Karl Heinrich Marx is known as a German philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist. How did the man who railed against economic and sexual exploitation treat those around him? What is the truth about Karl Marx?
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Marx was a child of his time, the mid-nineteenth century, and Marxism was a characteristic nineteenth-century philosophy in that it claimed to be scientific. ‘Scientific’ was Marx’s strongest expression of approval, which he habitually used to distinguish himself from his many enemies. He and his work were ‘scientific’; they were not. He felt he had found a scientific explanation of human behaviour in history akin to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
He felt he had found a scientific explanation of human behaviour in history akin to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Seems to have been a passionate Christian.
For a few years, in the 1860s and 1870s, he was again involved in revolutionary politics, running the International Working Men’s Association. But most of his time in London, until his death on 14 March 1883 — that is, thirty-four years — was spent in the British Museum, finding material for a gigantic study of capital, and trying to get it into publishable shape. He saw one volume through the press (1867) but the second and third were compiled from his notes by his colleague Friedrich Engels and published after his death.
He began writing poetry as a boy, around two main themes: his love for the girl next door, Jenny von Westphalen, of Prussian — Scotch descent, whom he married in 1841; and world destruction. He wrote a great deal of poetry, three manuscript volumes of which were sent to Jenny, were inherited by their daughter Laura and vanished after her death in 1911.
They were entitled ‘Savage Songs’, and savagery is a characteristic note of his verse, together with intense pessimism about the human condition, hatred, a fascination with corruption and violence, suicide pacts and pacts with the devil. ‘We are chained, shattered, empty, frightened/ Eternally chained to this marble block of being,’ wrote the young Marx , ‘… We are the apes of a cold God.’ He has himself, in the person of God, say: ‘I shall howl gigantic curses at mankind,’ and below the surface of much of his poetry is the notion of a general world-crisis building up. 4 He was fond of quoting Mephistopheles’ line from Goethe’s Faust, ‘Everything that exists deserves to perish’;
He found it in his hatred of usury and moneylenders, a passionate feeling directly related (as we shall see) to his own money difficulties.
Hegel’s followers were all in varying degrees anti-Semitic, and in 1843 Bruno Bauer, the anti-Semitic leader of the Hegelian left, published an essay demanding that the Jews abandon Judaism completely. Marx’s essays were a reply to this. He did not object to Bauer’s anti-Semitism; indeed he shared it, endorsed it and quoted it with approval. But he disagreed with Bauer’s solution. Marx rejected Bauer’s belief that the anti-social nature of the Jew was religious in origin and could be remedied by tearing the Jew away from his faith. In Marx’s opinion, the evil was social and economic. He wrote: ‘Let us consider the real Jew. Not the Sabbath Jew … but the everyday Jew.’ What , he asked, was ‘the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money.’ The Jews had gradually spread this ‘practical’ religion to all society:
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