3 June 2011
A hugely influential revolutionary thinker and philosopher, Marx did not live to see his ideas carried out in his own lifetime, but his writings formed the theoretical base for modern international communism.
Karl Heinrich Marx was born on 5 May 1818 in Trier in western German, the son of a successful Jewish lawyer. Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, but was also introduced to the ideas of Hegel and Feuerbach. In 1841, he received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Jena. In 1843, after a short spell as editor of a liberal newspaper in Cologne, Marx and his wife Jenny moved to Paris, a hotbed of radical thought. There he became a revolutionary communist and befriended his life long collaborator, Friedrich Engels. Expelled from France, Marx spent two years in Brussels, where his partnership with Engels intensified. They co-authored the pamphlet 'The Communist Manifesto' which was published in 1848 and asserted that all human history had been based on class struggles, but that these would ultimately disappear with the victory of the proletariat.
In 1849, Marx moved to London, where he was to spend the remainder of his life. For a number of years, his family lived in poverty but the wealthier Engels was able to support them to an increasing extent. Gradually, Marx emerged from his political and spiritual isolation and produced his most important body of work, 'Das Kapital'. The first volume of this 'bible of the working class' was published in his lifetime, while the remaining volumes were edited by Engels after his friend's death.
In his final years, Karl Marx was in creative and physical decline. He spent time at health spas and was deeply distressed by the death of his wife, in 1881, and one of his daughters. He died on 14 March 1883 and was buried at Highgate Cemetery in London.