Karl Marx
Das Kapital
The Communist Manifesto

"The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to gain. Workers of the world, unite." (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto)

Karl Marx was born in Prussia on May 5th, 1818 into a Jewish family which had recently converted to Evangelical Christianity. His father was a very successful lawyer and the change of religion was probably for professional rather than spiritual reasons. Marx's father studied philosophy in his spare time and was an expert on the writers of the Enlightenment, especially Kant and Voltaire. It was this parental influence and Marx's Semitic background which contributed to his socialist world-view.

In 1835, Marx went to university in Bonn. It was a seat of revolution, with the students trying to cast off the unconstitutional Prussian government in exchange for the freedom they perceived in the rest of Europe. The mid-nineteenth century was a time of revolution across Europe and Bonn was the center of Prussian uprisings. Marx joined a group called the Young Hegelians, a group who filtered anti-governmental feeling through Hegel's philosophy.

In 1842, Marx began to write for a Cologne newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung. By the end of the year Marx was editor, having made a name for himself with his incisive political writing. He steered clear of the political extremity of his Young Hegelian friends and instead strove to bring about social change from within the limited Prussian constitution. In 1843, Marx married Jenny von Westphalen, a member of an aristocratic German family. The marriage was generally opposed by her family, but the couple married nonetheless and moved together to Paris.

In Paris, Marx published a series of German-French tracts on various subjects. Whilst the publications did not number many, they attracted the attention of Friedrich Engels who was to become a lifelong friend and collaborator of Marx. They moved together, with the faithful Jenny in tow, to Brussels, where they continued their collaboration. In 1847, Marx and Engels formed the Communist League. It was during this time that Marx and Engels wrote together the work which was to be the central program for much of world politics over the next century-and-a-half: The Communist Manifesto. Whilst not as accomplished in political thought or style as Das Kapital, the Manifesto nonetheless makes fascinating reading when one considers the extent to which leaders like Stalin diverged from its essentially noble aims.

Marx moved to London in 1849, the place in which he was to die. He lived there in poverty, outcast from the establishment for his radical views, mocked by revolutionaries for not being extreme enough. In 1864, however, he found a home in the Working Men's Association. It was to this group that he made the lectures which were to be turned into the masterpiece that is Das Kapital. He was a member of the General Council and achieved power and notoriety. After the death of his wife in 1881, Marx's health declined and he died on March 14th, 1883. He is buried in Highgate Cemetary.

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