Karl Marx  

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"[M]arx would have called Flaubert a bourgeois in the politico-economic sense and Flaubert would have called Marx a bourgeois in the spiritual sense; and both would have been right since, Flaubert was a well-to-do gentleman in physical life and Marx was a philistine in his attitude towards the arts" --Nabokov in Lectures on Literature.
This page Karl Marx is part of the politics series.Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.
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This page Karl Marx is part of the politics series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818March 14, 1883) was a German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. Marx addressed a wide range of issues; he is most famous for his analysis of history, summed up in the opening line of the introduction to the Communist Manifesto (1848): "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Marx believed that capitalism would be replaced by socialism which in turn would bring upon communism.

Marx was both a scholar and a political activist, often called the father of communism. Sometimes, he argued that his analysis of capitalism revealed that capitalism was destined to end because of unsolvable problems within capitalism:

"The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.|(The Communist Manifesto)"

Other times, he argued that capitalism would end through the organized actions of an international working class: "Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence." (from The German Ideology)

While Marx was a relatively obscure figure in his own lifetime, his ideas began to exert a major influence on workers' movements shortly after his death. This influence was given added impetus by the victory of the Marxist Bolsheviks in the Russian October Revolution, and there are few parts of the world which were not significantly touched by Marxian ideas in the course of the twentieth century. The relation of Marx to "Marxism" is a point of controversy. While some argue that his ideas are discredited, Marxism is still very much influential in academic and political circles. In his book "Marx's 'Das Kapital'" (2006), biographer Francis Wheen reiterates David McLellan's observation that since Marx's ideas had not triumphed in the West "..it had not been turned into an official ideology and is thus the object of serious study unimpeded by government controls.".


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