When Marx played in a capital venture

SO THAT'S all right then. Communist China, where speculation in shares is running high, says Karl Marx himself was not above playing the market.

In 1864, according to historical documents quoted by the Peking Youth News yesterday, share deals in London netted the father of Communism about pounds 400 - worth pounds 15,000 today. The money for his venture into capitalism was borrowed from his factory-owning comrade, Friedrich Engels.

Marx even boasted about his unearned income. He is quoted as telling friends, with breathtaking political incorrectness: 'It doesn't take much time to do this, and, if you are willing to risk a little bit, you can grasp money away from your opponents.'

Ross McKibben, an authority on 19th-century Britain, had not seen the documents cited, but said: 'This is quite plausible. Engels was an active investor on the stock market for many years.' Dr McKibben, of St Antony's College, Oxford, suspected Marx was not the wheeler-dealer he claimed to be: 'He probably just put the money where Engels told him.'

Marx did not have time to discover that shares can go down as well as up. As Peking Youth Daily puts it, his dealings were 'interrupted' by the founding of the Communist International. The newspaper almost implies that he should have stuck to speculation, lamenting: 'The pity of it is that his capital was too small.'