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Karl Marx and Hard Times

Marx began his career in journalism in the most economically advanced of Prussia-ruled cities, Cologne, 138 kilometers north of Trier and with a population of around 830,000 compared to about 16,000 for Trier. Marx wrote an article attacking a government censorship decree, and it didn't get past the censors. He worked for the Rheinische Zeitung, financed by a liberal critical of authoritarian monarchies but opposed to socialism. Marx's talent allowed him to rise quickly to editor-in-chief, and as such he denied that the paper was advocating socialism. The government banned the paper anyway, throwing Marx out of work. Government repression was doing what it often did: making people more radical.

In 1843, Marx and his wife Jenny moved to Paris (250 miles west-south-west of Cologne and just slightly smaller in population than Cologne). It was believed that people in Paris could write what they wanted. France had a liberal king, the so-called citizen king, Louis-Philippe, who had the support of wealthy businessmen.

Jenny enjoyed life in Paris. There was prosperity, and refugees like Karl Marx were mixing with the French in discussions about the spectrum of viewpoints as to what was happening in the world. Marx went to work for a German language paper that intended to give voice to French and German dissidents. It was blocked at the German border. It had few readers in France and folded. Marx's first child was born on May 1, 1844, and Jenny returned to Trier concerned about the infant's survival.

Marx read a lot and mingled with other radicals from wealthy families, among them the Russian aristocrat Bakunin, who admitted that he was less intellectually developed than Marx. He called Marx "vain, perfidious and sly," and Marx called him a sentimental idealist. note102

Also in Paris was the 33-year-old writer and celebrated socialist Louis Blanc. Blanc attributed all social evils to the pressure of competition, whereby the weaker are driven to the wall. He demanded the equalization of wages and the merging of personal interests with the common good: from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs.

In Paris, Marx met angry German exiles from the families of the laboring poor who had formed a group, now in its eighth year, called the League of the Just. Marx was impressed because they were more than intellectual armchair socialists. These were men without property who saw themselves as victims of men with property. They saw the abolition of private property as a way to change society. Marx wrote that "The brotherhood of man is no mere phase for them, but a fact of life." note103

In Germany the first revolt by industrial workers occurred: the weaver's revolt. It was rocks and axes against soldiers. Marx was fired up. He began working for a Paris-based German language newspaper called Vowarts! (Forward!), financed by a Prussian opera composer, Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Meanwhile for people in Germany and France, wages were falling, and food shortages accompanied a rising cost of living while people of wealth were eating well. A series of scandals involving French officials led Marx to believe he was seeing a market controlled by the rich for the benefit of the rich.

Writes Gabriel:

Though he had discounted communism as unrealisable just two years earlier in Cologne, Marx now saw it as a the means to recalibrate society.... Men would work, but their work would benefit themselves and the greater good, not the property owner. note104

Prussian authorities complained to the French government about the radicalism of Vowarts. The paper was too radical also for France's King Louis-Philippe. In January, 1845, Marx and other "atheist" members of Vorwarts were given twenty-four hours to leave France.

Marx, his wife and eight-month-old daughter sold their furniture for a small sum and moved to Belgium.

Sources

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