Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a philosopher, liberal economist, German revolutionary and one of the founders of scientific socialism. Marx’s work influenced sociology, economics, history, and even pedagogy.
Karl Marx portrait
Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in the city of Treviris, Germany, in the midst of an accommodated family.
He first entered the University of Bonn and later transferred to Berlin with the intuition to study law. I would leave the course to devote myself to the study of philosophy at the same institution.
Here he would be influenced by the Young Hegelians who especially criticized religion and the state.
In 1842, working in the newspaper “Gazeta Renana” meets Friedrich Engels, with which he would write and edit numerous books. Later, the gazette is closed and Marx goes to Paris.
He also marries the daughter of a baron, Jenny von Westaphalien, with whom he would have seven children, of whom only three would reach adulthood.
He also had a son with the socialist and employed militant, Helena Demuth. The paternity of the child would be assumed by Engels.
The following years would not be easy, as Marx led publications that harshly criticized the German government. He was expelled from France and Belgium at the request of the German government.
Thanks to a fundraiser by his admirers and friends, Marx leaves for London where he continues his investigations.
Karl Marx has a sore throat that prevents him from speaking and eating normally. As a result of bronchitis and respiratory problems, he died in London on March 14, 1883.
Works and Theories
With the collaboration of the German intellectual Friedrich Engels, Marx published the Communist Manifesto.
This happened on the eve of the 1848 Revolution in France, the so-called Spring of the Peoples.
In it Marx criticizes capitalism, exposes the history of the labor movement and ends with the call for the union of the workers worldwide.
In 1867, he publishes his most important work, The Capital, where he summarizes his critiques of the capitalist economy.
This collection would cause in the following decades a revolution in the way of thinking of economics, sociology and other social and human sciences.
Criticism of Capitalism
For Marx, economic conditions and class struggle are transforming agents of society.
The ruling class never wants the situation to change because it is in a very comfortable situation. The disadvantaged have to fight for their rights and this fight would move history, according to Marx.
Marx thought that the triumph of the proletariat would give rise to a classless society. This would be achieved by the union of the working class organized around a revolutionary party.
He also argues for “surplus value” when he explains that the boss’s profit is derived from the exploitation of the worker’s labor.
By devising a theory of social inequalities and proposing a way to overcome them, Marx created what he called “scientific socialism.”
Against the capitalist order and bourgeois society, Marx considered the political action of the workers, the socialist revolution, which would bring about a new society.
Initially, state control by the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialization of the means of production would be installed, eliminating private property.
In the next stage, the goal would be communism, which would represent the end of all social and economic inequalities, including the dissolution of the state itself.
In 1864, in order to join forces, the “International Workers’ Association” was founded in London, later known as the First International .
The entity has spread across Europe, grown a lot and was split after a long process of internal dissent. In 1876, it was officially dissolved.
Engraving depicting Engels and Marx discussing their theories
The reactions of the workers to the effects of the Industrial Revolution gave rise to critics who proposed social reformulations. They suggested the creation of a fairer world and were called socialist theorists .
Among the various thinkers, the most celebrated socialist theorist was the German Karl Marx, with passage through France and England. Marx witnessed the social transformations resulting from industrialization.
Influence of Marxism
Karl Marx’s theories influenced the 1917 Russian Revolution, as well as theorists and politicians, among them:
- Rosa Luxemburg
- Che guevara
- Mao Zedong
Each understood the Marxist theory and sought to adapt it to their specific reality. Thus we have “Marxism-Lenism”, “dark socialism”, etc.
There were several governments that proclaimed themselves socialists such as the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, among many others.
- “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; what matters is to change it.”
- “Economic production and the resulting social organization, necessarily for each epoch of history, constitute the basis of the political and intellectual history of that epoch.”
- “The history of society to this day is the history of class struggle.”
- “Men make their own history, but not under circumstances of their own choosing, but under those they directly confront, bequeathed, and passed on from the past.”
- “Undoubtedly, the will of the capitalist is to fill his pockets as much as he can. And what we have to do is not digress about his will, but investigate his power, the limits of that power and the character of those limits.” “
Historical Context: Summary
Major economic, political, and social transformations occurred in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
All these changes were accompanied by theories and doctrines that sought to condemn or reform the bourgeois capitalist order.
Then socialist theories were structured , linked to a new branch of science, political economy.
England was where this change most occurred. The country was acquiring a new social configuration with the industrialization and rural exodus that provided the manpower of factories in the cities.
There was no labor legislation, the working hours in factories, installed in unhealthy places, were mostly more than 14 hours. Misery increased in the cities.
In addition to subhuman working conditions, the workers faced enormous difficulties in times of war. During this period, famine was spreading across the European continent as a result of the high prices of foodstuffs.
Even more serious was the effect of the increasing use of machines in the production process. As a result, human labor was subject to less and less pay.
Discontent only increased as the reasons for conflict grew, foreshadowing a social revolution.
The first labor organizations emerged, the trade unions , which sought to organize the struggles of the working class and were regarded as criminal organizations by the industrialists.