Karl Marx: The Dad That Failed


1845-1945 / Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

The God that Failed is a 1949 collection of essays by men and women familiar with and thereby disenchanted with socialism. While an egoist might prefer to consider individuals as individuals, moment by moment, a socialist will instead visit praise and condemnation on groups based on group considerations.  Here, let me try that on for size, tell me what you think.

Karl Marx was a friend to Max Stirner until he wasn’t.  Marx betrayed Stirner first by giving him the cold shoulder as Stirner sank deeper into poverty, and second by a book-length diatribe against his dead former friend eventually published as The German Ideology.

Marx married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843.  Their first child Jenny Caroline seems to have done well enough.  The Marx household economized by a third use for their second child of the same first name with Jenny Laura.  Jenny Laura committed suicide with her husband Paul Lafargue, author of the egoist-sympathetic book The Right to Be Lazy.  The next three children and their last seventh child died young. The father of economics was never able to provide for his children, instead being supported by his sugar-daddy Friedrich Engels and baby-mamma Jenny. Jenny the first sold her own possessions at the pawn shop and gave the money to Marx, starting a tradition that continues to this very day.

Child six, the fifth Jenny, Jenny Julia Eleanor, was partnered to Edward Aveling. Eleanor worked as a translator, including Anarchism and Socialism by George Plechanoff.  Plechanoff’s book rightly credits Max Stirner as the “father of anarchism.”  Eleanor and Edward were active in British socialist circles. Edward especially so, eloping with another and driving Eleanor to suicide.

But these were not the only children of Marx.  In 1851 while mother Jenny was out of the country, her mother (not a Jenny!) hired a maid for Marx named Helene Demuth.  Marx made his maid and the two produce a child.  Friedrich Engels played the perfect wing-man to Marx, allowing the bastard son to take his name and pretending it was his indiscretion, not empowered-boss-Marx sleeping with exploited-employee-Demuth.  Young Frederick Demuth was brought up by a working-class family in England, receiving not one penny of support from his father nor ever meeting Marx.  It was a deathbed confession of Engels that revealed the ruse; Freddy Demuth never knew.

And there you have it – Stirner fathered an idea and Marx fathered suicides and abandoned children.

But I’m not sure I like this thought experiment, wherein the iniquity of the father is visited on the children. I do prefer to consider individuals as individuals, moment by moment.  I’ll leave the group think to socialists.