This week in Mash History: Karl Marx's sister gives him smaller half of biscuit, 1824

ONE of the 20th century’s most dominant and divisive figures, Karl Marx’s work shaped hundreds of millions of lives. Which makes it all the more suprising it began over a biscuit. 

More than two decades before beginning The Communist Manifesto, a young Marx was awakened to the philosophy underpinning it after receiving much less than half of a Lebkuchen.

While his sister Louise may have thought the act playful, academics argue this event to be Karl’s first encounter with the unfair division of resources that would become his life’s work.

The eight-year-old’s first publication, known to historians as Das Kookie, reads: “There is no natural explanation, no justification, for why I should get less biscuit than my sister.

“Louise claimed the halves of Lebkuchen were even, but I could clearly see she kept the bit with the bigger splodge of icing for herself. This is mankind in essence, but must it be this way?

“My mother, as a class enemy, told me that Louise does not embody the unnatural evils of modern man, that I should be happy with what I got and not be greedy. Which caused me to realise society must be restructured from the top-down.

“It is my mother who ‘owns’ the biscuits. She stifles the supply. This biscuit was given to us when we helped to sweep the floors. But it is not a gift. It is the just reward of labour, and was only honey-spiced and not even chocolate.

“My sister is a mere cog in the machine of proletarian deprivation. As it is passed on to me, she nibbles a little off for herself. She claims she didn’t, but I saw her, and my bit of cookie is damp, so I licked her forehead and now I’ve been sent to my room. A political prisoner.

“I tried to tell Louise the system forces our conflict. We are Hansel and Gretel, kept at arm’s length from whole houses of cookies, and must seize the means of production. But she says she won’t be my friend unless I play dollies. The cycle of injustice continues.”

And so Marx realised the world was unfair, set out to right it and formulated philosophies of economics which are conservatively estimated to have killed millions – all because of a biscuit.

Next week: to 1960, when Che Guevera produced 100 T-shirts with his face on to advertise his car-washing business.

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