This message claims to contain an amazingly prescient quote from Karl Marx, supposedly written in 1867, in which he predicts the causes and ramifications of the current world economic crisis.
The quote warns that “owners of capital” will offer more and more credit to the working class until the amount of debt becomes unbearable and leads to the bankruptcy and the subsequent nationalisation of banks. The quote has been bandied around Wall Street, circulates via email and has also been posted to numerous online discussion boards and blogs. Marx’s supposed words have even been included in some financial news reports.
Here’s a transcript of the message
Subject: Karl Marx Quote
Can you believe that this was said by Karl Marx 142 years ago (1867)!
What do you think, doesn’t it apply today???!!! PRONTO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“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.”
Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867
However, the quote is almost certainly not from Karl Marx at all.
According to the message, the words were included in Marx’s influential political treatise “Das Kapital”, which he wrote in 1867. However, extensive searches of online versions of Das Kapital have failed to reveal any such quote. Even searches on Marx and Engels collected works do not come up with the quote or anything similar.
Economics and business commentator Megan McArdle believes that the quote is not from Marx. She notes:
Also, the quote just doesn’t feel right–it doesn’t sound like Marx. I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, especially since I’ve only read Marx in translation. I can say that it feels, like most of these hoaxes, a little too a propos, as if Marx were writing from the CNN green room.
Los Angeles Times financial columnist Tom Petruno similarly dismisses the quote as a hoax, noting:
If only he had actually said it, Americans might have a healthy new respect for — or maybe fear of — Karl Marx.
This hoax quote has been going around the Internet for at least a month.
In the blogosphere, no one who has looked into it has found any such actual quote from Marx. Can’t find it, or anything remotely similar-sounding, on marxists.org, either.
Thus, in all probability, some unidentified prankster has taken the quote from another writer, or perhaps more likely, just penned it him or herself and then falsely attributed it to Marx, who, after all, is no longer around to deny responsibility.
Mind you, if the man often considered the founder of communism could somehow return to examine current events he might have wished that he really had come up with such an accurate prediction all those years ago.