Karl Marx



























































Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, communist, and revolutionary, whose ideas are credited as the foundation of modern communism. Marx summarized his approach in the first line of chapter one of The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

Marx argued that capitalism, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its destruction. Just as capitalism replaced feudalism, he believed socialism would, in its turn, replace capitalism, and lead to a stateless, classless society called pure communism. This would emerge after a transitional period called the "dictatorship of the proletariat": a period sometimes referred to as the "workers state" or "workers' democracy". In section one of The Communist Manifesto Marx describes feudalism, capitalism, and the role internal social contradictions play in the historical process:

We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged...the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder. Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class. A similar movement is going on before our own eyes.... The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring order into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property.

Marx argued for a systemic understanding of socio-economic change. He argued that the structural contradictions within capitalism necessitate its end, giving way to socialism:

On the other hand, Marx argued that socio-economic change occurred through organized revolutionary action. He argued that capitalism will end through the organized actions of an international working class: "Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.

While Marx remained a relatively obscure figure in his own lifetime, his ideas and the ideology of Marxism began to exert a major influence on workers' movements shortly after his death. This influence gained added impetus with the victory of the Bolsheviks in the Russian October Revolution in 1917, and few parts of the world remained significantly untouched by Marxian ideas in the course of the twentieth century. Marx is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science

Karl Heinrich Marx was born in Trier, in the Kingdom of Prussia's Province of the Lower Rhine. His father, Heinrich Marx, was born a Jew but converted to Lutheranism prior to Karl's birth, in part in order to advance his career as a lawyer. A man of the Enlightenment, Heinrich was devoted to Kant and Voltaire, who took part in agitations for a constitution in Prussia. Karl's mother, born Henrietta Pressburg, was from the Netherlands, and Jewish at the time of Karl's birth, although she converted upon the death of her parents. Karl was baptized when he was six years old Little is known about Marx's childhood.

Karl Marx married Jenny von Westphalen, the educated daughter of a Prussian baron, on June 19, 1843 in the Pauluskirche, at Bad Kreuznach. Marx and Jenny had seven children, but due to poverty, only three survived to adulthood.Marx's major source of income was from the support of Friedrich Engels, who was drawing a steadily increasing income from the family business in Manchester. This was supplemented by weekly articles written as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune.Inheritances from one of Jenny's uncles and her mother who died in 1856 allowed the family to move to somewhat more salubrious lodgings at 9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town a new suburb on the then-outskirts of London. Marx generally lived a hand-to-mouth existence, forever at the limits of his resources, although this did to some extent depend upon his spending on relatively bourgeois luxuries, which he felt were necessities for his wife and children given their social status and the mores of the time.

Marx had seven children by his wife: Jenny Caroline (m. Longuet; 1844–83); Jenny Laura (m. Lafargue; 1845–1911); Edgar (1847–1855); Henry Edward Guy ("Guido"; 1849–1850); Jenny Eveline Frances ("Franziska"; 1851–52); Jenny Julia Eleanor (1855–98) and one more who died before being named (July 1857). Marx also fathered an illegitimate son by his housekeeper, Helene Demuth.

Following the death of his wife Jenny in December 1881, Marx developed a catarrh that kept him in ill health for the last 15 months of his life. It eventually brought on the bronchitis and pleurisy that killed him in London on March 14, 1883. He died a stateless person; family and friends in London buried his body in Highgate Cemetery, London, on March 17, 1883. There were only eleven mourners at his funeral.

Several of Marx's closest friends spoke at his funeral, including Wilhelm Liebknecht and Friedrich Engels. Engels's speech included the words

On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep—but forever.

In addition to Engels and Liebknecht, Marx's daughter Eleanor and Charles Longuet and Paul Lafargue, Marx's two French socialist sons-in-law, also attended his funeral. Liebknecht, a founder and leader of the German Social-Democratic Party, gave a speech in German, and Longuet, a prominent figure in the French working-class movement, made a short statement in French. Two telegrams from workers' parties in France and Spain were also read out. Together with Engels's speech, this constituted the entire programme of the funeral. Those attending the funeral included Friedrich Lessner, who had been sentenced to three years in prison at the Cologne communist trial of 1852; G. Lochner, who was described by Engels as "an old member of the Communist League" and Carl Schorlemmer, a professor of chemistry in Manchester, a member of the Royal Society, but also an old communist associate of Marx and Engels. Three others attended the funeral—Ray Lankester, Sir John Noe and Leonard Church.

Marx's tombstone bears the carved messages: "WORKERS OF ALL LANDS UNITE," the final line of The Communist Manifesto, and Engels's version of the 11th Thesis on Feuerbach:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways—the point however is to change it

The Communist Party of Great Britain had the monumental tombstone built in 1954 with a portrait bust by Laurence Bradshaw; Marx's original tomb had had only humble adornment. In 1970 there was an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the monument using a homemade bomb.

Cultural historians may regard Karl Marx as the first major social theorist to form a series of concepts within the break between modern and premodern societies



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May 5, 1818
Trier, Prussia


March 14, 1883 (aged 64)
London, United Kingdom








Politics, economics, philosophy, sociology, history, class struggle




Co-founder of Marxism (with Engels), surplus value, alienation and exploitation of the worker, The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, materialist conception of history