Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers)


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The Compatibility of Freedom and Necessity in Marx's Idea of Communist Society

Marx brilliantly succeeded in combining philosophical materialism with dialectics to produce an entirely different and revolutionary philosophy.

Armed with these revolutionary ideas, the young Marx collaborated with a group of Left Hegelians in the Rhineland who had founded a radical newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung. As editor of the paper, Marx wrote a number of brilliant revolutionary articles.

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The paper was an instant success but soon attracted the attention of the Prussian authorities who subjected it to strict censorship. However, the young Marx, with brilliant ingenuity, managed to evade the iron vice of the censors. In the end, they had no choice but to close it down. But she and Marx had been childhood sweethearts and from everything we know they were totally devoted to each other. It is therefore hardly surprising that they kept their relationship quiet for so long.

Three months after the closure of the Rheinische Zeitung , in June , he finally married Jenny von Westphalen, and in October, they moved to Paris. I believe that not enough attention has been paid to this remarkable woman, who made colossal sacrifices to support her husband in his revolutionary work. She saw her children suffer hardship, fall sick and die. When her son Edgar died in London, she and Marx did not even have enough money to pay for a coffin. We are thus faced with the paradox of one man engaged in revolutionary work to subvert the Prussian state from his London exile, while his brother-in-law in Berlin was in charge of persecuting revolutionaries both within and without the borders of Prussia.

History knows of no more ironical situations than this! In the autumn of , Marx moved to Paris in order to publish a radical journal abroad, together with Arnold Ruge. By now the winds of revolution were blowing strongly throughout Europe, particularly in Paris. Not for the first time, or last, Paris was the political heart of Europe in Publication was discontinued owing mainly to the difficulty of secretly distributing it in Germany, and to philosophical differences between Marx and Ruge.

The Ideas of Karl Marx

About this time there commenced one of the most extraordinary collaborations in history. In September , a young man called Friedrich Engels came to Paris for a few days to work as a contributor to the journal. Today the names Marx and Engels are so completely inseparable as to be almost fused into a single person. Here we see the embryo of his future discoveries in the field of economics.

The Big Question: What inspired Marx?

The Prussian government demanded that the French authorities take action, which the latter were only too pleased to do. Expelled from Paris at the end of , Marx moved to Brussels, where he joined the secret propaganda society, the Communist League. Despite the move, Marx still had severe restrictions on his activity. He had pledged not to publish anything on the subject of contemporary politics. Marx and Engels immediately formed a close relationship in which the two men brought together different experiences and temperaments in order to work out an entirely new and original set of ideas.

He had already come to the conclusion that the working class would be the most important agent of social change. But with characteristic modesty, he always accepted the primacy of Marx in the field of ideology, reserving for himself the role of a humble and loyal disciple, although, in fact, his contribution to Marxist theory must stand shoulder to shoulder to that of Marx himself. Together, the two began writing a criticism of the philosophy of Bruno Bauer, a Young Hegelian with whom Marx had previously been close. It marked the beginning of a break with the Left Hegelian trend and the starting point for the entirely new departure.

In , Marx and Engels wrote The German Ideology , in which they first developed the theory on historical materialism. This marked the final and irrevocable rupture with the Young Hegelians. Marx had finally embraced the idea of socialism as the only solution to the problems of humankind.

leondumoulin.nl/language/action/fablings-fables.php Marx and Engels together waged a relentless struggle against the confused ideas of petty-bourgeois socialism, striving to put the ideas of socialism on a scientific basis. In Paris at that time the semi-anarchist ideas of Proudhon were in vogue amongst some revolutionary groups. Marx subjected them to a withering criticism in in the Poverty of Philosophy , backed up by facts, and substantial quotations from the writings of Proudhon himself.

At the beginning of , Marx attempted to link socialists from around Europe by means of a Communist Correspondence Committee. He had been in contact with a secret organisation of artisans in Paris and Frankfurt called the League of the Just. It was a small group about a hundred in Paris and eighty in Frankfurt with very confused ideas. It fused with others to form The Communist League. This epoch-making document was published in It seems astonishing today that The Communist Manifesto was written when Marx and Engels were still young men; Marx was not yet 30 years of age and Engels three years younger.

Yet this remarkable document represents a turning point in history. It is as fresh and relevant now as when it first saw the light of day. Indeed, its relevance is even greater today. The timing of the publication of this document could hardly have been better. The ink was hardly dry on its pages when a mighty wave of revolutions broke out all over Europe. There is an anecdote that, having recently received a substantial inheritance from his father withheld by his uncle , Marx used a large part of it to buy arms for the Belgian workers who were moving towards revolutionary action.

Whether the story is true or false we do not know, but the Belgian Ministry of Justice certainly believed it. They used it as an excuse for arresting him. Marx was thus forced to flee back to France, where he believed that he would be safe under the new republican government. But that was a vain hope. The French bourgeois Republicans were terrified of the workers, who were beginning to advance independent class demands that threatened private property. Under these circumstances the last thing they needed was the presence in Paris of a man like Marx.

Marx was convinced that, after France, Germany was on the eve of a revolution. He moved to Cologne, where he founded a new paper — the Neue Rheinische Zeitung — which commenced publication on 1 June The paper put forward an extremely radical democratic line against the Prussian autocracy and Marx devoted his main energies to its editorship the Communist League had been virtually disbanded.

He continued in this position from June to 19 May , when the paper was suppressed. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung was a model of revolutionary journalism and played an active role in the revolutionary events of But the victory of the counter-revolution put an end to this activity. Marx was put on trial for his revolutionary activity. He was acquitted on 9 February , but subsequently banished from Germany on 16 May Marx again returned to Paris.

However, he was then banished from France after the demonstration of 13 June, Since Prussia refused to give him a passport, Marx was now a stateless and penniless exile.

New passions

He moved to London, which in those days was more tolerant and welcoming to political exiles than it is today. Although Britain too denied him citizenship, he remained in London until his death.

Arriving in London, Marx remained as optimistic about the imminence of a new revolutionary outbreak in Europe. For most of the time he spent in London, Marx and his family lived in conditions of the direst poverty. He found work as a correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune , a collaboration that lasted for ten years from to However, Marx was never able to earn a living wage from his journalism.

Acting on material given by nature in order to make it into something useful is the fundamental and unique life-activity of human beings. Marx explains that all of human history can be understood by changes in the mode of production, or the organized relation of human beings to the products of their labor. Marx argues that by separating the worker from the product of his labor, the system of industrial capital not only alienates the worker from himself, but from all other human beings: the worker who has to sell his labor as a commodity and does not enjoy the product of his labor is not really human.

There are four main stages in human history: tribal, communal, feudal, and bourgeois, or capitalist. In each successive stage there is a substantive advancement and multiplication of human productive forces but also an increased degree of exploitation, until mankind reaches a threshold condition of abundance produced by technology that is sufficient to provide for all human needs. That condition will eventually force the mass of mankind, with no property but its own labor, to overthrow the few remaining capitalists and abolish private property.


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By the time of the Manuscripts Marx had turned to a materialism that argues that all forms of consciousness, and therefore all ideals, arise out of actual, constantly changing material conditions. Nevertheless, as his teaching on labor shows, he was at this time still presenting an account of a fundamental human nature from which it is possible to be alienated.

In that account, he claims that there is a fullness, an original unity of the human being to which it is possible to return. Marx wrote the first volume and left notes for the others, to be completed by Engels. This text purports to explain precisely the process whereby a worker becomes estranged, or alienated, from the product of his labor; how he is exploited by the capitalist; and finally how, propertyless and unemployed, the mass of the workers, the proletariat, is forced to overthrow the whole economic system and the political order protecting it.

Marx on Freedom and Human Nature

The worker, having been dispossessed of his land, and with no other property of his own, has to sell his own labor as a commodity in order to earn his subsistence. The commodities his labor helps produce do not belong to him; instead, he receives enough wages to sustain him as a worker. The value of a commodity is based on how much labor-power is expended in its production, not on its use. The capitalist makes his profit by requiring the worker to work beyond the time necessary to earn his subsistence, extracting free labor. The excess is called surplus-value, or exploitation.

Another aspect of industrial capital is the proliferation of machinery. Industrialists, competing with each other, are forced to invest an ever greater percentage of their surplus-value in manufacturing. The use of machines makes skilled labor less necessary, so women and children can be employed cheaply. Innovations in machinery make workers less necessary; unemployment increases, wages decrease below the level of subsistence, and a mass of unemployed workers forms, which Marx calls the Industrial Reserve Army.

Most capitalists, unable to keep up with the level of investment in machinery, go out of business and join the ranks of the proletariat. There is a tendency toward centralization and monopolization of the means of production as the ranks of the capitalists is thinned and the rate of profit continually diminishes. With the collapse of profit, investment ceases and the capitalist system implodes.

Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers) Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers)
Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers) Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers)
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Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers) Marx and Feedom (Great Philosophers)
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