Celebrating 200th birthday of Karl Marx
On May 5, 1818, in the southern German town of Trier, philosopher, revolutionary economist and leader Karl Marx was born. His basic ideas known as Marxism form the foundation of Socialist and Communist movements throughout the world.
Karl attended a Lutheran elementary school but later became an atheist and a materialist, rejecting both the Christian and Jewish religions. It was he who coined the saying "Religion is the opium of the people," a basic principle in modern communism.
Karl attended the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Trier for five years, graduating in 1835 at the age of seventeen. The gymnasium's program was the usual classical one history, mathematics, literature, and languages, particularly Greek and Latin. He became very skillful in French and Latin, both of which he learned to read and write fluently. He could also read Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Russian, and English.
In October 1835 Marx enrolled in Bonn University in Bonn, Germany, where he attended courses primarily in law, as it was his father's desire that he become a lawyer. Marx, however, was more interested in philosophy and literature than in law.
Marx's dismayed father took him out of Bonn and had him enter the University of Berlin, then a center of intellectual discussion. In Berlin a circle of brilliant thinkers was challenging existing institutions and ideas, including religion, philosophy, ethics, and politics. Marx joined this group of radical thinkers wholeheartedly. He spent more than four years in Berlin, completing his studies with a doctoral degree in March 1841.
Marx then turned to writing and journalism to support himself. In 1842 he became editor of the liberal Cologne newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, but the Berlin government prohibited it from being published the following year. In January 1845 Marx was expelled from France "at the instigation of the Prussian government," as he said.
He moved to Brussels, Belgium, where he founded the German Workers' Party and was active in the Communist League. Here he wrote the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party by the Belgian government, Marx moved back to Cologne, where he became editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in June 1848.
Less than a year later, the Prussian government stopped the paper, and Marx himself was exiled. He went to Paris, but in September the French government expelled him again. Marx finally settled in London, England, where he lived as a stateless exile for the rest of his life.
In London Marx's sole means of support was journalism. He wrote for both German-and English-language publications. From August 1852 to March 1862 he was correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune. Journalism, however, paid very poorly; Marx was literally saved from starvation by the financial support of friend and fellow writer, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895).
In London in 1864 Marx helped to found the International Workingmen's Association for which he wrote the inaugural address. Thereafter Marx's political activities were limited mainly to exchanging letters with radicals in Europe and America, offering advice, and helping to shape the socialist and labor movements.
In celebrations of Marx's birth, a statue of Karl Marx has been erected in his hometown in western Germany. The sculpture has proven a controversial addition to the community - not least because it was a present from China.
However, this year Marx's birth city Trier in what is now Rheinland-Palatinate sells 'zero-euro' bills for his 200th birthday. Many cities in the surrounding area are using the upcoming anniversary to gain big capital from multiple Marx-themed memorabilia, including a 'zero-euro' bill introduced in March with the likeness of Karl Marx, who had a very distant relationship to money. In Chemnitz - a city that was called 'Karl-Marx-Stadt' during the GDR's reign - there is a new beer with the name MarxStädter (Marx townspeople). In Trier, visitors can also purchase a Karl-Marx wine - a red one of course.
Alongside the fake euros, Trier is also celebrating Marx's life with souvenirs like rubber ducks with Marxesque beards and "an edition of Das Kapital tucked under one wing." The city has also changed some traffic signals to feature images of Marx, and is erecting a new statue of him, which was funded by the Chinese government and weighs three tons.
He lived a painful life. He had liver problems, rheumatism, sciatica and had frequent headaches, toothaches, insomnia, hemorrhoids. He spent time at health spas and was deeply distressed by the death of his wife, in 1881, and one of his daughters. He died on 14 March 1883 and was buried at Highgate Cemetery in London.
Marx's influence in still evident today among left-wing campaigners who favor revolution over incremental change.
So Happy, Happy Birthday, Karl Marx!