xxxxxThe German philosopher Karl Marx became a radical as a member of the Young Hegelians when he was studying at Berlin University. In 1842 he edited the Rhineland Newspaper in Cologne, but it was closed down the following year because of his critical views, and he settled in Paris. There he met up with the young philosopher Friedrich Engels, and they pledged to set up a working class movement to overthrow the ruling élite and establish a government run by the workers. Banished from France, Marx went to Brussels, and it was here in 1848 that he and Engels compiled the Communist Manifesto. During that year, the Year of Revolution, he returned to Cologne to edit the New Rhineland Newspaper, but, again, he was banished because of his support for the revolutionaries. He settled in England in 1849, and lived in London for the rest of his life. There he and his family struggled to meet ends meet, but Marx continued to write and study, preparing the material for his major work Das Kapital (Capital), an attack upon Capitalism. As we shall see, the first volume of this monumental book was published in 1867 (Vb). When finally completed it was to have a decisive effect upon world politics.

KARL MARX 1818 - 1883  (G3c, G4, W4, Va, Vb, Vc)


Marx: date and artist unknown – International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Engels: c1840, artist unknown. Proudhon: by the French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), 1865 – Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Engels: by the Manchester photographer George Lester, 1868. Poverty: by the French illustrator Gustave Doré (1832-1883), contained in London, A Pilgrimage by Gustave Doré and Jerrold Blanchard, 1872.

xxxxxThe principal author of the Communist Manifesto, the German philosopher Karl Marx, was born in Trier, a city in the Rhine province of Prussia. He attended the local high school, and then studied the humanities at Bonn University before beginning a course in law and philosophy at Berlin University in October 1836. It was there that he became influenced by the works of the German philosopher Georg Hegel, and joined the Young Hegelians, a radical group of left-wing intellectuals. He received a doctorate in philosophy from Jena University in 1841, and the following year, at the age of 24, became editor of the Rhineland Newspaper, based in Cologne. Therexhe came under the influence of the German extreme socialist Moses Hess (1812-1875), then working as the paper’s Paris correspondent. This strengthened his opposition towards the governing regime, but his highly critical views on social and political issues soon upset the local authorities, and he was forced to resign the following year. The paper was closed down by the Prussian government in 1843, and Marx, who had married that year, left for Paris with his young wife.

xxxxxIt was a move that proved a turning point in his career on two counts. Firstly, it was there that he began to mix with the French and emigrant German workers who had formed communist societies. He was so impressed by their enthusiasm and solidarity (though not by their ill-conceived policies), that he became a revolutionary and a communist himself. And, secondly, it was in Paris that he struck up a life-long friendship with a young philosopher named Friedrich Engels (illustrated), a man who, as we shall see, had worked for some time in a Manchester cotton factory in England, and supported the aims of Chartism. It was a meeting of like minds. By their experiences both men had come to almost identical views as to the need for a completely new social order, and the inevitable, full-scale revolution that was required to destroy the old one. They both pledged themselves to the setting up of an international working-class movement by which their aims could be achieved. But by then, news of Marx’s radical views had once again reached and alarmed the authorities, and in February 1845 he was expelled from France and forced to seek refuge in Brussels, where Engels soon joined him.


xxxxxIn Brussels both Marx and Engels became prominent leaders in the working class reform movement, and began the work of setting up communist committees in cities throughout Europe. It was while involved in this task, that a revolutionary organisation based in London, The League of the Just, invited them to become members and to draw up a statement of their organisation’s political objectives. They both joined the group, had its name changed to the Communist League, and in less than two months had come up with a brief but adequate summary of the League’s intentions. This, the so-called Communist Manifesto, was completed at the end of January 1848. As we have seen, it was a call to arms across the width and breadth of Europe, a call for a revolution by the working classes (the “proletariat”) which would overthrow the existing ruling élite - based on privilege, wealth and land - and replace Capitalism by a class-less society in which each would work according to his or her ability and receive according to his or her needs.

xxxxxThe outbreak of rebellions across Europe later in 1848, the “Year of Revolution”, meant that Marx was again on the move. The Belgian government, fearing that his presence would attract an uprising, banished him from the country, and, after a short time in Paris, he returned to Cologne. There he established and edited the New Rhineland Newspaper, a communist periodical. Via this journal, in fact, he pressed for a coalition between the workers and the democratic bourgeoisie, considering it too early for a proletarian revolution. However, his militancy still got him into trouble. In 1849 he managed to be acquitted on a charge of inciting an army insurrection, but his newspaper was closed down. As a last show of defiance he printed the final issue in red - an act which caused a stir - before being banished as an alien. This time he made for England and spent the remainder of his life in London.


xxxxxFor Marx and his wife and children, life in London for the first fifteen years or so was extremely harsh. The family had little money, fell into debt, and for a number of years lived in two small rooms in Soho. Food was scarce, and during the early days two of his children died. Engels, however, gave the family money on a fairly regular basis, and from 1851 Marx did earn an income as the European correspondent for The New York Tribune. In this post he wrote over 350 articles on a variety of subjects, the majority dealing with outbreaks of social agitation across the world.


xxxxxBut for close on twenty years a vast amount of his time was spent in the library at the British Museum, studying social and economic history and preparing material in support of his theories. Some of his ideas on economics were published in brief in such works as Wage, Labour and Capital of 1849, and A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ten years later, but, as we shall see, the first volume of his monumental work, Das Kapital (Capital), expounding his views on capitalism and its inevitable collapse, was not produced until 1867 (Vb). When it was finally completed it was to have a decisive effect upon world politics.

xxxxxIncidentally, both Marx’s parents were Jewish, but a year or two before he was born his father was baptized in the Evangelical Established Church. Karl was also baptized in this church at the age of six, but, under the influence of the German atheist Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), he sought to abolish religion, regarding it as “the opium of the people” and “the sigh of the oppressed creature”. ……

xxxxx…… Atxone time Marx supported the views of the economic theorist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) (illustrated) - famous for his assertion that “property is theft” - but when, in his The Philosophy of Poverty of 1846, the French philosopher suggested that certain economic features of the capitalist state could be retained as valid, Marx turned upon him and, in his The Poverty of Philosophy of the following year, accused him of failing to appreciate the underlying laws of history. ……

xxxxx…… Marx came to know the German poet Heinrich Heine in 1843, and they became close friends. Though Heine was not a convert to communism, the following year he wrote Germany, a Winter’s Tale, a political satire that launched a fierce attack upon the country’s reactionary regime.


Friedrich Engels


xxxxxFriedrich Engels (1820-1895), the German revolutionary who assisted Karl Marx in the writing of the Communist Manifesto of 1848, was influenced in his thinking by the works of the German philosopher Georg Hegel and the ideas of the German socialist Moses Hess. He worked in a cotton mill in Manchester, England, during the early 1840s, and the deplorable working and living conditions of the workers and their families - highlighted in his The Condition of the Working Class in England of 1845 - made him a convinced communist with identical views to those of Marx. After the publication of the Manifesto, he took part in the 1848 rebellion in Prussia, assisting Marx in the publication of the New Rhineland Newspaper, and, for a time, manning the barricades. When the uprising failed, he returned to Manchester, but from there he continued to work for the establishment of a working class movement, and wrote articles in favour of a communist state. He also helped Marx financially and, as we shall see, played a significant role in publicising Marx’s major work Das Kapital (Capital) when the first volume appeared in 1867 (Vb).

xxxxxThe German revolutionary Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), whose name is inextricably linked with that of Karl Marx and the writing of the Communist Manifesto in 1848, was born into a wealthy Protestant family. In his thinking, like Marx, he was influenced by the writings of the German philosopher Georg Hegel, and the ideas of the German socialist Moses Hess, whom he met in 1842. And it was in that year that he met Marx and began a collaboration which, given time, was to have a profound impact on world history. Their aims were identical: the organisation of an international Communist movement whereby the existing social order, based on birth, money and private property, would be violently overthrown, and replaced by a communist classless society in which each one would work according to his or her ability and receive according to his or her needs. In the Communist Manifesto they set out the basic principles of this new society.


xxxxxEngels was born in Barmen in Rhine Province, Prussia, and was educated so as to assist in his father’s business in the textile industry. After three years learning his trade at the family factory at Barmen, he was sent to England in 1842 to work in a cotton mill owned by his father in Manchester. Having already been won over to the basic ideas of communism, he was appalled by the sordid living and working conditions of the factory workers and their families. As a result, he identified himself with the aims of Chartism, and wrote scathing articles about the social ills of the Industrial Revolution for a number of journals, including Robert Owen’s New Moral World and Marx’s Rhineland Newspaper of that time. Then in 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, a powerful exposé which saw the need for a class struggle to establish a communist society, and marked him out as a dangerous revolutionary as well as an able political economist.

xxxxxAfter the publication of the Communist Manifesto, produced in Brussels in 1848, both he and Marx took part in the revolution which broke out in Prussia later in that year aimed at introducing representative government. Engels assisted Marx in the publication and editing of a communist newspaper in Cologne called the New Rhineland Newspaper, and he also took part in manning the barricades in Baden. When the rebellion failed, Marx was acquitted on a charge of inciting an insurrection, but was banished from Prussia. He then went to settle in London, and Engels returned to Manchester.

xxxxxIt was in London that Marx and his family fell on hard times and Engels, working once again in the textile industry, was able to support his friend financially. At the same time, convinced that another round of revolutions would soon take place, he continued to work for the establishment of a working class movement, and to write articles in favour of a communist society. He also corresponded with Marx on a regular basis, exchanging views on matters of doctrine, and writing newspaper articles for him. Later he was to play a significant role in publicising Marx’s major work Das Kapital (Capital) when, as we shall see, the first volume appeared in 1867 (Vb). And later, after Marx’s death, it was Engels who edited and published the second and third volumes.