But Marx turned to journalism and political activism. He moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, writing for the liberal journal the Rheinische Zeitung (Rhineland News) (Wheen 2001: 35). The audience of this publication was diverse and included Young Hegelians, middle class liberals and the emerging Communist intellectuals (influenced by the ideas of Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier).
Marx’s ideas in these years seem to have been largely a form of political liberalism, and he defended the freedom of the press and criticised Prussian authoritarianism (Sperber 2014: 85–87).
Marx also downplayed Young Hegelian atheism and hostility to religion (Sperber 2014: 93). One reason for this was the highly damaging role that the Young Hegelian “Society of Free Men” movement in Berlin did to the left Hegelian cause. The “Society of Free Men” was an ultra-radical Young Hegelian group dedicated to shocking contemporaries by their atheism, hostility to organised Christian religion, and drunken antics in Berlin (Sperber 2014: 93) (the young Friedrich Engels was a member of this group). Marx disapproved and this eventually caused a breach of relations with Bruno Bauer (Sperber 2014: 93).
Marx served as informal editor of the Rheinische Zeitung between October 1842 and February 1843 (Sperber 2014: 79). Curiously, when he served as informal editor he steered the paper’s editorial policy towards less support for Young Hegelian radicalism and to strong support for free trade, and apparently maintained support for free trade throughout the rest of his life (Sperber 2014: 92).
But while Marx first studied socialist ideas while in Cologne in 1842 – probably the ideas of Victor Considérant, Pierre Leroux, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Sperber 2014: 97) – his assessment of them in this year was quite negative, even hostile (Sperber 2014: 96, 99; Wheen 2001: 43). What is more, the Young Hegelian “Society of Free Men” was associated with radical socialism, and Marx had already taken a dislike to this group (Wheen 2001: 43).
When the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung accused the Rheinische Zeitung of advocating communism, Marx wrote a reply in the Rheinische Zeitung angrily rejecting the charge on October 16, 1842, and even stated:
“The Rheinische Zeitung, which cannot concede the theoretical reality of communist ideas even in their present form, and can even less wish or consider possible their practical realization, will submit these ideas to a thorough criticism. If the Augsburg paper demanded and wanted more than slick phrases, it would see that writings such as those of Leroux, Considerant, and above all Proudhon's penetrating work, can be criticized, not through superficial notions of the moment, but only after long and deep study. We consider such ‘theoretical’ works the more seriously as we do not agree with the Augsburg paper, which finds the ‘reality’ of communist ideas not in Plato but in some obscure acquaintance who, not without some merit in some branches of scientific research, gave up the entire fortune that was at his disposal at the time and polished his confederates’ dishes and boots, according to the will of Father Enfantin. We are firmly convinced that it is not the practical Attempt, but rather the theoretical application of communist ideas, that constitutes the real danger; for practical attempts, even those on a large scale, can be answered with cannon as soon as they become dangerous, but ideas, which conquer our intelligence, which overcome the outlook that reason has riveted to our conscience, are chains from which we cannot tear ourselves away without tearing our hearts; they are demons that man can overcome only by submitting to them.”It is rather starting (to say the least) to see Marx – the future communist – proclaiming that the best way to deal with any communists putting their ideas into practice is by using cannons on them!
Marx, “Communism and the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung,” October 16, 1842, Rheinische Zeitung
But even Marx’s bourgeois liberalism was too much for the Prussian government and the Rheinische Zeitung was banned by the government and ceased publication in April 1843 (Sperber 2014: 104). A curious historical titbit emerges: when Marx was at a stockholders’ meeting of the paper at around this time he spoke with a lisp and a thick Rhineland accent and was no great orator (Sperber 2014: 105; Wheen 2001: 39).
In 1843, Marx got a position as a writer for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) from Arnold Ruge which was to be published in Paris. The salary that Marx was offered allowed him to marry Jenny von Westphalen on 19 June, 1843 (Sperber 2014: 109–110). After a honeymoon, Marx and Jenny lived in Kreuznach before leaving for Paris in October 1843.
Around this time, Marx was influenced by Feuerbach’s materialist interpretation of Hegel, though was not immediately willing to accept it (Sperber 2014: 112).
Marx’s move to Paris brought him into contact with radical groups far more diverse than in Germany, but the German Young Hegelian liberalism that Marx and Arnold Ruge supported did not much interest the French communists or liberals (Sperber 2014: 120). Many of the early socialists and Communists in Paris saw their ideology in strongly voluntarist, Christian terms, and so disliked the Young Hegelian atheism (Sperber 2014: 120).
Only one issue of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher appeared in 1844 (Wheen 2001: 64) and in it we have two of Marx’s important early writings:
(1) “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right,” Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, February, 1844, andThese marked a shift in Marx’s thinking towards revolutionary politics and he now thought that a proletarian revolution in Germany was what was needed (Sperber 2014: 125–126).
(2) “On the Jewish Question,” Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, February, 1844.
However, Marx and Arnold Ruge soon badly fell out (Sperber 2014: 121). Marx’s financial difficulties were overcome when his middle class and liberal admirers in Cologne raised 1,000 talers for him (Sperber 2014: 122).
While Jenny returned to Trier with their new daughter, Marx stayed in Paris, and met, amongst other people, Mikhail Bakunin and Friedrich Engels (Sperber 2014: 135).
According to Sperber (2014: 137), Marx first met Friedrich Engels on August 23, 1844 in Paris, but Wheen (2001: 75) places their first meeting on 16 November, 1842 in Cologne.
Whatever the case, it was only in the 1850s that Marx and Engels cemented their friendship. Engels, who was already an atheist and communist, had published articles in both the Rheinische Zeitung and Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, and so was interested to meet Marx on a return trip from England in 1844.
Still in Paris, Marx now became attached to the journal Vorwärts! (Forward!) and his attachment to socialism now became evident in his journalism (Sperber 2014: 136).
In 1844, Marx wrote extended papers running to about 50,000 words called the “Paris Manuscripts” or “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844” (Wheen 2001: 68), which were only published well after his death in 1927, and which discussed a wide array of topics, from economics, Feuerbach’s materialism and critique of Hegel to money, property and the alienation of workers (Sperber 2014: 142).
From the 1844 manuscripts we learn that Marx had embarked in that year on a reading of political economy, and in particular the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and James Mill in French translation, Jean-Baptiste Say and Wilhelm Schulz (Sperber 2014: 142; Wheen 2001: 68). He drew the same pessimistic lessons on the future of a capitalist society as found in Ricardo and saw a future of stagnant subsistence wage for workers, low profits and a stationary state (Sperber 2014: 143). When these economic ideas were combined with Feuerbach’s materialist interpretation of Hegel, we can see the genesis of Marx’s economic theories, and so much so that Marx referred to Feuerbach’s work as the “philosophical basis of socialism” (Sperber 2014: 146; Wheen 2001: 55).
Marx’s Paris years were ended when the Prussian government demanded his expulsion and the French government agreed to this, and Marx left France in January 1845 (Sperber 2014: 146).
I end on another interesting titbit I missed in my last post: because of his swarthy appearance Marx acquired the nickname “the Moor” – apparently as early as his university days in Bonn in 1836 (Sperber 2014: 38; Wheen 2001: 37).
Chronology of Marx’s Life
5 May 1818 – Karl Marx born to Heinrich Marx (a middle class lawyer) and Henrietta Pressburg in TrierBIBLIOGRAPHY
1830–1835 – Marx attended Trier High School
1835–1836 – Marx attended the University of Bonn to study law
1836–1840 – Marx attended the University of Berlin and joined the Young Hegelians
April 1841 – Marx was awarded his PhD from the University of Jena called The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature
1842 – Marx moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, often writing for Rheinische Zeitung
1843 – on 19 June Marx marries Jenny von Westphalen
October 1843–1845 – Marx moves to Paris and writes for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) and then Vorwärts! (Forward!).
28 August 1844 – Marx meets Friedrich Engels in Paris
1843–1845 – Marx studies political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill and others.
April 1845 – Marx moves from Paris to Brussels
1845–1847 – Marx lives in Brussels in Belgium
July 1845 – Marx and Engels visit Britain
1847 – Marx publishes The Poverty of Philosophy
December 1847 to January 1848 – Marx and Engels write The Communist Manifesto
1848 – Marx in France
1848 – Marx moved to Cologne
1848–1849 – Marx in Cologne
August 1849 – Marx moves to London from Paris
1849–1883 – Marx lives in London.
1864 – Marx elected to the International Workingmen's Association (First International)
1859 – Marx published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
1867 – the first volume of Das Kapital published
1875 – Marx writes the letter that would become The Critique of the Gotha Program
December 1881 – Marx’s wife Jenny dies
14 March 1883 – Marx dies in London of bronchitis and pleurisy
1885 – the second volume of Das Kapital published by Engels
1894 – the third volume of Das Kapital published by Engels
1895 – Engels dies.
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.
Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.