“The bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day.”
— Marx to Engels, 1867
Indeed, it would seem they haven’t forgotten him. Over the last few weeks, major bourgeois news outlets have congratulated Marx for “being right” about capitalism: New York Times, Guardian, Financial Times, Independent, and even Vice. Little consolation, all this posthumous praise, for while capitalism remains unstable as ever, the prospect of proletarian revolution feels far away. Perhaps it is less embarrassing than Jonathan Spargo, Marx’s first American biographer, taking to the pages of the New York Times a hundred years ago to enlist Marx to the side of the Entente: “Today Is the 100th anniversary of Marx’s birth: Bitterly opposed to Prussia and an ardent admirer of America, his record shows where he would have stood in the present war.”
You can download some relevant biographies and introductions to Marx’s work below:
- Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (1918)
- Max Beer, The Life and Teaching of Karl Marx (1920)
- Otto Rühle, Karl Marx: His Life and Work (1929)
- Boris Nikolaevsky & Otto Mänchen-Helfen, Karl Marx: Man and Fighter (1932)
- Karl Korsch, Karl Marx (1939)
- Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx (1948)
- Werner Blumenberg, Potrait of Marx (1962)
- Maximilien Rubel, Marx: Life and Works (1965)
- Ernst Bloch, On Karl Marx (1968)
- David McClellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (1973)
- Étienne Balibar, The Philosophy of Marx (1993)
- Rolf Hosfeld, Karl Marx: An Intellectual Biography (2009)
- Gareth Stedman Jones, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion (2016)
- Marcello Musto, Another Marx: Early Manuscripts to the International (2018)
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag Karl Marx, Enkel von Meier Halevi Marx und Chaje Eva Marx. Halte durch, du alter fetter Sack!
Karl Marx — political philosopher, historical materialist, economic analyst of capitalism and its class society; above all, revolutionary fighter — was born in Trier, Germany on 5 May 1818. For anyone today fighting for an end to capitalism his life is cause for celebration. Marx’s work enabled us to understand the basic dynamic of capitalism, its place in the history of civilizations, and learn from the historical ebb and flow of the class struggle. As Engels said at the graveside of his friend,
Before all else, Marx was a revolutionary. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, to make it conscious of its situation and its needs, and conscious of the conditions for its own emancipation — that was his real life work.
Marx was not the first person to recognize the struggle between classes or to hold out the prospect of communism springing from the revolt of the oppressed against the powerful and wealthy who robbed them of the product of their toil. But when the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848 it was also revolutionary in a deeper sense. It took the age-old struggle for a classless society out of the realm of utopian dreams and millenarian uprisings and put it firmly onto historical, materialist ground.
It is fashionable to regard the Manifesto as a brilliant piece of prose by a young Marx before he became an intolerant dogmatist in later years. There is no denying the inspirational style of the document which Marx reshaped out of Engels’ drafts. From its famous opening to its defiant conclusion, the Manifesto was a rallying call to the working class: “A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of communism… Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” This was a time when revolution was threatening the old feudal regimes throughout much of Europe, a time when the working class was already organizing on its own account but not yet in a position to overthrow the rule of capital. But the Manifesto should not be dismissed as a romantic flight of fancy by an over-exuberant young Marx. Continue reading