Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son-in-law, wrote The Right to Be Lazy in 1883. It is a short book, but you shouldn’t let it fool you by its size. Paul Lafargue has a big idea behind his delightful narratives.
In summary, The Right to Be Lazy tells this: culture is directly proportional to the free time of the working people so not to work more than 3 hours a day is a must. This fantastic book is a must-read cause it is highly informative and exceeds its time. It fools the idea that working is sacred, and it does it in a significant way. So much so that I wanted to frame the whole book and display it all around my house.
The Right to Be Lazy is one of those books that will give you great pleasure to read. And I think it would be a great gift if you have workaholics in your life. And here is an interesting fact: Paul Lafargue, who was also Karl Marx’s son-in-law, committed suicide with his wife in order not to turn seventy.
The Right to Be Lazy
Paul Lafargue’s masterpiece, The Right To Be Lazy, at once funny and serious, witty and profound, elegant and forceful, is a logical expansion of The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. It was not only extremely popular but also brought about pragmatic results, inspiring the movement for the eight-hour day and equal pay for men and women who perform equal work. It survives as one of the very few pieces of writing to come out of the international socialist movement of the nineteenth century that is not only readable-even enjoyable-but pertinent.
Paul Lafargue was a French revolutionary Marxist socialist journalist, literary critic, political writer and activist; he was Karl Marx’s son-in-law having married his second daughter, Laura. His best know work is The Right To Be Lazy. Born in Cuba to French and Creole parents, Lafargue spent most of his life in France, with periods in England and Spain. At the age of 69, he and 66-year-old Laura died together by a suicide pact.
Lafargue was the subject of a famous quotation by Karl Marx. Soon before Marx died in 1883, he wrote a letter to Lafargue and the French Workers’ Party organizer Jules Guesde, both of whom already claimed to represent “Marxist” principles. Marx accused them of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggles. This exchange is the source of Marx’s remark, reported by Friedrich Engels, “ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (“If one thing is certain, I am not a Marxist”).
In 1908, after a Congress in Toulouse, the different socialist tendencies were unified in the form of a single party. Lafargue opposed the social democratic reformism defended by Jaurès.
During these later years, Lafargue had already begun neglecting politics, living on the outskirts of Paris in the village of Draveil, limiting his contributions to a number of articles and essays, as well as occasional communication with some of the better-known socialist activists of the time, such as Karl Kautsky and Hjalmar Branting of the older generation, and Karl Liebknecht or Vladimir Lenin of the younger generation. It was in Draveil that Lafargue and his wife Laura Marx ended their lives together, to the surprise and even outrage of French and European socialists.
In their suicide letter, they explained why they committed suicide. Lafargue wrote:
Healthy in body and mind, I end my life before pitiless old age which has taken from me my pleasures and joys one after another; and which has been stripping me of my physical and mental powers, can paralyse my energy and break my will, making me a burden to myself and to others.
For some years I had promised myself not to live beyond 70; and I fixed the exact year for my departure from life. I prepared the method for the execution of our resolution, it was a hypodermic of cyanide acid.
I die with the supreme joy of knowing that at some future time, the cause to which I have been devoted for forty-five years will triumph.
Long live Communism! Long Live the international socialism!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: