Introduction: Lafargue for Today

Bernard Marszalek


The Right to be Lazy, according to Derfler, the American historian who wrote the definitive biography of Paul Lafargue, has been translated into more languages and reprinted more often than any other Marxist text, aside from, of course, The Communist Manifesto.1 It seems therefore remarkable that Lafargue remainedan obscure historic personage among most socialists throughout the 20th Century.

Even more odd, he is essentially a non-person in France – no grand statues, a no boulevards carry his name and no major French biography exist – even though he cofounded the first Marxist party in France, Parti Ouvrier; was elected as the first Marxist member to the French Chamber of Deputies; and applied a Marxist analysis to a wide range of topics fifty years before any other Frenchman.

While Lafargue never publicly identified himself as an anarchist, and in fact actively opposed them most of his life, it is the anarchists, Wobblies and assorted malcontents who circulated The Right to be Lazy as an “underground” text for over a hundred years. C. H. Kerr Company, to its credit, translated it and has kept it in print since 1907.  

This present edition retains the original historical research of Fred Thompson from the 1989 printing, accompanied by additional Lafargue essays and a new introduction that attempts to situate Lafargue’s satiric essay at a time, 125 years after it was written, when it will be appreciated for its insights.