Saturday the 5th of May marked 200 years of the existence of Karl Marx in life and in death. Karl Marx was born in Trier, Prussia, on May 5, 1818. The celebration of Marx’s life and ideas will come a few days after the international workers day, which is something that was at the center of his life from a young age and beyond his death. Karl Marx comes from what was then considered a middle-class family with his father as a lawyer.
Marx received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Berlin in 1841, some say his doctorate was basic but it would later shape his ideas that continue to exist with great relevance. He practically began his career and life in philosophy as a writer for a liberal-radical newspaper and had managed to be appointed editor in chief of the newspaper in just ten months; the paper was however shut down by the government because of Marx’s expressed political views.
In his work Marx rejected what he had labeled “abstractness of Hegelian philosophy” which had influenced a school in which he had obtained his qualification; he rejected “the naive dreaming of Utopian communists, and those activists who were urging what he considered being premature political action.” Marx believed that ideas more than mass action were at the center of the liberation of workers and a route to socialism, he believed that “ideas that have overcome our intellect and conquered our conviction, ideas to which reason has riveted our conscience, are chains from which one cannot break loose without breaking one’s heart; they are demons that one can only overcome by submitting to them.”
“Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” -Marx and Engels
After being forced to leave Germany Marx had made a new friend, Friedrich Engels. Engels like Marx had become a socialist critical of the conditions facing the working class. Even though Engels and Marx had a common basic theoretical alignment, there were several differences between the two philosophers. Some would argue that Marx was “theoretical and a disorderly intellectual” while Engels was “a practical thinker, a neat and tidy businessman, and a person who did not believe in the institution of the family.” The two had however worked closely together and collaborated on books and articles and their involvement radical organizations, they were close to a point were Engels financially supported Marx and encourage him to fully allot his attention to his intellectual and political work.
“Marx could very well have done without me. What Marx accomplished I would not have achieved. Marx stood higher, saw farther, and took a wider and quicker view than the rest of us. Marx was a genius.” –Engels
In 1845 Marx was expelled from France at the request of the Prussian government and moved to Brussels, it was his writings that had got him into trouble with that government. He was not shaken by any intimidation he grew more radical and had become active in the international revolutionary movement. Marx had also been involved with the Communist League and was tasked with writing its guiding documents which we now know as the Communist Manifesto of 1848.
Karl Marx began to work on a comprehensive research on the Capitalist system in 1849 after he had moved to London and withdrew from active revolutionary activity. This undertaking resulted in the three volumes of Capital, the first of which was published in 1867; the other two were published posthumously.
“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” – Marx
It has been greatly documented that Marx did not live a contradiction we see with political leaders today, he hardly managed to live of the money he made from his writings and lived in poverty. He was better of when he became involved in political activity when he joined an international movement of workers.
“He began to gain fame both as a leader of the International and as the author of Capital. But the disintegration of the International by 1876, the failure of various revolutionary movements, and personal illness took their toll on Marx. His wife died in 1881, a daughter in 1882, and Marx himself on March 14, 1883.”