The vandal of Karl Marx’s grave & the idiocy of their critique — by Matt Florence

What degree of understanding of Marx (or glaring lack of) did the vandal posses?

Photographs of the recent vandalism done to Karl Marx’s grave, uploaded by Highgate Cemetery twitter.

“Architect of genocide” scrawled across the tomb of a man who never held any political power and whose family would become the victims of Nazi genocide. “Doctrine of hate” used to describe a Victorian era man who fought against slavery, opposed colonialism and called for women to have equal rights to men. “Memorial to bolshevik genocide” are the words that a certain vandal used to describe a man who died decades before the bolsheviks existed and whose later followers would put an end to the actual holocaust.

No matter what your ideological affiliation, it is clear to everyone that whoever wrote this critique of Karl Marx upon his tomb has very little understanding of who Marx was, what he believed or even when he was alive. With this said let us examine the text in detail and uncover how much understanding (or lack of) said vandal has when it comes to communist history.

The full text is as follows:

Front: “MemoRIAl To bolshevik HOLOCAUST 1917 1953 66,000,000 DEAD”.

Back: “Architect of Genocide terror + oppression MASS murder”.

Sides: “Ideology of Sterving”. “Doctrine of HATE”.


MemoRIAl To bolshevik HOLOCAUST 1917 1953 66,000,000”:

To the untrained eye the text reads “1919–1753” but this isn’t what it says. When read downwards the dates are “1917–1953”, which makes more sense because these years were important in communist history. 1917 was the date of the October Revolution, the first ever successful communist revolution. 1953 is the date that Stalin died. This hints that the vandal’s critique is probably more directed towards Lenin and Stalin, two of history’s most iconic Marxists, than it was Karl Marx as an individual. Perhaps the only reason Marx’s tomb became a target was because it was the nearest or most prominent communist icon. This could also explain why most of the vandal’s scribbling appear to make no sense, because most people who read it are only thinking about Karl Marx the person and not communist history as a whole.

The 66,000,000 dead number is a mystery. I Matt Florence, the author of this article, am a historian who specialises in communist history and I have never heard this 66 million death toll ever before. Randomly attributed death tolls contributed to communism are sadly so common that it has become somewhat of a meme.

“Architect of Genocide terror + oppression MASS murder”:

Firstly it should be said for “architect of genocide” that Karl Marx never held any political power and never personally took part in any violence with the exception of sword fights in his youth. Perhaps the vandal incorrectly assumed that Karl Marx was the leader of a country? Even at their very worst, communists have never committed any action that fits the literal definition of genocide. At worst communists have committed internment during wartime, police repression and started wars, but never have they committed genocide against any ethnic group.

Now onto “terror + oppression MASS murder”. Marx was no pacifist, he openly called for the overthrow of Europe’s Empires, the overthrow of all monarchies, the ending of the British workhouses, the destruction of many of Europe’s organized christian organizations which he saw as tools of corrupt politicians. Marx was even a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln and his war against the slave owning southern states. The bourgeoisie came to power and keep their power using violence in the form of the police and military, so to Marx it was fair game to use violence in turn. With his theories hinging upon his understanding of the French Revolution, nobody would ever argue that Marx was a pacifist. Whether or not this is seen as a negative depends on whether somebody believes that slavery, monarchy, capitalism and colonialism are good or bad things.

“Ideology of Sterving”. “Doctrine of HATE”.

Painting communism as the ideology of starvation isn’t something that makes a lot of sense when you take into account the several million at risk of famine in Yemen today, the cavalcade of endless famines that existed in Russia and China before their respective communist revolutions and when you compare food production to the beginning and ends of the USSR. When it was first founded the USSR suffered famines caused by the destruction of both World War 1 and the Civil War. Then again in 1932–1933 another famine caused by kulaks hoarding grain, poor government communication with peasants, flaws in economic planning, people selling grain overseas for a profit and of course classic foreign sanctions. The 1932–1933 famine would be the last ever famine ever experienced by Russia and Ukraine (outside of wartime) and for the majority of the USSR’s existence people would enjoy food security and even achieve a higher mean calorie intake than the USA.

As for “doctrine of hate”, hate against whom? The landlords that squeezed pennies out of Marx and his family? The churches and monarchs who hounded him his entire life and forced him into exile? The slave owners who Marx believed to be vermin? Marx had a hate for a lot of people, but by most modern moral standards most people can agree the people Marx hated most deserved it.