Karl MarxKarl Heinrich Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the city of Trier in Prussia,now, Germany. He was one of seven children of Jewish Parents. His father wasfairly iberal, taking part in demonstrations for a constitution for Prussia andreading such authors as Voltaire and Kant, known for their social commentary.
His mother, Henrietta, was originally from Holland and never became a German atheart, not even learning to speak the language properly. Shortly before KarlMarx was born, his father converted the family to the Evangelical EstablishedChurch, Karl being baptized at the age of six. Marx attended high school in hishome town (1830-1835) where several teachers and pupils were under suspicion ofharboring liberal ideals. Marx himself seemed to be a devoted Christian with a”longing for self-sacrifice on behalf of humanity. ” In October of1835, he started attendance at the University of Bonn, enrolling innon-socialistic-related classes like Greek and Roman mythology and the historyof art.Order now
During this time, he spent a day in jail for being “drunk anddisorderly-the only imprisonment he suffered” in the course of his life. The student culture at Bonn included, as a major part, being politicallyrebellious and Marx was involved, presiding over the Tavern Club and joining aclub for poets that included some politically active students. However, he leftBonn after a year and enrolled at the University of Berlin to study law andphilosophy. Marx’s experience in Berlin was crucial to his ntroduction toHegel’s philosophy and to his “adherence to the Young Hegelians.
“Hegel’s philosophy was crucial to the development of his own ideas and theories. Upon his first introduction to Hegel’s beliefs, Marx felt a repugnance and wrotehis father that when he felt sick, it was partially “from intense vexationat having to make an idol of a view detested. ” The Hegelian doctrinesexerted considerable pressure in the “revolutionary student culture”that Marx was immersed in, however, and Marx eventually joined a society calledthe Doctor Club, involved mainly in the “new literary and philosophicalmovement” who’s chief figure was Bruno Bauer, a lecturer in theology whothought that the Gospels were not a record of History but that they came from”human fantasies arising from man’s emotional needs” and he alsohypothesized that Jesus had not existed as a person. Bauer was later dismissedfrom his position by the Prussian government.
By 1841, Marx’s studies werelacking and, at the suggestion of a friend, he submitted a doctoral dissertationto the university at Jena, known for having lax acceptance requirements. Unsurprisingly, he got in, and finally received his degree in 1841. His thesis”analyzed in a Hegelian fashion the difference between the naturalphilosophies of Democritus and Epicurus” using his knowledge of mythologyand the myth of Prometheus in his chains. In October of 1842, Marx became theeditor of the paper Rheinische Zeitung, and, as the editor, wrote editorials onsocio-economic issues such as poverty, etc.
During this time, he found that his”Hegelian philosophy was of little use” and he separated himself fromhis young Hegelian friends who only shocked the bourgeois to make up their”social activity. ” Marx helped the paper to succeed and it almostbecame the leading journal in Prussia. However, the Prussian governmentsuspended it because of “pressures from the goverment of Russia. ” So,Marx went to Paris to study “French Communism. ” In June of 1843, hewas married to Jenny Von Westphalen, an attractive girl, four years older thanMarx, who came from a prestigious family of both military and administrativedistinction.
Although many of the members of the Von Westphalen family wereopposed to the marriage, Jenny’s father favored Marx. In Paris, Marx becameacquainted with the Communistic views of French workmen. Although he thoughtthat the ideas of the workmen were “utterly crude and unintelligent,”he admired their camaraderie. He later wrote an article entitled “Towardthe Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right” from which comes thefamous quote that religion is the “opium of the people. ” Once again,the Prussian government interfered with Marx and he was expelled from France. Heleft for Brussels, Belgium, and , in 1845, renounced his Prussian nationality.
During the next two years in Brussels, the lifelong collaboration with Engelsdeepened further. He and Marx, sharing the same views, pooled their”intellectual resources” and published The Holy Family, a criticism ofthe Hegelian idealism of Bruno Bauer. In their next work, they demonstratedtheir materialistic conception of history but the book found no publisher and”remained unknown during its author’s lifetimes. ” It is during hisyears in Brussels that Marx really developed his views and established his”intellectual standing.
” From December of 1847 to January of 1848,Engels and Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, a document outlining 10 immediatemeasures towards Communism, ranging from a progressive income tax and theabolition of inheritances to free education for all children. ” When theRevolution erupted in Europe in 1848, Marx was invited to Paris just in time toescape expulsion by the Belgian government. He became unpopular to German exileswhen, while in Paris, he opposed Georg Hewegh’s project to organize a Germanlegion to invade and “liberate the Fatherland. ” After traveling backto Cologne, Marx called for democracy and agreed with Engels that the CommunistLeague should be disbanded. During this time, Marx got into trouble with thegovernment; he was indicted on charges that he advocated that people not paytaxes.
However, after defending himself in his trial, he was acquittedunanimously. On May 16, 1849, Marx was “banished as an alien” by thePrussian government. Marx then went to London. There, he rejoined the CommunistLeague and became more bold in his revolutionary policy. He advocated that thepeople try to make the revolution “permanent” and that they shouldavoid subservience to the bourgeois peoples.
The faction that he belonged toridiculed his ideas and he stopped attending meetings of the London Communists,working on the defense of 11 communists arrested in Cologne, instead. He wrotequite a few works during this time, including an essay entitled “DerAchtzenhnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte” (The Eighteenth Brumaire of LouisBonaparte) and also a pamphlet written on the behalf of the 11 communists he wasdefending in Cologne. From 1850 to 1864, Marx lived in poverty and”spiritual pain,” only taking a job once. He and his family wereevicted from their apartment and several of his children died, his son, Guido,who Marx called “a sacrifice to bourgeois misery” and a daughter namedFranziska.
They were so poor that his wife had to borrow money for her coffin. Frederich Engels was the one who gave Marx and his family money to survive onduring these years. His only other source of money was his job as the Europeancorrespondent for The New York Tribune, writing editorials and columns analyzingeverything in the “political universe. ” Marx published his first bookon economic theory in 1859, called A Contribution to the Critique of PoliticalEconomy. Marx’s “political isolation” ended when he joined theInternational Working Men’s Association.
Although he was neither the founder northe leader of this organization, he “became its leading spirit” and asthe corresponding secretary for Germany, he attended all meetings. Marx’sdistinction as a political figure really came in 1870 with the Paris Commune. Hebecame an international figure and his name “became synonymous throughoutEurope with the revolutionary spirit symbolized by the Paris Commune. ” Anopposition to Marx developed under the leadership of a Russian revolutionist,Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin.
Bakunin was a famed orator whose speeches onelistener described as “a raging storm with lightning, flashes andthunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions. ” Bakunin admired Marx’s intellectbut was personally opposed to him because Marx had an “ethnicaversion” to Russians. Bakunin believed that Marx was a “Germanauthoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted to transform the General councilinto a personal dictatorship over the workers. ” Bakunin organized sectionsof the International for an attack on the “dictatorship” of Marx andthe General Council.
Marx didn’t have the support of a right wing and fearedthat he would lose control to Bakunin. However, he was successful at expellingthe Bakuninists from the International and shortly, the International died outin New York. During the next decade of his life, his last few years, Marx wasbeset by what he called “chronic mental depression” and “his lifeturned inward toward his family. ” He never completed any substantial workduring this time although he kept his mind active, reading and learning Russian.
In 1879, Marx dictated the preamble of the program for the French SocialistWorkers’ Federation and shaped much of its content. During his last years, Marxspent time in health resorts and dies in London of a lung abscess on March 14,1883, after the death of his wife and daughter. Marx’s work seems to be more ofa criticism of Hegelian and other philosophy, than as a statement of his ownphilosophy. While Hegel felt that philosophy explained reality, Marx felt thatphilosophy should be made into reality, an hard thing to do.
He thought that onemust not just look at and inspect the world, but must try to transform theworld, much like Jean Paul Sartre’s view that “man must choose what is bestfor the world; and he will do so. ” Marx is unique from other philosophersin that he chooses to regard man as an individual, a human being. This isevident in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. There, he declaresthat man is a “natural being” who is endowed with “natural vital powers” that “exist in him as aptitudes instincts. “Humans simply struggle with nature for the satisfaction of man’s needs.
Fromthis struggle comes man’s awareness of himself as an individual and as somethingseparate from nature. So, he seeks to oppose nature. He sees that history isjust the story of man creating and re-creating himself and sees that man createshimself, and that a “god” has no part in it. Thus, the communistbelief in no religion. Marx also says that the more man works as a laborer, theless he has to consume for himself because his “product and labor areestranged” from him. Marx says that because the work of the laborer istaken away and does not belong to the laborer, the laborer loses his”rightful existence” and is made alien to himself.
Private propertybecomes a product and cause of “alienated labor” and through that,causes disharmony. “Alienated labor is seen as the consequence of marketproduct, the division of labor, and the division of society into antagonisticclasses. ” So, capitalism, which encourages the possession of privateproperty, encourages alienation of man. Capitalism, which encourages theamassment of money, encourages mass production, to optimize productivity. Massproduction also intensifies the alienation of labor because it encouragesspecialization and it makes people view the workers not as individuals but asmachines to do work. It is this attitude that incites the uprisings of the lowerclasses against the higher classes, namely, the nobility.
Regarding Marx’sattitude toward religion, he thought that religion was simply a “product ofman’s consciousness” and that it is a reflection of the situation of a manwho “either has not conquered himself or has already lost himselfagain. ” Marx sums it all up in a famous quote, stating that religion is”an opium for the people. ” Marx’s hypothesis of historical materialismcontains this maxim; that “It is not the consciousness of men whichdetermines their existence; it is on the contrary their social existence whichdetermines their consciousness. ” Marx has applied his theory of historicalmaterialism to capitalist society in both The Communist Manifesto and DasKapital, among others. Marx never really explained his entire theory through buttaking the text literally, “social reality” is arranged in this way:That underlying our society is economic structure; and that above the foundationof economy rises “legal and political.
. . forms of social consciousness”that relate back to the economic foundation of society. An interesting mark ofMarx’s analysis of economy is evidenced in Das Kapital, where he “studiesthe economy as a whole and not in one or another of its” parts andsections. His analysis is based on the precept of man being a productive entityand that “all economic value comes from human labor.
” Marx speaks ofcapitalism as an unstable environment. He says that its development isaccompanied by “increasing contradictions” and that the equilibrium ofthe system is precarious as it is to the internal pressures resulting from itsdevelopment. Capitalism is too easy to tend to a downward spiral resulting ineconomic and social ruin. An example of the downward spiral in a capitalistsociety is inflation. Inflation involves too much currency in circulation. Because of inflation and the increase in prices of goods resulting from it, thepeople of the society hoard their money which, because that money is out ofcirculation, causes more money to be printed.
The one increases the effect ofthe other and thus, the downward spiral. Marx views revolution with twoperspectives. One takes the attitude that revolution should be a great uprisinglike that of the French revolution. The other “conception” is that ofthe “permanent revolution” involving a “provisionalcoalition” between the low and higher classes. However, an analysis of theCommunist Manifesto shows inconsistencies between the relationship of permanentand violent revolution; that Marx did not exactly determine the exactrelationship between these two yet.
Aside from the small inconsistencies inMarx’s philosophy, he exhibits sound ideas that do seem to work on paper butfail in the real world where millions of uncertainties contribute to the errorin every social experiment on Earth. Communism never gets farther than socialismin its practice in the real world and that is where the fault lies, in thegovernments that try to cheat the system while still maintaining their idealcommunist society.