Marx and Engels Write the Communist Manifesto Part 1

About the history of the Communist Manifesto, the biography of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the origins of the socialists economic idea.


THE Communist Manifesto

WHEN: 1848

HOW: In the 1840s, all Europe seemed to be in a state of unrest. England's trade unions were strong and dissatisfied. German workers were turning into socialist activists. The Parisian working class was angry and restless. It was a world waiting for Karl Marx.

Descended on both sides from a long line of rabbis, Karl Marx was the son of a successful attorney. By 1842 he was already intensely political and had established in Cologne, Germany, a magazine called Neue Rheinische Zeitung, for which he wrote brilliant articles. One of these articles encouraged citizens to resist, with arms, tax collections by the Government. Unhappy about this, the Government arrested and tried him. His speech in his own defense was so effective that he was acquitted, and he went on to write more articles against the Government in his magazine, which was finally suppressed. Marx issued a last edition in red ink and went to Paris.

Paris was thick with intellectuals--social theorists, especially--and Marx met most of them, men like the poet Heinrich Heine and the socialist Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Marx read again the histories of France, Germany, and the U.S., and he studied the works of Machiavelli, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Ricardo. However, it was Hegel that influenced him most, and Marx applied to his own ideas the Hegelian dialectic that everything contains the germ of change from which emerges thesis and antithesis, which in turn create synthesis. Later, Marx's son-in-law said of him, "He 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 did not buy all of Hegel's ideas. He particularly didn't believe in the Hegelian Absolute, which, according to Hegel, directed the progress of man. Marx thought that economics, not a spiritual Absolute, caused human movements.

In 1844, Marx met Friedrich Engels, who was to become his lifelong disciple. Engels, the son of a German cotton manufacturer, was an economics student making a study of the British working class. In his research, he ran across an article by Marx and immediately decided to get in touch with him. The 2 hit it off. The man Engels met was an unusual-looking character, who was later described by Otto Ruhle: "A thick crop of black hair, a huge round beard . . . and an overcoat buttoned awry; yet he appeared like on endowed with the right . . . to command respect. . . . His movements were awkward, yet bold and self-confident."

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