Karl Marx – The Original Socialist
In the first part of our series on the Top 5 Revolutionary Authors of the Modern Era, we discussed the life and works of one of India’s most influential personalities – Ahmed Raza Khan Bareilwi. In the second part, we will discuss one of the most influential politicians of the modern era, the pioneer of communist ideology – Karl Marx. For everyone who knows even a wee bit about politics, it is almost certain that they know Karl Marx, the German Philosopher who changed the course of global politics.
There’s arguably no political figure in the world studied as much as Karl Marx, including Gandhi, Ambedkar, Mandela, and Hitler. Since the turn of the 20th century, there hasn’t been any great revolution, especially outside the Anglosphere, which wasn’t remotely or overwhelmingly influenced by this great philosopher. Therefore, it is appropriate that we discuss Marx from various perspectives:
Ideological Influence of Karl Marx
Karl Marx was born in Germany in May 1818 and passed away in March 1883. After publishing his anti-establishment and anti-capitalist views, Marx was rendered stateless and lived a significant part of his life in England. During his exile, Karl Marx developed his globally influential political ideology of modern socialism, better known as Marxism. This ideology of modern socialism is adopted in various forms, including Marxist-Leninist, Maoism, Libertarian Marxism, Western Marxism, Marxist Feminism, Marxist Humanism, and others.
The Communist Party, the political ideologue of Marxism, has a presence directly and indirectly in all major countries. India (CPI, CPI M, CPI M-L), USA (CPUSA, SDUSA, SPUSA), Turkey (CLPT, CLPT-L, CMT, CPK, CPT M-L), France (FCP), the UK (CPB M-L, CPGB M-L), Russia (CPRF), China (CCP) – all have active political parties influenced directly by a certain form of the Marxist theory of socialism. In fact, one of the two greatest superpowers of the 20th century, the United States of Soviet Russia, the USSR, was ideologically affiliated with the Marxist-Leninist school of thought.
Apart from politics, Karl Marx also hugely influenced modern economics, and his economic theories are included in the syllabus of premier universities across the globe. Marxian Economics is, in fact, studied as a distinct economic theory. Marx formulated the famous Labour Theory of Value (LTV), the backbone of social economics. Primarily, all his theories were a response to classical economics propagated by the likes of Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, and David Ricardo.
Controversies Around Marxism
Marxist philosophy has also inspired various militant movements and organizations around the world. One example of these violent groups is the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Indian security personnel and political figures. The Naxal movement in the country is concerted by the Indian Maoists, who are, or at least claim to be, hardcore Marxists. Likewise, the oppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province by China’s Communist Government has come under heavy criticism globally.
For most of the latter half of the 20th century, the Communist guerrillas across Latin America were engaged in war with the establishment. This includes Cuba, Bolivia, Columbia, El Salvador, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru. Due to the frequent clashes between the communists and the government military, hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives, while millions were rendered homeless, hungry, and unemployed.
Likewise, Marxism has been criticized across the globe by academicians and experts on human rights. They claim that Marxism, by its very nature, is detrimental to human rights and paves the way for totalitarian regimes. Examples of these are the regimes of Mao Zedong in China, and Joseph Stalin in Russia, who were globally accused of suppressing human rights in their respective countries. Also, Marx’s anti-free market theories have been criticized by various modern economists as a means of promoting authoritarian administrations.
Popular Books by Karl Marx
How can a man from Germany, who spent most of his time in England, and passed away more than 137 years ago, have such a great influence? It’s through his books, which are widely read and translated into dozens of other languages. Let’s discuss his most famous books below:
Karl Marx wrote the voluminous work titled Das Kapital between 1867-1894, considered the greatest text on communist ideology. The book’s first volume is called ‘The Process of Production of Capital’, the second ‘The Process of Circulation of Capital’, and the third ‘Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole.’ Das Kapital is considered as the answer to capitalism which was on the rise after the industrial revolution in Europe. It deals with various dynamics of a capitalist economy, highlighting its vulnerabilities combined with the history of economics and politics of Europe.
The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature
This book was Marx’s doctoral thesis, which is regarded as a daring challenge to prevalent works of theology. The book is a comparative study between the theories of ancient Greek philosophers Democritus (atomism) and Epicurus (contingency). Marx’s thesis is considered to be an academic gem, which not only delves into the origins and ideas behind modern democracy but also the debate of philosophical wisdom and theology, leaning towards the former.
On the Jewish Question
Marx wrote On the Jewish Question in 1843, a pioneering source material for the theory of Historical Materialism, which became the favoured methodology of scientific historians of the modern era. It was also Marx’s first notable attempt to discuss the between religious consciousness and the state in secular democracies. He argued that there’s no need to abolish religion; a secular state presupposes religion. However, the book is considered to be antisemitic, though it defended the Jews’ rights for emancipation in Prussia.
The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto is arguably the most widely-read political document written in the modern era. Marx co-authored the manifesto along with his friend and long-time collaborator Friedrich Engels. The manifesto was written during the advent of the ‘Spring of Nations Revolution of 1848’, commissioned by the English political party, Communist League. Peter Osborne, Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London, states that the manifesto is “the single most influential text written in the 19th century”.
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