Life and Works
. . Alienation
. . Communism
. . Economics
Karl Marx was born and educated in Prussia, where he fell under the influence of Ludwig Feuerbach and other radical Hegelians. Although he shared Hegel's belief in dialectical structure and historical inevitability, Marx held that the foundations of reality lay in the material base of economics rather than in the abstract thought of idealistic philosophy. He earned a doctorate at Jena in 1841, writing on the materialism and atheism of Greek atomists, then moved to Köln, where he founded and edited a radical newspaper, Rheinische Zeitung. Although he also attempted to earn a living as a journalist in Paris and Brussels, Marx's participation in unpopular political movements made it difficult to support his growing family. He finally settled in London in 1849, where he lived in poverty while studying and developing his economic and political theories. Above all else, Marx believed that philosophy ought to be employed in practice to change the world.
The core of Marx's economic analysis found early expression in the Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844 (Economic and Political Manuscripts of 1844) (1844). There, Marx argued that the conditions of modern industrial societies invariably result in the estrangement (or alienation) of workers from their own labor. In his review of a Bruno Baier book, On the Jewish Question (1844), Marx decried the lingering influence of religion over politics and proposed a revolutionary re-structuring of European society. Much later, Marx undertook a systematic explanation of his economic theories in Das Capital (Capital) (1867-95) and Theorien Über den Mehrwert (Theory of Surplus Value) (1862).
Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels issued the Manifest der kommunistischen Partei (Communist Manifesto) (1848) in the explicit hope of precipitating social revolution. This work describes the class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie, distinguishes communism from other socialist movements, proposes a list of specific social reforms, and urges all workers to unite in revolution against existing regimes. (You may wish to compare this prophetic document with the later exposition of similar principles in Lenin's State and Revolution (1919).)
|FRIEDRICH ENGELS was born on November 28, 1820 in the Prussian town of Barmen, the son of a respected manufacturer. In 1838, before finishing high school, he was forced into a job as a clerk due to the financial situation of his family. Even before this time, Engels had displayed radical, revolutionary tendencies and a genuine hatred toward the aristocracy. This hatred of the upper class seems to be a uniting thread that runs through the lives of many of his contemporaries at that time (i.e. Marx, Hegel, etc.).
Despite his job, Engels continued to pursue his education, especially in the area of philosophy. He became a follower of G.W.F. Hegel at this time. In 1842, Engels served as an army volunteer in Berlin and then moved to Manchester, England where his father partially owned a cotton mill. It was here that Engels got to know the English proletariat. From there it was on to Paris, where, in 1844, he published his "Critical Essays on Political Economy" in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. This marked his active beginning in the full-time propagation of socialism.
In 1845, Engels published his book, "The Condition Of The Working Class in England." This book was considered by V.I. Lenin to be a striking and truthful picture of the misery of the working class. In 1844, Engels had become acquainted with Karl Marx and in 1846 they both joined the secret Communist League. This marked the beginning of a powerful union formed and kept by these two till their deaths. At the request of the Communist League, Engels and Marx wrote and published the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848. This book was to become one of the fundamental bases for all socialist and communist movements the world over.
Throughout the next two years, Marx and Engels worked together for the newspaper, Neue Rheinische Zeitung. In 1850, after the Zeitung's suppression, Engels went on to publish articles in the Politisch-ökonomische Revue. After this, Engels took part in a number of popular socialist uprising during which he was exiled, lost his Prussian citizenship, returned to fight again and after the suppression of the Baden-Palatinate campaign, the last uprising in which he participated, Engels moved to London and then to Manchester again. He rejoined his father's firm and worked there until 1869 when he retired and moved to London in 1870. Marx has already settled in London and the two now began a lengthy period of intellectual creativity together. They continued their participation in the International Working Men's Association (later known only as the International) that Marx had organized in 1864. Marx and Engels' labor came to fruition in Marx's exhaustive work on Political Economy, Capital. Marx was able to publish only one volume of this work before he died in 1883. Engels continue the compilation of Marx's research and released the next two volumes of Capital in 1885 and 1894.
Engels was very loyal to the memory of his friend and although Capital carries Marx's name alone, Engels' labor on the work indelibly marked it with his name also. After Marx's death, Engels continued his work in the International and became the leader of the European socialists on the International's General Council. Engels became known as a type of father figure in the young communist movement. Some of his most memorable works include: The Condition Of The Working Class in England, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.