As Karl Marx Turns 200, Visitors Pay Respect — And A Fee — At Tomb Site : The Two-Way The grave of history's leading anti-capitalist requires visitors to hand over some capital. As many Marxists challenge the fee, the trust backing the site insists the funds help maintain the cemetery.
NPR logo As Karl Marx Turns 200, Visitors Pay Respect — And A Fee — At Tomb Site

As Karl Marx Turns 200, Visitors Pay Respect — And A Fee — At Tomb Site

On Saturday, Marx's 200th birthday brought about 1,000 people to see his tomb and speak about his communist philosophy. Daniella Cheslow/NPR hide caption

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Daniella Cheslow/NPR

On Saturday, Marx's 200th birthday brought about 1,000 people to see his tomb and speak about his communist philosophy.

Daniella Cheslow/NPR

On Saturday afternoon, Nushi Nazemi marked the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth by laying a wreath at his London tomb.

Nazemi, 67, grew up in a Marxist family in Tehran and served time in prison in Iran for her communist involvement against the Islamic regime. And to honor the philosopher behind the anti-capitalist activism of her youth, she paid 4 pounds (about $5.40) to enter the Highgate Cemetery.

"I am OK with it," Nazemi said, regarding the admission fee. "For keeping the environment safe and clean, they have to actually have some budget."

Exiled Iranian Nushi Nazemi said she laid a wreath at Karl Marx's tomb to honor the man who inspired her family in Tehran. Nazemi said she didn't mind paying 4 pounds to see Marx's tomb if the money helped maintain the cemetery. Daniella Cheslow/NPR hide caption

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Daniella Cheslow/NPR

Exiled Iranian Nushi Nazemi said she laid a wreath at Karl Marx's tomb to honor the man who inspired her family in Tehran. Nazemi said she didn't mind paying 4 pounds to see Marx's tomb if the money helped maintain the cemetery.

Daniella Cheslow/NPR

Born in Germany in 1818, Marx's revolutionary ideas earned him expulsions in his homeland, as well as Belgium and Paris. He arrived in London in 1849, where he wrote Das Kapital.

When Marx died in 1883, he was buried at Highgate. He shares the shade of ash and sycamore trees with Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; novelist George Eliot; historian Eric Hobsbawn and Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian activist who founded London's Notting Hill carnival.

But Marx is clearly the main attraction, his name marked in red block letters on the cemetery map provided to visitors.

According to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, during the last century the graveyard's original private backers went under amid financial scandal. The trust was formed in 1975 to rescue the cemetery and began charging admission several years later to maintain the site.

Nazemi was one of about 1,000 visitors during the day to Marx's tomb, including several dozen Iranians who came bearing flowers to lay under his stony bronze bust and the inscription "Workers of all lands unite." Now a teacher, Nazemi said she had visited the tomb several times since she arrived in London in 1990 as a political asylum seeker.

Steve Cook said his Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) has tried and failed for years to abolish the entrance fee at the Highgate Cemetery where Karl Marx is buried. Daniella Cheslow/NPR hide caption

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Daniella Cheslow/NPR

Steve Cook said his Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) has tried and failed for years to abolish the entrance fee at the Highgate Cemetery where Karl Marx is buried.

Daniella Cheslow/NPR

The admission charge has raised hackles for years. Steve Cook wore a Stalin pin on his striped suit jacket and said his Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) had lobbied to abolish the charge, at least for the birthday of "the world's historic genius." They failed.

"But in the same tradition, we have to sell our paper for a pound," Cook conceded. "Because we have to produce it under the conditions of capitalism."

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