The Corner

The Elephant in the Room in My Pajamas

One thing about the New York Times and its monomaniacal obsessions: It never lets you down. Via my PJ Media colleague Ed Driscoll comes this deeply comical review of a new Karl Marx biography (oh, goody!) by Jonathan Sperber; the reviewer is Jonathan Freedland:

The Karl Marx depicted in Jonathan Sperber’s absorbing, meticulously researched biography will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. Here is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain “slummy,” and who can be maddeningly inconsistent when not lapsing into elaborate flights of theory and unintelligible abstraction.

Still, it comes as a shock to realize that the ultimate leftist, the father of Communism itself, fits a recognizable pattern. It’s like discovering that Jesus Christ regularly organized bake sales at his local church . . .

I almost stopped reading at that point, and not just because the odious fraud whose thoroughly discredited philosophy has been responsible for more death and misery than anyone else in human history is such a repellent figure — the great Paul Johnson already told us that, in his chapter on Marx (“Howling Gigantic Curses”) in his indispensable book on the pathology of some of humanity’s worst nut cases, Intellectuals. Cads (Rousseau), rotters (Ibsen), hypocrites (Brecht) and mountebanks (Sartre), they’re all here, like exhibitions in a particularly frightening freak show. Where’s Tod Browning when we need him?

But because tiresome late-stage leftist publications like the Times – in whose drearily predictable pages nearly all opinions are now threadbare hand-me-downs, the intellectual love children of George Bernard Shaw and Lillian Hellman — continue to so bitterly cling to figures like Marx, and try to justify their long-running love affair with demonstrable evil. Indeed, their entire world view is predicated on the notion of being in “brave” opposition to something, anything — preferably some sort of rightist conspiracy to muzzle their crackpot ideas (a conspiracy we might call “Western civilization”). In order to do that, however, they need to reach for the comparative moral authority they and their totems so conspicuously lack.

And thus the gratuitous reference to Jesus — someone they’ve just proved they don’t understand the first thing about.

The elephant in the room, of course, is what a noxious human being Marx was: a lazy, penurious anti-Semitic bum who — possibly inspired by Rousseau – fathered a child by his maidservant, lived off the largesse of another devil, Friedrich Engels (German speakers will understand) and the British public dole. An odd choice for a substitute Jesus figure, one might think. 

But wait — there’s more! Having dragged Christianity into his review, Freedland concludes by observing:

Sperber forces us to look anew at a man whose influence lives on. And he also offers a useful template for how we might approach other great figures, especially the great thinkers, of history — demystifying the words and deeds of those who too often are lazily deemed sacred. For all the books that have been written about America’s founding fathers, for example, we still await the historian who will do for them what Jonathan Sperber has done for Karl Marx.

Jesus, the Founding Fathers . . . and Karl Marx. Sure, why not? Ed observes:

As Tim Blair quips, “Stinky, Broke, and Mad” is no way to go through life, son. And yeah, that’s the guy whose ideas you want to run with, to totally upend millennia worth of mankind’s accumulated social and economic wisdom, hit the CTL-ALT-DLT keys on civilization, and completely reboot your nation. What could go wrong?

What indeed? Ask the former Soviets who lived out Marx’s evil fantasy for nearly a century and still haven’t recovered. Or better yet, just consult this Marx:

Of course, in Alabama, the Tuscaloosa. But that’s entirely irrelephant to what I was talking about.

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