Karl Marx

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But none of these casual resources, however extensive, would have saved him from ruin had it not been for the providential assistance of his friend Friedrich Engels, who applied himself to the care of Marx with inexhaustible generosity, and with the tenderness of a woman. Engels, indeed, will secure a splendid place in the history of socialist thought, were it only because of the way in which he devoted himself to Marx. It was through Engels that Marx was enabled to continue his studies and to complete the work which is his title to eternal fame. Engels, a well-to-do cotton spinner at Manchester, gladly responded to his friend's unremitting requests for aid, succouring him in every emergency. Engels was an expert upon military topics, and penned[Pg 78] articles which Marx passed on to the "Tribune" and to the encyclopædia, articles for which Marx was paid; Engels sent Marx weekly subsidies, and frequently despatched gifts of port wine; he made presents of £100 or £150 at a time; and at length, when his business prospered, he gave his friend a regular allowance of £350 a year.

Not even these strokes of good luck sufficed, it is true, to restore a satisfactory balance to Marx's finances, for he was a bad manager, and the disorder was probably incurable. However, they enabled our thinker to furnish aid to companions yet more unfortunate, to Pieper, Eccarius, and Dupont; they enabled him to escape from the worst extremities of poverty and to establish himself in life under conditions more worthy of an honest and respectable bourgeois. He was able to move from the decayed neighbourhood of Soho Square and to settle in Maitland Park Road on Haverstock Hill; it became possible for[Pg 79] him to secure a good education for his daughters, to have them taught French and Italian, drawing and music; he could weigh the financial status of aspirants to their hands, and could choose Lafargue and Longuet, who were comparatively well off. He often went to the theatre, and with one of his daughters he attended at the Society of Arts a soirée graced by the presence of royalty; from time to time he took his family to the seaside; he liked his wife to sign herself "Jenny, née Baronne de Westphalen"; he was well received in affluent circles, and was frequently consulted by the "Times" upon financial affairs; finally he accepted the office of constable of the vestry of St. Pancras, taking the customary oath, and donning the regulation uniform on gala occasions.

Nevertheless, neither this final settlement in a foreign land nor the persecution he suffered from the government of his own country could destroy or even lessen his devotion[Pg 80] to Germany. To the day of his death he remained a faithful child of the fatherland, for which he hoped the greatest of futures. He sang the praises of German music and literature; he delighted in German victories and German expansion; he dreaded a weakening of German protectionism which might strengthen the commercial hegemony of Britain; and in 1870 he refused to sign an appeal in favour of peace unless it were definitely stated that Germany was waging a purely defensive war. The French and Russian exiles in London were indignant, and circulated whispers that Marx was a Prussian emissary, and had received a bribe of £10,000. An idle tale! It is true that among German conservatives and among the beneficiaries of Germany there could not be found a supporter more sincere and more fervent than was this proscribed rebel. But he was no paladin on behalf of Prussian imperialism, as we can learn beyond dispute from a letter he sent to[Pg 81] the "Daily News" in 1878 denouncing Bismarckian ambitions and the Bismarckian expansionist policy as a growing peril.

Yet the supreme aim of his activity and his life enormously transcended the circumscribed range of country and of nation, for he aspired to a loftier goal, to the organisation of the mental and manual workers of all countries so that they might constitute a united revolutionary force. Within a brief time of his arrival in the British metropolis he again became the chief, nay the dictator, of a circle to which none could be admitted without passing a severe examination as to knowledge of science in general and of political economy in particular, an examination so rigorous that even Wilhelm Liebknecht was unable at first to satisfy its requirements, an examination that was physical as well as mental, for the aspirants were subjected (rejoice, shade of Lombroso!) to precise craniometrical tests.

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Thus our thinker, crowned as if by divine right with a kind of imperial halo, exercised undisputed sway over the troop of exiles, Pieper, Bauer, Blind, Biskamp, Eccarius, Liebknecht, Freiligrath, Cesare Orsini (brother of the regicide), and even over the revolutionary agitators in Germany. Soon, however, his mind was invaded and dominated by a yet more ambitious design, for he planned the formation of a society which should unite the proletarians of all the world into one formidable International, to resist the aggressions of capital and to work for the destruction of the capitalist system. It was at first an association of modest proportions, consisting merely of a few revolutionaries assembled in London. Marx absolutely refused the chairmanship, contenting himself with the post, ostensibly less important, of delegate for the German section.

From the first formation of the new federation Marx did his utmost to counteract the[Pg 83] influence of Mazzini, for Mazzini, through the instrumentality of two of his followers, Fontana and the elder Wolff, wished to inspire the International with his idealist conceptions and to initiate it into the secrets of conspiracy. Marx, on the other hand, was unwearying in his efforts to advocate his own view that material interests preponderate, and that these interests must be publicly asserted and defended in the arena of history. Soon the federation established branches in France, Germany, the United States, and even the Latin countries; and this involved for Marx, who was really the chief, a mass of work in the way of organisation, and of struggle against those who held conflicting views. Everywhere, in fact, he had to encounter trends differing from his own, and differing no less extensively one from another owing to the varying characters of the countries concerned.

In Germany he had to fight the opportunism of Lassalle, a man inclined to compromises[Pg 84] and to elastic unions with constituted authority. In France anti-intellectual tendencies were already manifest, so that there was an inclination to restrict the socialist outlook to an aspiration for immediately practical labour legislation of minor importance. In Italy and in Spain, Marx's troubles arose from the anarchist tendencies characteristic of those countries, tendencies fostered by the propaganda of Bakunin.

As against these divergent aims, Marx, with inflexible tenacity, maintained his own programme with the utmost rigour, insisting that it was essential to federate the proletarian forces of the world into an invincible organisation which in all possible ways, by strikes, by parliamentary and legal methods, but also by force should need arise, should deliver onslaughts upon the bourgeoisie and upon constituted authority, should exact concessions of increasing importance, and should ultimately secure a complete triumph. The proletarians[Pg 85] of the two hemispheres were not slow to accept the programme; and this man who was himself suffering from actual hunger, now secured a great position as a thinker, so that the operatives of Paris, New York, and Düsseldorf did honour to his name.

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