Did Marx Really Say This?
by Sean Gabb
In the past few days, I’ve had this alleged quote from Kark Marx sent to me about a dozen times:
“Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism.”
It’s followed by the alleged attribution: “Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867”
I’m not much of a Marx scholar. However, this looks remarkably like the alleged statements on gun control by “Adolphe” Hitler, and all those musings on Jews and central banking by American revolutionaries. I’m pretty sure it’s a fake.
First, look at the language used. I grant that this is supposed to have been translated from German. Even so, the word “stimulate” only took on the meaning given here in the 1930s. The word “technology” only came into general use in the 1960s.
Next, look at the implied theory. Marx claimed that market forces would push wage rates down to subsistence level, and that universal immiserisation would bring on the socialist revolution – communism coming only later. This passage claims that immiserisation will come about through debt slavery, and that there will be an institutional jump to communism.
And there are the implied facts. Even in England, there was no consumer credit available to the working classes until after the Great War. In the 1860s, there was building society lending to buy property, and the usual loan sharks. The banks played no part in this. The 1866 banking crisis was brought on by a stock market collapse, and had something to do with over-investment in railway building. No other banking crisis of the 19th century was brought on by working class failure to keep up debt repayments.
I say, then, that the quote is another fake. Most of these are made up by Americans, too lazy to do proper research or eager to project their own silly notions into the past. This one, I suspect, was made up by a Frenchman who learned British English. The overall tone is slightly French, and the spelling of “nationalised” is British.
Why are these fake quotes nearly always so obviously fake? Why do so many people believe them?