Karl Marx

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Karl Marx

Karl 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 was fairly liberal, taking part in demonstrations
for a constitution for Prussia and reading such authors as Voltaire
and Kant, known for their social commentary. His mother, Henrietta,
was originally from Holland and never became a German at heart, not
even learning to speak the language properly. Shortly before Karl
Marx was born, his father converted the family to the Evangelical
Established Church, Karl being baptized at the age of six.
Marx attended high school in his home town (1830-1835) where several
teachers and pupils were under suspicion of harboring liberal ideals.

Marx himself seemed to be a devoted Christian with a "longing for
self-sacrifice on behalf of humanity." In October of 1835, he started
attendance at the University of Bonn, enrolling in
non-socialistic-related classes like Greek and Roman mythology and the
history of art. During this time, he spent a day in jail for being
"drunk and disorderly-the only imprisonment he suffered" in the
course of his life. The student culture at Bonn included, as a major
part, being politically rebellious and Marx was involved, presiding
over the Tavern Club and joining a club for poets that included some
politically active students. However, he left Bonn after a year and
enrolled at the University of Berlin to study law and philosophy.
Marx's experience in Berlin was crucial to his introduction to Hegel'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 wrote his father that when he felt sick, it was
partially "from intense vexation at having to make an idol of a view
[he] detested." The Hegelian doctrines exerted considerable pressure
in the "revolutionary student culture" that Marx was immersed in,
however, and Marx eventually joined a society called the Doctor Club,
involved mainly in the "new literary and philosophical movement"
who's chief figure was Bruno Bauer, a lecturer in theology who thought
that the Gospels were not a record of History but that they came from
"human fantasies arising from man's emotional needs" and he also
hypothesized that Jesus had not existed as a person. Bauer was later
dismissed from his position by the Prussian government. By 1841,
Marx's studies were lacking and, at the suggestion of a friend, he
submitted a doctoral dissertation to 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 natural philosophies of
Democritus and Epicurus" using his knowledge of mythology and the
myth of Prometheus in his chains.

In October of 1842, Marx became the editor of the paper Rheinische
Zeitung, and, as the editor, wrote editorials on socio-economic issues
such as poverty, etc. During this time, he found that his "Hegelian
philosophy was of little use" and he separated himself from his young
Hegelian friends who only shocked the bourgeois to make up their
"social activity." Marx helped the paper to succeed and it almost
became the leading journal in Prussia. However, the Prussian
government suspended 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 Jenny Von Westphalen, an attractive
girl, four years older than Marx, who came from a prestigious family
of both military and administrative distinction. Although many of the
members of the Von Westphalen family were opposed to the marriage,
Jenny's father favored Marx. In Paris, Marx became acquainted with
the Communistic views of French workmen. Although he thought that the
ideas of the workmen were "utterly crude and unintelligent," he
admired their camaraderie. He later wrote an article entitled "Toward
the Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right" from which comes the
famous quote that religion is the "opium of the people." Once again,
the Prussian government interfered 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, sharing the same views, pooled
their "intellectual resources" and published The Holy Family, a
criticism of the Hegelian idealism of Bruno Bauer. In their next
work, they demonstrated their materialistic conception of history but
the book found no publisher and "remained unknown during its author's
lifetimes."

It is during his years 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 immediate measures towards
Communism, "ranging from a progressive income tax and the abolition of
inheritances to free education for all children."

When the Revolution erupted in Europe in 1848, Marx was invited to
Paris just in time to escape expulsion by the Belgian government. He
became unpopular to German exiles when, while in Paris, he opposed
Georg Hewegh's project to organize a German legion to invade and
"liberate the Fatherland." After traveling back to Cologne, Marx
called for democracy and agreed with Engels that the Communist League
should 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 rejoined the Communist League and
became more bold in his revolutionary policy. He advocated that the
people try to make the revolution "permanent" and that they should
avoid subservience to the bourgeois peoples. The faction that he
belonged to ridiculed his ideas and he stopped attending meetings of
the London Communists, working on the defense of 11 communists
arrested in Cologne, instead. He wrote quite a few works during this
time, including an essay entitled "Der Achtzenhnte Brumaire des Louis
Bonaparte" (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) and also a
pamphlet written on the behalf of the 11 communists he was defending
in Cologne.

From 1850 to 1864, Marx lived in poverty and "spiritual pain," only
taking a job once. He and his family were evicted from their
apartment and several of his children died, his son, Guido, who Marx
called "a sacrifice to bourgeois misery" and a daughter named
Franziska. 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 on during these years. His only other source of 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 Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.
Marx's "political isolation" ended when he joined the International
Working Men's Association. Although he was neither the founder nor
the leader of this organization, he "became its leading spirit" and
as the corresponding secretary for Germany, he attended all meetings.
Marx's distinction as a political figure really came in 1870 with the
Paris Commune. He became an international figure and his name "became
synonymous throughout Europe with the revolutionary spirit symbolized
by the Paris Commune."

An opposition to Marx developed under the leadership of a Russian
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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