Marx Myths & Legends

Maximilien Rubel

The Legend of Marx, or “Engels the founder”

Whilst there has been much published that distinguishes between Marx and "Marxism", and aims to demonstrate the non-continuities between the two, Rubel's “La Légende de Marx ou Engels fondateur” is a classic example. Rubel argues that the development of "Marxism" as a distinct ideology should be traced not to Marx, but to some utterances of Engels, and to early sectarian conflicts within the international, where terms like "Marxism" were originally used pejoratively.

Source: Rubel originally prepared his “Gesichtspunkte zum thema ‘Engels als Begründer’” as a paper in German for the “Internationale wissenschaftliche Engels-Konferenz” of May 1970 in Wuppertal, but first published it in French in 1972 as “La Légende de Marx ou Engels fondateur” in Études de Marxology, Série S, No. 5. Socialisme : Science et Ethique. This version is translated from the French by Rob Lucas for “Marx Myths and Legends” and is covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0.

Biographical information

Maximilien Rubel was born in 1905 in Czernowitz, which was at that time within Austro-Hungary. He was educated in law and philosophy in Vienna and Czernowitz before moving to France to study German studies at the Sorbonne, from which he received his Licence-ès-lettres in 1934. He became a French citizen in 1937, and shortly after began publishing the literary magazine Verbe-Cahiers humains, before being drafted into the French Army. Due to his Jewish origins, Rubel lived semi-secretly in Paris under the German occupation. In his encounters with Marxist members of the resistance movement in this milieu Rubel was reputedly astonished by the incoherence and confusion that surrounded Marx and so-called "scientific" socialism. In difficult circumstances Rubel then set to work to gain a thorough understanding of Marx's life and work. It was Rubel who originally coined the term "marxologie" to refer to a systematic scholarly approach to the understanding of Marx and Marxism, which he saw as quite distinct. After the war, Rubel continued with his research, first publishing on Marx in 1946, and receiving a Doctorate-ès-lettres from the Sorbonne in 1954. He joined the Centre d'études sociologiques in the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) in 1947, and retired as Maître de recherche honoraire in 1970. Rubel published widely on Marx- more than 80 titles- and had a very active academic career which cannot be detailed here. He combined controversial readings of Marx with rigorous scholarship, and was frequently polemical in his criticisms of the ideologies of "Marxism", which he often contrasted with a view of working class liberation that emphasised the "self-movement" of the working class above all else. Maximilien Rubel died in Paris in 1996 at the age of 91.

See also: the Maximilien Rubel pages at