objective, honest and truthful biography of Karl
Marx as person, thinker and politician, or make a good movie about him, but
at present it's still "music of the future" (Zukunftsmuzik), I guess.
Mostly, media people seem to think they have to reconcile the past with the
present, never mind a media product which is totally honest, unconventional
and up-front, made in a conscientious spirit regardless of how people might
think of it. The thought that always seems to lurk in the background is
that somebody always ought to "pay". Personally, I like to think, Marx was
such a  revolutionary spirit, that people are still too still frightened to
tell the  true and real story about him.


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