Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in Trier in the German Rhineland. His grandfather was a rabbi. His father, a successful lawyer, had his entire family baptized for business and social reasons. He studied law at Bonn and philosophy at the University of Berlin. While in Berlin he became acquainted with the philosophy of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. At 24 he became editor of a paper in Cologne, Germany. His radical ideas soon got him into censorship trouble, and he went to Paris, partly to escape arrest. With him went his beautiful young wife, Jenny von Westphalen, whom he had married in spite of both families' misgivings (Berlin, 1-10).
He was expelled from Paris in 1845, lived for a time in Brussels, Belgium. He later returned to Paris but was expelled again in 1849. Marx then went to England. He made his home in London for the remaining 34 years of his life. He lived in wretched poverty and spent day after day studying in the British Museum library. He was devoted to his wife and children, but because of his uncompromising nature he had few friends
(Berlin, 20-22).
One friend, however, remained faithful to him and paid his bills. He was Friedrich Engels, a textile manufacturer whose ideas were vary similar with Marx’s and who collaborated with him in his writing. Karl Marx died in London on March 14, 1883. He had outlived his wife and all but two of his six children. Only eight people were present to hear Engels' funeral oration in Highgate Cemetery. While in Brussels Marx and Engels had written the pamphlet 'Manifesto of the Communist Party', published in 1848. It contains the simplest expression of Marx’s beliefs. The ideas in it were later developed at length in the three volumes of Marx’s major work, 'Das Kapital' (Capital). This also was written in collaboration with Engels, who published the last two volumes after Marx death. The first volume appeared in 1867(Berlin, 50-61).
Marx based his theories on what he believed to be the scientific evidence of history. He searched the past for proof of the continual class struggle between the middle-class exploiters (the bourgeoisie) and the oppressed working people (the proletariat). The final struggle, he predicted, would lead to the overthrow of capitalism and its supporters. He claimed a classless society would then emerge and there would thus be no more revolutions. Everyone would be guided by the maxim "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs." The state, or organized government, would no longer be needed and would "wither away." Marx did not concern himself much with practical problems but concentrated only on the revolution itself
(Microsoft (R) Encarta 1).
The “Communist Manifesto” is a declaration of principles and objectives of the Communist League (a secret organization of émigré German artisans and intellectuals), published in London in 1848, shortly before the February Revolution in Paris. Written by Karl Marx in collaboration with Friedrich Engels, the Manifesto is divided into four sections, preceded by an introduction that begins with the provocative words, “A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of communism”(Rubel 82-84).
In the first section, Marx outlines his theory of history and prophesies an end to exploitation. Identifying class struggle as the primary dynamic in history, he characterizes the modern world as the stage for a dramatic confrontation between the ruling bourgeoisie (the capitalists) and the downtrodden proletariat (the working class). Driven by the logic of capitalism to seek ever-greater profit, the bourgeoisie constantly revolutionizes the means of economic production, the fulcrum of history. In so doing, it unwittingly sets in motion sociohistorical forces that it can no longer control, thus ironically calling into existence the class destined to end its rule—the proletariat. As the proletariat increases in number and political awareness, heightened class antagonism will, according to the Manifesto, generate a revolution and the inevitable defeat of the bourgeoisie (Rubel 86-90).
In the second edition, Marx identifies the Communists as the allies and theoretical vanguard of the proletariat. He emphasizes the necessity of abolishing private property, a fundamental change in material existence that will unmask bourgeois culture, the ideological expression of capitalism. After the revolution, economic production will be in the hands of the state, that is, the proletariat, organized as the ruling class. Because ownership