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 -
Marx: date and artist unknown – International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Engels: c1840, artist unknown. Proudhon: by the French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-
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-
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-
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-
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 -
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-
xxxxx…… Atxone time Marx supported the views of the economic theorist Pierre-
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.
xxxxxFriedrich Engels (1820-
xxxxxThe German revolutionary Friedrich Engels (1820-
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.