The infamous United Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union, is remembered throughout history for its radical communistic views. But how did a concept so wild and inconceivable for its time manage to become so powerful? In the 19th century, a German socio-economic philosopher and revolutionist by the name of Karl Marx instigated a series of nominal revolutions that would alter Russian and international history for years to come.
Born during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s, Karl Marx was an intelligent and very hardworking child. Most of his early life was spent working, so it is logical that his ideas would seek to benefit the working class. Having studied Hegel in university, he interpreted Hegel’s message as an inevitable uprising of the working class. Mass production had spread all across the continent. Karl asserted that producers were key to society. In addition to Hegel, Marx was influenced by the arrival of socialism, which searched for a utopian society that gave equal rights to social classes. Capitalist Russia was, in Marx’s mind, scandalous and unjust. It seemed unfair that the bourgeoisie, the middle class, was able to effortlessly make profit from the production of the working proletarians. In this regard, it appeared evident that the proletarians would ultimately overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish a “proletarian dictatorship,” or rule by the working class.
Karl Marx befriended Friedrich Engels, a fellow socio-economist who shared similar views to those of Marx. The two were a perfect pair. Later in Marx’s life when he was low on income, Engels was able to support him. Early on in their partnership, 1848 to be exact, Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto. Though there was no fruitful sedition, the philosophical pamphlet managed to ignite several small revolts throughout Europe. Marx’s mission was to replace capitalism with communism. Unlike capitalism, communism is a system in which property and production are owned by the people. Here we can clearly see the influences from socialism. In fact, in addition to communism, a system called Marxism was birthed. At this point, Marx was a highly controversial figure; to some he was a hero fighting for the working class; to others, he was a radical who wanted to ruin industrialization. He was exiled to Britain to avoid further conflict with the government.
Marx’s last years were not as he planned. Financially unstable, he and Engels still wrote books and works on the subject of socialism, but to no immediate success. After joining the International Working Men’s Association in 1864, Marx was able to publish his second driving book Das Kapital. Not much happened afterwards, but another rebellion seven years later in Paris gave Marx more worldwide attention. His praise of the event made him an enemy to many. Unfortunately for Marx, his legacy arrived posthumously. His works, though he never saw them come to life, would change the course of history.
For further reading: Essentials of Philosophy by James Mannion (2006)
Philosophy: An Illustrated History of Thought by Tom Jackson (2014)
History: The Definitive Visual Guide by DK (2007)
1001 Ideas that Changed the Way we Think by Robert Arp (2013)