Analysis Of Karl Marx And Communism Essay

, Research Paper

Karl Heinrich Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the city of Trier in

Prussia, now, Germany. He was one of seven children of Jewish

Parents. His father was fairly liberal, taking part in demonstrations

for a constitution for Prussia and reading such authors as Voltaire

and Kant, known for their social commentary. His mother, Henrietta,

was originally from Holland and never became a German at heart, not

even learning to speak the language properly. Shortly before Karl

Marx was born, his father converted the family to the Evangelical

Established Church, Karl being baptized at the age of six.

Marx attended high school in his home town (1830-1835) where several

teachers and pupils were under suspicion of harboring liberal ideals.

Marx himself seemed to be a devoted Christian with a ?longing for

self-sacrifice on behalf of humanity.? In October of 1835, he started

attendance at the University of Bonn, enrolling in

non-socialistic-related classes like Greek and Roman mythology and the

history of art. During this time, he spent a day in jail for being

?drunk and disorderly-the only imprisonment he suffered? in the

course of his life. The student culture at Bonn included, as a major

part, being politically rebellious and Marx was involved, presiding

over the Tavern Club and joining a club for poets that included some

politically active students. However, he left Bonn after a year and

enrolled at the University of Berlin to study law and philosophy.

Marx?s experience in Berlin was crucial to his introduction to Hegel?s

philosophy and to his ?adherence to the Young Hegelians.? Hegel?s

philosophy was crucial to the development of his own ideas and

theories. Upon his first introduction to Hegel?s beliefs, Marx felt a

repugnance and wrote his father that when he felt sick, it was

partially ?from intense vexation at having to make an idol of a view

[he] detested.? The Hegelian doctrines exerted considerable pressure

in the ?revolutionary student culture? that Marx was immersed in,

however, and Marx eventually joined a society called the Doctor Club,

involved mainly in the ?new literary and philosophical movement?

who?s chief figure was Bruno Bauer, a lecturer in theology who thought

that the Gospels were not a record of History but that they came from

?human fantasies arising from man?s emotional needs? and he also

hypothesized that Jesus had not existed as a person. Bauer was later

dismissed from his position by the Prussian government. By 1841,

Marx?s studies were lacking and, at the suggestion of a friend, he

submitted a doctoral dissertation to the university at Jena, known for

having lax acceptance requirements. Unsurprisingly, he got in, and

finally received his degree in 1841. His thesis ?analyzed in a

Hegelian fashion the difference between the natural philosophies of

Democritus and Epicurus? using his knowledge of mythology and the

myth of Prometheus in his chains.

In October of 1842, Marx became the editor of the paper Rheinische

Zeitung, and, as the editor, wrote editorials on socio-economic issues

such as poverty, etc. During this time, he found that his ?Hegelian

philosophy was of little use? and he separated himself from his young

Hegelian friends who only shocked the bourgeois to make up their

?social activity.? Marx helped the paper to succeed and it almost

became the leading journal in Prussia. However, the Prussian

government suspended it because of ?pressures from the government of

Russia.? So, Marx went to Paris to study ?French Communism.?

In June of 1843, he was married to Jenny Von Westphalen, an attractive

girl, four years older than Marx, who came from a prestigious family

of both military and administrative distinction. Although many of the

members of the Von Westphalen family were opposed to the marriage,

Jenny?s father favored Marx. In Paris, Marx became acquainted with

the Communistic views of French workmen. Although he thought that the

ideas of the workmen were ?utterly crude and unintelligent,? he

admired their camaraderie. He later wrote an article entitled ?Toward

the Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right? from which comes the

famous quote that religion is the ?opium of the people.? Once again,

the Prussian government interfered with Marx and he was expelled from

France. He left for Brussels, Belgium, and , in 1845, renounced his

Prussian nationality.

During the next two years in Brussels, the lifelong collaboration with

Engels deepened further. He and Marx, sharing the same views, pooled

their ?intellectual resources? and published The Holy Family, a

criticism of the Hegelian idealism of Bruno Bauer. In their next

work, they demonstrated their materialistic conception of history but

the book found no publisher and ?remained unknown during its author?s


It is during his years in Brussels that Marx really developed his

views and established his ?intellectual standing.? From December of

1847 to January of 1848, Engels and Marx wrote The Communist

Manifesto, a document outlining 10 immediate measures towards

Communism, ?ranging from a progressive income tax and the abolition of

inheritances to free education for all children.?

When the Revolution erupted in Europe in 1848, Marx was invited to

Paris just in time to escape expulsion by the Belgian government. He

became unpopular to German exiles when, while in Paris, he opposed

Georg Hewegh?s project to organize a German legion to invade and

?liberate the Fatherland.? After traveling back to Cologne, Marx

called for democracy and agreed with Engels that the Communist League

should be disbanded. During this time, Marx got into trouble with the

government; he was indicted on charges that he advocated that people

not pay taxes. However, after defending himself in his trial, he was

acquitted unanimously. On May 16, 1849, Marx was ?banished as an

alien? by the Prussian government.

Marx then went to London. There, he rejoined the Communist League and

became more bold in his revolutionary policy. He advocated that the

people try to make the revolution ?permanent? and that they should

avoid subservience to the bourgeois peoples. The faction that he

belonged to ridiculed his ideas and he stopped attending meetings of

the London Communists, working on the defense of 11 communists

arrested in Cologne, instead. He wrote quite a few works during this

time, including an essay entitled ?Der Achtzenhnte Brumaire des Louis

Bonaparte? (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) and also a

pamphlet written on the behalf of the 11 communists he was defending

in Cologne.

From 1850 to 1864, Marx lived in poverty and ?spiritual pain,? only

taking a job once. He and his family were evicted from their

apartment and several of his children died, his son, Guido, who Marx

called ?a sacrifice to bourgeois misery? and a daughter named

Franziska. They were so poor that his wife had to borrow money for

her coffin.

Frederich Engels was the one who gave Marx and his family money to

survive on during these years. His only other source of money was his

job as the European correspondent for The New York Tribune, writing

editorials and columns analyzing everything in the ?political

universe.? Marx published his first book on economic theory in 1859,

called A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

Marx?s ?political isolation? ended when he joined the International

Working Men?s Association. Although he was neither the founder nor

the leader of this organization, he ?became its leading spirit? and

as the corresponding secretary for Germany, he attended all meetings.

Marx?s distinction as a political figure really came in 1870 with the

Paris Commune. He became an international figure and his name ?became

synonymous throughout Europe with the revolutionary spirit symbolized

by the Paris Commune.?

An opposition to Marx developed under the leadership of a Russian

revolutionist, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin. Bakunin was a famed

orator whose speeches one listener described as ?a raging storm with

lightning, flashes and thunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions.?

Bakunin admired Marx?s intellect but was personally opposed to him

because Marx had an ?ethnic aversion? to Russians. Bakunin believed

that Marx was a ?German authoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted

to transform the General council into a personal dictatorship over the

workers.? Bakunin organized sections of the International for an

attack on the ?dictatorship? of Marx and the General Council. Marx

didn?t have the support of a right wing and feared that he would lose

control to Bakunin. However, he was successful at expelling the

Bakuninists from the International and shortly, the International died

out in New York.

During the next decade of his life, his last few years, Marx was beset

by what he called ?chronic mental depression? and ?his life turned

inward toward his family.? He never completed any substantial work

during this time although he kept his mind active, reading and

learning Russian. In 1879, Marx dictated the preamble of the program

for the French Socialist Workers? Federation and shaped much of its

content. During his last years, Marx spent time in health resorts and

dies in London of a lung abscess on March 14, 1883, after the death of

his wife and daughter.

Marx?s work seems to be more of a criticism of Hegelian and other

philosophy, than as a statement of his own philosophy. While Hegel

felt that philosophy explained reality, Marx felt that philosophy

should be made into reality, an hard thing to do. He thought that one

must not just look at and inspect the world, but must try to transform

the world, much like Jean Paul Sartre?s view that ?man must choose

what is best for the world; and he will do so.?

Marx is unique from other philosophers in that he chooses to regard

man as an individual, a human being. This is evident in his Economic

and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. There, he declares that man is a

?natural being? who is endowed with ?natural [and] vital powers?

that ?exist in him as aptitudes [and] instincts.? Humans simply

struggle with nature for the satisfaction of man?s needs. From this

struggle comes man?s awareness of himself as an individual and as

something separate from nature. So, he seeks to oppose nature. He

sees that history is just the story of man creating and re-creating

himself and sees that man creates himself, and that a ?god? has no

part in it. Thus, the communist belief in no religion.

Marx also says that the more man works as a laborer, the less he has

to consume for himself because his ?product and labor are estranged?

from him. Marx says that because the work of the laborer is taken

away and does not belong to the laborer, the laborer loses his

?rightful existence? and is made alien to himself. Private property

becomes a product and cause of ?alienated labor? and through that,

causes disharmony. ?Alienated labor is seen as the consequence of

market product, the division of labor, and the division of society

into antagonistic classes.?

So, capitalism, which encourages the possession of private property,

encourages alienation of man. Capitalism, which encourages the

amassment of money, encourages mass production, to optimize

productivity. Mass production also intensifies the alienation of

labor because it encourages specialization and it makes people view

the workers not as individuals but as machines to do work. It is this

attitude that incites the uprisings of the lower classes against the

higher classes, namely, the nobility.

Regarding Marx?s attitude toward religion, he thought that religion

was simply a ?product of man?s consciousness? and that it is a

reflection of the situation of a man who ?either has not conquered

himself or has already lost himself again.? Marx sums it all up in a

famous quote, stating that religion is ?an opium for the people.?

Marx?s hypothesis of historical materialism contains this maxim; that

?It is not the consciousness of men which determines their existence;

it is on the contrary their social existence which determines their

consciousness.? Marx has applied his theory of historical

materialism to capitalist society in both The Communist Manifesto and

Das Kapital, among others. Marx never really explained his entire

theory through but taking the text literally, ?social reality? is

arranged in this way:

That underlying our society is economic structure; and

That above the foundation of economy rises ?legal and political?forms

of social consciousness? that relate back to the economic foundation

of society.

An interesting mark of Marx?s analysis of economy is evidenced in Das

Kapital, where he ?studies the economy as a whole and not in one or

another of its? parts and sections. His analysis is based on the

precept of man being a productive entity and that ?all economic value

comes from human labor.?

Marx speaks of capitalism as an unstable environment. He says that

its development is accompanied by ?increasing contradictions? and that

the equilibrium of the system is precarious as it is to the internal

pressures resulting from its development. Capitalism is too easy to

tend to a downward spiral resulting in economic and social ruin. An

example of the downward spiral in a capitalist society is inflation.

Inflation involves too much currency in circulation. Because of

inflation and the increase in prices of goods resulting from it, the

people of the society hoard their money which, because that money is

out of circulation, causes more money to be printed. The one

increases the effect of the other and thus, the downward spiral.

Marx views revolution with two perspectives. One takes the attitude

that revolution should be a great uprising like that of the French

revolution. The other ?conception? is that of the ?permanent

revolution? involving a ?provisional coalition? between the low and

higher classes. However, an analysis of the Communist Manifesto shows

inconsistencies between the relationship of permanent and violent

revolution; that Marx did not exactly determine the exact relationship

between these two yet.

Aside from the small inconsistencies in Marx?s philosophy, he exhibits

sound ideas that do seem to work on paper but fail in the real world

where millions of uncertainties contribute to the error in every

social experiment on Earth. Communism never gets farther than

socialism in its practice in the real world and that is where the

fault lies, in the governments that try to cheat the system while

still maintaining their ideal communist society.


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