Biography of Karl Marx

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Karl Marx (1818 - 1863)


Marx was born in Trier, a city in southern Germany. Both his grandfathers were rabbis. In fact, on his fatherís side his ancestors for numerous generations were all rabbis. His father, Herschel Marx , a lawyer, left Judaism and became a nominal Lutheran because Jews could not be admitted to the bar unless converted to Christianity . Herschel became quite wealthy and entertained many ďleadingĒ intellectuals in his home during Karlís youth.

When Karl was only 17 he was admitted to study law at the University of Berlin. Shortly thereafter, he transferred to the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin and earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1841, when he was 23 years old.

Marx was heavily influenced by the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose philosophy followed the works of Immanuel Kant. (If you care to know more about these writers, their works are in any library. If you want only a summary of Kant, Hegel etc. then get MANíS ASCENT TO REASON by Gerhard Falk. It gives you a few pages on each philosopherís main arguments.)

Hegel taught a dialectic which Marx adopted in an altered version. 

After receiving the doctorate, Marx became the editor of a Cologne newspaper. This publication seemed so radical to the German censors that it was closed down in 1843 and Marx was kicked out of Germany for having the wrong views. He moved to France, from where he was also expelled for his writings. He then lived in Belgium, returned to Paris, then returned to Cologne, was expelled again and finally moved to London where he stayed until his death.

Marx's earliest publications included his essay ON THE JEWISH QUESTION. This libelous tract was quoted by the Nazi gangsters during the 1930ís and 1940ís. I saw banners strung across the main streets of Hamburg which contained anti-Jewish quotations from Karl Marx and which the Nazi haters happily exhibited as evidence that even Jews hate Jews.

During his stay in London, Marx met Friedrich Engels, a German manufacturer, who owned several factories in England. Marx had married the daughter of a German aristocrat, Jenny von Westphalen, with whom he had six children. Marx also had a son by his housekeeper whom he denied throughout his life.

In 1848, as a consequence of the German and French revolutions of that year, Marx and Engels published ďThe Communist ManifestoĒ, which is his most famous work. His most important work, however, is DAS KAPITAL, which consists of three massive volumes in which Marx analyzed capital, landed property, wage labor, the state, foreign trade and world markets. He also wrote a three volume work entitled THEORIES OF SURPLUS VALUE, which is the foundation of communism in China and Cuba today and which was the principal source of Leninís and Stalinís dictatorship in the old Soviet Union. Nevertheless, it is accurate to hold that Lenin and his followers distorted Marx a great deal. That is also true of the Chinese communists. If you want to do so, please take a look at CAPITAL and compare it with Leninís interpretation. The digression is obvious.

Marx wrote a great deal more. Because he did not work for money, his friend Friedrich Engels supported him and his family. After his death, Engels published most of Marxís writings, which then became the driving force behind the worldwide communist movement.

There can be little doubt that Marx, along with Freud and Einstein, laid the foundations of Western civilization during the 20th and 21st centuries. These three German speaking Jews are even now the most influential men of the last two hundred years and will always be so remembered because they were the intellectual giants of their day and ours.

Marx influenced economics and sociology, political science and history enormously. He believed that all of history is the history of the class struggle. This may be exaggerated. Yet, our knowledge of social stratification stems from the initiative taken by Marx. Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse were all influenced by Marx.

A great deal of criticism has been heaped on Karl Marx. Some of it is truly deserved. Much is the product of ignorance or fear of his perpetual influence.

We recognized him as a great Jew whose achievements appear greater and greater the more the distance from his life and work.

Why not visit his grave in Londonís Hyde Park the next time you visit England?

Shalom uívracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Football & American Identity (2005) &  Youth Culture and the Generation Gap (2005) with Dr. Ursula A. Falk.

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