Karl Marx (1818-1883)

The following list summarizes the life of Karl Marx in the context of major poltical events during that time. I more consistent summary is below, followed by some famous quotes.

Karl Marx and his time.

  • Marx born in 1818. Karl is born May 5, 1818, in Trier, Prussia – what is now Germany. In 1835, (at 17 years old) he became a student of philosophy and literature, where he began participating in radical activities (father compelled him to move to the University of Berlin for more serious study). Engaged to Jenny Von Westphalen in 1836 in Trier on a break from school.
  • Meets Friedrich Engels, (1842)
  • Begins writing for radical newspaper Rheinische Zeitung (Rhineland News (1842). Marx works as a journalist and later editor for a radical newspaper that was frequently censored by the government. This is where Marx first began outlining his early thoughts on socialism and sharpening his analysis of political economy.
  • Marries Jenny Von Westphalen (1843)
  • Moves to Paris (1843) Marx is forced to leave Prussia after the Rheinische Zeitung is banned by the government because of an article criticizing the Russian monarchy. In Paris Marx becomes the co-editor of Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals). It is in this publication that Marx writes “Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” and “On the Jewish Question”. Only one issue of the journal is published. Marx moves to another radical newspaper, Vorwärts! (Forward!), a newspaper attached to the League of the Just (underground organization of workers and artisans)
  • Marx and Engels in Brussels (1845-1848) Marx is deported from France after Forward! is shut down. He moves to Brussels, and promises not to publish anything political. Engels soon joins him. They begin working on “The German Ideology” (not published until1932) after meeting with Chartists (a working-class movement aiming to gain political rights for workers). They continue to develop the concept of historical materialism.
  • Marx and Engels set up the Communist Correspondence Committee in Brussels (1846) They do this in an effort to unite socialists and politically aware workers in different countries as an above-ground organization of workers and artisans.
  • Mexican-American War (1846-1848) The US forcibly annexes Texas from Mexico. This leads to a war which results in Mexico giving up Alta California, the rest of Texas, and New Mexico.
  • Marx and Engels back to Prussia (1848-1849). They continue to work on their historical and social analyses, and they are involved in revolutionary uprisings through the Communist League.
  • Revolutions of 1848 (1848) There is a widespread wave of revolutions in across Europe. Revolutionary uprisings (mostly) against feudalism, in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and Budapest.
  • Manifesto of the Communist Party published (1848) Marx and Engels write this work as the platform of the Communist League Workers Association in Germany. The text is a blueprint for action and advances the principle that the history of society is the history of class struggles.
  • Marx loses Prussian citizenship, is deported, moves to London (1849) Engels soon moves to England (Manchester) to help with publishing political journal; takes up work in a mill in which his father owns shares, and begins to financially support Marx who is beginning to write Das Kapital.
  • Cologne 1848-1849 Marx and Engels move to Cologne. Marx writes and distributes “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany” (essentially the 10 point program from Communist Manifesto). Marx also starts the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (The New Rhineland News).
  • Louis Bonaparte declares himself to be France’s president for life (1851) Louis Bonaparte was initially elected by popular vote to be the President of the French Second Republic. When the constitution prevented him from running for a second term, he staged a coup and took over. He was brought down by the Franco-Prussian war.
  • Indian War of Independence against East India Co. (1857) A rebellion against the British East India Company became a severe threat to British imperial power.
  • A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy is published (1859). This work was foundational to the development of Marx’s analysis. It later developed into Marx’s main book, Das Kapital. Marx lays out the economic interpretation of history and interprets and absorbs classical political economy (Adam Smith, and David Ricardo).
  • Darwin’s Origin of Species published (1859) A foundational text in science of evolutionary biology written by Darwin. Marx was influenced by Darwin’s work on natural selection; it influenced his concept of historical materialism.
  • US Civil War (1861-1865)
  • The First International is created (1864-1876) The International Workingmen’s Association was an international organization that operated as an umbrella for socialist, communist, and anarchist groups and trade unions. It was a political instrument for Marx to focus on class struggle. Founded in London, with the first congress in Geneva in 1866.
  • Capital Volume 1 is published (1867)
  • Paris Commune (1871)
    A socialist government briefly ruled Paris, following the defeat to Louis Bonaparte and the collapse of the French Second Empire. Marx, Engels, and others saw the Commune as something of a model for what communism could look like. Engels and Lenin both described it as the first dictatorship of the proletariat.
  • Unification of Germany (1871)
    Germany became a single republic after the French lost in the Franco-Prussian war.
  • Kabilye Revolt (1871-1872)
    One of the most intense rebellions by local Algerian people against French colonization. The uprising was set off when the colonial government tried to extend its authority to tribes that had previously not been under its control. The Kabilye Revolt happened at the same time as the Paris Commune, and some captured Algerian insurrectionists and Paris communards ended up imprisoned together.
  • Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand) (1876) The war between the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho and the United States leads to  a decisive victory for the indigenous peoples.
  • Queen Victoria claims empire over India (1877) India was already under British control, but the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, solidified colonial power by getting Queen Victoria to be proclaimed empress of India.
  • Marx dies in London (1883) Following years of poor health, Marx dies in exile in London. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery in London in a section reserved for atheists.
  • Berlin Conference (1884-1885) Conference during which European countries collaborated to divide up Africa for colonization. Beginning of the “scramble for Africa”.
  • Second International (1889-1916) After the dissolution of the First International, the Second International emerged as a Socialist International movement. The formation excluded anarchists. Associated with the initiation of Worker’s Day and the Russian Revolution. It campaigned for the 8-hour work day.
  • First global May Day (1890) International Worker’s Day. Chosen by the 2nd International on this day to commemorate the Haymarket Uprising in Chicago, and to demonstrate for better working conditions, and for universal peace.
  • Engels dies in London (1895) of throat cancer.
  • Spanish American War (1898) Initiated by the attack on the USS Maine in Havana. The US intervened in the Cuban War of Independence and seized Spain’s colonies in the Pacific, which ultimately led to conflicts including the Philippine-American war.
  • Russian Revolution (1905) The first revolution by the peasantry and the working class that put forward an initial revolutionary theory. Eventually, this led to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Biography of Marx from the Stanford Encyclopedia:

“Karl Marx was born in Trier, in the German Rhineland, in 1818. Although his family was Jewish they converted to Christianity so that his father could pursue his career as a lawyer in the face of Prussia’s anti-Jewish laws. A precocious schoolchild, Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, and then wrote a Ph.D. thesis in Philosophy, comparing the views of Democritus and Epicurus. On completion of his doctorate in 1841 Marx hoped for an academic job, but he had already fallen in with too radical a group of thinkers and there was no real hope. Turning to journalism Marx rapidly became involved in political and social issues, and soon found himself having to consider communist theory. Of his many early writings, four, in particular, stand out. ‘Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction’, and ‘On The Jewish Question’, were both written in 1843 and published in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, written in Paris 1844, and the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ of 1845 remained unpublished in Marx’s lifetime.

The German Ideology, co-written with Engels, in 1845, was also unpublished but this is where we see Marx beginning to develop his theory of history. The Communist Manifesto is perhaps Marx’s most widely read work, even if it is not the best guide to his thought. This was again jointly written with Engels and published with a great sense of excitement in 1848 as Marx returned to Germany from exile to take part in the revolution of 1848. With the failure of the revolution Marx moved to London where he remained for the rest of his life. He now concentrated on the study of economics, producing, in 1859, his Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy. This is largely remembered for its Preface, in which Marx sketches out what he calls ‘the guiding principles’ of his thought, on which many interpretations of historical materialism are based. Marx’s main economic work is, of course, Capital Volume 1, published in 1867, although Volume 3, edited by Engels, and published posthumously in 1894, contains much of interest. Finally, the late pamphlet Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), is an important source for Marx’s reflections on the nature and organization of communist society.

The works so far mentioned amount only to a small fragment of Marx’s opus, which will eventually run to around 100 large volumes when his collected works are completed. However, the items selected above form the most important core from the point of view of Marx’s connection with philosophy, although other works, such as the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) are often regarded as equally important in assessing Marx’s analysis of concrete political events.”

Quotes by Marx:

  1. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
  2. Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844: “If money is the bond binding me to human life, binding society to me, connecting me with nature and man, is not money the bond of all bonds? Can it not dissolve and bind all ties? Is it not, therefore, also the universal agent of separation?”
  3. The Communist Manifesto: “A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of Communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcize this specter; Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police spies. Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Communistic by its opponents in power? Where the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries? Two things result from this fact:
    1. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be in itself a power.
    2. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Specter of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.”
  4. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”
  5. The Communist Manifesto: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors,’ and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”
  6. The Communist Manifesto: “Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.”
    “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.Workingmen of all countries unite!”
  7. Critique of the Gotha Program: “In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its éntirety and society inscribe on its banner: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

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