Karl Marx and how he influenced me

· Economy, Philosophy, Political

Thanks to the crisis of neo-liberalism, Karl Marx is en vogue again. I was introduced to him by my friend Sanjay Nigam, when I was 14 and studying in school. Sanjay’s father a Linguist was then in USSR. He emphasized that Karl Marx was an Economist and not a politician.He empasised that 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.Sanjay knew Marx like the back of his hand.It is this early indoctrination that made me a Marxist when I grew up.Karl is being talked in lecture room to coffee house, and he is smiling in his grave …..I told you so.

Marx, whose thinking on banks seems oddly contemporary these days. Marxist theorists recall that the financial crisis of 1857 in the U.S. inspired Marx to intensify his studies on finance capital and its cycles of boom and bust. Ten years later, he published Das Kapital, in which he described capitalism as anarchic, irrational and blind competition led by the frantic pursuit of profit and accumulation. In place of this doomed system, Marx argued, state-managed economy would be needed, based on a rational system of rules to eliminate poverty and social inequality. Twenty years before publishing Das Kapital, Marx had argued in The Communist Manifesto in 1848 that “history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Karl attended the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Trier for 5 years, graduating in 1835, at the age of 17. The gymnasium curriculum was the usual classical one – history, mathematics, literature, and languages, particularly Greek and Latin. Karl became proficient in French and Latin, both of which he learned to read and write fluently. In later years he taught himself other languages, so that as a mature scholar he could also read Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Russian, and English. As his articles in the New York Daily Tribune show, he came to handle the English language masterfully (he loved Shakespeare, whose works he knew by heart), although he never lost his heavy Teutonic accent in speaking.

In October 1835 Marx matriculated in Bonn University, where he attended courses primarily in jurisprudence, as it was his father’s ardent wish that he become a lawyer. Marx, however, was more interested in philosophy and literature than in law. He wanted to be a poet and dramatist, and in his student days he wrote a great deal of poetry – most of it preserved – which in his mature years he rightly recognized as imitative and mediocre. He spent a year at Bonn, studying little but roistering and drinking. He spent a day in jail for disturbing the peace and fought one duel, in which he was wounded in the right eye

In 1842 he became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung.  He then went to Paris, where he began his lifelong association with Friedrich Engels. At this time Marx became a socialist. He devoured the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, the comte de Saint-Simon, and many others. Antagonized by the individualistic radicalism of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Marx attacked him in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847, tr. 1910), an early attempt to systematize his own thought. In this period also he wrote, with Engels, The German Ideology (tr. 1933), which provided an exposition of his dialectical materialism. Breaking with the tradition of justifying social reform by appeal to natural rights, he invoked “inevitable” laws of history to predict the eventual triumph of the working class.

In 1847 Marx joined the Communist League and with Engels wrote for it the famous Communist Manifesto (1848), which strikingly expressed his general view of the class struggle. The failure of the revolutions of 1848 convinced Marx of the need to stimulate the consciousness and solidarity of the working class through the founding of open revolutionary parties. Exiled from most continental centers, he settled permanently in London in 1849. He lived in poverty, made more bitter by his own chronic illness and the death of several of his children. At times he was able to earn funds as a correspondent for the New York Tribune, but he was continually dependent on Engels for financial aid. Nonetheless, he pursued research in the British Museum and continued to write steadily.

In 1864 Marx helped to found the International Workingmen’s Association. Through this First International and through the work of Ferdinand Lassalle and others, Marx’s ideas began to gain primacy in European socialist and radical thought. This primacy was greatly furthered with the publication of the first volume of Das Kapital edited. by Engels . A monumental work, Das Kapital provided a thorough exposition of Marxism and became the foundation of international socialism.

In his last years Marx’s great intellectual vigor continued unabated.The importance of his dialectical method and of his theories goes far beyond their immense political influence.

Marx’s contribution to our understanding of society has been enormous. His thought is not the comprehensive system evolved by some of his followers under the name of dialectical materialism. The very dialectical nature of his approach meant that it was usually tentative and open-ended. There was also the tension between Marx the political activist and Marx the student of political economy. Many of his expectations about the future course of the revolutionary movement have, so far, failed to materialize. However, his stress on the economic factor in society and his analysis of the class structure in class conflict have had an enormous influence on history, sociology, and study of human culture.

He is consider a great economic theoretician and the founder of economic history and sociology.

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  1. EL Cuaderno de Maya linked to this post.

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