Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Marx, Karl Heinrich

MARX, KARL HEINRICH (1818–1883), German social philosopher and the chief theorist of modern socialism. Marxism became in the 20th century a new creed for hundreds of millions of socialists, often hardening into a dogma, particularly in the communist movement and in the Soviet Bloc, the People's Republic of China, and other communist countries. Born in the Rhineland town of Trier (then West Prussia), Marx was the son of Jewish parents, Heinrich and Henrietta Marx. Heinrich Marx became a successful lawyer, and, when an edict prohibited Jews from being advocates, he converted to Protestantism in 1817. In 1824, when Karl was six years old, his father converted his eight children. Karl Marx was educated at the high school in Trier and studied history and philosophy at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. He was strongly influenced by Hegel's philosophy and joined a radical group known as the Young Hegelians. In 1841 he received his degree of doctor of philosophy at the University of Jena where he presented his dissertation on the "Differenz der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie." When his connection with the Young Hegelians prevented him from obtaining a teaching position at the University of Bonn, he turned to journalism. He became the editor of the liberal Cologne daily Rheinische Zeitung in 1842. In the following year he married Jenny von Westphalen, daughter of a high Prussian official. Soon afterward, the Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed and the young couple went to Paris where Marx expected to edit the Deutsch-Franzoesische Jahrbuecher. In fact only one issue was brought out (1844).

The young Marx's ideas attracted the attention of older radicals and socialists. Moses *Hess, one of the editors of the Rheinische Zeitung, wrote in a letter to the German-Jewish writer Berthold *Auerbach: "Dr. Marx, as my idol is called, is still a very young man; he will give medieval religion and politics their last blow. He combines the deepest earnestness with the most cutting wit. Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel united in one person. I say united, not lumped together – and you have Dr. Marx." While evolving from his philosophy as a Young Hegelian to his own concept of man as creating himself by labor, he transmitted in his writings a passionate yearning for a new, free society in which socialist man will transcend the imposed "alienation" from state – controlled society and from his labor and its fruits. An article contributed to the Deutsch-Franzoesische Jahrbuecher by Friedrich Engels led to a lifelong friendship between Marx and Engels. Engels, a fellow Rhinelander of socialist and Hegelian leanings, was the son of a wealthy industrialist with factories in Germany and England and was able to support Marx financially for the rest of his life. Marx, who maintained personal friendly contact with Heinrich *Heine, was one of the editors of Vorwaerts, a German newspaper published in Paris, which contained sharp attacks against the Prussian government. Its ambassador in Paris protested and Marx was expelled from France.

He went to Brussels where he wrote "Misère de la philosophie, Response a la philosophie de la misère de M. Proudhon" (1847), an attack on the Utopian social order advocated by Proudhon. Marx argued that the capitalistic society leads to the strengthening of the proletariat, a class which of necessity must become revolutionary and must overthrow the contemporary social organization based on exploitation. Socialist theorists should not waste their time in describing how society should be ideally built, but rather analyze what is going on in the present world.

In 1845, while in Brussels, Marx was forced to renounce his Prussian citizenship, and thus became "stateless." (Sixteen years later he vainly tried to regain it with the help of Ferdinand *Lassalle. He also applied for British citizenship, but the Home Office rejected his application (1874) on the grounds that "this man was not loyal to his king.") Marx cooperated with the "League of the Just" which became "The League of the Communists" (Bund der Kommunisten) which had its headquarters in London. He attended its second congress in London at the end of 1847 and together with Engels presented a new program for the League called The Communist Manifesto. It was published in February 1848 under the title Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei and rapidly became the best known work of modern socialism. It began with the words "A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism," and postulated that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes." It ended with the words, "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!" A month after the publication of the Manifesto, Marx was expelled from Belgium and went to Paris. He left for Cologne soon afterward, following the outbreak of revolution in Germany, and became editor of the Cologne daily Neue Rheinische Zeitung. When the revolution failed and political reaction set in, he was expelled first from Cologne and then from Paris. He settled in London soon afterward where, in spite of the financial assistance that he received from Engels, he led the hard life of a political exile until his death.

From 1852 to 1861 Marx partly supported himself by being the London correspondent of the New York Tribune, commenting on current world affairs. He also drafted a resolution of English workers congratulating Abraham Lincoln on his election as president of the United States. For years he was an almost daily visitor to the British Museum Library, where he studied the great economists, many governmental "Blue Books" on industrial and labor relations, gathering material for his magnum opus "Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Oekonomie" the first volume of which appeared in Hamburg in 1867. (Volumes 2 and 3 were completed and edited by Engels in 1885 and 1893 respectively.) Marx's other writings include Die Klassenkaempfe in Frankreich 18481850 (1850; Eng. translation The Civil War in France, 1852); Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte (1852), and Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie (1859; Eng. trans. Critique of Political Economy, 1904).

Marx was not only a theoretician, he also took active part in the labor and socialist movement, and especially in the International Workingmen's Association (The First International), being a leading member of its General Council. But he lacked the qualities of a popular leader and his followers constituted a small minority of the association.

Marx's System

Marx had an exceptionally powerful mind and a rare capacity for research; his knowledge was encyclopedic. His influence on the modern world has been compared to that of the great religions, or Newton and Darwin. His work is the more difficult to understand as Das Kapital remained unfinished, and certain aspects of his doctrine only slightly sketched. His (and Engels') system – Marxism – is also known under the names of "economic" or "materialistic determinism," "dialectical materialism," or "scientific" (as opposed to "utopian") socialism. From Hegel he took the dialectical method, but ultimately applied it in a sense opposite to Hegel's idealist philosophy.

In what Marx calls "the social production" men enter into relations that are indispensable and independent of their will. These "relations of production" correspond to a definite stage of development of the material powers of production. The totality of these "relations of production" constitutes the real basis on which rises a legal and political "superstructure," and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The consciousness of men does not determine their existence, but on the contrary, is determined itself by their social existence. At a certain stage of their development, the "material forces of production" come in conflict with the existing "relations of production" or – what is but a legal expression of the same thing – with "the property relations" within which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution. With the change of the economic basis the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production, the productive forces in the womb of bourgeois society creating the material conditions for the ultimate socialist solution of that antagonism.

Marx's theory of value, which he considered as the very basis of his whole economic theory, was critical of all of past political economics (even of the Ricardian). The value of a commodity, according to Marx, is determined by the amount of labor socially necessary for its production. Of indispensable importance in the system is Marx's concept of "surplus value." The activity of the capitalist employer is represented by the formula M-C-M1. With money (M), he buys the commodities (C) needed for production, and then sells the finished product for money (M1). It is evident that M1 is larger than M, else the whole process would involve no more than gratuitous trouble to the capitalist. Thus the labor power produces more than its value. This surplus value is the evidence and measure of the exploitation of the laborer by his employer.

Marx and the Jews

Marx's father Heinrich, whose original name was Hirschel ha-Levi, was the son of a rabbi and the descendant of talmudic scholars for many generations. Hirschel's brother was chief rabbi of Trier. Heinrich Marx married Henrietta Pressburg, who originated in Hungary and whose father became a rabbi in Nijmegen, Holland. Heinrich received a secular education, obtained a law degree, detached himself from his family and eventually also from his religion. Marx's mother spoke German with a heavy Dutch accent and never learned to write a grammatical letter in German. Intellectually she had little in common with her husband and son.

Karl Marx's attitude to Jews and Judaism has been discussed from different points of view, and therefore it is not surprising that it evolved into what was later described as "self-hatred," too. At the age of 15 he was solemnly confirmed and became deeply attached to Christianity and German culture. Great influence on him was exercised by his future father-in-law, Baron Johann Ludwig von Westphalen, who was a neighbor of his family. But later his relations with other members of his wife's aristocratic family became strained. For them he was a Jew, an atheist, a nonconformist, a man lacking in good manners.

Marx's first essay in the Deutsch-Franzoesische Jahrbuecher was entitled Zur Judenfrage ("About the Jewish Question"), in which he criticized Bruno Bauer's book on the topic. Bauer had insisted that the Jewish question was essentially a religious one, insoluble unless the Jews gave up their faith and joined the society of the state as atheists or non-Jews. Although Marx favored political emancipation of the Jews, he used violent anti-Jewish language to present his view. Judaism for him was synonymous with the hated bourgeois capitalism. "The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the moneyed man generally.…" "What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money … Out of its entrails bourgeois society continually creates Jews.… Emancipation from huckstering and from money, and consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our era." Marx's essay is a striking evidence of his complete ignorance of Jewish history and culture, an ignorance surprising in light of his otherwise encyclopedic knowledge. Marx expressed his antagonism to Jews on a number of occasions: in his "Thesis on Feuerbach," in his articles for the New York Tribune, and in Das Kapital. In his private correspondence there are many derogatory references to Jews, who were for him the symbol of financial power and capitalist mentality, and also to Ferdinand Lassalle to whom he referred in his letters to Engels in typical antisemitic clichés. The only sympathetic account of Jews to emerge from Marx's pen is that which described their life and tribulations in the city of Jerusalem (New York Tribune, April, 15, 1854).

Compared with this point of view, which positions Marx in an antisemitic context, new research has emphasized the fact that he did not criticize Jews as Jews but as representatives of capitalism. These studies point to his closeness to other contemporary Jewish intellectuals like Moses Hess in Ueberdas Geldwesen (1845).

For six years Marx lived in London at 28 Dean Street, the house of a Jewish lace dealer. While on a holiday, he met the Jewish historian Heinrich *Graetz in Carlsbad and sent him his book on "The History of the Commune" as a present. Two years prior to his death the wave of anti-Jewish pogroms occurred in Russia (1881) and the influx of Jewish immigrants into London began. But there is no evidence of Marx's reaction to these events. His beloved daughter Eleanor, however, who acted as his secretary, considered herself Jewish, took interest in her ancestors, and had a warm appreciation for the Jewish workers in the East End of London. (She committed suicide in 1898 after an unhappy marriage to Edward Aveling.)

Marx's Jewish origin became a catalyst of anti-Jewish emotions. Already his rival in the First International, the Russian anarchist Michael *Bakunin did not refrain from anti-Jewish outbursts while attacking Marx. Later it served right-wing propagandists, particularly the fascist and Nazi regimes of the 1930s and 1940s, as a means to spice their anti-socialism with outright violent antisemitism. They used the term "Marxism" as denoting a sinister, worldwide "Jewish" plot against their national interests. In the Soviet Union, where Marxism-Leninism became the obligatory ideology, Marx's Jewish origin was generally mentioned in research works and encyclopedias until the 1940s, but from the later 1940s, when *Stalin's policy became anti-Jewish, it has been studiously concealed.

Collected Editions

The Marx-Engels (later the Marx-Engels-Lenin, and still later Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin) Institute in Moscow started in 1927 the publication of an academic edition of the collected works of Marx and Engels. In 1935 the publication was interrupted. There appeared the following: Marx-Engels, Historischkriti sche Gesamtausgabe; Werke, Schriften, Briefe first part: Saemtliche Werke und Schriften mit Ausnahme des "Kapital" (7 vols., 1927–35); third part: Der Briefwechsel zwischen Marx und Engels (4 vols., 1929–31). The volumes published thus far include the writings of Marx and Engels up to 1848 and all the known correspondence between Marx and Engels, 1844–83. The early volumes were edited under the direction of D. Ryazanov. An earlier collection is Franz Mehring's edition, Ausdem literarischen Nachlass von Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle (4 vols., 1902). D. Ryazanov edited the Gesammelte Schriften von Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels 1852 bis 1862 (2nd ed., 1920). For a bibliography of Marx's works, see Ernst Drahn, Marx-Bibliographie (2nd ed., 1923). Reliable and good selective bibliographies on Marx, Engels, and cognate subjects are found in Donald Drew Egbert and Stow Persons (eds.), Socialism and American Life (vol. 2, 1952, pp. 34ff., and passim). After World War II a new edition of Karl Marx' and Friedrich Engels' works, Werke (ed. by the Institute of Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der SED), was published in the German Democratic Republic in 39 volumes and one supplementary volume in two parts and two index-volumes from 1956 until 1971 (abbrev. MEW). Another similar new edition of Karl Marx' and Friedrich Engels' works was begun in 1975 as Gesamtausgabe (ed. by Institut fuer Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der KPdSU and the Institut fuer Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der SED), and continued, after the fall of the Communist regime in Russia and East Germany, by the International Marx-Engels Foundation in Amsterdam (Abbrev. MEGA2).


F. Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (1936, repr. 1951), incl. bibl.; K. Korsch, Karl Marx (Eng., 1963), incl. bibl.; L. Schwarzschild, The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx (1948); I. Berlin, Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (19633), incl. bibl.; C. Tsuzuki, The Life of Eleanor Marx (1967); J. Lachs, Marxist Philosophy: A Bibliographical Guide (1967); R. Payne, Marx: A Biography (1968), incl. bibl.; M. Rubel, in: IESS, 10 (1968), 34–40 incl. bibl.. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Th. Bottomore (ed.), A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (1991); E. Balibar, The Philosophy of Marx (1995); M. Heinrich, Die Wissenschaft vom Wert. Die Marxsche Kritik der politischen Ökonomie zwischen wissenschaftlicher Revolution und klassischer Tradition (new edition, 1999); J. Derrida, Marx Gespenster (2004). ON MARX AND THE JEWISH QUESTION: G. Mayer, Der Jude in Karl Marx [1918], in: idem, Aus der Welt des Soẓialismus. Kleine historische Aufsätze (1927); E. Silberner, Ha-Sozyalizm ha-Ma'aravi u-She'elat ha-Yehudim, pt. 2 (1955), 133–64, 448–51, includes detailed bibliography; idem, in: HJ, 9 no. 1 (1949), 3–52. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: idem, Sozialisten zur Judenfrage. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Sozialismus vom Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts bis 1914 (1962); H. Hirsch, "The Ugly Marx: Analysis of an 'Outspoken Anti-semite,'" in: The Philosophical Forum, 3:2–4 (1978), 150–162; J. Carlebach, Karl Marx and the Radical Critique of Judaism (1978); Z. Rosen, Moses Hess und Karl Marx. Ein Beitrag zur Entstehung der Marxschen Theorie (1983); J. Peled, "From Theology to Sociology. Bruno Bauer and Karl Marx on the Question of Jewish Emancipation," in: History of Political Thought, 13:3 (1992), 463–85; D. Leopold, "The Hegelian Antisemitism of Bruno Bauer," in: History of European Ideas, 25 (1999), 179–206; M. Tomba, "La questione ebraica: il problema dell'universalismo politico," in: M. Tomba (ed.), B. Bauer und K. Marx, La questione ebraica (2004), 9–45.