Name: Karl Marx
Birth: May 5, 1818 (Trier, Germany)
Death: March 14, 1883 (London, England)
Main interests: Politics, Economics, class struggle
Marx was both a
scholar and a political activist. Sometimes, he argued that his analysis
of capitalism revealed that capitalism was destined to end because of
unsolvable problems within capitalism:
of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation
on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the
bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.
Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
Other times, he argued that capitalism would end through the organized
actions of an international working class:
Communism is for
us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which
reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement
which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this
movement result from the premises now in existence. (from The German
While Marx was a relatively obscure figure in his own lifetime, his
ideas began to exert a major influence on workers' movements shortly
after his death. This influence was given added impetus by the victory
of the Marxist Bolsheviks in the Russian October Revolution, and there
are few parts of the world which were not significantly touched by Marxian
ideas in the course of the twentieth century. The relation of Marx to
"Marxism" is a point of controversy. While some argue that
his ideas are discredited , Marxism is still very much influential in
academic and political circles. Marxism continues to be the official
ideology in some countries in the world such as North Korea. In his
book "Marx's Das Capital" (2006), biographer Francis Wheen
reiterates David McLellan's observation that since Marx's ideas had
not triumphed in the West "..it had not been turned into an official
ideology and is thus the object of serious study unimpeded by government
Marx was born as
the third child of seven children of a Jewish family in Trier, in the
Rhineland region of Germany. His father Heinrich (1777-1838), who had
descended from a long line of rabbis, converted to Christianity, despite
his many deistic tendencies and his admiration of such Enlightenment
figures as Voltaire and Rousseau. Marx's father was actually born Herschel
Mordechai, but when the Prussian authorities would not allow him to
continue practising law as a Jew, he joined the official denomination
of the Prussian state, Lutheranism, which accorded him advantages, as
one of a small minority of Lutherans in a predominantly Roman Catholic
region. His mother was Henrietta (née Presborck; 1788-1863);
his siblings were Sophie, Hermann, Henriette, Louise (m. Juta), Emilie
and Caroline. The Marx household hosted many visiting intellectuals.
Marx was educated at home until the age of thirteen. After graduating
from the Trier Gymnasium, Marx enrolled in the University of Bonn in
1835 at the age of 17 to study law, where he joined the Trier Tavern
Club drinking society and at one point served as its president; his
grades suffered as a result. Marx was interested in studying philosophy
and literature, but his father would not allow it because he did not
believe that his son would be able to comfortably support himself in
the future as a scholar. The following year, his father forced him to
transfer to the far more serious and academically oriented Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität
in Berlin. During this period, Marx wrote many poems and essays concerning
life, using the theological language acquired from his liberal, deistic
father, such as "the Deity," but also absorbed the atheistic
philosophy of the Young Hegelians who were prominent in Berlin at the
time. Marx earned a doctorate in 1841 with a thesis titled The Difference
Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, but he had
to submit his dissertation to the University of Jena as he was warned
that his reputation among the faculty as a Young Hegelian radical would
lead to a poor reception in Berlin.
The younger Karl Marx. Marx and the Young Hegelians
The Left, or Young Hegelians, consisted of a group of philosophers and
journalists circling around Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer opposing
their teacher Hegel. Despite their criticism of Hegel's metaphysical
assumptions, they made use of Hegel's dialectical method, separated
from its theological content, as a powerful weapon for the critique
of established religion and politics. Some members of this circle drew
an analogy between post-Aristotelian philosophy and post-Hegelian philosophy.
One of them, Max Stirner, turned critically against both Feuerbach and
Bauer in his book "Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum" (1845,
The Ego and Its Own), calling these atheists in all seriousness "pious
people." Marx, at that time a follower of Feuerbach, was deeply
impressed by the work and abandoned Feuerbachian materialism and accomplished
what recent authors have denoted as an "epistemological break."
He developed the basic concept of historical materialism against Stirner
in his book "Die Deutsche Ideologie" (1846, The German Ideology),
which he did not publish.  Another link to the Young Hegelians was
Moses Hess, with whom Marx eventually disagreed, yet to whom he owed
many of his insights into the relationship between state, society and
Towards the end
of October 1843, Marx arrived in Paris, France. There, on August 28,
1844, at the Café de la Régence on the Place du Palais
he began the most important friendship of his life, and one of the most
important in history – he met Friedrich Engels. Engels had come
to Paris specifically to see Marx, whom he had met only briefly at the
office of the Rheinische Zeitung in 1842.  He came to show Marx what
would turn out to be perhaps Engel's greatest work, The Condition of
the Working Class in England in 1844. Paris at this time was the
home and headquarters to armies of German, British, Polish, and Italian
revolutionaries. Marx, for his part, had come to Paris to work with
Arnold Ruge, another revolutionary from Germany, on the Deutsch-Französische
After the failure
of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, Marx, living on the
rue Vaneau, wrote for the most radical of all German newspapers in Paris,
indeed in Europe, the Vorwärts, established and run by the secret
society called League of the Just. Marx's topics were generally on the
Jewish question and Hegel. When not writing, Marx studied the history
of the French Revolution and read Proudhon He also spent considerable
time studying a side of life he had never been acquainted with before
-- a large urban proletariat.
mainly to university towns...] Marx's sudden espousal of the proletarian
cause can be directly attributed (as can that of other early German
communists such as Weitling*) to his first hand contacts with socialists
intellectuals [and books] in France.
*Author of the first
book on communism in German, Humanity as it is and as it should be,
published in Paris in 1838.
his relationship with Bauer and the Young Hegelians, and wrote On the
Jewish Question, which was mostly a critique of current notions of civil
rights and political emancipation, which also includes several critical
references to Judaism as well as Christianity from an atheistic standpoint.
Engels, a committed communist, kindled Marx's interest in the situation
of the working class and guided Marx's interest in economics. Marx became
a communist and set down his views in a series of writings known as
the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, which remained unpublished
until the 1930s. In the Manuscripts, Marx outlined a humanist conception
of communism, influenced by the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach and based
on a contrast between the alienated nature of labor under capitalism
and a communist society in which human beings freely developed their
nature in cooperative production.
In January 1845,after
the Vorwärts expressed its hearty approval regarding the assassination
attempt on the life of Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, Marx,
among many others,were ordered to leave Paris. He and Engels moved on
to Brussels, Belgium.
Marx devoted himself
to an intensive study of history and elaborated on his idea of historical
materialism, particularly in a manuscript (published posthumously as
The German Ideology), the basic thesis of which was that "the nature
of individuals depends on the material conditions determining their
production." Marx traced the history of the various modes of production
and predicted the collapse of the present one -- industrial capitalism
-- and its replacement by communism. This was the first major work of
what scholars consider to be his later phase, abandoning the Feuerbach-influenced
humanism of his earlier work.
Next, Marx wrote
The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), a response to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's
The Philosophy of Poverty and a critique of French socialist thought.
These works laid the foundation for Marx and Engels' most famous work,
The Communist Manifesto, first published on February 21, 1848, as the
manifesto of the Communist League, a small group of European communists
who had come to be influenced by Marx and Engels.
Later that year,
Europe experienced tremendous revolutionary upheaval. Marx was arrested
and expelled from Belgium; in the meantime a radical movement had seized
power from King Louis Philippe in France, and invited Marx to return
to Paris, where he witnessed the revolutionary June Insurrection (Revolutions
of 1848 in France) first hand.
When this collapsed
in 1849, Marx moved back to Cologne and started the Neue Rheinische
Zeitung ("New Rhenish Newspaper"). During its existence he
was put on trial twice, on February 7, 1849 because of a press misdemeanour,
and on the 8th charged with incitement to armed rebellion. Both times
he was acquitted. The paper was soon suppressed and Marx returned to
Paris, but was forced out again. This time he sought refuge in London
in May 1849 where he was to remain for the rest of his life.
In 1855, the Marx family suffered a blow with the death of their son,
Edgar, from tuberculosis. Meanwhile, Marx's major work on political
economy made slow progress. By 1857 he had produced a gigantic 800 page
manuscript on capital, landed property, wage labour, the state, foreign
trade and the world market. This work however was not published until
1941, under the title Grundrisse. In the early 1860s he worked on composing
three large volumes, Theories of Surplus Value, which discussed the
theoreticians of political economy, particularly Adam Smith and David
Ricardo. During this period, Marx championed the Union cause in the
American Civil War. In 1867, well behind schedule, the first volume
of Capital was published, a work which analyzed the capitalist process
of production. Here, Marx elaborated his labor theory of value and his
conception of surplus value and exploitation which he argued would ultimately
lead to a falling rate of profit and the collapse of industrial capitalism.
Volumes II and III remained mere manuscripts upon which Marx continued
to work for the rest of his life and were published posthumously by
Engels. In 1859, Marx was able to publish Contribution to the Critique
of Political Economy, his first serious economic work.
One reason why Marx
was so slow to publish Capital was that he was devoting his time and
energy to the First International, to whose General Council he was elected
at its inception in 1864. He was particularly active in preparing for
the annual Congresses of the International and leading the struggle
against the anarchist wing led by Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876). Although
Marx won this contest, the transfer of the seat of the General Council
from London to New York in 1872, which Marx supported, led to the decline
of the International. The most important political event during the
existence of the International was the Paris Commune of 1871 when the
citizens of Paris rebelled against their government and held the city
for two months. On the bloody suppression of this rebellion, Marx wrote
one of his most famous pamphlets, The Civil War in France, an enthusiastic
defense of the Commune.
During the last
decade of his life, Marx's health declined and he was incapable of the
sustained effort that had characterized his previous work. He did manage
to comment substantially on contemporary politics, particularly in Germany
and Russia. In Germany, in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, he opposed
the tendency of his followers Karl Liebknecht (1826-1900) and August
Bebel (1840-1913) to compromise with the state socialism of Ferdinand
Lassalle in the interests of a united socialist party. In his correspondence
with Vera Zasulich, Marx contemplated the possibility of Russia's bypassing
the capitalist stage of development and building communism on the basis
of the common ownership of land characteristic of the village mir.
Marx in 1882.Karl Marx was married to Jenny von Westphalen, the educated
daughter of a Prussian baron. Karl Marx's engagement to her was kept
secret at first, and for several years was opposed by both the Marxes
and Westphalens. Despite the objections, the two were married on June
19, 1843 in Kreuznacher Pauluskirche, Bad Kreuznach.
During the first
half of the 1850s the Marx family lived in poverty in a three room flat
in the Soho quarter of London. Marx and Jenny already had four children
and three more were to follow. Of these only three survived to adulthood.
Marx's major source of income at this time was Engels, who was drawing
a steadily increasing income from the family business in Manchester.
This was supplemented by weekly articles written as a foreign correspondent
for the New York Daily Tribune. Money from Engels allowed the family
to move to somewhat more salubrious lodging in a new suburb on the then-outskirts
of London. Marx generally lived a hand-to-mouth existence, forever at
the limits of his resources, although this did extend to some spending
on relatively bourgeois luxuries, which he felt were necessities for
his wife and children given their social status and the mores of the
There is a disputed
rumour that Marx was the father of Frederick Demuth, the son of Marx's
housekeeper, Lenchen Demuth. It has been suggested that this rumour
lacks any direct corroboration ().
by his wife were: Jenny Caroline (m. Longuet; 1844-1883); Jenny Laura
(m. Lafargue; 1846-1911); Edgar (1847-1855); Henry Edward Guy ("Guido";
1849-1850); Jenny Eveline Frances ("Franziska"; 1851-1852);
Jenny Julia Eleanor (1855-1898); and one more who died before being
named (July 1857).
Tomb in London. Death and Legacy
Following the death of his wife Jenny in 1881, Marx developed a catarrh
that kept him in ill health for the last two years of his life and eventually
brought on the bronchitis and pleurisy that killed him. He died on March
14, 1883, as a stateless person. He was buried in Highgate Cemetery,
London, on 17 March 1883. The message carved on Marx's tombstone is:
"WORKERS OF ALL LANDS, UNITE", the final line of The Communist
Manifesto. The tombstone was a monument built in 1954 by the Communist
Party of Great Britain with a portrait bust by Laurence Bradshaw —
Marx's original tomb was humbly adorned; only eleven people were present
at his funeral. In 1970, there was an unsuccessful attempt to blow
up the monument .
Several of Marx's
closest friends spoke at his funeral, including Karl Liebknecht and
Friedrich Engels. Engels' speech included the words:
"On the 14th
of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living
thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes,
and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone
to sleep-but forever." 
Marx's daughter Eleanor became a socialist like her father and helped
edit his works.
The American Marx scholar Hal Draper once remarked, "there are
few thinkers in modern history whose thought has been so badly misrepresented,
by Marxists and anti-Marxists alike." The legacy of Marx's thought
is bitterly contested between numerous tendencies who claim to be Marx's
most accurate interpreters, including Marxist-Leninism, Trotskyism,
Maoism, and libertarian Marxism.
Marx's philosophy hinges on his view of human nature. Along with the
Hegelian dialectic, Marx inherited a disdain for the notion of an underlying
invariant human nature. Sometimes Marxists express their views by contrasting
“nature” with “history”. Sometimes they use
the phrase “existence precedes consciousness”. The point,
in either case, is that who a person is, is determined by where and
when he is — social context takes precedence over innate behavior;
or, in other words, one of the main features of human nature is adaptability.
Nevertheless, Marxian thought rests on the fundamental assumption that
it is human nature to transform nature, and he calls this process of
transformation "labour " and the capacity to transform nature
labour power. For Marx, this is a natural capacity for a physical activity,
but it is intimately tied to the active role of human consciousness:
“ A spider
conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts
to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what
distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that
the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it
in reality. ”
— (Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 7, Pt. 1)
Marx did not believe
that all people worked the same way, or that how one works is entirely
personal and individual. Instead, he argued that work is a social activity
and that the conditions and forms under and through which people work
are socially determined and change over time.
of history is based on his distinction between the means / forces of
production, literally those things, such as land, natural resources,
and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods,
and the relations of production, in other words, the social and technical
relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of
production. Together these comprise the mode of production; Marx observed
that within any given society the mode of production changes, and that
European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to
a capitalist mode of production. In general, Marx believed that the
means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production
(for example, we develop a new technology, such as the Internet, and
only later do we develop laws to regulate that technology). For Marx
this mismatch between (economic) base and (social) superstructure is
a major source of social disruption and conflict.
the "social relations of production" to comprise not only
relations among individuals, but between or among groups of people,
or classes. As a scientist and materialist, Marx did not understand
classes as purely subjective (in other words, groups of people who consciously
identified with one another). He sought to define classes in terms of
objective criteria, such as their access to resources. For Marx, different
classes have divergent interests, which is another source of social
disruption and conflict. Conflict between social classes being something
which is inherent in all human history:
of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."
(The Communist Manifesto, Chapter 1.)
Marx was especially concerned with how people relate to that most fundamental
resource of all, their own labour power. Marx wrote extensively about
this in terms of the problem of alienation. As with the dialectic, Marx
began with a Hegelian notion of alienation but developed a more materialist
conception. For Marx, the possibility that one may give up ownership
of one's own labour — one's capacity to transform the world —
is tantamount to being alienated from one's own nature; it is a spiritual
loss. Marx described this loss in terms of commodity fetishism, in which
the things that people produce, commodities, appear to have a life and
movement of their own to which humans and their behavior merely adapt.
This disguises the fact that the exchange and circulation of commodities
really are the product and reflection of social relationships among
people. Under capitalism, social relationships of production, such as
among workers or between workers and capitalists, are mediated through
commodities, including labor, that are bought and sold on the market.
is an example of what Engels called false consciousness, which is closely
related to the understanding of ideology. By ideology they meant ideas
that reflect the interests of a particular class at a particular time
in history, but which are presented as universal and eternal. Marx and
Engels' point was not only that such beliefs are at best half-truths;
they serve an important political function. Put another way, the control
that one class exercises over the means of production includes not only
the production of food or manufactured goods; it includes the production
of ideas as well (this provides one possible explanation for why members
of a subordinate class may hold ideas contrary to their own interests).
Thus, while such ideas may be false, they also reveal in coded form
some truth about political relations. For example, although the belief
that the things people produce are actually more productive than the
people who produce them is literally absurd, it does reflect the fact
(according to Marx and Engels) that people under capitalism are alienated
from their own labour-power. Another example of this sort of analysis
is Marx's understanding of religion, summed up in a passage from the
preface to his 1843 Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy
suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering
and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sign of the oppressed
creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.
It is the opium of the people. ”
Whereas his Gymnasium
senior thesis argued that the primary social function of religion was
to promote solidarity, here Marx sees the social function as a way of
expressing and coping with social inequality, thereby maintaining the
Marx argued that this alienation of human work (and resulting commodity
fetishism) is precisely the defining feature of capitalism. Prior to
capitalism, markets existed in Europe where producers and merchants
bought and sold commodities. According to Marx, a capitalist mode of
production developed in Europe when labor itself became a commodity
— when peasants became free to sell their own labor-power, and
needed to do so because they no longer possessed their own land. People
sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return for whatever
work they do in a given period of time (in other words, they are not
selling the product of their labor, but their capacity to work). In
return for selling their labor power they receive money, which allows
them to survive. Those who must sell their labor power are "proletarians."
The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own
the land and technology to produce, is a "capitalist" or "bourgeoisie."
The proletarians inevitably outnumber the capitalists.
industrial capitalists from merchant capitalists. Merchants buy goods
in one market and sell them in another. Since the laws of supply and
demand operate within given markets, there is often a difference between
the price of a commodity in one market and another. Merchants, then,
practice arbitrage, and hope to capture the difference between these
two markets. According to Marx, capitalists, on the other hand, take
advantage of the difference between the labor market and the market
for whatever commodity is produced by the capitalist. Marx observed
that in practically every successful industry input unit-costs are lower
than output unit-prices. Marx called the difference "surplus value"
and argued that this surplus value had its source in surplus labour,
the difference between what it costs to keep workers alive and what
they can produce.
The capitalist mode
of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist
can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies.
Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in
history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production.
But Marx argued that capitalism was prone to periodic crises. He suggested
that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies,
and less and less in labor. Since Marx believed that surplus value appropriated
from labor is the source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit
would fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below
a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression in which
certain sectors of the economy would collapse. Marx understood that
during such a crisis the price of labor would also fall, and eventually
make possible the investment in new technologies and the growth of new
sectors of the economy.
Marx believed that
this cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would be punctuated by increasingly
severe crises. Moreover, he believed that the long-term consequence
of this process was necessarily the enrichment and empowerment of the
capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. He believed
that were the proletariat to seize the means of production, they would
encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, and
a system of production less vulnerable to periodic crises. In general,
Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable,
and that a massive, well-organized and violent revolution would in general
be required, because the ruling class would not give up power without
violence. He theorized that to establish the socialist system, a dictatorship
of the proletariat - a period where the needs of the working-class,
not of capital, will be the common deciding factor - must be created
on a temporary basis. As he wrote in his "Critique of the Gotha
Program", "between capitalist and communist society there
lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into
the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period
in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship
of the proletariat."  Yet he was aware of the possibility that
in some countries, with strong democratic institutional structures (e.g.
Britain, the US and the Netherlands) this transformation could occur
through peaceful means, while in countries with a strong centralized
state-oriented traditions, like France and Germany, the upheaval will
have to be violent.
Karl Marx, the son
of Hirschel and Henrietta Marx, was born in Trier, Germany, in 1818.
Hirschel Marx was a lawyer and to escape anti-Semitism decided to abandon
his Jewish faith when Karl was a child. Although the majority of people
living in Trier were Catholics, Marx decided to become a Protestant.
He also changed his name from Hirschel to Heinrich.
in Trier (1830-35), Marx entered Bonn University to study law. At university
he spent much of his time socializing and running up large debts. His
father was horrified when he discovered that Karl had been wounded in
a duel. Heinrich Marx agreed to pay off his son's debts but insisted
that he moved to the more sedate Berlin University.
The move to Berlin
resulted in a change in Marx and for the next few years he worked hard
at his studies. Marx came under the influence of one of his lecturers,
Bruno Bauer, whose atheism and radical political opinions got him into
trouble with the authorities. Bauer introduced Marx to the writings
of G. W. F. Hegel, who had been the professor of philosophy at Berlin
until his death in 1831.
Marx was especially
impressed by Hegel's theory that a thing or thought could not be separated
from its opposite. For example, the slave could not exist without the
master, and vice versa. Hegel argued that unity would eventually be
achieved by the equalizing of all opposites, by means of the dialectic
(logical progression) of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. This was
Hegel's theory of the evolving process of history.
Heinrich Marx died
in 1838. Marx now had to earn his own living and he decided to become
a university lecturer. After completing his doctoral thesis at the University
of Jena, Marx hoped that his mentor, Bruno Bauer, would help find him
a teaching post. However, in 1842 Bauer was dismissed as a result of
his outspoken atheism and was unable to help.
Marx now tried journalism
but his radical political views meant that most editors were unwilling
to publish his articles. He moved to Cologne where the city's liberal
opposition movement was fairly strong. Known as the Cologne Circle,
this liberal group had its own newspaper, The Rhenish Gazette. The newspaper
published an article by Marx where he defended the freedom of the press.
The group was impressed by the article and in October, 1842, Marx was
appointed editor of the newspaper.
In Cologne Karl
Marx met Moses Hess, a radical who called himself a socialist. Marx
began attending socialist meetings organized by Hess. Members of the
group told Marx of the sufferings being endured by the German working-class
and explained how they believed that only socialism could bring this
to an end. Based on what he heard at these meetings, Marx decided to
write an article on the poverty of the Mosel wine-farmers. The article
was also critical of the government and soon after it was published
in the Rhenish Gazette in January 1843, the newspaper was banned by
the Prussian authorities.
Warned that he might
be arrested Marx quickly married his girlfriend, Jenny von Westphalen,
and moved to Paris where he was offered the post of editor of a new
political journal, Franco-German Annals. Among the contributors to the
journal was his old mentor, Bruno Bauer, the Russian anarchist, Michael
Bakunin and the radical son of a wealthy German industrialist, Friedrich
In Paris Marx began
mixing with members of the working class for the first time. Marx was
shocked by their poverty but impressed by their sense of comradeship.
In an article that he wrote for the Franco-German Annals, Marx applied
Hegel's dialectic theory to what he had observed in Paris. Marx, who
now described himself as a communist, argued that the working class
(the proletariat), would eventually be the emancipators of society.
When published in February 1844, the journal was immediately banned
in Germany. Marx also upset the owner of the journal, Arnold Ruge, who
objected to his editor's attack on capitalism.
Marx had now become
a close friend of Friedrich Engels, who had just finished writing a
book about the lives of the industrial workers in England. Engels shared
Marx's views on capitalism and after their first meeting Engels wrote
that there was virtually "complete agreement in all theoretical
fields". Marx and Engels decided to work together. It was a good
partnership, whereas Marx was at his best when dealing with difficult
abstract concepts, Engels had the ability to write for a mass audience.
While working on
their first article together, The Holy Family, the Prussian authorities
put pressure on the French government to expel Marx from the country.
On 25th January 1845, Marx received an order deporting him from France.
Marx and Engels decided to move to Belgium, a country that permitted
greater freedom of expression than any other European state. Marx went
to live in Brussels, where there was a sizable community of political
exiles, including the man who converted him to socialism, Moses Hess.
helped to financially support Marx and his family. Engels gave Marx
the royalties of his recently published book, Condition of the Working
Class in England and arranged for other sympathizers to make donations.
This enabled Marx the time to study and develop his economic and political
theories. Marx spent his time trying to understand the workings of capitalist
society, the factors governing the process of history and how the proletariat
could help bring about a socialist revolution. Unlike previous philosophers,
Marx was not only interested in discovering the truth. As he was to
write later, in the past "philosophers have only interpreted the
world in various ways; the point is, to change it".
In July 1845 Marx
and Engels visited England. They spent most of the time consulting books
in Manchester Library. Marx also visited London where he met the Chartist
leader, George Julian Harney and political exiles from Europe.
When Karl Marx returned
to Brussels he concentrated on finishing his book, The German Ideology.
In the book Marx developed his materialist conception of history, a
theory of history in which human activity, rather than thought, plays
the crucial role. Marx was unable to find a publisher for the book,
and like much of his work, was not published in his lifetime.
In January 1846
Marx set up a Communist Correspondence Committee. The plan was to try
and link together socialist leaders living in different parts of Europe.
Influenced by Marx's ideas, socialists in England held a conference
in London where they formed a new organization called the Communist
League. Marx formed a branch in Brussels and in December 1847 attended
a meeting of the Communist League' Central Committee in London. At the
meeting it was decided that the aims of the organization was "the
overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the domination of the proletariat, the
abolition of the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms, and
the establishment of a new society without classes and without private
When Marx returned
to Brussels had concentrated on writing The Communist Manifesto. Based
on a first draft produced by Friedrich Engels called the Principles
of Communism, Marx finished the 12,000 word pamphlet in six weeks. Unlike
most of Marx's work, it was an accessible account of communist ideology.
Written for a mass audience, The Communist Manifesto summarized the
forthcoming revolution and the nature of the communist society that
would be established by the proletariat.
The Communist Manifesto
was published in February, 1848. The following month, the government
expelled Marx from Belgium. Marx and Engels visited Paris before moving
to Cologne where they founded a radical newspaper, New Rhenish Gazette.
The men hoped to use the newspaper to encourage the revolutionary atmosphere
that they had witnessed in Paris.
After examples of
police brutality in Cologne, Marx helped establish a Committee of Public
Safety to protect the people against the power of the authorities. The
New Rhenish Gazette continued to publish reports of revolutionary activity
all over Europe, including the Democrats seizure of power in Austria
and the decision by the Emperor to flee the country.
about the possibility of world revolution began to subside in 1849.
The army had managed to help the Emperor of Austria return to power
and attempts at uprisings in Dresden, Baden and the Rhur were quickly
put down. On 9th May, 1849, Marx received news he was to be expelled
from the country. The last edition of the New Rhenish Gazette appeared
on 18th May and was printed in red. Marx wrote that although he was
being forced to leave, his ideas would continue to be spread until the
"emancipation of the working class".
Marx now went to
Paris where he believed a socialist revolution was likely to take place
at any time. However, within a month of arriving, the French police
ordered him out of the capital. Only one country remained who would
take him, and on 15th September he sailed for England. Soon after settling
in London Jenny Marx gave birth to her fourth child. The Prussian authorities
applied pressure on the British government to expel Marx but the Prime
Minister, John Russell, held liberal views on freedom of expression
With only the money
that Engels could raise, the Marx family lived in extreme poverty. In
March 1850 they were ejected from their two-roomed flat in Chelsea for
failing to pay the rent. They found cheaper accommodation at 28 Dean
Street, Soho, where they stayed for six years. Their fifth child, Franziska,
was born at their new flat but she only lived for a year. Eleanor was
born in 1855 but later that year, Edgar became Jenny Marx's third child
Marx spent most
of the time in the Reading Room of the British Museum, where he read
the back numbers of The Economist and other books and journals that
would help him analyze capitalist society. In order to help supply Marx
with an income, Friedrich Engels returned to work for his father in
Germany. The two kept in constant contact and over the next twenty years
they wrote to each other on average once every two days.
sent postal orders or £1 or £5 notes, cut in half and sent
in separate envelopes. In this way the Marx family was able to survive.
The poverty of the Marx's family was confirmed by a Prussian police
agent who visited the Dean Street flat in 1852. In his report he pointed
out that the family had sold most of their possessions and that they
did not own one "solid piece of furniture".
Jenny helped her
husband with his work and later wrote that "the memory of the days
I spent in his little study copying his scrawled articles is among the
happiest of my life." The only relief from the misery of poverty
was on a Sunday when they went for family picnics on Hampstead Heath.
In 1852, Charles
Dana, the socialist editor of the New York Daily Tribune, offered Marx
the opportunity to write for his newspaper. Over the next ten years
the newspaper published 487 articles by Marx (125 of them had actually
been written by Engels). Another radical in the USA, George Ripley,
commissioned Marx to write for the New American Cyclopaedia. With the
money from Marx's journalism and the £120 inherited from Jenny's
mother, the family were able to move to 9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town.
In 1856 Jenny Marx,
who was now aged 42, gave birth to a still-born child. Her health took
a further blow when she contacted smallpox. Although she survived this
serious illness, it left her deaf and badly scarred. Marx's health was
also bad and he wrote to Engels claiming that "such a lousy life
is not worth living". After a bad bout of boils in 1863 Marx told
Engels that the only consolation was that "it was a truly proletarian
By the 1860s the
work for the New York Daily Tribune came to an end and Marx's money
problems returned. Engels sent him £5 a month but this failed
to stop him getting deeply into debt. Ferdinand Lassalle, a wealthy
socialist from Berlin also began sending money to Marx and offered him
work as an editor of a planned new radical newspaper in Germany. Marx,
unwilling to return to his homeland and rejected the job. Lassalle continued
to send Marx money until he was killed in a duel on 28th August 1864.
Despite all his
problems Marx continued to work and in 1867 the first volume of Das
Kapital was published. A detailed analysis of capitalism, the book dealt
with important concepts such as surplus value (the notion that a worker
receives only the exchange-value, not the use-value, of his labour);
division of labour (where workers become a "mere appendage of the
machine") and the industrial reserve army (the theory that capitalism
creates unemployment as a means of keeping the workers in check).
In the final part
of Das Kapital Marx deals with the issue of revolution. Marx argued
that the laws of capitalism will bring about its destruction. Capitalist
competition will lead to a diminishing number of monopoly capitalists,
while at the same time, the misery and oppression of the proletariat
would increase. Marx claimed that as a class, the proletariat will gradually
become "disciplined, united and organised by the very mechanism
of the process of capitalist production" and eventually will overthrow
the system that is the cause of their suffering.
Marx now began work
on the second volume of Das Kapital. By 1871 his sixteen year old daughter,
Eleanor Marx, was helping him with his work. Taught at home by her father,
Eleanor already had a detailed understanding of the capitalist system
and was to play an important role in the future of the British labor
movement. On one occasion Marx told his children that "Jenny (his
eldest daughter) is most like me, but Tussy (Eleanor) is me."
Marx was encouraged
by the formation of the Paris Commune in March 1871 and the abdication
of Louis Napoleon. Marx called it the "greatest achievement"
since the revolutions of 1848, but by May the revolt had collapsed and
about 30,000 Communards were slaughtered by government troops.
This failure depressed
Marx and after this date his energy began to diminish. He continued
to work on the second volume of Das Kapital but progress was slow, especially
after Eleanor Marx left home to become a schoolteacher in Brighton.
to the family home in 1881 to nurse her parents who were both very ill.
Marx, who had a swollen liver, survived, but Jenny Marx died on 2nd
December, 1881. Karl Marx was also devastated by the death of his eldest
daughter in January 1883 from cancer of the bladder. Karl Marx died
two months later on the 14th March, 1883.