Karl Marx (2211 words) Essay

Karl MarxKarl 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.

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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
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

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 revolutionist, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin. Bakunin
was a famed orator whose speeches one listener described as “a raging storm
with lightning, flashes and thunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions.” Bakunin
admired Marx’s intellect but was personally opposed to him because Marx
had an “ethnic aversion” to Russians. Bakunin believed that Marx was a
“German authoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted to transform the General
council into a personal dictatorship over the workers.” Bakunin organized
sections of the International for an attack on the “dictatorship” of Marx
and the General Council. Marx didn’t have the support of a right wing and
feared that he would lose control to Bakunin. However, he was successful
at expelling the Bakuninists from the International and shortly, the International
died out in New York.

During the next decade of his life, his
last few years, Marx was beset by what he called “chronic mental depression”
and “his life turned inward toward his family.” He never completed any
substantial work during this time although he kept his mind active, reading
and learning Russian. In 1879, Marx dictated the preamble of the program
for the French Socialist Workers’ Federation and shaped much of its content.

During his last years, Marx spent 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 of a criticism
of Hegelian and other philosophy, than as a statement of his own philosophy.

While Hegel felt that philosophy explained reality, Marx felt that philosophy
should be made into reality, an hard thing to do. He thought that one must
not 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 for
the world; and he will do so.”
Marx is unique from other philosophers
in that he chooses to regard man as an individual, a human being. This
is evident in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. There,
he declares that man is a “natural being” who is endowed with “natural
[and] vital powers” that “exist in him as aptitudes [and] instincts.” Humans
simply struggle with nature for the satisfaction of man’s needs. From this
struggle comes man’s awareness of himself as an individual and as something
separate from nature. So, he seeks to oppose nature. He sees that history
is just the story of man creating and re-creating himself and sees that
man creates himself, and that a “god” has no part in it. Thus, the communist
belief in no religion.

Marx also says that the more man works
as a laborer, the less he has to consume for himself because his “product
and labor are estranged” from him. Marx says that because the work of the
laborer is taken away and does not belong to the laborer, the laborer loses
his “rightful existence” and is made alien to himself. Private property
becomes a product and cause of “alienated labor” and through that, causes
disharmony. “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 possession
of private property, encourages alienation of man. Capitalism, which encourages
the amassment of money, encourages mass production, to optimize productivity.

Mass production also intensifies the alienation of labor because it encourages
specialization and it makes people view the workers not as individuals
but as machines to do work. It is this attitude that incites the uprisings
of 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 not
conquered himself or has already lost himself again.” Marx sums it all
up in a famous quote, stating that religion is “an opium for the people.”
Marx’s hypothesis of historical materialism
contains this maxim; that “It is not the consciousness of men which determines
their existence; it is on the contrary their social existence which determines
their consciousness.” Marx has applied his theory of historical materialism
to capitalist society in both The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital,
among others. Marx never really explained his entire theory through but
taking the text literally, “social reality” is arranged in this way:
That underlying our society is economic
structure; and That above the foundation of economy rises “legal and political…forms
of social consciousness” that relate back to the economic foundation of

An interesting mark of Marx’s analysis
of economy is evidenced in Das Kapital, where he “studies the economy as
a whole and not in one or another of its” parts and sections. His analysis
is based on the precept of man being a productive entity and that “all
economic value comes from human labor.”
Marx speaks of capitalism as an unstable
environment. He says that its development is accompanied by “increasing
contradictions” and that the equilibrium of the system is precarious as
it is to the internal pressures resulting from its development. Capitalism
is too easy to tend to a downward spiral resulting in economic and social
ruin. An example of the downward spiral in a capitalist society is inflation.

Inflation involves too much currency in circulation. Because of inflation
and the increase in prices of goods resulting from it, the people of the
society hoard their money which, because that money is out of circulation,
causes more money to be printed. The one increases the effect of the other
and thus, the downward spiral.

Marx views revolution with two perspectives.

One takes the attitude that revolution should be a great uprising like
that of the French revolution. The other “conception” is that of the “permanent
revolution” involving a “provisional coalition” between the low and higher
classes. However, an analysis of the Communist Manifesto shows inconsistencies
between the relationship of permanent and violent revolution; that Marx
did not exactly determine the exact relationship between these two yet.

Aside from the small inconsistencies in
Marx’s philosophy, he exhibits sound ideas that do seem to work on paper
but fail in the real world where millions of uncertainties contribute to
the error in every social experiment on Earth. Communism never gets farther
than socialism in its practice in the real world and that is where the
fault lies, in the governments that try to cheat the system while still
maintaining their ideal communist society.


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