An unknown vandal, with blows from a blunt metal object, attacked the tomb of Karl Marx - scarring the engraved name and dates of the author of The Communist Manifesto, who is buried in the spooky Victorian-era cemetery at Highgate.

The caretakers at the burial ground are not sure when the attack occurred.

Sometime in the last few days, they believe.

The police have been alerted, but there are no suspects, and no CCTV surveillance footage. They really have no idea why the vandal struck, except one assumes, an extreme dislike of communism, or Marx's writings on capitalism and class struggle?

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"It's all rather disturbing," said Ian Dungavell, chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust.

Dungavell said that the marble marker is quite damaged. What stands out, he said, "is the very targeted nature of the act and the brutality of it. It was done with great violence. Someone hitting the stone again and again and again. On the name Marx. Who is doing that?"

The caretaker called the vandalism "a very inappropriate way to make a political point".

He would have preferred the person wield a pen and write a pamphlet, or stage a lively debate on Twitter, rather take out his or her aggression on a Grade 1 Listed Monument.

Marx is described by the cemetery trust today as "our most famous resident," in a much-visited boneyard that simply exudes ivy-covered, romantic decay, with narrow paths lined with tilting mossy stones - and plenty of cherubim and angels, crypts and crosses. It is very goth.

Alongside the author of Das Kapital are planted a Who's Who of major and minor Victorian celebs, such as author George Eliot and inventor William Friese Greene.

Plots are still available - they begin at around US$25,000 for a coach seat. Recent arrivals include Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Malcolm McLaren, the rock impresario who introduced the world to the Sex Pistols.

Marx arrived in London in 1849, and spent the remaining years of his life writing his magnum opus Das Kapital and many other works, lecturing, thinking, debating, and squabbling with militant revolutionaries. He lived very humbly, supported by his friend Friedrich Engels. He died in 1883 at 63 and was originally buried in a simple plot beside his wife, Jenny.

In 1954, Marx was "moved up the hill," during the height of the Cold War, by the Communist Party of Great Britain, which erected a plinth, inscribed with the words "Workers of All Lands - Unite." This is topped with a bronze bust, and below is the original grave marker.

Over the years, the tomb has been repeatedly struck by vandals. Typically, Dungavell said, someone splashes paint or scrawls a bit of graffiti. In the 1970s, an unknown hothead wanted to blow up the monument. They sawed off Marx's nose while probably trying to work a charge into the cast of his head. They gave up and instead detonated a device at the foot of the plinth.

In the latest attack, Dungavell said someone could have snuck into the cemetery at night to beat on the tomb with the rusty hammer - or more likely they paid the US$5 entrance fee and took advantage of a cold, rainy afternoon, when few visitors are around, to strike.