KARL MARX: HIS LIFE, IDEAS, BOOKS, HEGEL AND MARXISM

KARL MARX AND MARXISM


Marx in 1875

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was one the great intellectual giants of the 19th and 20th centuries. Based on the number of books written about him (3,817 in 1999 in the Library of Congress collection), Marx is the world's sixth most famous person. He ranks behind Jesus and Lenin but ahead of Freud and Buddha.

Marx was a German philosopher who is considered the founding father of Socialism and Communism. Although his theories have largely been discredited with the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was has earned his place in history by pointing out the negative side of capitalism and market economics and letting mankind know there is more to life than making money.

Marx is the found of Marxism, which in turn deeply influenced socialism and laid the foundation for Communism, Leninism and Maoism (See separate articles on these). Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “There are a number of key names and terms that you will need to be familiar with: Karl Marx, the founder (along with Frederick Engels) of Marxism, the “classical” form of communism. Vladimir Ilyitch Lenin (original surname Ulyanov, 1870-1924), leader of the Russian Revolution who adapted Marx’s ideas to suit the needs of his revolution and his goal of world revolution; his system is called Leninism. Mao Zedong (1893-1976), leader of the Chinese Communist Revolution who adapted Marxist-Leninism to suit Chinese circumstances in his ideology of Maoism. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Other important terms” include “dialectic — a term describing the “motion” of history for Marx materialism — the theory that all existence can be reduced to material components consciousness — for Marx, a person’s experientially-derived perspective on the world class — for Marx, a social group sharing common economic and political constraints bourgeoisie — the capitalist social class dominant in 19th century Europe proletariat — the class of factory workers created by the Industrial Revolution.

Marx's Early Life


Marx's birthplace in Trier

Marx was born in Trier in Prussia on May 5, 1818. There were long lines of rabbis on both sides of his family. His father was brilliant lawyer who converted to Lutheranism as a young man to further his career and was an enthusiastic follower of Voltaire. Marx's Dutch mother lacked her husband's intellectual interests. She had herself and Karl baptized when Karl was around seven.

As a youth Marx had black curly hair. He was an avid reader and was regarded as intelligent. He originally wanted to be a teacher but turned to writing after he was accused of spreading dangerous ideas. Marx graduated from a gymnasium in Trier at the age of 18. He attended a university in Bonn, where he squandered his money and appeared to spend more time writing love letters and poems to his future wife than studying. He once spent 24 hours in jail after being arrested for drunk and disorderly behavior.

Marx first studied literature at Bonn and then took up law, philosophy and metaphysics in Berlin. He was greatly influenced by the philosophy of Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. (1770-1831), the father of dialectical thought, and joined the "Doctor's Club" of Hegel followers. He earned his Ph.D. in Jena in 1841 with a abstruse dissertation entitled "The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature."

After graduating from university Marx moved to Cologne, where he edited the Rheinische Zeitung, a revolutionary newspaper financed by the city merchants shut down by the government in 1843. In the publication, Marx supported various social causes and spoke out for the freedoms of press and speech and encouraged citizens to resist the government by refusing to pay taxes. In the 1840s, Europe was alive with revolutionary activity. The political notions of Communism and Socialism were well known; trade unions in England had become a powerful force; Paris was full of radicals; and German workers were becoming involved in Socialism.

Marx and Jenny von Westphalen


Jenny von Westphalen

After spending seven years away from Trier getting his Ph.D. and working on a revolutionary newspaper, Marx returned home in 1843 when he was 25 and met up with is old girlfriend Jenny von Westphalen, the girl next door and a blue-blooded descendant of Prussian barons and Scottish earls.

Von Westphalen was years older than Marx and shared a school bench with him in the Tier gymnasium. Known as the "pettiest girl in Trier" and "the queen of the ballroom," she had green eyes and auburn hair. She was regarded as serious, introspective and romantic. Her passion was poetry. Marx was friends with von Westphalen's father with whom he had long discussions about philosophy and literature.

Marx composed poetry for von Westphalen. Her father was not moved by the poems but Jenny "burst into tears of joy and melancholy" upon reading them according to her sister. By the time he had graduated from the gymnasium Marx and von Westphalen had entered into a secret engagement.

Marx and von Westphalen were married in a Protestant church in Kreuznach on June 19, 1843. The wedding was boycotting by all the members of von Westphalen's family except her mother and brother Edgar. They honeymooned at the Rhinepfalz in Switzerland, Europe's equivalent of Niagara Falls, with a cash gift given by von Westphalen's mother.

Von Westphalen called Marx "Karlchen" and once wrote, "I think thou has never been dearer, nor sweeter, nor more loving, and at thy coming, I was in a state of rapture." Von Westphalen remained by her husband's side through their years of poverty. Her charm and wit were praised by the German poet Heinrich Heine.

Marx's Character

The German writer Otto Ruhle described Marx as a man with a "thick crop of black hair, a huge round beard...and an overcoat buttoned awry; yet he appeared like one endowed with the right...to command respect...His movements were awkward, yet bold and self-confident."


Marx as a student in 1836

Describing Marx in verse, his collaborator Friedreich Engels wrote:
Who rushes behind with wild bluster?
A swarthy fellow from Trier, a vigorous monster.
He walks not, hops not, he leaps on his heels
And raves, full of rage, as if he wanted to seize
The broad canopy of heaven, and pull it down to earth,
His arms extended very wide in the air.
With angry fist balled, he rants ceaselessly,
As if ten thousand devils held him by the forelock

Marx had few friends and spent most of his time thinking and writing. Some regarded him as arrogant and aloof. He reportedly disapproved of Engel's mistress because she was "common."

Marx's in-laws said Marx "never saw a thing-by-itself, out of touch with its setting; but contemplated it as part of a complicated and mobile world of things. His aim was to expand all the life of this world of things in its manifold and incessantly varying action and reaction."

Marx In Paris and Brussels

Marx and Jenny moved to Paris, where he began collaborating with Friedreich Engels (1820-1895), the son of German cotton manufacturer with mills in Manchester, England. When they met Engels was a 24-year-old economic student studying the English working class.

Marx's early pieces dealt with French politics, economics and the "uprising of the proletariat," and religion, which Marx referred to unforgettably as "the opium of the people."

Marx was eventually kicked out of Paris. He moved to Brussels, where he took steps to renounce his Prussian citizenship and commit himself to a life in exile at the age of 28. Marx spent three years in Brussels.

Marx returned to Cologne when he tried to resurrect Rheinische Zeitung and criticized both democrats and radicals. He was banished again, and returned to Paris where he was also expelled.

Marx in London


Soho, where Marx lived in London

In 1848, Marx arrived in London, which would remain his home for most of the remainder his life. Marx wrote researched and wrote much of Das Capital in the British Library, which he used almost everyday for 20 years. He refused to get a normal job because, he said, he refused to let capitalist society turn him into "a money-making machine."

Marx lived in a series of progressively decrepid flats in Chelsea, Soho and Haverstock Hill (all neighborhoods in London). Much of the time he and his family lived in abject poverty. They survived on merger fees brought in by his writings for the New York Tribune, loans from friends, money from the Engel's family cotton mills, a small inheritance and the selling of possession inherited from his wife's aristocratic family.

In 1864, Marx organized the International Working Men's Association in London with the goal of uniting the workers of the world along the lines spelled out in the Communist Manifesto. Marx turned out to be lacking in skills as a revolution leader. The Association was weakened by infighting and factionalism. It dissolved in 1876.

Marx's Family Life


Marx and his family with Engels

Although Marx clearly loved his wife, he treated her like a typical housewife. Family chores were performed by Lechen, a bondsmaid who had been with von Westphalen's family since she was a child. Lenchen took care of cleaning, cooking, and raising the children. She also bore Marx a son.

Marx enjoyed taking long Sunday hikes with his family. If they had any money they sometimes stopped at an inn for cheese, bread and ginger beer. To amuse his children, Marx made up stories about footloose magicians and staged sea battles in his bathtub. named after his wife. She lived with her socialist husband in France at died of tuberculosis at the age of 40. Marx's youngest daughter Eleanor lived a troubled life. She once wrote, "It is overmuch to have Karl as a my father. I do not have my own life." She made political speeches and worked briefly as an actress. Marx’s only son, Frederick Demuth, was the illegitimate offspring of his affair with his wife's servant. Marx never revealed his paternity. The truth was disclosed by Engels on his deathbed 12 years after Marx's death when Engels wrote on a blackboard "Freddy is Marx's son."

Three of Marx's children died. When his son Francesca died on Easter Sunday 1882 and he was unable to pay for a coffin he wrote, "A French refugee gave me two pounds. With this sum I was able to buy a coffin in which my poor Francesca now lays in peace. She had no cradle when she came into the world and for a long time it was difficult to find a box for her last resting palace."

Marx, Hegel, Communism, Socialism and Marxism


Hegel

Marx was greatly influenced by the thinking of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), a German philosopher regarded as the father of dialectical thought and is often considered the inspiration of Communism. Hegel put forward the idea that history was the result of dialectic change in which every thesis produced an antithesis, which in turn lead to synthesis and this in turn leads to more theses, antitheses and syntheses. Hegel was introduced to Marx when he was a university student by the charismatic professor Bruno Bauer.

Unlike early socialist philosophers who spent their energy dreaming up and trying to produce utopian societies Marx developed a consistent economic and political theory that claimed to describe society and its possibilities in scientific terms. Marx based his theories and models and what he said was scientific evidence from history, which was seen as an evolution process from primitive man to feudalism to capitalism to socialism and communism.

Marx used the term "Communism" to distinguish his views from the utopian socialists. Communists have traditionally viewed Marx's theories as the absolute truth. The term Marxism later came into existence to describe strict adherence to Marx’s philosophies.

Marx believed that the a utopian society could only be created after class divisions were destroyed and work could be transformed into something that was enriching and voluntary. He wrote that aim of society was to move away from "alienated labor” so that the worker would no longer be "related to the product of his labor as to an alien, hostile, powerful, and independent object."

Hegel


Hegel lecturing

Dr. Eno wrote: “Marx was a highly educated man and he drew his ideas from many sources. Two of these sources were most important: one was the ideas of the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), and the other was a group of political movements, known as “socialism,” that spread over Western Europe in the wake of the French Revolution. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Hegel was a brilliant thinker who lived in Prussia, a forerunner state of modern Germany. Hegel was an academic philosopher at a time when academics could be superstars. In the early 19th century, when Marx was a young man, hundreds of students crowded Hegel’s classes at the University of Berlin to hear his exciting new ideas. Hegel was famous for mumbling inaudibly during his lectures and writing books in prose that no one could understand. This enhanced his influence. 3 Other philosophers of Hegel’s era analyzed human powers of Reason and tried to explain how our rational minds were able to gain knowledge about the chaotic world of experience. These thinkers generally saw the mind’s powers as something that all people had possessed equally since human beings had first been placed upon the earth. But Hegel believed the human mind had evolved through history, and his philosophy traced the stages of that evolution in order to predict the form that the human spirit would take when it reached the perfect final form that he felt God had destined for man. (On close reading of Hegel’s books, we can see that this ideal person was actually Hegel.) /+/

“Hegel had many ideas, but two in particular influenced Marx: 1) In describing the way in which the human mind had evolved from primitive to civilized stages in history, Hegel claimed that the process of creative labor was the engine that nurtured the growth of increasingly complex structures of “consciousness,” or mental perspectives on the world. That is, the sophisticated structures of understanding that we possess as individuals and that the species now possesses as a whole have been created through millennia of our creative interaction with the world around us; they were not originally present in the species. /+/


Hegel's main idea

“2) If we view the history of the human world as the dynamic of this growth of “consciousness” through labor, then we can see that historical evolution progresses according to certain laws. At each stage of history, an original balance of human consciousness comes gradually to be challenged by a reactive set of contradictory forces. These sets of intellectual forces clash with increasing tension until, in a violent process, an entirely new type of human consciousness emerges that moves history to a new stage. The structure of this process — balance; counter-force; explosive creation of new balance — Hegel called a dialectic (the three stages of this dynamic are usually referred to by these special terms: thesis / antithesis / synthesis). For Hegel, the motion of human history was “dialectical.” /+/

“Hegel’s project was to write a history of the human mind. He pictured history as a struggle of minds, of ideas, with each historical era most essentially viewed as a unique array of ideas, sentiments, arts, and culture. Because Hegel believed that ideas were what counted most and that history was a collision of ideas progressing towards a divine Ideal, he is usually called an idealist philosopher. /+/

Hegel and Marx

Dr. Eno wrote: “Marx was deeply influenced by Hegel but said that Hegel had made a fundamental error. Hegel had believed that the key to human history was the changing mind, but Marx pointed to Hegel’s own view that our “consciousness” is the product of labor in the world. For Marx, the material world is what comes first — matter comes before mind. It is only by interacting with the material world through labor that the human mind arises and evolves. The root theory of Marx’s communism (Marxism) is that productive labor is the source of consciousness — of our understanding of the world and of ourselves. Because Marx saw human ideas as simply reflections of humanity’s encounter with the material environment, he called himself a materialist. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Using the idea that the material environment in which labor is undertaken determines the shape of the mind, Marx adapted Hegel’s view of the dynamic of historical progression. He called his version of history “dialectical materialism” (a term that only a few years ago was basic to many forms of historical and social research). /+/

“Unlike Hegel, Marx was not simply a philosopher. During his youth, all Europe was caught up in the dramatic political aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era of conquest. The unsettled character of early 19th century Europe politicized Marx’s generation much as the events of the 1960s politicized a much later generation, and Marx grew up at a time when many young people were captivated by new ways of thinking called “socialism.”“ /+/

Marx, Class Struggle, Revolution and Religion

Marx believed that history was shaped by dynamic struggles between economic classes, namely between exploitive capitalist (the bourgeoisie) and exploited workers (the proletariat). In the Communist Manifesto, he wrote, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles...In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders.”


Marx's Theory of Production


Class struggle was also viewed in terms of the Marxist model of the progression of history from feudalism to capitalism and finally communism. "In ancient Rome," Marx wrote, "we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild masters, journeymen, apprentices. serfs...Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie...has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting into two great hostile camps...bourgeoisie and proletariat."

Marx believed in the inevitable triumph of socialism in industrial countries through historical process of class conflict. He believed that hardships brought on by industrialization would lead to a revolution by workers and the creation of a classless society.

Although Marx called for the workers of the world to unite he refused to advocate armed rebellion. At least once he and Engels urged their followers to ignore the exhortations of the Communist Manifesto. Marx also believed that revolutions would longer be necessary at a ceratin point and the status quo would "wither away" and society would be based on the maxim: "form each according to his ability; to each according to his needs."

Marx was an atheist who famously called religion the "opiate of the people." He once wrote: "The proofs of the existence of God are nothing but proofs of the existence of the essentially human self-consciousness...Man is the supreme being for man...Atheism and communism...are but the first real coming-to-be, the relation become real for man, of man's essence." Marx's experience with religion within his own family as child is believed to have been one reason for his contempt of organized religion. Even though his grandparents were Jewish Marx became an anti-Semite.

Communist Manifesto


In February 1848, Karl Marx and Friedreich Engels published the Communist Manifesto. Written in Brussels for a small secret group of German revolutionaries known as the Communist League, the 23-page pamphlet exhorted the "Proletarians of all countries, unite" and the "forcibly overthrow of all existing social conditions." "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution."

The early drafts of the Communist Manifesto was no doubt the work of Marx and Engels, but final draft was considered to be the almost totally the work of Marx. Marking the birth of "scientific socialism," it explained "the giant, Modern Industry" and the "colossal...productive powers" for "clearing whole continents" and causing "whole populations conjured out of the ground."

Describing the Communist Manifesto, Steven Marcus wrote in the New York Times, "This astonishing document also possesses a structural complexity and a denseness of thematic play that we ordinarily associate with great works o the literary imagination...The Manifesto begins as a Gothic tale—a specter or ghost is on the loose in Europe; all the powers that be, from the Pope to the tsar, have banded together to hunt it down. By the end of the first page...the old regime has been transformed into a 'nursery tale,' the kind of ghost story that nurses or grandmothers tell us as children to frighten us and make us obedient."

The publication of the Communist Manifesto occurred in the midst of Paris Commune uprising of 1848 and revolutions that occurred across Europe that year. The work was little noticed at the time and had little effect on the liberal revolutions that broke out in Western Europe that year. It was largely forgotten and then resurrected in 1870 by working-class parties that had sprung in Germany and other places.

By the beginning of World War I, the Communist Manifesto had been translated into 30 languages. After the Russia Revolution, it was no longer a historical document but rather a text for the Communist revolution. In the 1960s, when it was read by activities and radicals everywhere, there where more than 1,000 editions of it in more than 100 languages.

Das Kapital


Marx's most important work, Das Kapital, was written in London and published in 1867. Volume I was completed by Marx. Volumes II and II were written by Engels based on Marx's notes. In reference to the commercial success of Das Kapital Marx told his son-in-law, it "will not even pay for the cigars I smoked writing it."

A turgid, largely unintelligible book, Das Kapital was a condemnation of capitalist society. One London reviewer called it a "a polemic against capitalism and capitalist production...under a guise of a critical analysis of capital" and said it polemical tone was "its chief charm."

Das Kapital examined capitalism as it related to the people who worked within the capitalist system. Marx described young men and women who spend the best years of their lives working in cotton mills and mines, and made the point modern machinery had made working conditions worse for workers while "greatly increasing the number of bourgeois well-to-do idlers."

Marx’s Concepts of Labor

Dr. Eno wrote: “Productive Labor. Like Hegel, Marx had a very romantic notion of creative labor. He pictured people engaged in labor as artists and celebrated the way in which labor was the medium for self-realization. His ideal society was one where every person was free to choose his or her own form of labor and was free to guide him or herself in work. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Alienated Labor. Marx believed that when people are not free to design their own labor and when their time and work are devoted to the service of another, who takes from them the products of their labor, their labor no longer serves to nurture their minds. Marx called this “alienated labor,” and claimed that such labor stunted human growth. /+/

“The Means of Production. Marx believed that because labor is the source of human consciousness and identity, throughout history the way that people have most effectively exercised control over one another has been through control over the tools people need to labor. If one group of people can possess the land, the plows, the factories, and so forth, that are needed to labor productively, then that group has power not only over the livelihood of all others, but over the shape of others’ minds and identities. /+/

“Marx wrote his mature works in the England of the Industrial Revolution, when factory owners made great fortunes and built great cultural monuments through an unchecked exploitation of grossly overworked and underpaid workers, whose lives and characters seemed to Marx debased. Marx generalized on the social inequities he saw around him and pictured all history as a process through which a minority of people, by monopolizing the economic tools of society, coerced and debased a powerless minority.” /+/

Marx’s Concepts of Class


Das Kapital

Dr. Eno wrote: “Social Classes. Because Marx saw all societies as divided between those who controlled the means of production and those who did not, he pictured all societies in terms of classes of people. Those who have the means to determine their own labor are not only free and prosperous — they have the means to shape their own “consciousness”: their minds grew 6 as their creative labor progresses, though ultimately even the consciousness of the master class will atrophy as its members increasingly give up productive labor altogether. Those who do not have such liberty engage only in alienated labor. Their consciousness stagnates. So distant do the members of different classes grow over time, that Marx viewed social classes almost as different species. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Class Consciousness. Because people are differentiated according to the types of labor they can undertake and the conditions of that labor, they are equally differentiated into groups with similar structures of consciousness. Marx felt it was obvious that members of distinct social classes in Europe possessed very different world views and ways of being human, and that communication between members of different classes was hard. He believed this was the product of their different labor histories. He also believed that people within a single social class share similar perspectives and understandings because they share labor backgrounds. /+/

“Types of Classes. In his account of history, Marx labeled a wide variety of classes: slaves, peasants (farmers who did not own their land), artisans, merchants, and aristocrats were classes with long histories. Two classes that he viewed as more recent products of history’s dialectic were the bourgeoisie (the city.based merchant class of post-medieval Europe) and the proletariat (the class of factory workers produced by the Industrial Revolution). These two most modern classes were, for Marx, the key to the future. /+/

Marx’s Concepts of History

Dr. Eno wrote: “Historical Stages. Marx’s model of history pictures a succession of societies, each based on the increasing tension between contending social classes that results in a revolution, moving history dialectically to a new stage. In Marx’s account: An original, classless, stone age Primitive Communism, which has no specialized means of production, develops into an agricultural Slave Society, in which a small master class, led by a powerful king, controls the labor of a slave class. As the master class becomes wealthier, non-royal segments of that class compete with the royalty for control of the means of production. This eventually produces a revolt against autocratic monarchial power by a new “aristocratic” class, which becomes the dominant class of Feudal Society, with whom kings must share power. In time, the structures of feudal society lead to spreading economic growth, nodes of urban economic activity, and technological breakthroughs for 7 new forms of labor. These conditions enlarge and empower the urban “merchant class,” whose interests challenge the aristocracy. Eventually this new class, the “bourgeoisie,” revolt and establish the structures of Capitalist Society. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]


Marx in the East German assembly


“Communist Society. Marx believed that the end of the historical dialectic was near. In his view, the bourgeois revolutions in 18th and 19th century Europe, which overthrew aristocratic privilege, had also created a very different type of new class – the proletariat – by consolidating power in the hands of those who controlled capital concentrations and means to deploy technologically advanced methods of production (factories). Because the proletariat’s needs were so dramatically in conflict with those of their capitalist, bourgeois oppressors, Marx believed that the proletariat would inevitably be the source of the next dialectical revolution. However, he saw the coming proletarian revolution as unique for two reasons: 1) The proletariat would revolt as a majority class. /+/

“2) The background labor history of the factory.working proletariat would have molded them into a unified class in which each member recognized that all members of the class shared interests and understanding in common – this would be the first ruling class whose members saw themselves as members of a group first and as individuals only incidentally. Thus the proletariat would have unique class solidarity. /+/

“Under these conditions, after a brief post-revolutionary generation when the proletarian class would have to serve as the “dictator” of the minority classes (peasants or farmers, bourgeoisie, etc.), the proletariat would become the only social class, characterized by shared ownership of the means of production and high valuation of creative labor for the common good. History would come to an end in a perpetual harmony of shared creativity. /+/

“Marx anticipated that his communist future would emerge first in those countries where the capitalist system had generated the largest proletarian classes and the starkest conflict between the interests of capitalist (bourgeois) owners and proletarian workers. For Marx, that meant England and Germany. Marx never anticipated early communist revolutions in places like Russia — a very backward place during Marx’s lifetime — or China. Those countries, in Marx’s view, were still in the feudal stage of society. There existed virtually no bourgeois class in these countries, much less a proletariat, and therefore no communist class consciousness could emerge there. Revolution in those 8 countries, according to Marx’s model, would have to begin with the revolt of a new bourgeoisie against the aristocracy. Only then could a proletarian class grow from a long process of industrialization. Without factories forcing masses of people together into the degradation of alienated labor, there was no way for the consciousness of the proletarian revolution to arise.” /+/


Marx on the East German money


Marx's Philosophy in Das Kapital

In one much quoted Das Kapital passage, Marx explained, "In the social production of their means of existence men enter into definite, necessary relations which are independent of their will, productive relationships which correspond to a definite stage of development of their productive forces. The aggregate of these productive relationships constitutes the economic structure of society, the real basis on which a juridical and political superstructure arises, and to which definite forms of social consciousness correspond."

"The mode of production," Marx continued, "of the material means of existence conditions the whole process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, on the contrary, it is their social existence that determines consciousness."

Marx described the idea of surplus labor to describe how capitalists profited from the work of workers and this undermined society as a whole. He then went on to explain how Darwin's theory "recognizes among beasts...divisions of labor, competition, opening up of new markets" and that his dialectic method differed from Hegels because "the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought."

Marx's Death and Later Life of His Children


Marx's tomb in London

Marx died on March 14, 1883. He had outlived his wife and all but two of his children. Shortly before he died one of Marx's servant's asked him if he had any last words. He said, "Go on, get out—last words are for fools who haven't said enough." Marx accumulated no personal wealth and left a personal estate worth only 250 pounds.

Marx was buried in Highgate cemetery in London under a 12-foot-high granite tombstone with a bust of Marx and the epitaph: "Workers of all lands unite. The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." His remains were moved to a new site and the present monument was erected in 1956.

Marx’s only son, Frederick Demuth, was the illegitimate offspring of his affair with his wife's servant. Marx never revealed his paternity. The truth was disclosed by Engels on his deathbed 12 years after Marx's death when Engels wrote on a blackboard "Freddy is Marx's son." Frederick resembled his father. He became a machinist and lived a relatively quiet life. Although he was a dedicated socialist he was not a revolutionary.

Marx's daughter Laura married French socialist Paul Lefargue, author of The Right to Be Lazy. They had three children, none of whom survived infancy. When she was 65, she and her husband decided they had nothing to live for and committed suicide.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated September 2016

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