Walter E. Williams: Syndicated Columnist
Karl Marx is the hero of some labor union leaders and civil rights organizations, including those who organized the recent protest against proposed immigration legislation. It’s easy to be a Marxist if you haven’t read his writings. Most people agree that Marx’s predictions about capitalism turned out to be dead wrong.
What most people don’t know is that Marx was an out and out racist and anti-Semite. He didn’t think much of Mexicans. Concerning the annexation of California after the Mexican-American War, Marx wrote:
“Without violence nothing is ever accomplished in history.” Then he asks, “Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?”
Friedrich Engels, Marx’s co-author of the “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” added, “In America we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will be placed under the tutelage of the United States.”
Much of Marx’s ideas can be found in a book written by former communist Nathaniel Weyl, titled “Karl Marx, Racist” (1979).
In a July 1862 letter to Engels, in reference to his socialist political competitor, Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx wrote, “. . . it is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a nigger. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also nigger-like.”
Engels shared much of Marx’s racial philosophy. In 1887, Paul Lafargue, who was Marx’s son-in-law, was a candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo. Engels claimed that Paul had “one eighth or one twelfth nigger blood.” In an April 1887 letter to Paul’s wife, Engels wrote, “Being in his quality as a nigger, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.”
Though few claim him as their own, such as leftists claim Karl Marx, Thomas Carlyle is another unappreciated historical figure. Carlyle is best known for giving economics the derogatory name “dismal science,” an inversion of the phrase “gay science,” which at the time (1849) referred to life-enhancing knowledge.
Most people have incorrectly learned that the term “dismal science” had its origins in reference to Thomas Malthus’ gloomy predictions that the global population would grow faster than food supplies, condemning mankind to perpetual poverty and starvation.
My George Mason University colleague, Professor Davy Levy, and his co-author, Sandra Peart, tell the true story in their 2001 book, “The Secret History of the Dismal Science: Economics, Religion and Race in the 19th Century.”
Carlyle first used the term “dismal science” in his 1849 pamphlet entitled “An Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question.” He attacked the ideas of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and other free market, limited government economists for their belief in the fundamental equality of man and their anti-slavery positions. The fact that economics assumes that people are all the same and are equally deserving of liberty was offensive to Carlyle and led him to call economics the dismal science.
Carlyle argued that blacks were subhuman, “two-legged cattle,” who needed the tutelage of whites wielding the “beneficent whip” if they were to contribute to the good of society. Carlyle was by no means alone in denouncing economics for its anti-slavery and pro-equality position.
No less a historical figure and a Christmastime favorite, Charles Dickens, author of “A Christmas Carol,” shared Carlyle’s positions on pro-slavery and blacks as subhuman.
Marx, Engels, Carlyle and Dickens all share one belief prevalent throughout mankind’s history down to today: the belief that some people are endowed with superior intelligence and wisdom and they’ve been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the masses.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He writes for Creators Syndicate and may be contacted at: