Charles Rappoport 1903

Karl Marx

Source: Le Socialiste, March 22-29, 1903;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor.

March 14 was the twentieth anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, the greatest master of scientific and revolutionary socialism. His adversaries themselves nicknamed him “the Darwin of social science.”

A propos of this, we think it useful to cite several characteristic passages from a letter Frederick Engels, his close friend and brother in arms, addressed to a mutual friend, F. Sorge, who lived in America. This letter was written March 15, 1883, that is, the day after the death of the greatest thinker of our time:

All events which take place by natural necessity bring their own consolation with them, however dreadful they may be. So in this case. Medical skill might have been able to give him a few more years of vegetative existence, the life of a helpless being, dying – to the triumph of the doctors’ art – not suddenly, but inch by inch. But our Marx could never have borne that. To have lived on with all his uncompleted works before him, tantalised by the desire to finish them and yet unable to do so, would have been a thousand times more bitter than the gentle death which overtook him. “Death is not a misfortune for him who dies, but for him who survives,” he used to say, quoting Epicurus. And to see that mighty genius lingering on as a physical wreck to the greater glory of medicine and to the scorn of the philistines whom in the prime of his strength he had so often put to rout – no, it is better, a thousand times better, as it is – a thousand times better that we shall in two days’ time carry him to the grave where his wife lies at rest...

Be that as it may, mankind is shorter by a head, and the greatest head of our time at that. The proletarian movement goes on, but gone is its central figure to which Frenchmen, Russians, Americans and Germans spontaneously turned at critical moments, to receive always that clear incontestable counsel which only genius and a perfect understanding of the situation could give. Local lights and lesser minds, if not the humbugs, will now have a free hand. The final victory is certain, but circuitous paths, temporary and local errors – things which even now are so unavoidable – will become more common than ever. Well, we must see it through. What else are we here for?

And we are not near losing courage yet.

With a few masterful strokes Frederick Engels has painted a portrait of the man and explained his historical role. Karl Marx put an end to doctrinal and practical confusionism. He showed the proletariat the road on its march to the conquest of a new world.

His doctrine is a superior arm of remarkable precision. It is impossible to replace. Marx predicted and defined the role the socialist proletariat will play in the world. Not a one of the great living bourgeois philosophers – nor sociologists, nor moralists – have given their name to a historic modern movement. Marx alone gave the key to the contemporary social movement that recognizes him as master. Marx killed the confusionism that they now seek to resuscitate. He pitilessly unmasked all the fabricators of petty reformist projects. He scientifically established the inevitable, fatal arrival of the social revolution that capitalist society carries in its very womb.

Each passing day the social and political evolution confirms the doctrine of Marx.

In the economic domain it is capitalist concentration in the form of trusts that is determining a new socialist thrust in the two most powerful nations in the world. In the political domain we note that all those who have deserted the doctrine of Marx – the men of the “new method” – find themselves in the enemy camp, participating in the power of the dominant classes and doomed to disappear at the same time and along with them. All the opportunist critics of Marx more or less openly abandoned socialism while all the while exploiting it.

They only kept the name, which they have seriously compromised. Karl Marx thus today remains more than ever the rallying point for all those who have remained faithful to socialism and the organized and victorious revolution.

In hoc signo vinces [In this sign thou shalt conquer]