Introduction into communism
‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.’ Communist Manifesto (1848).
While there were many theorists of various kinds of communism both before Marx (e.g. Henrde Saint-Simon, 1760–1825; Charles Fourier, 1772–1837) and as contemporaries (e.g. Pierre Joseph Proudhon, 1809–65), the person almost always seen nowadays as the father of communism is Karl Marx (1818–83).
A brief introduction to Marx:
Born in Prussia on May 5, 1818, Karl Marx was a philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist. Marx’s theories about society, economics, and politics—collectively understood as Marxism—hold that human societies develop through class struggle. He was a masterful economist and his rigorous analysis of capitalism in Capital is a testament to the twenty years of scholarship that led up to its completion. The labor theory of value, decreasing rates of profit, and increasing concentration of wealth were key components of Marx’s economic thought. His comprehensive treatment of capitalism stands in stark contrast, however, to his treatment of socialism and communism, which Marx handled only superficially. He declined to speculate on how those two economic systems would operate.
Following the downfall of the Paris Commune (1871) – of which Marx gave a clear-cut materialistic analysis of these events in The Civil War In France, 1871 – and the Bakunin cleavage in the International (See: Marx’s conflict with Bakunin), the organization could no longer exist in Europe. After the Hague Congress of the International (1872), the General Council of the International had played its historical part, and now made way for a period of a far greater development of the labor movement in all countries in the world, a period in which the movement grew in scope, and mass socialist working-class parties in individual national states were formed.
Marx’s health became undermined by his strenuous work in the International and his still more strenuous writings and organising. He continued work on the refashioning of political economy and on the completion of Capital, for which he collected a mass of new material and studied a number of languages (Russian, for instance; Marx was fully fluent in German, French, and English). However, ill-health prevented him from completing the last two volumes of Capital (which Engels subsequently put together from Marx’s notes).
Marx’s wife died on December 2, 1881, and on March 14, 1883, Marx passed away peacefully in his armchair. He lies buried next to his wife at Highgate Cemetery in London.
Brief background information on Engels:
Friedrich Engels was born Nov. 28, 1820, Barmen, Rhine province, Prussia [Germany] German socialist philosopher, the closest collaborator of Karl Marx in the foundation of modern communism. They coauthored The Communist Manifesto (1848), and Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital after Marx’s death.
At the request of the Communist League, Marx and Engels co-authored their most famous work, “The Communist Manifesto,” published in 1848.
“From each, according to his ability, to each according to his need.”Karl Marx Critique of the Gotha Program.
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims to establish a communist society, i.e. a society where there is no social class, money, and state and is based on the common ownership of the means of production.
The term “communism” was first coined and defined in its modern definition by the French philosopher and writer Victor d’Hupay. In his 1777 book Projet de communauté philosophe. Communist thought has also been traced back to the works of the 16th-century English writer Thomas More. In his treatise Utopia (1516), More portrayed a society based on common ownership of property, whose rulers administered it through the application of reason. It was a nostalgic and idealist look to primitive communism, seeing those social relations as far superior to the feudalist system of gross inequality and extreme oppression. With his idea of a Utopian society, More believed that he needed only to convince the aristocracy the possibility of this world and it could be accomplished.
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