London (AFP) - Vandals have smashed and defaced the London tomb of Karl Marx in what the cemetery said appeared to be a deliberate attack against the philosopher's ideology.
A marble plaque with the names of Marx and his family -- the monument's oldest and most fragile part -- was repeatedly hit with a blunt metal instrument, Ian Dungavell, who runs the cemetery trust, told AFP on Tuesday.
The damage was discovered on Monday, he said.
"The name of Karl Marx seems to have been particularly singled out, so it wasn't just a random smashing up of a monument -- it seems a very targeted attack on Karl Marx," said Dungavell, chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, the charity which runs the graveyard.
German revolutionary philosopher Marx moved to London in 1849 and lived in the British capital for the rest of his life. He died on March 14, 1883, aged 64.
The granite slab monument in north London, 12 feet (3.7 metres) tall and topped with a bronze bust of Marx, was funded in 1956 by the Communist Party of Great Britain.
The inset marble plaque that has been damaged came from the original simpler grave.
The lettering and stonework was damaged, particularly around Marx's name, the date of his wife's death and the name of their grandson Harry Longuet, who died aged four.
"The idea that you can disagree with someone's thoughts by smashing up a monument seems a particularly inarticulate way of going about debate," said Dungavell.
The monument has been attacked before. The bust has been pulled off, it was attacked with a pipe bomb in the 1970s and it has been daubed with paint and slogans.
"It's battle-scarred and has all the marks of a rich and varied life," said Dungavell.
"It's not irreparable but it will never be the same again."
The tomb is a Grade I-listed monument, meaning it is among the most important sites in Britain that must be protected and preserved as a heritage asset.