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Title: Death to Capitalism? Visitors to Marx’s Grave Balk at Fee
Source: The Wall Street Journal
URL Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/death-t ... s-grave-balk-at-fee-1445818914
Published: Oct 26, 2015
Author: Alistair MacDonald & Ese Erheriene
Post Date: 2015-10-26 05:44:34 by Hondo68
Keywords: he wasnt a hippie, $6 to pay respects, callous cash payment
Views: 592

Karl Marx's grave is a popular feature at London's Highgate Cemetery.

Karl Marx's grave is a popular feature at London's Highgate Cemetery. Photo: Jean Marc CHARLES/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

HIGHGATE CEMETERY, LONDON—On a summer visit to the grave of Karl Marx, Ben Gliniecki found that he would have to pay £4, or about $6, to pay respects to the man who sounded the death knell for private property.

Mr. Gliniecki, a Marxist, said no.

Karl Marx

“Personally, I think it is disgusting,” the 24-year-old political activist said. “There are no depths of irony, or bad taste, to which capitalists won’t sink if they think they can make money out of it.”

The charity that looks after this cemetery has long taken swipe at a different irony: Karl Marx’s decision to buy a burial plot in a private London graveyard over the then state-provided alternatives. They say their cover fee subsidizes the upkeep of a cemetery where 170,000 other people rest.

The two sides have squabbled since the early 1990s, when the Friends of Highgate Cemetery began charging to fund the conservation of a burial ground whose elaborate gothic tombs and winding paths had fallen into disrepair. Now, the charge is infuriating a new generation of Marxists. Interest in his legacy is gaining fresh legs in Britain following September’s election of Jeremy Corbyn, a self-described Marx admirer, as leader of the opposition Labour Party.

The day after Mr. Corbyn’s victory, Mr. Gliniecki sold 50 copies of the Socialist Appeal newspaper at a rally attended by the new Labour leader. Mr. Gliniecki says he would typically sell 20 to 30 copies at such a rally. This year, the Marxist Student Federation has seen a surge in new freshman members at British university orientation weeks, said Mr. Gliniecki, who helps run the organization.

Soviet sailors in London in 1956 visiting the Karl Marx Memorial.

Soviet sailors in London in 1956 visiting the Karl Marx Memorial. Photo: Keystone Press Agency/Zuma Press

“The Friends” of the cemetery are also anticipating an uptick in interest in Marx and in complaints from Marxists. This graveyard, in a leafy, genteel part of north London, typically sees around 200 visitors a day. Most ask to see Marx.

The German philosopher, who once predicted the “hot tears of noble people” would be shed over his ashes, fled continental Europe for London in 1849. He remained there till his death in 1883 and was buried in a Highgate plot bought for 3 guineas, the equivalent of around £3.14 ($4.86)

“They do complain, and tell me Marx would be turning in his grave,” said Ian Dungavell, from the Friends group. “But I tell them, it’s redistribution in action, because all the money we generate goes back into the cemetery.”

Highgate was opened in 1839 as one of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries that private companies built to relieve the city’s teeming grave yards. The London Cemetery Company hired a renowned landscape gardener to craft a cemetery on a site overlooking London that soon became the city’s most fashionable necropolis.

But as the cemetery reached capacity, Highgate’s income stream dried up. The company hit financial troubles in 1960 and the graveyard entered a period of decline during which graves were vandalized and Highgate became a favorite hangout of occultists.

Marx’s memorial was a popular target, including two attempts to blow it up. In 1970, an assailant tried to cut through the nose of Marx’s bronze head and push explosives into the empty bust, according to a local press report. It failed and the bomb was set off nearby, causing damage to the marble pedestal that bears Marx’s famous call: “workers of all lands, unite.”

In 1975, a local named Jean Pateman founded the Friends of Highgate and the group took control of the decaying burial ground.

Marxist Ben Gliniecki disapproves of the cemetery charging visitors a fee to see Karl Marx’s grave.
Marxist Ben Gliniecki disapproves of the cemetery charging visitors a fee to see Karl Marx’s grave. Photo: Alistair MacDonald/The Wall Street Journal

Styling herself as the “dragon at the gate,” Ms. Pateman became legendary for her confrontations with moaning Marxists.

“He [Marx] led the capitalist life,” she said in 2008. “He even pawned his wife’s silver.”

Stories of her Cold-War era confrontations with official delegations from Communist countries were well known at the cemetery.

“She was formidable,” Mr. Dungavell said.

The vandals and occultists are gone. So is Ms. Pateman, who joined Marx in Highgate cemetery in 2012. But the controversy over Marx and the fee still lingered on a recent visit.

“He’s buried here because it’s beautiful, not to make the cemetery profit,” said Dima Marotti, an Italian Marxist living in London.

A group of visiting tourists from Montana said the grandness of the Marx memorial reflected what they saw as the hypocrisy of an ideology that calls for equality.

“It’s such a bourgeois monument,” said Andrew Carroll, a former cemetery worker, as he looked up at a severe-looking bust of Marx’s giant head.

“I turned around [and saw it] and I was like ‘Oh, come on.’ ”

For most visitors, the fee is a justified expense to help pay for the upkeep of a cemetery whose other inhabitants range from novelist George Eliot to punk impresario Malcolm McLaren.

Not even all Marxists are against the fee. That includes Alex Gordon, chair of the trustees of the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School, a charity that helps look after the grave.

“Marx believed that labor should be rewarded, he didn’t believe that you could achieve a classless society simply by refusing to pay for things,” he said.

“He wasn’t a hippie, let’s put it like that.”

But Mr. Gliniecki argues it is the state’s role to look after public amenities and that Marx would have been horrified by a charge. Mr. Gliniecki declined an invitation from this newspaper to visit the cemetery, saying that a trip to Marx’s grave by a Marxist and The Wall Street Journal wasn’t an obvious pairing and that money would still need to be paid.

When he tried to visit Marx’s grave on that summer day last year, Mr. Gliniecki didn’t even make it past the cemetery’s ornate Victorian gatehouse. Instead, he walked to a park that bordered the cemetery and peeked over fence posts to get a distant glimpse of his political idol. That night Mr. Gliniecki found himself dipping back into Marx’s famous work, the Communist Manifesto. There, as often, he found the words that explained his anger.

There is “no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment,’ ” Mr. Gliniecki read. (4 images)

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