A specter is haunting the history of communism: the specter of skin disease. In the latest post-mortem assessment of the health of great historical figures, a British dermatologist has concluded that Karl Marx suffered from hidradenitis suppurativa, an ailment afflicting the sweat glands that results in blackheads and boils. It also produces psychological effects such as alienation—a key theme, the researcher notes, in Das Kapital.
The article in the British Journal of Dermatology examined Marx's letters to his doctors and to Friedrich Engels, to whom he complained of boils "on my posterior and near the penis" that kept him from working. London dermatologists treated Marx with arsenic and lancing. The procedures did little to help, though Engels assured Marx that his carbuncles were "a truly proletarian disease."