Karl Marx

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The same idea can be read between the lines of the Lecture on Free Exchange delivered by Marx at Brussels on January 9, 1849. Herein he asserted that socialism ought to declare in favour of freedom of trade, for this, hastening the dissolution of the old nationalities and accentuating the contrast between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, would precipitate the dissolution of the capitalist economy. But the idea is affirmed far more categorically in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the joint composition of Engels and Marx, published in the year 1848, embodying the first and most decisive formulation of the latter's teaching. Even though some of his special theories, subsequently to secure fuller development in[Pg 69] Capital, are but cursorily sketched in the Manifesto, even though some of these theories (for example, the theory of wages, stated to be the price of "wage labour" instead of being the price of "labour power") are still in an undeveloped and imperfect state, it is nevertheless true that this writing contains the whole Marxist system in miniature, and that it supplies a critique of all doctrinaire, idealist, and utopian forms of socialism.

Thus the Manifesto voices the two fundamentals of Marxism: the dependence of economic evolution upon the evolution of the instrument of production, in other words the technicist determination of economics; and the derivation of the political, moral and ideal order from the economic order, in other words the economic determination of sociology—or, as we should express it to-day, historical materialism. This dependence of the political order upon the economic order, leading as it does to the concentration of political power[Pg 70] in the hands of those who hold economic power, or in the hands of their representatives and agents, renders absurd the idea of effecting by peaceful political means any amelioration in the condition of the proletarian classes, and indicates to the dispossessed that revolution is their only hope of salvation. To revolution, then, or to the compact federation which can alone pave the way for revolution, the Manifesto incites the sufferers of the world with the historic phrase: "Workers of the world, unite." The epoch-making significance of the Manifesto is not to-day disputed by the most resolute adversaries of that document. It is, in fact, the Declaration of Rights of the Fourth Estate, the Magna Charta of the revolutionary proletariat, the oriflamme of fire and blood, the standard round which the insurrectionary phalanxes have ever since mustered.

Hardly had the message been launched upon the world when the young leader hoped to translate it into action, for the movements[Pg 71] of 1848 and 1849 led the rebel masses to entertain new and bolder aspirations. Expelled from Belgium, Marx first went to Paris, and hastened thence to his German homeland, now in a ferment, assuming there editorial charge of the "New Rhenish Gazette." But although the skill of the able editor was for a brief period successful in saving the barque of the imperilled gazette from the waves of police persecution, a day soon arrived when the situation became untenable. An appeal to the German people published in the columns of the journal advocating a refusal to pay taxes led to its suppression and to two criminal charges against the editor. Triumphantly acquitted by the Cologne jury, but none the less exiled by the Prussian government, he immediately returned to Paris, where it seemed to his restless imagination that events were taking a more favourable turn. But France proved a no securer refuge than Germany, and the Parisian government propounded to our[Pg 72] agitator a peremptory dilemma, interment in the remote department of Morbihan or exile from France. He was not likely to hesitate in his choice, and indeed at this juncture was glad to accept an invitation from the executive committee of the Communist Party, then centred in London, to remove with his devoted wife to that great metropolis (1849).

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In London the saddest trials awaited him, for poverty, gloomy companion, sat ever at his board from the day of his entry into the British capital down to the hour of his last breath. One after another of his children died in the unwholesome dwellings of his exile, and he was forced to beg from friends and comrades the scanty coins needed to pay for their burial; he and his family had to make the best of a diet of bread and potatoes; he was forced to pawn his watch and his clothing, to sell his books, to tramp the streets in search of any help that might offer; the day came when, under the lash of hunger, he was compelled to contemplate seeking work as railway clerk, of placing his daughters out to service, of [Pg 74]making them governesses or actresses, whilst himself retiring with his unhappy wife to dwell in the proletarian quarter of Whitechapel.

The severity of these sufferings did much to add a tinge of gall to a character naturally acerb, a character which amid the upheavals and horrors of exile frequently showed itself far from amiable. Mingled sentiments of grief and anger fill our minds when, in Marx's private letters to Engels, we trace the manifestations of this harshness, which left him unmoved by the misfortunes of his dearest friends, which led him to make any use he could of these friends and then to overwhelm them with reproaches and accusations, which showed itself (and this is the worst of all) in a jealous hatred of comrades less unfortunate than himself. Deplorable from every point of view was his conduct towards Freiligrath and Lassalle, in especial towards Lassalle, who had shown him the utmost friendliness,[Pg 75] had given him ample financial assistance, had entertained him in Berlin, had helped him to find a publisher; for Marx subsequently censured Lassalle's works with much acrimony, beheld his triumphs askance, and commented upon the incidents of Lassalle's death in a tone of tepid apology. But you well-fed folk who amid easy circumstances are studying the life of our agitator, be not too ready to blame him, and before stoning him bethink yourselves of all the miseries the exile must suffer, of all the tortures amid which he must bear his cross.

Vainly did he endeavour by hard work to free himself from the sad restraints of poverty. It is true he was able to place articles with the "New York Tribune," writing for this paper essays on political, economic, and financial questions, which secured much appreciation. But the pay was only one pound per article, and he could write but one article a week. Collaboration in the production of[Pg 76] an American encyclopædia, to be paid at the rate of two dollars a page, seemed to promise more ample funds, and with feverish anxiety he devoted himself to the production of articles on the most varied topics, well stored with facts. But this source of income, limited at best, was suddenly interrupted by the outbreak of the American civil war. The loss was not adequately compensated by the possibility of occasionally inserting some poorly paid contribution in a German newspaper like the "New Oder Gazette" or in one of the Viennese periodicals.

He was lucky in that certain turns of fortune favoured him from those sources of property and inheritance which he condemned and attacked with such persistence and vehemence. He had a legacy from his mother-in-law; a legacy from his mother; a trifling legacy from an aunt; and Wilhelm Wolff, a companion in exile, bequeathed him £800. An uncle in Holland, whom he had begged for some[Pg 77] trifling help, gave him £160; from Lassalle and Freiligrath came generous gifts; and Droncke, another companion in exile, gave £250 to enable him to complete the scientific work on which he was engaged.

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