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Original article, subheaded Karl Marx developed his ideas in an era of when young people were dedicating their lives to a struggle for new rights and freedoms. Brian Jones examines Marx’s revolutionary ideas in this second of three articles, via socialistworker.org:
HOW DID Karl Marx become a Marxist? Marx developed his idea not just through study–although he was a voracious reader (really, the word “voracious” doesn’t begin to touch it). Marx’s Marxism is really the theoretical product of his practical efforts to build a movement for radical change, and his observations of struggles taking place around him.
Ah, Karl Marx. Reviled even amongst the progressives. The man who saw a world where workers held power instead of the monied class. The man who’s spectre hovers over the world again.
This is worth our attention because Marx is not only the author of a set of ideas about history, but the author of a unique method of looking at history. This method is widely known as historical materialism or dialectical materialism.
Marx not only was a critic of capitalism, but he was a philosopher as well. Jones points out that Marx came of age during an era where monarchies were falling and ideas such as freedom of the press and democracies/republics were rising. The ruling class under the monarchies felt that things had solidified and couldn’t be changed. How wrong they were. If it feels like a similar theme toward our capitalist paradise, you shouldn’t be surprised.
MARX BECAME a follower of the ideas of Georg Hegel. Hegel said that the kings and queens were wrong–that the world is always changing. The change, Hegel argued, is produced by conflicting ideas–feudal ideas vs. bourgeois ideas, for example. Rather than a view of a static, never-changing world, Hegel put forward a view of a dialectical, ever-changing world.
Say what you will about Hegel, but he seems to be right on this point. The world does change, even if the change is slow or even seemingly non-existent. The change in Hegel’s day was the resounding thread of reason. No wonder the words to the song are “And reason and revolt now thunder….”
Go and read Jones’ article. It’s well worth the read to know where this strand of thought and economic theory started. It’s also well worth pondering if Marx was on to something, or was he just writing for the gosh oh gee of it. Jones also leaves us with a quote from the Communist Manifesto which is worth considering:
If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.
Part one of the series, The Return of Marx, is available here.