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Facts about Karl Marx for Kids

Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. He published various books during his lifetime, with the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital (1867–1894); some of his works were co-written with his friend and fellow German revolutionary socialist, Friedrich Engels. Born into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier, Marx studied at both the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians.

  • He met Engels in Paris, and the two men worked together on a series of books.
  • Marx’s theories about society, economics and politics—collectively known as Marxism—hold that all societies progress through the dialectic of class struggle: a conflict between an ownership class which controls production and a lower class which produces the labour for goods.
  • He argued that under socialism society would be governed by the working class in what he called the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the “workers state” or “workers’ democracy”.
  • Along with believing in the inevitability of socialism and communism, Marx actively fought for the former’s implementation, arguing that both social theorists and underprivileged people should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic change.
  • Marx is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science.
  • Her brother, Marx’s uncle Benjamin Philips (1830-1900), was a wealthy banker and industrialist, upon whom Karl and Jenny Marx would later often come to rely for loans while they were exiled in London.
  • Little is known about Karl Marx’s childhood.
  • This angered the government, causing the police to raid the school in 1832, when they discovered what they labelled seditious literature that espoused political liberalism being distributed amongst the students.
  • In 1835 Karl, then seventeen, began attending the University of Bonn, where he wished to study philosophy and literature, but his father insisted on law as a more practical field.
  • From considering an academic career, Marx turned to journalism.
  • He moved to the city of Cologne in 1842, where he began writing for the radical newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, where he expressed his increasingly socialist views on politics.
  • Engels showed Marx his recently published book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, which convinced Marx that the working class would be the agent and instrument of the final revolution in history.
  • Although critical of Bauer, Marx was increasingly influenced by the ideas of the other Young Hegelians Max Stirner and Ludwig Feuerbach, but eventually also abandoned Feuerbachian materialism as well.
  • Based in Paris, the paper had been established and was run by many activists connected to the revolutionary socialist League of the Just, which would come to be better known as the Communist League within a few years.
  • In Vorwärts!, Marx continued to refine his views on socialism based upon the Hegelian and Feuerbachian ideas of dialectical materialism, whilst at the same time criticizing various liberals and other socialists operating in Europe at the time.
  • Hoping to see the revolution spread to Germany, in 1848 Marx moved back to Cologne (Köln) where he began issuing a handbill entitled the Demands of the Communist Party in Germany, in which he argued for only four of the ten points of the Communist Manifesto, believing that in Germany at that time, the bourgeoisie must overthrow the feudal monarchy and aristocracy before the proletariat could overthrow the bourgeoisie.
  • Designed to put forward news from across Europe with his own Marxist interpretation of events, Marx remained one of its primary writers, accompanied by other fellow members of the Communist League who wrote for the paper, although despite their input it remained, according to Friedrich Engels, “a simple dictatorship by Marx”, who dominated the choice of content.
  • Marx devoted himself to two activities: revolutionary organizing, and an attempt to understand political economy and capitalism.
  • Given the repeated failures and frustrations of workers’ revolutions and movements, Marx also sought to understand capitalism, and spent a great deal of time in the reading room of the British Museum studying and reflecting on the works of political economists and on economic data.