[OPE-L] Review of Spargo's _Karl Marx_

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Fri Sep 23 2005 - 20:31:34 EDT

Are there any Marx myths and legends in the following (1911) review in
_The Guardian_ (re-printed on Wednesday)?  / In solidarity, Jerry


 From the archive

The life of Marx

September 21 1911

Wednesday September 21, 2005

Karl Marx: His Life and Work, by John Spargo (National Labour Press,
Manchester, 8s 6d):

It is curious that this should be the first biography of Marx ever
written, and still more curious that it should be written in English.
John Spargo, a Marxian Socialist well-known in the US, has explored
with industry the copious available sources, and gleaned what he
could from persons who knew Marx in the flesh. Marx is to him not
only a master-teacher but a heroic personality, and if we have any
quarrel with his book it is that he makes it too little a study of
his mental development and too much an account of the details,
commonly petty or disappointing, of his external career.

Admiration for Marx on the personal side requires much qualification.
He had the egotism of genius, pardonable perhaps but very
unbeautiful. Everybody else was sacrificed to his idea. His wife's
life with him was one long squalid martyrdom. Of his six children,
three died practically of privation. The ugliness and meanness of his
34 years' London life in the dingiest of furnished apartments and
decaying stucco streets cannot be counted to him only for
righteousness; it was not a thought-out asceticism or a voluntary
effort to come near the workers; it was unredeemed poverty, for the
most part wilfully imposed on himself and his family for no other
reason than that he preferred studying in the British Museum to
earning a proper living.

No less unpleasant is the picture of his dealings with friends.
Saving Engels only, there is hardly a person in Mr Spargo's pages
with whom he did not bitterly quarrel. It is no good for Mr Spargo to
enlarge on his charm and lovableness with such a record against him.
Equally hard is it to tell a flattering tale of his achievements in
politics. How he failed to influence English Labour leaders may be
seen from the fact that after he had been over 30 years in England Mr
Hyndman and others could "discover" him and his doctrines as
something unheard of. When he died in London in 1883 "only a small
handful of mourners gathered round the grave".

Marx's greatness depends not on what he did, but on what he thought
and wrote. The cutting edge of his mind made him disagreeable and
unpractical to deal with, but it also made him a revealer of
wonderful suggestiveness in the domain of theory.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Sep 25 2005 - 00:00:02 EDT