Another side of Marx

June 29, 2009

Servant of the Revolution

Written by Anitra Nelson

Directed by Brenda Addie

Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre, Brunswick (cnr Sydney & Glenlyon rds)

July 21-25 and July 28-August 1, 8pm

Tickets $25/$15 concession

Bookings 0420 933 101 or


A new play exploring a rarely discussed side of Karl Marx, Servant of the Revolution, has a Melbourne season starting July 21. Marx is best known as the leading communist revolutionary of the 19th century.

A German, Marx settled in London in his early 30s after expulsion from various European countries, living in exile till his death. Marx and his wife Jenny, who had been childhood sweethearts, had several children but only three girls survived to adulthood.

Marx's fathering of Freddy, the son of his servant Helene Demuth ("Lenchen"), was a secret throughout his life and even after his death. However, it is now an accepted fact.

The main controversy surrounds his exact relationship with Lenchen, who lived with the family until Marx died, and was buried in the same plot with Marx and Jenny.

Not only did Marx spend most of his time analysing, writing and politicking, while his comrade Frederick Engels supported his growing household financially. Engels was also prevailed on to take the responsibility for Lenchen's pregnancy.

Now every interpretation is made of Freddy's conception from a casual fling to a menage a trois. Whatever, the most important point is that Lenchen gave up the child to foster parents when Freddy was just three weeks old, yet she was the primary carer for all of Marx's legitimate children.

At home, Marx was known affectionately as "Moor" after Shakespeare's Othello, on account of his dark features. He had a charismatic, dominating character and attracted people with his keen mind and beguiling personality.

The play has been written by Anitra Nelson, author of Marx's Concept of Money: the god of commodities. Presenting the servant's point of view, it is a rare theatrical exploration of socialist and feminist contradictions. You might not view Marx the same way again.

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