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 carefree 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,
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 an aristocratic
background is more likely to have a higher role in society as opposed to
someone from a much poorer background. 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 Marx’s 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 essay. 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 opposed 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
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 same. 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,
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,
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
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