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Socialism In Literature

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Karl Marx (1818-1883), the founder of modern German socialism, deserves mention since his masterpiece "Capital" has become almost the Bible of the Social Democrats. Like Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx was of Jewish descent. He was born at Cologne, and studied jurisprudence at Bonn and Berlin. When the newspaper which he edited at Cologne was suppressed in 1843 for its radical utterances, he went to Paris and studied political economy. But driven from France and Belgium, he found refuge in London. Here he-took part in the Working-men's Congress in 1847, but went to Paris during the Revolution of 1848. Then he was allowed to return to Cologne, where he revived his paper and advocated a Communistic Revolution. Though the paper was suppressed, the juries acquitted him. Again he was banished from Germany, went to Paris, and thence to London. In 1864 he founded the society known as the International, and was thereafter the leader and inspirer of its work. For a time European statesmen were greatly alarmed about its possibilities, but were relieved when the British workmen in 1871 refused his leadership as tending to anarchism, and insisted on confining the work of the society to amelioration of the workingmen's condition.

Marx's book was published in London in 1867. Volume 1 is on the process of capital production; Volume II on "The Circulation of Capital"; Volume III, which was written by a friend, deals with "Forms of Process and Theory of History." The literary power of this work lies in Marx's consummate skill as a thinker and logician.

Its spirit may be seen in his description of capital as "dead labor, which, vampire-like, becomes animate only by sucking living labor, and the more labor it sucks, the more it lives." His theory of the development of history recognizes four eras : First, the Classic Age, when wealth was represented by slaves; second, the Middle Age, when it lay in serfs, but has been destroyed by the bourgeoisie and the Third Estate; third, the age of modern capitalistic production; fourth, the coming age, when the proletariat, or Fourth Estate, is to rise and overthrow this capitalism. It must be borne in mind that Marx limits the term "capital" to economic goods in the hands of employers. His work is based on the political economy of Ricardo and Rodbertus.

Marx's theories were popularized by Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864), the son of a rich Jewish merchant of Dresden. Lassalle had a fiery romantic temperament which led him to champion the cause of the workingmen and to sacrifice his life in a duel about a lady. He was a prodigy of learning, and had published a work on an ancient Greek philosopher, who was surnamed "the obscure." He called himself the "President of Humanity," and the workingmen "the disinherited." His attack was directed against "the iron law of wages" as the keystone of the capitalistic system. Unlike Marx, Lassalle was a monarchist and desired the unity of Germany.

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