Karl Marx


Karl Marx was the greatest thinker and philosopher of his time. His views
on life and the social structure of his time revolutionized the way in
which people think. He created an opportunity for the lower class to rise
above the aristocrats and failed due to the creation of the middle class.
Despite this failure, he was still a great political leader and set the
basis of Communism in Russia. His life contributed to the way people think
today, and because of him people are more open to suggestion and are
quicker to create ideas on political issues. 

 Karl Heinrich Marx was born May 5th, 1818 in Trier. Although he
had three other siblings, all sisters, he was the favorite child to his
father, Heinrich. His mother, a Dutch Jewess named Henrietta Pressburg,
had no interest in Karl's intellectual side during his life. His father
was a Jewish lawyer, and before his death in 1838, converted his family to
Christianity to preserve his job with the Prussian state. When Heinrich's
mother died, he no longer felt he had an obligation to his religion, thus
helping him in the decision in turning to Christianity.
 Karl's childhood was a happy and care-free one. His parents had a
good relationship and it help set Karl in the right direction." His
'splendid natural gifts' awakened in his father the hope that they would
one day be used in the service of humanity, whilst his mother declared him
to be a child of fortune in whose hands everything would go well. (The
story of his life, Mehring, page 2)

 In High school Karl stood out among the crowd. When asked to write
a report on "How to choose a profession" he took a different approach. He
took the angle in which most interested him, by saying that there was no
way to choose a profession, but because of circumstances one is placed in
an occupation. A person with a aristocratic background is more likely to
have a higher role in society as apposed to someone from a much poorer

 While at Bonn at the age of eighteen he got engaged to Jenny von
Westphalen, daughter of the upperclassmen Ludwig von Westphalen. She was
the childhood friend of Marx's oldest sister, Sophie. The engagement was a
secret one, meaning they got engaged without asking permission of Jenny's
parents. Heinrich Marx was uneasy about this but before long the consent
was given.
 Karl's school life other than his marks is unknown. He never spoke
of his friends as a youth, and no one has ever came to speak of him
through his life. He left high school in August of 1835 to go on to the
University of Bonn in the fall of the same year to study law. His father
wanted him to be a lawyer much like himself but when Karl's reckless
university life was getting in the way after a year Heinrich transferred
him to Berlin. Also, he did not go to most lectures, and showed little
interest in what was to be learned. Karl's reckless ways were not
tolerated at Berlin, a more conservative college without the mischievous
ways of the other universities. 

 While at Berlin, Marx became part of the group known as the Yong
Hegelians. The group was organized in part due to the philosophy teacher
Hegel that taught from 1818 to his death. The teachings of Hegel shaped
the way the school thought towards most things. Those who studied Hegel
and his ideals were known as the Young Hegelians. Hegel spoke of the
development and evolution of the mind and of ideas. Although Karl was
younger than most in the group, he was recognized for his intellectual
ability and became the focus of the group. While at Berlin "He came to
believe that all the various sciences and philosophies were part of one
overarching, which, when completed, which would give a true and total
picture of the universe and man." (Communist Manifesto, Marx (Francis B.
Randal), page 15) Marx was an atheist, and believed that science and
philosophy would prove everything. Thus he had no belief in a god of any
type. Marx believed that Hegel must have been an atheist as well because
of his strong belief in the mind. 

 Marx's doctoral thesis was competed in 1841. It carried the title
"The Difference Between the Philosophies of Nature of Democrtius and
Epicurus."(The Making of Marx's Critical Theory, Oakley, page 11) It had
to do with the Greek philosopher Epicurus and how his beliefs related to
Marxs' of that day. This thesis was an early indication of the thinking
behind Karl Marx. Much of his later work and ideas are evident in this

 He passed his thesis into the University of Jena because Bonn and
Berlin required an oral part to the thesis. The quickness was also a
matter in this. He passed it in early April, and got his degree in history
and philosophy in April 15, 1841. 

 After graduation he was unable to find work. This caused him to take a
job with the German newspaper Rheinische Zeitung in early 1842. By the end
of the year, Marx made editor- in-chief. A few months after that in 1843
because of his radical writings, and his social views, Marx was forced to
step down as editor, and soon after that the paper closed altogether. 

 He married Jenny von Westphalen, and with a member of the Young
Hegelians, Arnold Ruge went to Paris to publish a radical journal on his
beliefs. It was evident in his works that he was a revolutionary that
advocated criticism of everything in existence. This was especially
anticipated by the proletariat. The proletariat were the working class of
the day. They were the poor and made up the majority of people. Marx went
on to believe that the proletariat would rise up against the bourgeoisie. 

 Then in 1844 Marx met a man that would change his life forever.
When going to England after doing military service, he meet Marx in
Cologne in the offices of the Rheinische Zeitung. Both of them had gone
through the German philosophic school and whilst abroad they came to the
same conclusions but while Marx arrived at an understanding of the
struggles and the demands of the age basis of the French Revolution,
Engles did so on the basis of English industry. (The Story of His life,
Mehring, page 93) Friedrich Engles was born in 1820 in the Rhine Province
of the Kingdom of Prussia. Like Marx he was brought up with the German
philosophies of Hegel, and like Marx, Engles began to follow the works of
Hegel. These parallels between Marx and Engles formed a relationship that
would last for the rest of each others lives. They both contributed to
each others works, and co-wrote many things. The similarity in background
between the two also meant a similarity in ideas. The both believed in the
struggle of the proletariat and that it would rise up against the
bourgeoisie. Marx is considerate to be the greater of the two
philosophies. The one contrast was the way in which one solved problems.
Marx would use historical research to solve a problem, as apposed Engles
who used his imagination and pure mind to come about a solution. These
differences in culture and similarities in beliefs complemented each other
well. This outlook on society and the class war was ingenious. It was
their greatest work together, the communist manifesto, which achieved them
their most popularity among the proletariat, and created the most problems
with the government for the two. 

 Communist Manifesto or Manifest der Kommunistischen Partel was a
book written by Marx with collaboration from Engles. Basically meaning
that Marx wrote it but he discussed the issues in the manifesto with
Engles. It documents the objectives and principals of the Communist
League, an organization of artist and intellectuals. It was published in
London in 1848, shortly before the revolution in Paris. The manifesto is
divided into four parts, and the beginning of the entire document reads "A
specter is haunting Europe" 

 The first part outlines his ideas on history and a prediction on
what is yet to come. He predicts a confrontation between the proletariat
and the bourgeoisie, the working class and the higher class. Because of
the main logic behind capitalism the bourgeoisie will seek more power and
more wealth. With them doing this, the living conditions of the
proletariat will decrease. Numbers of proletariat will increase as well as
their political awareness, and will revolt against the bourgeoisie and
will eventually win. 

 In the second part Marx discusses the importance of Communism, and
if private property is abolished, class distinctions will be as well. The
second part also stresses the importance of the necessity of the
proletariat and bourgeoisie being common and the level of class being the

 The third part critiques other social ideas of the modern day. The
final and fourth part discussed the differences between his political
issues as apposed to those of the other oppositonal parties. This part
ends in bold capital letters "WORKINGMEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!" 

 The days of November 1850 fall almost exactly in the middle of
Marx's life and they represent, not only externally, an important turning
point in his life's work. Marx himself was keenly aware of this and Engles
perhaps even more so. (The Story of his life, Mehring, page 208) Living in
political exile his life changed. His ideas were no longer followed like
they once were. His isolation from the general public provided a new light
in his life. 

 Then, in 1855, his only son died. His son showed much potential,
and was the life of the family. When he died, Jenny became very sick with
anxiety, and Marx himself became very depressed. He wrote to Engles "The
house seems empty and deserted since the boy died. He was its life and
soul. It is impossible to describe how much we miss him all of the time. I
have suffered all sorts of misfortunes but now I know what real misfortune
is...." (The Story of his Life, Mehring, page 247)

 After the Communist League disbanded in 1852 Marx tried to create
another organization much like it. Then, in 1862 the First International
was established in London. Marx was the leader. He made the inaugural
speech and governed the work of the governing body of the International.
When the International declined, Marx recommended moving it to the United States. The ending of the International in 1878 took much out of Marx, and
made him withdraw from his work; much like the ending of the Communist
League had done. This time, it was for good. 

 The last ten years of his life is known as "a slow death". This is
because the last eight years many medical problems affected his life. In
the autumn of 1873 he was inflected by apoplexy which effected his brain
which made him incapable of work and any desire to write. After weeks of
treatment in Manchester, he recovered fully. He controlled the demise of
his health. Instead of relaxing in his old age he went back to work on his
own studies. His late nights and early mornings decreased his health in
the last few years of his life. In January of 1883, after the death of his
daughter Jenny, he suffered from Bronchitis and made it almost impossible
to swallow. The next month a tumor developed in his lung and soon
manifested into his death on March 14, 1883. 

 Although Marx's influence was not great during his life, after his
death his works grew with the strength of the working class. His ideas and
theories became known as Marxism, and has been used to shape the ideas of
most European and Asian countries. The strength of the Proletariat has
been due to the work of Marx. His ideals formed government known as
Communism. Although he was never a rich man, his knowledge has been rich
in importance for the struggle of the working class. 

Himelfarb, Alexander and C. James Richardson. Sociology for Canadians:
Images of society. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryderson Limited, 1991

Mehring, F, Karl Marx, The story of his life, London: Butler and Tanner
ltd., 1936

Marx, K, The Communist Manifesto, Germany: J. E. Burghard, 1848
"Karl Marx." Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. Cd-Rom. Microsoft Corp.,

Vesaey, G. and P. Foulkes. Collins dictionary of Philosophy.
London:British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data, 1990


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