Marx Myths & Legends

Francis Wheen

Marx and the Working Class

Francis Wheen's 1999 biography of Marx, from which this is extracted, painted a warts-and-all portrait which shatters all the romantic and orthodox-Marxist idealisations of the founder of modern communism, while leaving intact and perhaps clearer than ever, Marx’s essential humanist and critical insights into the trajectory of modernity. Francis would not agree with Terrell Carver on the question of the alleged illegitimate son, but even the most devoted follower of Karl Marx will recognise the merit of Francis’s study. We have selected a short piece from the biography which deals with the myth that Marx had contempt for ordinary workers and self-educated socialists.

Source: “Karl Marx,” © Francis Wheen 1999, pp 276-292. Used with permission of the author.

Biographical information

Francis Wheen is not a “Marxologist” or academic but rather, an active writer and journalist, named “Columnist of the Year” for his contributions to The Guardian. He is also author of a highly acclaimed biography Karl Marx which has been translated into twenty languages. His collected journalism, Hoo-Hahs and Passing Frenzies, won the George Orwell Prize in 2003, and his most recent book, How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions, tackles the top-10 myths of modernity from neo-liberal and US Republican demonology to new age and postmodern fantasies. In June 2005, Das Kapital will be published, in which Francis sketches the story of the writing and the impact of Marx’s history-making book.

See also: Francis Wheen's top 10 modern delusions