CAPITAL, my God and my Master, why hast Thou turned Thy countenance from me? What sin have I committed that Thou shouldst cast me from the heights of prosperity and plague me with the burden of poverty?
2. Have I not lived according to Thy laws? Were my actions not agreeable to the Law and the Statute?
3. Canst Thou charge me with ever having worked? Have I not tasted all pleasures, which my millions and my senses allowed? Have I not harnessed men, women and children into my service, and driven them even beyond the point of endurance? Have I ever returned to them more than starvation wages? Have I ever allowed myself to be touched by the want or the despair of my workingmen?
4. CAPITAL, my God, I have adulterated the goods, which I sold, without concerning myself about whether or not I thereby poisoned the consumer. I have skinned to the bone the gudgeons, who were caught by the bait of my prospectuses.
5. I lived only to enjoy and to increase my wealth; and Thou hast blessed my irreproachable conduct, my meritorious life, by bestowing upon me for my private enjoyment, women and young boys, dogs and servants, the pleasures of the flesh and the gratification of vanity.
6. And now have I lost everything, and I am cast off.
7. My competitors rejoice over my ruin, and my friends turn away from me; they do not even trouble themselves to blame me, and to give me useless advice; they know me no more. My former mistresses bespatter me on the street with the mud of the equipages, which I bought for them with my money.
8. Misery lays its heavy hand upon me; like unto prison walls it bars me from the rest of mankind. I stand alone; everything within me and around me is gloomy.
9. My wife, who now has no money to spend in cosmetics wherewith to paint her face and disguise herself, now appears before me in all her physical ugliness. My son, brought up to idleness, does not even understand the extent of my misfortune — idiot that he is! The eyes of my daughters run like two fountains at the recollection of the matches that they missed.
10. But what are the sufferings of mine when compared with my misfortunes? There where I once gave orders as a master, I now receive a kick if I offer myself as a humble suitor!
11. Everything has turned into dung and stench to me in my present hell. My body, stiffened and full of aches from the hardness of my conchy sore and bitten by bedbugs and other insects, finds now no rest; my soul no longer tastes the sleep that brings on oblivion.
12. O how happy are the wretches, who never were acquainted with aught but poverty and dirt! They know not the pleasures of soft cushions, and sweet tastes; their thick skins have no feeling, their dulled senses are not subject to nausea.
13. Why was I made to taste of joy, and then to be left with nothing but the remembrance of better days, more galling than a gambling debt?
14. Better had it been, oh Lord, to have cast my birth in misery, than my closing days, after thou didst bring me up in wealth.
15. What can I do to earn my dry crust of bread?
16. My hands, accustomed only to carrying gold rings, and to fingering bank-notes, cannot handle the tools of labor. My brain, accustomed only to busy itself with the question how to escape work, how to rest from the exertion of owning wealth, how to get rid of the weariness of idleness, how to overcome the effects of gluttony, is unfit for the mental activity that is requisite even to write letters, and foot up bills.
17. Is it then possible, oh Lord, that Thou canst smite so pitilessly a being, who never disobeyed any of Thy commandments?
18. Oh, it is wrong, it is unjust, it is immoral that I should lose the wealth, that the labor of others has heaped up so painfully for me!
19. When the Capitalists, my former comrades, behold my misfortune, they will learn that Thy grace is but a whim, that Thou bestowest it without predilection, and withdrawest it without reason.
20. Who will henceforth believe in Thee?
21. What Capitalist will be sufficiently daring and senseless to accept Thy Law; to enervate himself in idleness and with riotous living and revelry, if the future is so uncertain and so threatening? If the slightest breeze, that blows on the Stock Exchange, may sweep away the best grounded fortunes? If nothing is lasting? If the rich man of to-day may be the beggar of the morrow?
22. Man will curse Thee, God CAPITAL, when they behold my degradation; they will deny Thy power, when they measure the depth of my fall; they will reject Thy favors.
23. For the sake of Thine own glory, restore me to my former position. Raise me from my lowliness, because my heart is filling with gall, and curses are thronging to my lips!
24. Wild God, blind God, stupid God! Beware lest the scales finally drop from the eyes of the rich, and they perceive that they are moving carelessly on the verge of an abyss; Tremble, lest they throw Thee into the abyss, to fill it up, and join hands with the Socialists to dethrone Thee.
25. Yet, what profanity, what blasphemy am I now guilty of!
26. Powerful God, pardon me these insane and criminal words. Thou art the Master, who distributest the good things of the earth, without inquiring after the merits of Thy chosen ones, and withdrawing Thy gifts at Thy pleasure. Thou knowest what Thou doest.
27. Thou smitest my interests; Thou art only trying me for my good.
28. O friendly, loving God, grant me Thy favor once more! Thou art Justice itself; and when Thou smitest me, it must be that I have unconsciously done some wrong.
29. O Lord, if Thou returnest my riches to me, I vow, I will obey Thy laws with increased rigor. I will exploit the wageworkers more mercilessly than ever; I will deceive the consumers with greater cunning; I will pluck the stockholders and investors more wholesale.
30. I crawl before Thee like a dog before the master who beats him. I am Thy property. May Thy will be done!
The above – certainly worth a chuckle today – was written by Paul Lafargue in 1887, part of his longer satirical piece The Religion of Capital. Lafargue was a pioneer in developing a Marxist understanding of culture, and was an important communist organizer in his own right. He was also Marx’s son-in-law.
i published the Religion of Capital as a pamphlet a few years back (it’s still available, just email me), and have the entire text uploaded to my Kersplebedeb website along with a page i wrote about Lafargue himself. Enjoy.