Analysis of Karl Marx and Communism


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 

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 
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 society.

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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