Karl Marx

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In Marx moved to London, where he continued to study and write, drawing heavily on works by David Ricardo and Adam Smith. Marx died in London in in somewhat impoverished surroundings. Most of his adult life, he relied on Engels for financial support. Marx held that history was a series of class struggles between owners of capital capitalists and workers the proletariat. As wealth became more concentrated in the hands of a few capitalists, he thought, the ranks of an increasingly dissatisfied proletariat would swell, leading to bloody revolution and eventually a classless society.

It has become fashionable to think that Karl Marx was not mainly an economist but instead integrated various disciplines—economics, sociology, political science, history, and so on—into his philosophy. According to Marx, capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. Communism was the inevitable end to the process of evolution begun with feudalism and passing through capitalism and socialism. Marx wrote extensively about the economic causes of this process in Capital.

Volume one was published in and the later two volumes, heavily edited by Engels, were published posthumously in and His comprehensive treatment of capitalism stands in stark contrast, however, to his treatment of socialism and communism, which Marx handled only superficially.

Karl Marx, 1818-1883

He declined to speculate on how those two economic systems would operate. Karl Marx His name can stand alongside all the great heroes of the past: Heraclitus and Aristotle, Hegel and Charles Darwin. But Marx was not just a thinker; he was a man of action, a revolutionary who dedicated his entire life to the struggle for the cause of the working class and socialism. Such a rich and variegated life cannot be adequately described in a few lines. Marx was born two hundred years ago, in Germany, in what was then part of Prussia. However, the Rhineland provinces to which Trier belonged differed in many respects from the backward, semi-feudal and reactionary Prussian lands further to the east.

Annexed by France in the Napoleonic Wars, the inhabitants had been exposed to new ideas such as freedom of the press, constitutional liberty and religious toleration. Karl Heinrich was one of nine children in the family of Heinrich and Henrietta Marx. The family was reasonably prosperous. Marx never experienced poverty or privations during his childhood and early youth, although he suffered these things a great deal in his later life.

This was probably in response to a law of banning Jews from high society. On leaving school, Marx went on to university, where he studied law, and later history and philosophy. While studying in Berlin he fell under the spell of the great philosopher Hegel. This dialectical philosophy was to form the basis of all his subsequent ideological development.

However, he soon became discontented with the endless word chopping and dialectical juggling of these academic radicals who soon degenerated into a mere debating society. Marx was very impressed by the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach, who, starting from a criticism of religion, moved in the direction of materialism. But he criticised Feuerbach for his radical rejection of Hegelian dialectics. Marx brilliantly succeeded in combining philosophical materialism with dialectics to produce an entirely different and revolutionary philosophy. Armed with these revolutionary ideas, the young Marx collaborated with a group of Left Hegelians in the Rhineland who had founded a radical newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung.

As editor of the paper, Marx wrote a number of brilliant revolutionary articles. The paper was an instant success but soon attracted the attention of the Prussian authorities who subjected it to strict censorship. However, the young Marx, with brilliant ingenuity, managed to evade the iron vice of the censors.

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In the end, they had no choice but to close it down. But she and Marx had been childhood sweethearts and from everything we know they were totally devoted to each other. It is therefore hardly surprising that they kept their relationship quiet for so long. Three months after the closure of the Rheinische Zeitung , in June , he finally married Jenny von Westphalen, and in October, they moved to Paris.

I believe that not enough attention has been paid to this remarkable woman, who made colossal sacrifices to support her husband in his revolutionary work. She saw her children suffer hardship, fall sick and die. When her son Edgar died in London, she and Marx did not even have enough money to pay for a coffin. We are thus faced with the paradox of one man engaged in revolutionary work to subvert the Prussian state from his London exile, while his brother-in-law in Berlin was in charge of persecuting revolutionaries both within and without the borders of Prussia.

History knows of no more ironical situations than this! In the autumn of , Marx moved to Paris in order to publish a radical journal abroad, together with Arnold Ruge. By now the winds of revolution were blowing strongly throughout Europe, particularly in Paris. Not for the first time, or last, Paris was the political heart of Europe in Publication was discontinued owing mainly to the difficulty of secretly distributing it in Germany, and to philosophical differences between Marx and Ruge.

About this time there commenced one of the most extraordinary collaborations in history. In September , a young man called Friedrich Engels came to Paris for a few days to work as a contributor to the journal. Today the names Marx and Engels are so completely inseparable as to be almost fused into a single person. Here we see the embryo of his future discoveries in the field of economics.

The Prussian government demanded that the French authorities take action, which the latter were only too pleased to do. Expelled from Paris at the end of , Marx moved to Brussels, where he joined the secret propaganda society, the Communist League. Despite the move, Marx still had severe restrictions on his activity. He had pledged not to publish anything on the subject of contemporary politics. Marx and Engels immediately formed a close relationship in which the two men brought together different experiences and temperaments in order to work out an entirely new and original set of ideas.

He had already come to the conclusion that the working class would be the most important agent of social change. But with characteristic modesty, he always accepted the primacy of Marx in the field of ideology, reserving for himself the role of a humble and loyal disciple, although, in fact, his contribution to Marxist theory must stand shoulder to shoulder to that of Marx himself. Together, the two began writing a criticism of the philosophy of Bruno Bauer, a Young Hegelian with whom Marx had previously been close. It marked the beginning of a break with the Left Hegelian trend and the starting point for the entirely new departure.

In , Marx and Engels wrote The German Ideology , in which they first developed the theory on historical materialism. This marked the final and irrevocable rupture with the Young Hegelians. Marx had finally embraced the idea of socialism as the only solution to the problems of humankind. Marx and Engels together waged a relentless struggle against the confused ideas of petty-bourgeois socialism, striving to put the ideas of socialism on a scientific basis. In Paris at that time the semi-anarchist ideas of Proudhon were in vogue amongst some revolutionary groups.

Karl Marx on Alienation

Marx subjected them to a withering criticism in in the Poverty of Philosophy , backed up by facts, and substantial quotations from the writings of Proudhon himself. At the beginning of , Marx attempted to link socialists from around Europe by means of a Communist Correspondence Committee. He had been in contact with a secret organisation of artisans in Paris and Frankfurt called the League of the Just. It was a small group about a hundred in Paris and eighty in Frankfurt with very confused ideas.


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It fused with others to form The Communist League. This epoch-making document was published in It seems astonishing today that The Communist Manifesto was written when Marx and Engels were still young men; Marx was not yet 30 years of age and Engels three years younger. Yet this remarkable document represents a turning point in history.

It is as fresh and relevant now as when it first saw the light of day. Indeed, its relevance is even greater today. The timing of the publication of this document could hardly have been better. The ink was hardly dry on its pages when a mighty wave of revolutions broke out all over Europe. There is an anecdote that, having recently received a substantial inheritance from his father withheld by his uncle , Marx used a large part of it to buy arms for the Belgian workers who were moving towards revolutionary action. Whether the story is true or false we do not know, but the Belgian Ministry of Justice certainly believed it.

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They used it as an excuse for arresting him. Marx was thus forced to flee back to France, where he believed that he would be safe under the new republican government. But that was a vain hope. The French bourgeois Republicans were terrified of the workers, who were beginning to advance independent class demands that threatened private property. Under these circumstances the last thing they needed was the presence in Paris of a man like Marx. Marx was convinced that, after France, Germany was on the eve of a revolution.