Karl Marx : May 5th 1818 - March 14th 1883

Introduction :
Karl Marx was a Prussian philosopher, economist, sociologist, and, perhaps most importantly, a socialist revolutionary. He is undeniably one of the foremost socialists in history, and through his works, Karl Marx has impacted and changed history.

Karl Marx as a teenager

Early Years :

Despite being such a prominent figure in history, there is little known about Marx's early life. He was born on May 5th, 1818, in a small town called Trier. It was a part of the Kingdom of Prussia, and Marx lived in a middle
Marx's Family Home in Modern Time
class family. His father, Heinrich Marx, was a well-known lawyer and Protestant, despite the Marx family coming from an ancestrally Jewish family. Heinrich chose to be Protestant in order to succeed in Prussia, and Marx was baptized Lutheran. Heinrich Marx embodied the ideals of the Enlightenment, specifically Voltaire and Kant, and he introduced Marx to their philosophies and literature. Marx was the third of nine children. He was home-schooled by his father until the age of 12, at which Marx began to attend the local high school. At 17, Marx began his studies at the University of Bonn. He wanted to study philosophy and literature, however, Marx's father insisted he study law as it was a more reliable field. Marx's casual and laid back attitude towards school led his father to enroll him at the stricter University of Berlin.

The Makings of a Socialist:

Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen

During his studies at the University of Berlin, Marx became engaged to his long time childhood friend, Jenny von Westphalen. Despite the social class difference between the two, as Jenny was a baroness, Marx managed to win over her father and the couple married 7 years down the road. Back at the University of Berlin, Marx's love for philosophy was evident during this time and he was asserting his belief that "without philosophy nothing could be accomplished." Marx joined a club called the Young Hegelians in 1837. The club was based around the extremely popular German philosopher G. W. F Hegel. Marx was a strong believer in Hegel's ideas of viewing religion, society, and politics from a leftist perspective. The Young Hegelians were vocal against the Prussian aristocracy, and they found themselves being censored by the government frequently. In 1942, Karl Marx became an editor for the Rhineland News, a radical newspaper. He developed his early views on socialism and the economy during his time at the paper and he often criticized socialist movements he thought were pointless and ineffective. The newspaper was closed down by the Prussian government after a particularly aggressive article, and Marx moved to France afterwards.

Marx and Engels :

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, economist, and socialist, much like Marx. The two of them met in Paris in the summer of 1844 and quickly started a friendship which would last until Marx's death. Together, they crafted the beginnings of what would become Communism, and to a greater extent, Marxism. It was Engels who convinced Marx of one of the key tenets of Communism; the working class are the ones who will begin the revolution against Capitalism. They collaborated on many works and although Engels is not as known as Marx, it is only with his help that Marx was able to achieve the level of recognition he had.

Famous Works :
The Communist Manifesto

das kapital cover.jpg
Das Kapital

Throughout his life, Marx was obsessed with making social and economic change. He was frustrated with the state Europe was in politically, economically, and socially. He tried to inspire change through his works on various topics, most of them being economic and philosophical. A lot of Marx's works were not punished due to them often being seen as radical or revolutionist. His two most important works are The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital.

The Manifesto can be called as one of the most influential political manuscripts ever made. It was a pamphlet describing Marx's view on the history of the class struggle and the ever-present issues with capitalism. Within it, Marx explains how capitalism exploits those who sell their labor (Proletariat) and those who buy the labor (Bourgeois). According to Marx, capitalism has turned people into commodities and they are valued by the amount of labor they can produce. Because of machines and technology, there is a division between how much workers are paid and how much the good are sold for. He called this surplus labor, which created a class division between the Bourgeois and the Proletariat in a so-called equal society. Despite being short, it is an extremely informative and predictive pamphlet.

Check out The Communist Manifesto here :

Das Kapital is Marx's longest work and arguably his magnum opus. It is largely a text dedicated to the full and comprehensive breakdown of capitalism. It is comprised of three volumes, Capital Volume I, Capital Volume II, and Capital Volume III. In Volume I, Marx begins by going further in depth with the concepts provided in The Communist Manifesto, and reveals how capitalism is essentially the precursor to socialism. Socialism is the political and economic theory that the distribution of goods, the production of goods, and the exchange of goods should be controlled by the community, not by individuals. In Volume II, also called The Process of Circulation of Capital, Marx goes into depth the trade cycle of a market and the results of the interactions between worker, employer, goods, and labor. In Volume III, also called The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, is focused around profit. It takes the previous mentioned idea of surplus value and how it is turned into profit in a capitalist economy.

Check out this video for an in-depth explanation on Capitalism and Socialism:


Marxism :
The fist is the symbol of the Proletariat

Marxism is the culmination of all of Marx and Engel's ideas and theories. All of their political views, philosophical theories, and economic beliefs are merged into the overarching system of Marxism. The Marxist believes that the mode of production, or the economy, directly influences other aspects of society, such as politics or the law. The history of society can be generally summarized as "the history of class struggles." The division between the ruling class and the working class have long since driven the forces of the world, whether it be in a feudalistic society or a monarchy. In a capitalist society, this class struggle will eventually be driven to the point where the working class, the Proletariat, will rise up and revolt. This revolution will overthrow the Bourgeois and establish a socialist nation. In this new socialist system, the means of production will now be owned and led by the community. Unlike capitalism, which bases itself on private profit, socialism would be for the benefit of the people. It would be farm-to-table, plate-to-face. According to Marxist theory, this revolution is a historical necessity. It is the next step of evolution for society: feudalism to capitalism to socialism.
Branches of Marxism :
Marx, Engels, and Lenin

The influence of Marxism is one that cannot be understated. Many political leaders have taken inspiration from the ideas of Marxism and have adapted them to fit the current society they were living in. The most notable one is Leninism. Named after its developer, Vladimir Lenin, it was his interpretation of the Marxist theory and how they were applicable to Russia's problems in the early 1900s. The fundamental difference between Leninism and Marxism is that Lenin believed the Proletariat would not willingly enter into a revolution on their own. They needed to be pushed forward by a leading figure, which Marxist theory is against. Under the banner of Leninism, Russia became the Soviet Union in the 1920s, and it became the official state ideology of the Soviet Union. Another branch of Marxism is Stalinism, unsurprisingly coined by Joseph Stalin. This banch is one that strays heavily from the original teachings of Marxism. Stalin cited inspiration from Marx, claiming that his ideas were his attempt at accelerating the natural process of the Proletariat revolution. Stalin was focused on having the establishment of a Marxist society in one country, rather than a global movement like Marx wanted.
Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin

Communism :
Perhaps the most notable achievement to come out of Marx and Engel's works is Communism. The impact of Communism is
The symbol of Communism : the hammer and sickle

one that has a left a long-lasting and visible mark on history. Communism and Marxism are very similar; one can say that Communism is merely the practical application of Marxist theory.
It is a classless and stateless society; no government and no class distinctions. The main tenet of Communism is the abolishment of private property. It is a utopian philosophy and is based on the goodness of the human person. If everyone in society can share with one another, than there is no need for class, no need for fighting and strife. Yet, Communism, Marx's version of Communism atleast, is too idealistic and impractical. This is evident by the dictatorships that arises from any government's attempt at establishing Communism: Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.

The ten tenets of Communism :

The difference between Socialism, Communism, and Marxism :

Legacy :
The Cold War, a war between Capitalism and Communism

The legacy that Karl Marx has left behind is immeasurable. Through his works, Karl Marx had effected the political landscape of the world hundreds of years after his death. He is credited as being the creator of socialism and Communism, two political ideologies which exist and will continue to exist. Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, and Trotsykism, are all schools of thought which have emerged from Marxist theory. There are some who would argue that Marx's teachings are now invalid; Communism made a insurgence in the 20th century and died out. Yet, Marx and his beliefs are forever immortalized alongside capitalism. As long as capitalism remains the political power of the world, Marxist belief will remain as well. He is forever immortalized in his works, his theories, his philosophies, and his legacy.

"His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work." - Friedrich Engels at Marx's funeral