Karl Marx speaks about freedom is several of his texts, stating that freedom is only truly possible through community. The German Ideology, written in collaboration with Friedrich Engels in 1846, speaks to his theory of the political history of Germany, specifically the materialistic mindset that was developing at that time period. In essence, the natural human desire to be productive can satisfy humans’ material needs. As the economy rises and falls, workers become aware of their “plight” and seek alternative means for balance in a society driven by material needs and desires. The solution—he proposed—is communism. In this model, freedom is something that an individual can enjoy, but the means to this freedom is strictly in and through community:
“Only in community [has each] individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible. In the previous substitutes for the community, in the State, etc. personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed within the relationships of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class.” (The German Ideology, Chapter 1d)
While Marx speaks about freedom frequently, and often in nearly identical ways, he does make sure to differentiate types of freedoms from one another: “Every particular sphere of freedom is the freedom of a particular sphere, just as every particular mode of life is the mode of life of a particular nature” (On Freedom of the Press). That is to say, having freedom of speech, for example, does not extend to a larger overarching freedom for said person. Since “political freedom” encapsulates many separate “spheres” of freedom, Marx’s standpoint must be heavily summarized to answer the question of what his idea of political freedom was. His standpoint in On the Jewish Question sheds light on what seems to be a larger overarching philosophy of political freedom.
In On the Jewish Question, Marx argues that political emancipation can coexist with religion, that religion need not be demolished to achieve political emancipation. He continues to say, however, that political emancipation is not enough to achieve human emancipation. The Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:
“…Marx argues that not only is political emancipation insufficient to bring about human emancipation, it is in some sense also a barrier. Liberal rights and ideas of justice are premised on the idea that each of us needs protection from other human beings who are a threat to our liberty and security. Therefore liberal rights are rights of separation, designed to protect us from such perceived threats. Freedom on such a view, is freedom from interference. What this view overlooks is the possibility—for Marx, the fact—that real freedom is to be found positively in our relations with other people. It is to be found in human community, not in isolation.”
His idea of political freedom hinges on the standpoint that freedom can only be found in community, and that laws operate largely on the inference that humans will be pitted against one another—thus ensuring humans require protection. This is the inherent Marxist “bone to pick” with most political structures. As Marx stated in Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, “Man does not exist for the law but the law for man—it is a human manifestation.”