Censorship During Marx’s Lifetime (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
On October 15, 1842, the young Marx took over editorship of the newspaper Rheinische Zeitung. It had been the liberal democratic publication of a group of young merchants, bankers, and industrialists. Under his editorship, it began printing fierce criticisms of German governments. After Marx’s year as editor, the paper was suppressed and Marx himself had to go to Paris. In 1845 he contributed articles to the Paris based radical magazine Vorwarts. After pressure from the Prussian foreign office, this publication was outlawed and Marx was expelled from France.
Along with Frederick Engels, Marx was commissioned by the Communist League, a small organization of German revolutionaries, to write The Communist Manifesto. Completed in early 1848, this was to become one of the most widely read political pamphlets in world history—as well as one of the most-often suppressed tracts in history. It was, for example, outlawed in many German states upon its appearance; it was later banned from Prussia by Otto von Bismarck, and was prohibited from Nazi Germany by Adolf Hitler.
With the outbreak of revolutions throughout Europe in 1848, Marx returned to Germany and assumed editorship of the renamed Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which called itself “an organ of democracy.” The paper called for tax resistance and advocated armed self-defense against Prussian emperor Frederick William. In response, the government suppressed...
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Censorship After Marx’s Death (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Marx’s death in 1883 did nothing to reduce the hostility many governments felt toward his work. His writings were later banned in Fascist Italy and burned in Nazi Germany. Many right-wing governments in Eastern Europe, such as that of Romania, followed suit during World War I. Access to his writings was severely limited in Spain from 1939 until the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the 1970’s. After Joseph Stalin established his dictatorship in the Soviet Union, Marx’s unpublished writings were often purchased and kept from publication if their contents were seen as deviating from the Soviet Union’s current Communist Party policies. Even outside of Europe, Marx’s writings were often regarded as threatening. In 1929 the Chinese government sent armies into the countryside to fight communist insurgents and prevented, whenever possible, the reading of The Communist Manifesto and The Capital.
During the Red Scare period of the early 1950’s in the United States, Marx’s writings were attacked as subversive. Many book stores refused to carry his books. Trustees of the Boston Public Library, under attack by the Boston Post, came within one vote of removing his works from their shelves. Professors who assigned The Communist Manifesto or others of Marx’s writings to their classes, were often attacked as communists, and some lost their teaching positions. Suspected subversives called before government...
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Influence (World Philosophers and Their Works)
Marx was a critical social and economic philosopher whose materialist analyses of bourgeois capitalist society initiated a revolution that has had profound effects on the development of human civilization. Despite some of the later ideological, and at times quasi-religious and fanatical, adaptations of his thought, the basic philosophical assumptions of Marx’s approach remain humanistic and optimistic; they are based upon fundamental notions of the European Enlightenment—that is, that human reason can successfully alleviate the problems of life. Alienation is, for example, in Marx’s view (as opposed to modern existential thought) a historical and societal phenomenon that can be overcome through a change in the social-economic order. Marxism has remained a vital intellectual position and therefore possesses much relevance to the modern world.
Subsequent developments of Marxist thought resulted in communist revolutions in a number of countries such as that led by the ideologue Vladimir Ilich Lenin within czarist Russia in 1917 and that of the popular leader Mao Zedong in the Republic of China in 1949. Unfortunately, these revolutions involved pogroms and mass executions of certain segments of the population, usually elements of the landed bourgeoisie. Such was the case under the rule of Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia. These socialist governments became reified, for the most part, at the intermediate stage of a party dictatorship rather than the...
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Historical Materialism (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
At the center of Marx’s system lies his philosophy of dialectical materialism. His views on historical evolution, economics, society, and theory of ethics all grow directly out of his materialist conception of the world. For Marx, it was not ideas that were the primary determinants of history, but material—particularly economic—facts. In the social world, in particular, the consciousness of human beings was determined by the conditions of their material existence and by the values and norms associated with the prevailing mode of economic production of the time.
All of history, Marx believed, moved through six distinct historical stages: primitive communism, the ancient slave state, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and, ultimately, communism. At each stage in the process of historical development, the economic system created within it two antagonistic social classes, whose struggle for control of the productive property of the society was continuous and was reflected in their political and ethical ideas. In this struggle, the views of the dominant class—under feudalism, the landowning aristocracy, and under capitalism, the industrial bourgeoisie—tended to predominate. As Marx put it in German Ideology (1846): “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”
Thus, for Marx,...
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Rejection of Moral Absolutism (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
The materialist foundations of Marx’s philosophy led logically to a categorical rejection of abstract moral idealism. To Marx, universal ethical principles such as those proposed by Immanuel Kant or by the Christian church were pure historical fictions. All ethical perspectives, he contended, were influenced by material interests and rooted in the economic conditions of a specific time and place. Abstract moral concepts such as “liberty,” “equality,” and “justice” were, in his view, illusions. Each social class tended to define such concepts in terms of its own historical experience, seeking to shape them in order to satisfy its ongoing material needs.
During the capitalist stage of development, for example, the bourgeoisie, the primary purchaser of labor in the society, and the working class, the seller of labor, naturally came to see such concepts as “liberty” and “equality” differently. This difference in perspective was not based on abstract moral reasoning, but on contrasting positions of the classes in the productive process and the underlying economic relations of the age. In presenting their material demands, both classes made claims to absolute moral authority. No common moral ground in the class struggle existed, and the ultimate arbiter was always physical force.
Marx’s belief that all morality was class morality took on a particular poignancy with regard to religion. The Church, he argued, like the state,...
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Bibliography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Arnold, N. Scott. Marx’s Radical Critique of Capitalist Society: A Reconstruction and Critical Evaluation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Arnold provides a careful and detailed account of Marx’s analysis of capitalism.
Berlin, Isaiah. Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. A prominent twentieth century interpreter offers a helpful study of Marx.
Carver, Terrell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Marx. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Essays explain and criticize a wide variety of themes, problems, and methodological issues in Marx’s philosophy.
Curtis, Michael, ed. Marxism: The Inner Dialogues. 2d ed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1997. Significant essays explore various interpretations of Marx’s contributions to political, economic, and philosophical life.
Eagleton, Terry. Marx. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.
Fischer, Ernst. How to Read Karl Marx. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1996. Updates ways in which Marx may be interpreted and understood.
McLellan, David. Karl Marx: His Life and Thought. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. A reliable critical biography of Marx by a prominent scholar.
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