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“Revolutionary holocaust”: did Marx write this?

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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.

Click in the above picture to buy interesting books about Marxism

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):


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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  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.

    • Comment by post author

      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.

    • somegermanguy

      Your Argument that the Perishing of an Nation and Genocide are the same thing is complete nonsense. Take for example Germany, before it was united as the German Kaiserreich, there were many smal nations like the Bavarian Kingdom, Prussia etc. they all perished as nations, without mass killings or Genocide. So massmurder isn’t a “very basic principle of communism”, just read Marx.

      • Delli Verat

        Prussians were a nation that colonists from Germany destroyed and took their name. Secondly, Germany was not communist.

  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.

  3. Guybrush

    Although obviously manipulative, “world storm” could by all rights be translated as “holocaust”. The two words carry the same meaning, as in “the burning of the world”, like “nuclear holocaust”.

  4. Jesse

    It truly amazes me how little people care about actually looking up the sources of their information.

    As mentioned in the article, it wasn’t Marx who wrote about a revolutionary holocaust, but it was Engels. This can be verified in this J-stor article (see page 137), which is an actual online scientific library instead of just more internet-BS: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2709420

    the original german text from Engels:

    “Alle anderen kleinen Stämme und Völker haben zunächst die Mission, im revolutionären Weltsturm unterzugehen.”

    Weltsturm is a combination of two words. Welt = world and sturm = storm, making “world storm”. So neither Marx nor Engels actually used the world Holocaust.

    • Comment by post author

      Otávio Pinto

      Thanks for the relevant comment.

    • John

      But they were both intellectual partners where Karl Marx hated the Jews. So there is a lot of validity to the quote, and people can still quoted specially if they include “By Karl Marx & Engels.”
      “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. … Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man—and turns them into commodities. … The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. … The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.” Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” 1844

    • John

      The quote is from both. They both hated the Jews. That is where Hitler advanced this philosophy. Nazism. He quoted: “What Marxism, Leninism, and Stalinism failed to accomplish, we shall be in a position to achieve.”

      • Dimitri

        Because you lack reading about the subjects involved, you are completely missing the point. Marx himself was of jewish descent and was discussing Jewish religion impact on society, not jewish people “innate race characteristics” like nazi writers did. And in that very writing, he was concerned about jewish liberation, as we can see on the excerpt:

        “The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.”

        It’s in the last line of that writing. Please, get there and finish your reading instead of drawing hasty conclusions, will you?

  5. Asuna

    The Völkerabfälle means “people trash” in English in fact. And Marx is a Jewish who betrayed Judaism in fact.

  6. Ilija Sikic

    The quote is most likely not distributed cleanly in the “original tone” and is certainly not easy to attribute to one or more authors.
    On the other hand, the basic idea behind it is not difficult to assign to Karl Marx’s ideobubble, even if the term Holocaust was not used in the later sense at that time.
    At some point someone wrote this and it is true that it fits Karl Marx and his ideas.
    As a result, I will attribute this “quote”, e.g. to certain Ms. Shwab, only because the content of the statement is credible and reliable.
    It is laughable to discuss who and when someone wrote or blessed something instead of dealing with the meaning of the message.
    Well, I find such a claim (“quote”) so in keeping with the spirit of the times that nothing can stop me from spreading it, even under a fictional name.
    The message has been delivered!

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