Karl Marx was born on 5th May 1818, in Trier in Prussia. He was the third child of nine, born to Lawyer Herschel Marx and his Dutch wife Henrietta Pressburg, whose family later founded the Philips electronics company.
Herschel Marx received a secular education, the first in his family to do so, and after studying philosophers such as Kant and Voltaire, converted to Lutheranism prior to Karl’s birth, changing his name to the German version, Heinrich. Heinrich’s male precedents on his father’s side were traditionally Rabbis, however he subsequently had all his own children baptised together as Lutherans when Karl was around six years of age. Henrietta waited until her father passed away in 1825 before her own baptism. There was no driving reason why Heinrich chose Lutherism over any of the other denominations, other than it being the most popular Protestant faith at the time, and he liked the intellectual freedom he claimed the faith allowed. As Jews were denied roles in the higher classes of employment, the conversion may well have been to assist his career in Law.
Karl’s education took place at home until he turned twelve years of age, in 1830, from when he received a formal education at the local Jesuit Gymnasium – the Friedrich-Wilhelm- until 1835. The Principal of the school was a friend of Heinrich’s and known to be a liberal thinker. The School was raided at least once by the authorities during Karl’s time there.
In 1835, at age 17, Karl began his higher education at the University of Bonn, however by the end of the year he had embraced student life with gusto and had been arrested for drunkenness and disturbing the peace, he had gotten into debt and taken part in a duel. Heinrich withdrew his son from Bonn and transferred him to University of Berlin where he studied Law and Philosophy like his father, particular Hegel. At this point in his life Karl became close with a group of “Young Hegelians” as they were known, although he wasn’t himself particularly drawn to Hegel’s work. Two of these fellow students were Bruno Bauer and Ludwig Feuerbach.
In 1836, Karl secretly became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, a young lady from a wealthier background, who was four years older than Karl. As Karl became more radical in his views, and with his engagement likely to cause a lot of problems for Karl, should it become public, his father begged Karl to settle down. He didn’t.
Karl received his Doctorate at the age of 23 in 1841 but was unable to secure employment as a teacher due to his radical views. Instead he worked as a journalist and then later editor of liberal newspaper Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, until the paper was suppressed by the Government in April 1843. He married Jenny three months later then in 1844, he and Arnold Fuge founded their own journal, Deutsche-Fronzosisiche Jahrbucher. After the journal’s first and only issue was published Marx and Fuge fell out due to philosophical differences, but in August 1844, Marx met Friedrich Engels, through his interest in the journal and the two began a lifelong friendship. They later worked together on their own publication, The Holy Family, which was a critique of Marx’s former friend, Bruno Bauer’s views.
Later in 1845, Marx was expelled from France, for his involvement in a radical newspaper, Vorwarts!, and moved to Brussels where he met Moses Hess who encouraged an interest in Socialism. As a result Marx broke away from Hegelians and wrote two further pieces, The German Ideology and Thesus on Feuerbach, although they remained unpublished until after his death.
At the beginning of 1846, Marx formed a Communist Committee, of which word spread to England. He was subsequently invited to a meeting with English socialists and persuaded to write what would become his most famous work, The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848. This basically summed up the Karl’s thought that ‘there will always be a class struggle until the Proletariats rise up’. Marxism was later formed on this basis, that when the working classes unite and work for themselves as a unit, they will overcome the ruling elite.
As a result Marx was again expelled, this time from Belgium. He couldn’t return to France and Prussia refused him. Marx settled in London where he worked for ten years as a correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune until 1862. After a life living with his family in poverty, supported financially for the most part by his friend Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx died of Pleurisy in London in March 1883, whilst working on his Das Kapital, a piece generated by his increased interest in Capitalism and economy. The first volume was published; Engels put together the notes and manuscripts posthumously for Marx and published volumes two and three.
He was buried in London with a simple stone which was later replaced with a large monument and bust, in 1954 by the Communist Party of Great Britain, inscribed with the last line from the Communist Party Manifesto ‘Workers of the Land Unite’.