Labour grandee Tony Benn ‘saddened’ as vandals attack Marx’s Highgate grave

PUBLISHED: 17:27 28 September 2011 | UPDATED: 12:27 29 September 2011

Karl Marx's grave in Highgate Cemetery was daubed with blue paint.

Karl Marx's grave in Highgate Cemetery was daubed with blue paint.

© Nigel Sutton email

Karl Marx’s grave has been vandalised by yobs, sparking condemnation from Labour grandee Tony Benn and conservationists.

The iconic 12ft plinth and bust in Highgate Cemetery was daubed with blue paint, in what is believed to be the first attack on the historic landmark in many years.

Tony Benn, who served as postmaster general under Harold Wilson, said he was “saddened” by the attack

“I am very sorry to hear the grave has been attacked,” he said.

“Marx was one of the greatest figures in history. What he said about society was very important, he is still studied the world over and this is not true of many people more than 100 years after their death.”

Mr Benn, who has visited the German political philosopher’s grave many times, said that despite the attack he still thought most people “respected Karl Marx” and that the Das Kapital author’s grave deserved the same regard.

Conservationists also roundly condemned the vandalism as “appalling”.

Catherine Budgett-Meakin, chairwoman of the Highgate Society, said: “I am appalled. It is one of the iconic images of the last century and has been visited by a multitude of some of the greatest intellectuals of our time.

“It is one of the big things which people come to Highgate to see. It is appalling it has been desecrated in this way.

“Marx is one of the great influencers of the 20th Century and played a special role in our society, not just in the UK but globally. It is hard to think who could have done such a thing.”

Karl Marx, who wrote The Communist Manifesto, was one of the most influential political philosophers of the past 200 years.

He lived in Highgate for many years, where he died in 1883. It is thought around ten people attended his funeral in the cemetery in Swain’s Lane.

At the peak of political radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s Marx’s grave was often targeted, although the paint colour of choice was usually red.

John Sheppard, chairman of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, said: “It was a pain and something that was very annoying but luckily it didn’t damage the fabric of the monument.

“We discovered it in the morning and cleaned it up straight away.

“After the collapse of communism in eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marx has become less of an iconic figure. Although, we still get Chinese visitors who are enthusiastic about seeing the grave.”

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