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“Revolutionary holocaust”: did Marx write this?

“THE CLASSES AND THE RACES, TOO WEAK TO MASTER THE NEW CONDITIONS OF LIFE, MUST GIVE WAY. THEY MUST GIVE PERISH IN THE REVOLUTIONARY HOLOCAUST.”

This quote can be found in several websites of different languages around the web, perhaps in an attempt to associate Karl Marx to the Nazi ideology. Whoever claims the German thinker wrote it, never provides an authentic source.

In an online search, I have found an interesting discussion on “reddit” about it, based on original documents by communist authors, Marx and Engels. Starting from there, it was possible to search for the original sources to try to find the origin of the quote and verify its authenticity.

In march 22nd, 1853, Karl Marx wrote in an article published in the “New York Daily Tribune”, in which he criticizes the  development of capitalism (words in bold by me):

Society is undergoing a silent revolution, which must be submitted to, and which takes no more notice of the human existences it breaks down than an earthquake regards the houses it subverts. The classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way. But can there be anything more puerile, more short-sighted, than the views of those Economists who believe in all earnest that this woeful transitory state means nothing but adapting society to the acquisitive propensities of capitalists, both landlords and money-lords? In Great Britain the working of that process is most transparent. The application of modern science to production clears the land of its inhabitants, but it concentrates people in manufacturing towns.

In another article, written in 1849, Friedrich Engels (Marx’s intellectual partner) talks about the 1848 revolutions, the role of the nations involved, and how people used to be oppressed become counter-revolutionary:

How did this division of the nations come about, what was its basis?

The division is in accordance with all the previous history of the nationalities in question. It is the beginning of the decision on the life or death of all these nations, large and small.

All the earlier history of Austria up to the present day is proof of this and 1848 confirmed it. Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary.

All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary

Well, by putting together both parts in bold, one by Marx, the other from Engels, we get this phrase:

“The classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way (…)  are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm”.

Nearly identical to the widespread “Marx quote”! Therefore, it is plausible to conclude it to be fake; made up by uniting two unrelated parts of articles written by two different authors. The term “holocaust” (non-existent in Engles text) was also added to cause a bigger impact, probably in an attempt to blame Marx for the later Nazi racism.

However, one question remains: where did this hoax come from? The word “Holocaust” attributed to Marx and/or Engels, perhaps was first reported by British historian and literary critic, George G. Watson, in an article written in 1976, where he connects Marxism to racism. The author transcribes a part of a text that he claims to be published by Marx, “but probably written by Engels”: ” The chief mission of all other races and peoples — large and small—is to perish in the revolutionary holocaust. Therefore they are counterrevolutionary”. One can notice that the author, despite not correctly transcribing the phrase (switched “nationalities” for “races”, for example), replaced the original expression (I don’t know if deliberately of wrongly induced by other writer) “revolutionary world storm” for “revolutionary holocaust”. 

And what about the complete quote? In a 2008 documentary called “The Soviet History”, the aforementioned George G. Watson, claims:

It first appeared in January 1849, in Marx’s journal,  Neue Rheinische Zeitung”, Engels wrote how the class war, in Marxist terms. When socialist revolution happens, war class happens, there will be primitive societies in Europe, two stages behind, because they are not even capitalists yet. And he had in mind the Basques, Bretons, the Scottish islanders, the Serbs. He calls them ‘racial trash’ (note from this post’s author: that expression , ‘racial trash’, also does not exist in the original text). And they would have to be destroyed, because being two stages behind in the historic struggle, it would be impossible to bring them up to the point of the revolutionary.

Next, the documentary’s narrator read “Marx’s quote”. In the captured image, it indicates that two different texts were put together (image and video of the that part of the documentary below):

karl-marx-holocausto-revolucionário

As we can see, by claiming Marx said that, the person who made the documentary did not even pay attention to the words stated by the historian seconds before: he mentioned an article by Engles, not Marx. Perhaps the fake Marx quote was created in that total mess, because only since 2008 (date of the documentary), it started to be disseminated online.

Finally, it is important to inform that Glenn Beck, famous controversial journalist, also helped spread such false quote in a special edition of his Fox News show, called  “The revolutionary holocaust”.

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3 Comments

  1. John Smith

    I appreciate the work that you did and I completely agree with what you wrote. However, this does not mean that the argument, that the Marx and Engels believed that the small nations not good enough for revolution will have to give away and perish. This still means that even the very basic principles of communism are based on genocide and mass killings, that happens in all communistic countries.

    • Otávio Pinto

      Thanks, John Smith.
      I respect your opinion about that.
      Since I’m not a marxist, this post is not in anyway a defense of marxism or communist countries. It’s just about finding out if that quote is true or not.

  2. “Holocaust” is just a Greek word for the Hebrew “Shoah”, which means “Sacrifice by Fire”. Marx could have said it pretty well as he was from a traditional rabbinical family. This has nothing to do with Nazism or anything as they never coined the term “holocaust”, which was commonly used as Jewish slang meaning anihilation (ie., the Holodomor in Ukraine can be very well testify the use of that statement).

    Also anything tributed to Engels is of dubious authority, Marx would write while Engels would pay and have his name as co-author, but this is just speculation anyway.

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