title
macrohistory.com

(KARL MARX – continued)

home | 18-19th centuries index

KARL MARX (4 of 6)

previous | next

Theory and Frustration, 1850-67

Mary Gabriel writes that London was "the terminus at the edge of Europe" for thousands of desperate travelers like the Marx family, and "Queen Victoria's England had become a ritual repository for banished monarchs, rogues, and rebels, offering the illusion of liberty to victims of revolt or repression." note105

In London, Marx labored on, not as a member of an organization but as a writer trying to give the working masses the perspective he believed they needed. In 1852 he wrote:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. note106

He believed that ideas were influenced by one's role in a society's economics. "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being," he wrote, "but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."

He lived with his family in cramped quarters, often with barely enough food to sustain them. He or his wife sold things at a local pawn shop. He was tormented by London's polluted water and air. There were doctor bills he couldn't pay, sickness, the deaths of three of his children in infancy, his wife suffering ... for a while. He was tortured by the death of his first son, born eight-years before. He was attached to his bright daughters born in 1844 and 1845, who were fortunate to have passed their infancy in a better environment.

Marx was writing articles for the New York Tribune. In the spring of 1857 the paper's editor, Charles Dana, offered him a job as a contributor to a multivolume work, the New American Encylopedia. That year economic crisis hit the U.S. and put an end to Marx's income from the United States,

In 1862, unable to support his family, Marx wrote to Engels:

Say what you will, dear boy, it really is embarrassing to have to bother you as I do with my miseries! If only I knew how to start some sort of business! All theory, dear friend, is grey, and only business green. Unfortunately, I have come to realize this too late.note107

Marx in 1862 applied for a job as a clerk on the railways, but he was rejected because of his poor handwriting. Marx was forty-six and not healthy enough for physical labor.

That year he was rescued by the death of his mother and an inheritance. Relief came too in 1863 with the death of a good friend who left him a good sum of money. Marx paid off his debts and moved to a better part of London and he and Jenny started partying again. This happened as labor organizing on the continent was on the rise. In 1863 the General German Workers' Association was founded by Ferdinand Lasalle. It intended to obey the law and didn't advocate abolishing private property.. Marx dismissed LaSalle's Workers' Program as a poor substitute for his Communist Manifesto. note108

Marx dabbled in the stock market but didn't neglect the labor movement. In 1864 he attended the inaugural in London of the International Workingmen's Association, and he wrote its "Address to the Working Classes," which ended with "Proletarians of the World Unite!" He did not speak to the gathering, which included various shades of opinions supporting the masses – socialist, communist and anarchist. The International Workingmen's Association was to be joined by Bakunin and his followers in 1868 and became polarized around the ideologies represented by Marx on one side and Bakunin on the other.

For years Marx had been been working on the first volume of his major theoretical work Capital (Das Kapital) – meant to reveal the economic laws of capitalism. The stimulus to his work was his hope of social revolution.

The book was finally published in 1867. It perplexed Marx's colleagues with its complicated terminology and rambling – unlike the Communist Manifesto. The book won no attention among critics or readers. Marx would comment that sales would not even pay for the cigars he smoked while writing it. Jenny, his ideological partner as well as his wife, "felt utterly defeated." Writes Mary Gabriel:

She had lived for the promise of Capital, perhaps even believing that it would produce the desired effect – that it would change Germany, change the world, change their lives for the better. note109

Sources

Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.