Karl MarxKarl MarxKarl Heinrich Marx was born on May 5, 1818,in the city of Trier in Prussia, now, Germany. He was one of seven childrenof Jewish Parents. His father was fairly liberal, taking part in demonstrationsfor a constitution for Prussia and reading such authors as Voltaire andKant, known for their social commentary.
His mother, Henrietta, was originallyfrom Holland and never became a German at heart, not even learning to speakthe language properly. Shortly before Karl Marx was born, his father convertedthe family to the Evangelical Established Church, Karl being baptized atthe age of six. Marx attended high school in his home town(1830-1835) where several teachers and pupils were under suspicion of harboringliberal ideals. Marx himself seemed to be a devoted Christian with a “longingfor self-sacrifice on behalf of humanity. ” In October of 1835, he startedattendance at the University of Bonn, enrolling in non-socialistic-relatedclasses like Greek and Roman mythology and the history of art. During thistime, he spent a day in jail for being “drunk and disorderly-the only imprisonmenthe suffered” in the course of his life.
The student culture at Bonn included,as a major part, being politically rebellious and Marx was involved, presidingover the Tavern Club and joining a club for poets that included some politicallyactive students. However, he left Bonn after a year and enrolled at theUniversity of Berlin to study law and philosophy. Marx’s experience in Berlin was crucialto his introduction to Hegel’s philosophy and to his “adherence to theYoung Hegelians. ” Hegel’s philosophy was crucial to the development ofhis own ideas and theories.
Upon his first introduction to Hegel’s beliefs,Marx felt a repugnance and wrote his father that when he felt sick, itwas partially “from intense vexation at having to make an idol of a view detested. ” The Hegelian doctrines exerted considerable pressure inthe “revolutionary student culture” that Marx was immersed in, however,and Marx eventually joined a society called the Doctor Club, involved mainlyin the “new literary and philosophical movement” who’s chief figure wasBruno Bauer, a lecturer in theology who thought that the Gospels were nota record of History but that they came from “human fantasies arising fromman’s emotional needs” and he also hypothesized that Jesus had not existedas a person. Bauer was later dismissed from his position by the Prussiangovernment. By 1841, Marx’s studies were lacking and, at the suggestionof a friend, he submitted a doctoral dissertation to the university atJena, known for having lax acceptance requirements. Unsurprisingly, hegot in, and finally received his degree in 1841.
His thesis “analyzed ina Hegelian fashion the difference between the natural philosophies of Democritusand Epicurus” using his knowledge of mythology and the myth of Prometheusin his chains. In October of 1842, Marx became the editorof the paper Rheinische Zeitung, and, as the editor, wrote editorials onsocio-economic issues such as poverty, etc. During this time, he foundthat his “Hegelian philosophy was of little use” and he separated himselffrom his young Hegelian friends who only shocked the bourgeois to makeup 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 government of Russia. ” So,Marx went to Paris to study “French Communism. “In June of 1843, he was married to JennyVon Westphalen, an attractive girl, four years older than Marx, who camefrom a prestigious family of both military and administrative distinction. Although many of the members of the Von Westphalen family were opposedto the marriage, Jenny’s father favored Marx. In Paris, Marx became acquaintedwith the Communistic views of French workmen. Although he thought thatthe ideas of the workmen were “utterly crude and unintelligent,” he admiredtheir camaraderie.
He later wrote an article entitled “Toward the Critiqueof the Hegelian Philosophy of Right” from which comes the famous quotethat religion is the “opium of the people. ” Once again, the Prussian governmentinterfered with Marx and he was expelled from France. He left for Brussels,Belgium, and , in 1845, renounced his Prussian nationality. During the next two years in Brussels,the lifelong collaboration with Engels deepened further. He and Marx, sharingthe same views, pooled their “intellectual resources” and published TheHoly Family, a criticism of the Hegelian idealism of Bruno Bauer.
In theirnext work, they demonstrated their materialistic conception of historybut the book found no publisher and “remained unknown during its author’slifetimes. “It is during his years in Brussels thatMarx really developed his views and established his “intellectual standing. “From December of 1847 to January of 1848, Engels and Marx wrote The CommunistManifesto, a document outlining 10 immediate measures towards Communism,”ranging from a progressive income tax and the abolition of inheritancesto free education for all children. “When the Revolution erupted in Europe in1848, Marx was invited to Paris just in time to escape expulsion by theBelgian government. He became unpopular to German exiles when, while inParis, he opposed Georg Hewegh’s project to organize a German legion toinvade and “liberate the Fatherland.
” After traveling back to Cologne,Marx called for democracy and agreed with Engels that the Communist Leagueshould be disbanded. During this time, Marx got into trouble with the government;he was indicted on charges that he advocated that people not pay taxes. However, after defending himself in his trial, he was acquitted unanimously. On May 16, 1849, Marx was “banished as an alien” by the Prussian government. Marx then went to London.
There, he rejoinedthe Communist League and became more bold in his revolutionary policy. He advocated that the people try to make the revolution “permanent” andthat they should avoid subservience to the bourgeois peoples. The factionthat he belonged to ridiculed his ideas and he stopped attending meetingsof the London Communists, working on the defense of 11 communists arrestedin Cologne, instead. He wrote quite a few works during this time, includingan essay entitled “Der Achtzenhnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte” (The EighteenthBrumaire of Louis Bonaparte) and also a pamphlet written on the behalfof the 11 communists he was defending in Cologne.
>From 1850 to 1864, Marx lived in povertyand “spiritual pain,” only taking a job once. He and his family were evictedfrom 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 hercoffin. Frederich Engels was the one who gave Marxand his family money to survive on during these years.
His only other sourceof money was his job as the European correspondent for The New York Tribune,writing editorials and columns analyzing everything in the “political universe. “Marx published his first book on economic theory in 1859, called A Contributionto the Critique of Political Economy. Marx’s “political isolation” ended whenhe joined the International Working Men’s Association. Although he wasneither the founder nor the leader of this organization, he “became itsleading spirit” and as the corresponding secretary for Germany, he attendedall meetings. Marx’s distinction as a political figure really came in 1870with the Paris Commune. He became an international figure and his name”became synonymous throughout Europe with the revolutionary spirit symbolizedby the Paris Commune.
“An opposition to Marx developed under theleadership of a Russian revolutionist, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin. Bakuninwas a famed orator whose speeches one listener described as “a raging stormwith lightning, flashes and thunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions. ” Bakuninadmired Marx’s intellect but was personally opposed to him because Marxhad an “ethnic aversion” to Russians. Bakunin believed that Marx was a”German authoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted to transform the Generalcouncil into a personal dictatorship over the workers.
” Bakunin organizedsections of the International for an attack on the “dictatorship” of Marxand the General Council. Marx didn’t have the support of a right wing andfeared that he would lose control to Bakunin. However, he was successfulat expelling the Bakuninists from the International and shortly, the Internationaldied out in New York. During the next decade of his life, hislast few years, Marx was beset by what he called “chronic mental depression”and “his life turned inward toward his family.
” He never completed anysubstantial work during this time although he kept his mind active, readingand learning Russian. In 1879, Marx dictated the preamble of the programfor the French Socialist Workers’ Federation and shaped much of its content. During his last years, Marx spent time in health resorts and dies in Londonof a lung abscess on March 14, 1883, after the death of his wife and daughter. Marx’s work seems to be more of a criticismof Hegelian and other philosophy, than as a statement of his own philosophy. While Hegel felt that philosophy explained reality, Marx felt that philosophyshould be made into reality, an hard thing to do. He thought that one mustnot just look at and inspect the world, but must try to transform the world,much like Jean Paul Sartre’s view that “man must choose what is best forthe world; and he will do so.
“Marx is unique from other philosophersin that he chooses to regard man as an individual, a human being. Thisis evident in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. There,he declares that man is a “natural being” who is endowed with “natural vital powers” that “exist in him as aptitudes instincts. ” Humanssimply struggle with nature for the satisfaction of man’s needs. From thisstruggle comes man’s awareness of himself as an individual and as somethingseparate from nature.
So, he seeks to oppose nature. He sees that historyis just the story of man creating and re-creating himself and sees thatman creates himself, and that a “god” has no part in it. Thus, the communistbelief in no religion. Marx also says that the more man worksas a laborer, the less he has to consume for himself because his “productand labor are estranged” from him. Marx says that because the work of thelaborer is taken away and does not belong to the laborer, the laborer loseshis “rightful existence” and is made alien to himself. Private propertybecomes a product and cause of “alienated labor” and through that, causesdisharmony.
“Alienated labor is seen as the consequence of market product,the division of labor, and the division of society into antagonistic classes. “So, capitalism, which encourages the possessionof private property, encourages alienation of man. Capitalism, which encouragesthe amassment of money, encourages mass production, to optimize productivity. Mass production also intensifies the alienation of labor because it encouragesspecialization and it makes people view the workers not as individualsbut as machines to do work.
It is this attitude that incites the uprisingsof the lower classes against the higher classes, namely, the nobility. Regarding Marx’s attitude toward religion,he thought that religion was simply a “product of man’s consciousness”and that it is a reflection of the situation of a man who “either has notconquered himself or has already lost himself again. ” Marx sums it allup 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 which determinestheir existence; it is on the contrary their social existence which determinestheir consciousness.
” Marx has applied his theory of historical materialismto capitalist society in both The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital,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 economicstructure; and That above the foundation of economy rises “legal and political. . . formsof social consciousness” that relate back to the economic foundation ofsociety.
An interesting mark of Marx’s analysisof economy is evidenced in Das Kapital, where he “studies the economy asa whole and not in one or another of its” parts and sections. His analysisis based on the precept of man being a productive entity and that “alleconomic value comes from human labor. “Marx speaks of capitalism as an unstableenvironment. He says that its development is accompanied by “increasingcontradictions” and that the equilibrium of the system is precarious asit is to the internal pressures resulting from its development. Capitalismis too easy to tend to a downward spiral resulting in economic and socialruin. An example of the downward spiral in a capitalist society is inflation.
Inflation involves too much currency in circulation. Because of inflationand the increase in prices of goods resulting from it, the people of thesociety hoard their money which, because that money is out of circulation,causes more money to be printed. The one increases the effect of the otherand thus, the downward spiral. Marx views revolution with two perspectives.
One takes the attitude that revolution should be a great uprising likethat of the French revolution. The other “conception” is that of the “permanentrevolution” involving a “provisional coalition” between the low and higherclasses. However, an analysis of the Communist Manifesto shows inconsistenciesbetween the relationship of permanent and violent revolution; that Marxdid not exactly determine the exact relationship between these two yet. Aside from the small inconsistencies inMarx’s philosophy, he exhibits sound ideas that do seem to work on paperbut fail in the real world where millions of uncertainties contribute tothe error in every social experiment on Earth.
Communism never gets fartherthan socialism in its practice in the real world and that is where thefault lies, in the governments that try to cheat the system while stillmaintaining their ideal communist society.