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Remembering Karl Marx on his 197th Birthday – May 5th

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The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity — and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally. 

–         Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)

The philosopher, revolutionary thinker and social scientist, Karl Marx was the most influential socialist thinker who emerged in the 19th century.

Karl Marx – Short Life

Born (May5, 1818) into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland, Marx parentage was of Jewish lineage. Marx studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he developed a strong interest in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. After his studies, he wrote for a radical newspaper in Cologne, and began to work out his theory of dialectical materialism. In 1843 He moved to Paris, where he began writing for other radical newspapers and met Friedrich Engels, who would become his lifelong friend and collaborator. Later he was expelled from France and spent two years in Brussels. This is where his partnership with Engels became stronger and they both ended up co-authoring The Communist Manifesto.

In 1849 he moved to London together with his wife and children where he continued writing and formulating his theories about social and economic activity. He also campaigned for socialism and became a significant figure in the International Workingmen’s Association. It was also during his tenure in London that he ended up completing writing his most significant political work Das Kapital. Marx spent rest of his life in London writing additional volumes which was posthumously published.

Marx spent his last years mostly in depression after his wife’s death. He died of pleurisy in London on March 14, 1883. The Communist Party of Great Britain erected a large tombstone, including a bust of Marx, in 1954. The stone is etched with the last line of The Communist Manifesto (“Workers of all lands unite”).

Marx’s Concept of Socialism

Marx’s concept of socialism follows from his concept of man. In the words of  Erich Fromm, “Socialism is not a society of regimented, automatized individuals, regardless of whether there is equality of income or not, and regardless of whether they are well fed and well clad. It is not a society in which the individual is subordinated to the state, to the machine, to the bureaucracy. Even if the state as an “abstract capitalist” were the employer, even if “the entire social capital were united in the hands either of a single capitalist or a single capitalist corporation,” [89] this would not be socialism. In fact, as Marx says quite clearly in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, “communism as such is not the aim of human development.”

So, the clear aim of socialism is man. It aims at creating a form of production and an organization within society where man can overcome alienation from his work, his product, his fellow man and nature in which he can return to himself and grasp the world with his own powers, thus becoming one with the world. Marx believed that socialism was “a resistance movement against the destruction of love in social reality.”socialism

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