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A Biography of Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818 just after the close of the Napoleonic wars. His parents were Jewish, but converted to Lutheranism when he was only six. It is difficult to know what effect this would have on his later philosophy, but we do know that Marx would be antithetical to religious belief, at one time pronouncing it, "the opiate of the masses".

Educated in the best universities in Germany at Bonn, Berlin and Jena, he was greatly influenced by the most prominent scholar of the previous generation, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. As youth turned to middle age, Karl Marx's views became more radical and finally hardened into the body of thought we know today. His journey to this point took him out of Germany where the newspaper he edited, the Rheinische Zeitung, was suppressed by the Government. He moved to Paris in 1843 and later to Brussels in 1845.

As an activist writer he was prominent in radical circles, but obscure to the point of unknown to the rest of the world. In 1847 he was asked by a Communist League to write a statement of principles. In 1848 this would be finalized in the Communist Manifesto.

His activities in Brussels finally got him expelled from the country and he made his way to London. In England he would devote his life to researching his book on economics and history now known as "Das Kapital". This was published in four volumes, only one of which came out during his life-time. He was supported mainly by Engels who had a successful textile business.

During his stay in London he became a leading figure in the First International - a communist working man's brotherhood. This group was plagued by internal dissent and fell apart at the young age of six years in 1872. It is interesting to note that many communist organizations (including the early communist party in the United States) would suffer from the same problems throughout the entire history of the movement.

Karl Marx lived an intense life filled with study, activity and sorrow. He lost three children during his lifetime and lived in poverty most of his days. He had thought that the writing of Das Kapital might make him rich, but the first volume sold only about 1000 copies. He wittily stated that the royalties from the book did not amount to enough to pay for all the cigars he smoked during its composition.

Karl Marx died in 1883. True to form, he would leave nothing in the way of material wealth to his family, but he would bequeath an ideology, for good or ill, that would have great effect upon the world.

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