- Category : Philosopher
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sphinx 2
Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the establishment of the social sciences and the development of the socialist movement.
He is also considered one of the greatest economists in history. He published numerous books during his lifetime, the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital (1867 –1894). He often worked closely with his friend and fellow revolutionary socialist, Friedrich Engels.
Born into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier (formerly in Prussian Rhineland, now called Rhineland-Palatinate), Marx studied at both the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. In 1836 he became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, whom he married in 1843. After his studies, he wrote for a radical newspaper in Cologne, and began to work out his theory of dialectical materialism. After moving to Paris in 1843, he began writing for other radical newspapers. He met Engels in Paris, and the two men worked together on a series of books. Exiled to Brussels, he became a leading figure of the Communist League, before moving back to Cologne and founding his own newspaper. In 1849 he was exiled again and moved to London together with his wife and children. In London, where the family was reduced to poverty, Marx continued writing and formulating his theories about the nature of society and how he believed it could be improved, and also campaigned for socialism—he became a significant figure in the International Workingmen's Association.
Marx's theories about society, economics and politics—collectively known as Marxism—hold that all societies progress through the dialectic of class struggle: a conflict between an ownership class which controls production and a lower class which produces the labour for goods. Heavily critical of the current socio-economic form of society, capitalism, he called it the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie", believing it to be run by the wealthy classes purely for their own benefit; and he predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism. He argued that under socialism society would be governed by the working class in what he called the "dictatorship of the proletariat", the "workers' state" or "workers' democracy". He believed that socialism would, in its turn, eventually be replaced by a stateless, classless society called communism. Along with believing in the inevitability of socialism and communism, Marx actively fought for the former's implementation, arguing that social theorists and underprivileged people alike should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic change.
Revolutionary socialist governments espousing Marxist concepts took power in a variety of countries in the 20th century, leading to the formation of such socialist states as the Soviet Union in 1922 and the People's Republic of China in 1949. Many labour unions and workers' parties worldwide were also influenced by Marxist ideas, while various theoretical variants, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, and Maoism, were developed from them. Marx is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science. Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history.
Early life: 1818–1835
Karl Heinrich Marx was born on 5 May 1818 at 664 Brückergasse in Trier, a town located in the Kingdom of Prussia's Province of the Lower Rhine. His ancestry was Ashkenazi Jewish, with his paternal line having supplied the rabbis of Trier since 1723, a role that had been taken up by his own grandfather, Meier Halevi Marx; Meier's son and Karl's father would be the first in the line to receive a secular education. His maternal grandfather was a Dutch rabbi. Karl's father, Herschel Marx, was middle-class and relatively wealthy: the family owned a number of Moselle vineyards; he converted from Judaism to the Protestant Christian denomination of Lutheranism prior to his son's birth, taking on the German forename of Heinrich over Herschel. In 1815 he began working as an attorney and in 1819 moved his family from a five-room rented apartment into a ten-room property near the Porta Nigra. A man of the Enlightenment, Heinrich Marx was interested in the ideas of the philosophers Immanuel Kant and Voltaire, and took part in agitation for a constitution and reforms in Prussia, which was then governed by an absolute monarchy. Karl's mother, born Henrietta Pressburg (20 July 1788 – 30 November 1863), was a Dutch Jew who, unlike her husband, was only semi-literate. She claimed to suffer from "excessive mother love", devoting much time to her family, and insisting on cleanliness within her home. She was from a prosperous business family that later founded the company Philips Electronics: she was great-aunt to Anton and Gerard Philips, and great-great-aunt to Frits Philips. Her brother, Marx's uncle Benjamin Philips (1830-1900), was a wealthy banker and industrialist, upon whom Karl and Jenny Marx would later often come to rely for loans while they were exiled in London.
Heinrich Marx converted to Lutheran Protestantism in 1816 or 1817 in order to continue practicing law after the Prussian edict denying Jews to the bar. Karl was born in 1818 and baptized in 1824, but his mother, Henriette, did not convert until 1825, when Karl was seven. There is no evidence that the Marx family actually embraced Lutheranism, although there is no evidence that they were practicing Jews. Marx identified himself as an atheist.
Little is known about Karl Marx's childhood. He was privately educated until 1830, when he entered Trier High School, whose headmaster Hugo Wyttenbach was a friend of his father. Wyttenbach had employed many liberal humanists as teachers. This angered the government, causing the police to raid the school in 1832, when they discovered what they labelled seditious literature that espoused political liberalism being distributed amongst the students. In 1835 Karl, then seventeen, began attending the University of Bonn, where he wished to study philosophy and literature, but his father insisted on law as a more practical field. He was able to avoid military service when he turned eighteen because he suffered from a weak chest. Being fond of alcoholic beverages, he joined the Trier Tavern Club drinking society (Landsmannschaft der Treveraner) and at one point served as its co-president. Marx was more interested in drinking and socialising than studying law. Because of his poor grades, his father forced him to transfer to the far more serious and academically oriented University of Berlin, where his legal studies became less significant to him than excursions into philosophy and history.
Hegelianism and early activism: 1836–1843
Marx became interested in, but critical of, the work of the German philosopher G.W.F Hegel (1770–1831), whose ideas were widely debated amongst European philosophical circles at the time. Marx wrote about falling ill "from intense vexation at having to make an idol of a view I detested." He became involved with a group of radical thinkers known as the Young Hegelians, who gathered around Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer. Like Marx, the Young Hegelians were critical of Hegel's metaphysical assumptions, but still adopted his dialectical method in order to criticise established society, politics, and religion. Marx befriended Bauer, and in July 1841, the two scandalised their class in Bonn by getting drunk, laughing in church, and galloping through the streets on donkeys. During that period, Marx concentrated on his criticism of Hegel and certain other Young Hegelians.
Marx also wrote for his own enjoyment, writing both non-fiction and fiction. In 1837, he completed a short novel, Scorpion and Felix, a drama, Oulanem, and some poems; none of which was published. In 1971, Marx's one act play Oulanem was made available in English by author Robert Payne. According to Payne, the title Oulanem is an anagram for "Manuelo" which is a variant of "Emmanuel" meaning "God is with us". He soon gave up writing fiction for other pursuits, including learning English and Italian.
He was deeply engaged in writing his doctoral thesis, The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, which he finished in 1841. The essay has been described as "a daring and original piece of work in which he set out to show that theology must yield to the superior wisdom of philosophy", and as such was controversial, particularly among the conservative professors at the University of Berlin. Marx decided to submit it instead to the more liberal University of Jena, whose faculty awarded him his PhD based on it.
From considering an academic career, Marx turned to journalism. He moved to the city of Cologne in 1842, where he began writing for the radical newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, where he expressed his increasingly socialist views on politics. He criticised the governments of Europe and their policies, but also liberals and other members of the socialist movement whose ideas he thought were ineffective or outright anti-socialist. The paper eventually attracted the attention of the Prussian government censors, who checked every issue for potentially seditious material before it could be printed. Marx said, "Our newspaper has to be presented to the police to be sniffed at, and if the police nose smells anything un-Christian or un-Prussian, the newspaper is not allowed to appear." After the paper published an article strongly criticising the monarchy in Russia, the Russian Tsar Nicholas I, an ally of the Prussian monarchy, requested that the Rheinische Zeitung be banned. The Prussian government shut down the paper in 1843. Marx wrote for the Young Hegelian journal, the Deutsche-Französische Jahrbücher, in which he criticised the censorship instructions issued by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. His article was censored, and the newspaper closed down by the authorities shortly after.
In 1843, Marx published On the Jewish Question, in which he distinguished between political and human emancipation. He also examined the role of religious practice in society. That same year he wrote notes on a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. He completed both works shortly before leaving Cologne.
Following the government-imposed shutdown of the Rheinische Zeitung, Marx got involved with a new radical newspaper, the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals), which was then being set up by Arnold Ruge, another German socialist revolutionary. The paper was based not in Germany, but in the city of Paris in neighbouring France, and it was here that both Marx and his wife moved in October 1843. They initially lived with Ruge and his wife communally at 23 Rue Vaneau, but finding these living conditions difficult, the Marxes moved out following the birth of their daughter Jenny in 1844. Although it was intended to attract writers from both France and the German states, the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher was dominated by the latter, with the only non-German writer being the exiled Russian anarcho-communist Michael Bakunin. Only one issue was ever published, but it was relatively successful, largely owing to the inclusion of Heinrich Heine's satirical odes on King Ludwig of Bavaria, which led to those copies sent to Germany being confiscated by the state's police force. Marx's contributions to the Jahrbücher include the Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, which includes his famous description of religion as "the opiate of the people."
It was in Paris that, on 28 August 1844, Marx met German socialist Friedrich Engels at the Café de la Régence after becoming interested in the ideas that the latter had expressed in articles written for the Rheinische Zeitung and the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. Although they had briefly met each other at the offices of the Rheinische Zeitung in 1842, it was here in Paris that they began their friendship that would last for the rest of their lives. Engels showed Marx his recently published book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, which convinced Marx that the working class would be the agent and instrument of the final revolution in history. Engels and Marx soon set about writing a criticism of the philosophical ideas of Marx's former friend, the Young Hegelian Bruno Bauer, which would be published in 1845 as The Holy Family. Although critical of Bauer, Marx was increasingly influenced by the ideas of the other Young Hegelians Max Stirner and Ludwig Feuerbach, but eventually also abandoned Feuerbachian materialism as well.
In 1844 Marx wrote The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, a work which covered numerous topics, and went into detail to explain Marx's concept of alienated labour. A year later Marx would write Theses on Feuerbach, best known for the statement that "the philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it". This work contains Marx's criticism of materialism (for being contemplative), idealism (for reducing practice to theory) and overall, criticising philosophy for putting abstract reality above the physical world. It thus introduced the first glimpse at Marx's historical materialism, an argument that the world is changed not by ideas but by actual, physical, material activity and practice.
After the collapse of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, Marx, still living on the Rue Vaneau, began writing for what was then the only uncensored German-language radical newspaper in Europe, Vorwärts!. Based in Paris, the paper had been established and was run by many activists connected to the revolutionary socialist League of the Just, which would come to be better known as the Communist League within a few years. In Vorwärts!, Marx continued to refine his views on socialism based upon the Hegelian and Feuerbachian ideas of dialectical materialism, whilst at the same time criticising various liberals and other socialists operating in Europe at the time. However in 1845, after receiving a request from the Prussian king, the French government agreed to shut down Vorwärts!, and furthermore, Marx himself was expelled from France by the interior minister François Guizot.
Unable either to stay in France or to move to Germany, Marx decided to emigrate to Brussels in Belgium, but had to pledge not to publish anything on the subject of contemporary politics in order to enter. In Brussels, he associated with other exiled socialists from across Europe, including Moses Hess, Karl Heinzen, and Joseph Weydemeyer, and soon, Engels moved to the city in order to join them. In 1845, Marx and Engels visited the leaders of the Chartists, a socialist movement in Britain, using the trip as an opportunity to study in various libraries in London and Manchester. In collaboration with Engels, he also set about writing a book which is often seen as his best treatment of the concept of historical materialism, The German Ideology; the work, like many others, would not see publication in Marx's lifetime, being published only in 1932. He followed this with The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), a response to the French anarcho-socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's The Philosophy of Poverty and a critique of French socialist thought in general.
These books laid the foundation for Marx and Engels's most famous work, a political pamphlet that has since come to be commonly known as The Communist Manifesto. First published on 21 February 1848, it laid out the beliefs of the Communist League, a group who had come increasingly under the influence of Marx and Engels, who argued that the League must make their aims and intentions clear to the general public rather than hiding them as they had formerly been doing. The opening lines of the pamphlet set forth the principal basis of Marxism, that "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." It goes on to look at the antagonisms that Marx claimed were arising between the clashes of interest between the bourgeoisie (the wealthy middle class) and the proletariat (the industrial working class). Proceeding on from this, the Manifesto presents the argument for why the Communist League, as opposed to other socialist and liberal political parties and groups at the time, was truly acting in the interests of the proletariat to overthrow capitalist society and replace it with socialism.
Later that year, Europe experienced a series of protests, rebellions, and often violent upheavals, the Revolutions of 1848. In France, a revolution led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the French Second Republic. Marx was supportive of such activity, and having recently received a substantial inheritance from his father of either 6000 or 5000 francs, allegedly used a third of it to arm Belgian workers who were planning revolutionary action. Although the veracity of these allegations is disputed, the Belgian Ministry of Justice accused him of it, subsequently arresting him, and he was forced to flee back to France, where, with a new republican government in power, he believed that he would be safe.
Temporarily settling down in Paris, Marx transferred the Communist League executive headquarters to the city and also set up a German Workers' Club with various German socialists living there. Hoping to see the revolution spread to Germany, in 1848 Marx moved back to Cologne (Köln) where he began issuing a handbill entitled the Demands of the Communist Party in Germany, in which he argued for only four of the ten points of the Communist Manifesto, believing that in Germany at that time, the bourgeoisie must overthrow the feudal monarchy and aristocracy before the proletariat could overthrow the bourgeoisie. On 1 June, Marx started publication of the daily Neue Rheinische Zeitung ("New Rhenish Newspaper"), which he helped to finance through his recent inheritance from his father. Designed to put forward news from across Europe with his own Marxist interpretation of events, Marx remained one of its primary writers, accompanied by other fellow members of the Communist League who wrote for the paper, although despite their input it remained, according to Friedrich Engels, "a simple dictatorship by Marx", who dominated the choice of content.
Whilst editor of the paper, Marx and the other revolutionary socialists were regularly harassed by the police, and Marx was brought to trial on several occasions, facing various allegations including insulting the Chief Public Prosecutor, committing a press misdemeanor, and inciting armed rebellion through tax boycotting, although each time he was acquitted. Meanwhile, the democratic parliament in Prussia collapsed, and the king, Frederick William IV, introduced a new cabinet of his reactionary supporters, who implemented counter-revolutionary measures to expunge leftist and other revolutionary elements from the country. Consequently, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was soon suppressed and Marx was ordered to leave the country on 16 May. Marx returned to Paris, which was then under the grip of both a reactionary counter-revolution and a cholera epidemic, and was soon expelled by the city authorities who considered him a political threat. With his wife Jenny expecting their fourth child, and not able to move back to Germany or Belgium, in August 1849 he sought refuge in London.
Marx moved to London in May 1849 and would remain based in the city for the rest of his life. It was here that he founded the new headquarters of the Communist League, and got heavily involved with the socialist German Workers' Educational Society, who held their meetings in Great Windmill Street, Soho, central London's entertainment district. Marx devoted himself to two activities: revolutionary organising, and an attempt to understand political economy and capitalism. For the first few years he and his family lived in extreme poverty. His main source of income was his colleague, Engels, who derived much of his income from his family's business. Marx also briefly worked as correspondent for the New York Tribune in 1851.
From December 1851 to March 1852, Marx wrote The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, a work on the French Revolution of 1848, in which he expanded upon his concepts of historical materialism, class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, advancing the argument that victorious proletariat has to smash the bourgeois state.
The 1850s and 1860s also mark the line between what some scholars see as idealistic, Hegelian young Marx from the more scientifically minded mature Marx writings of the later period. This distinction is usually associated with the structural Marxism school, and not all scholars agree that it exists.
In 1864, Marx became involved in the International Workingmen's Association (also known as First International)., to whose General Council he was elected at its inception in 1864. In that organisation, Marx was involved in the struggle against the anarchist wing centred around 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. In response to the bloody suppression of this rebellion Marx wrote one of his most famous pamphlets, The Civil War in France, a defense of the Commune.
Given the repeated failures and frustrations of workers' revolutions and movements, Marx also sought to understand capitalism, and spent a great deal of time in the reading room of the British Museum studying and reflecting on the works of political economists and on economic data. By 1857 he had accumulated over 800 pages of notes and short essays on capital, landed property, wage labour, the state, and foreign trade and the world market; this work did not appear in print until 1941, under the title Grundrisse. In 1859 Marx published Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, his first serious economic work. In the early 1860s he worked on composing three large volumes, the Theories of Surplus Value, which discussed the theoreticians of political economy, particularly Adam Smith and David Ricardo. This work is often seen as the fourth book of Capital and constitutes one of the first comprehensive treatises on the history of economic thought. In 1867 the first volume of Capital was published, a work which analyzed the capitalist process of production. Here Marx elaborated his labour theory of value (influenced by Thomas Hodgskin) 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.
Marx in 1882
During the last decade of his life, Marx's health declined and he became incapable of the sustained effort that had characterised his previous work. He did manage to comment substantially on contemporary politics, particularly in Germany and Russia. His Critique of the Gotha Programme opposed the tendency of his followers Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel to compromise with the state socialism of Ferdinand Lassalle in the interests of a united socialist party. This work is also notable for another famous Marx's quote: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
In a letter to Vera Zasulich dated 8 March 1881, 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. While admitting that Russia's rural "commune is the fulcrum of social regeneration in Russia", Marx also warned that, in order for the mir to operate as a means for moving straight to the socialist stage without a preceding capitalist stage, it "would first be necessary to eliminate the deleterious influences which are assailing it (the rural commune) from all sides." Given the elimination of these pernicious influences, Marx allowed that "normal conditions of spontaneous development" of the rural commune could exist. However, in the same letter to Vera Zasulich, Marx points out that "at the core of the capitalist system ... lies the complete separation of the producer from the means of production." In one of the drafts of this letter, Marx reveals his growing passion for anthropology, motivated by his belief that future communism would be a return on a higher level to the communism of our prehistoric past. He wrote that "the historical trend of our age is the fatal crisis which capitalist production has undergone in the European and American countries where it has reached its highest peak, a crisis that will end in its destruction, in the return of modern society to a higher form of the most archaic type — collective production and appropriation". He added that "the vitality of primitive communities was incomparably greater than that of Semitic, Greek, Roman, etc. societies, and, a fortiori, that of modern capitalist societies". Before he died, Marx asked Engels to write up these ideas, which were published in 1884 under the title The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
In 1836, Marx became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, a beautiful baroness of the Prussian ruling class—"the most desirable young woman in Trier"  —who broke off her engagement with a young aristocratic second lieutenant to be with him. Their eventual marriage was controversial for breaking two social taboos of the period: it was a marriage between a woman of a noble background and a man of Jewish origin, as well as being between a member of the upper class (aristocracy) and a member of the middle class, respectively. Such issues were lessened by Marx's friendship with Jenny's father, Baron Ludwig von Westphalen, a liberal thinking aristocrat. Marx dedicated his doctoral thesis to him. The couple married seven years later, on 19 June 1843, at the Wilhelmskirche in Kreuznach.
Marx and von Westphalen had seven children together, but partly owing to the poor living conditions they were forced to live in whilst in London, only three survived to adulthood. The children were: Jenny Caroline (m. Longuet; 1844–83); Jenny Laura (m. Lafargue; 1845–1911); Edgar (1847–1855); Henry Edward Guy ("Guido"; 1849–1850); Jenny Eveline Frances ("Franziska"; 1851–52); Jenny Julia Eleanor (1855–98) and one more who died before being named (July 1857). There are allegations that Marx also fathered a son, Freddy, out of wedlock by his housekeeper, Helene Demuth.
Marx frequently used pseudonyms, often when renting a house or flat, apparently to make it harder for the authorities to track him down. While in Paris, he used that of 'Monsieur Ramboz', whilst in London he signed off his letters as 'A. Williams'. His friends referred to him as 'Moor', owing to his dark complexion and black curly hair, something which they believed made him resemble the historical Moors of North Africa, whilst he encouraged his children to call him 'Old Nick' and 'Charley'. He also bestowed nicknames and pseudonyms on his friends and family as well, referring to Friedrich Engels as 'General', his housekeeper Helene as 'Lenchen' or 'Nym', while one of his daughters, Jennychen, was referred to as 'Qui Qui, Emperor of China' and another, Laura, was known as 'Kakadou' or 'the Hottentot'.
Following the death of his wife Jenny in December 1881, Marx developed a catarrh that kept him in ill health for the last 15 months of his life. It eventually brought on the bronchitis and pleurisy that killed him in London on 14 March 1883. He died a stateless person; family and friends in London buried his body in Highgate Cemetery, London, on 17 March 1883. There were between nine and eleven mourners at his funeral.
Several of his closest friends spoke at his funeral, including Wilhelm Liebknecht and Friedrich Engels. Engels's speech included the passage:
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 and Charles Longuet and Paul Lafargue, Marx's two French socialist sons-in-law, were also in attendance. Liebknecht, a founder and leader of the German Social-Democratic Party, gave a speech in German, and Longuet, a prominent figure in the French working-class movement, made a short statement in French. Two telegrams from workers' parties in France and Spain were also read out. Together with Engels's speech, this constituted the entire programme of the funeral. Non-relatives attending the funeral included three communist associates of Marx: Friedrich Lessner, imprisoned for three years after the Cologne communist trial of 1852; G. Lochner, whom Engels described as "an old member of the Communist League"; and Carl Schorlemmer, a professor of chemistry in Manchester, a member of the Royal Society, and a communist activist involved in the 1848 Baden revolution. Another attendee of the funeral was Ray Lankester, a British zoologist who would later become a prominent academic.
Upon his own death, Engels left Marx's two surviving daughters a "significant portion" of his $4.8 million estate.
Marx's tombstone bears the carved message: "WORKERS OF ALL LANDS UNITE", the final line of The Communist Manifesto, and from the 11th Thesis on Feuerbach (edited by Engels): "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways—the point however is to change it". The Communist Party of Great Britain had the monumental tombstone built in 1954 with a portrait bust by Laurence Bradshaw; Marx's original tomb had had only humble adornment. In 1970 there was an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the monument using a homemade bomb.
The later Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm remarked that "One cannot say Marx died a failure" because, although he had not achieved a large following of disciples in Britain, his writings had already begun to make an impact on the leftist movements in Germany and Russia. Within 25 years of his death, the continental European socialist parties that acknowledged Marx's influence on their politics were each gaining between 15 and 47% in those countries with representative democratic elections.