Karl Marx and His Ideas
Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the city of Trier in the
Rhineland, where he completed his early schooling. His fathers side of
the family were all rabbis. His father was a prosperous lawyer who
adopted Lutheranism for himself and his family in 1824. His mother was
from Hungary, and she never learned to read or speak German. At the
age of seventeen, he was sent to the University of Bonn to study law.
After he was in a duel, he was transferred to the University of
Berlin. Instead of applying himself to studying law, Marx began to
read the Latin, English, and Italian classics and became interested in
philosophy. At the age of nineteen, he became a member of a group who
gathered to discuss the interpretations of religious and philosophical
views. The triumph of conservatism in government and education led
Marx to hurry to complete his university work. Marx received his
doctoral degree in 1841.
Marx was convinced that an academic career was over and he turned to
journalism. In October of 1842, he became editor of a newspaper in
Cologne. In the paper, he defended the wine-growing peasants against
the wood-theft laws, and expressed his growing awareness of economic
issues. This is where he first thought of the idea of physical force
overthrowing physical force. Marx later said that this led him to move
from pure politics to socialism.
After this event, Marx married his longtime girlfriend, Jenny von
Westphalen, a member of the aristocracy, and they went to Paris for
Marx to study socialism. While in Paris, Marx met Friedrich Engels
with whom he began a lifelong friendship. In 1845 Marx left France
after the Prussian government ordered him to. Marx went to Brussels
with Engels where he sketched his theory of history. There they wrote
German Ideology, which was not published until 1932. They then joined
a communistic society called the League of Communists. When the
society met in London in 1847, Marx and Engels were both present.
There they wrote the Communist Manifesto. Engels wrote a first draft
which was rewritten by Marx.
Soon after its publication, the February Revolution of 1848 broke out
in France. Marx and Engels visited France while on their way to
Cologne to help the revolution there. They then founded a newspaper
and were able to support their campaign for revolution. The paper was
then suppressed, and Marx was prosecuted for treason and expelled from
Prussia. He then went to England.
Marx lived the last thirty-four years of his life in England. Living
in Soho, he and his family lived off the money that Engels sent them.
Most of his time was spent reading newspapers in the British museum or
writing at home. Three of his six children died. In 1864 Marx again
became active in politics. He organized the International Working