Karl Marx

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History is not like some individual person, which uses men to achieve its ends. History is nothing but the actions of men in pursuit of their ends.

Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 - 14 March 1883) was a German political philosopher, political economist, and social theorist.


  • "The Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point however is to change it." - Thesen über Feuerbach. MEW 3, S. 535, 1845 (Engraved upon his tomb)
  • Is that to say we are against Free Trade? No, we are for Free Trade, because by Free Trade all economical laws, with their most astounding contradictions, will act upon a larger scale, upon the territory of the whole earth; and because from the uniting of all these contradictions in a single group, where they will stand face to face, will result the struggle which will itself eventuate in the emancipation of the proletariat.
    • Writing in the Chartist newspaper, 1847. (Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 6, pg 290).
  • If I negate powdered wigs, I am still left with unpowdered wigs.
    • Introduction to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1844)
  • "[The career a young man should choose should be] one that is most consonant with our dignity, one that is based on ideas of whose truth we are wholly convinced, one that offers us largest scope in working for humanity and approaching that general goal towards which each profession offers only one of the means: the goal of perfection [...] If he works only for himself he can become a famous scholar, a great sage, an excellent imaginative writer [Dichter], but never a perfected, a truly great man."
    • "A Young Man's Reflections on the Choice of a Career", in: Prawer, S. S. (1976) Karl Marx and World Literature, Oxford University Press, p.2
  • Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
    • Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843)
    • Variant translation: Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
  • It is clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticism of arms. Material force can only be overthrown by material force, but theory itself becomes a material force when it has seized the masses. Theory is capable of seizing the masses when it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp things by the root. But for man the root is man himself. What proves beyond doubt the radicalism of German theory, and thus its practical energy, is that it begins from the resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the supreme being for man. It ends, therefore, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being—conditions which can hardly be better described than in the exclamation of a Frenchman on the occasion of a proposed tax upon dogs: 'Wretched dogs! They want to treat you like men!'
    • Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843)
Karl Marx statue
  • Political Economy regards the proletarian ... like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle.[...] (1) What is the meaning, in the development of mankind, of this reduction of the greater part of mankind to abstract labor? (2) What mistakes are made by the piecemeal reformers, who either want to raise wages and thereby improve the situation of the working class, or — like Proudhon — see equality of wages as the goal of social revolution?.
    • Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)
  • Feuerbach is the only one who has a serious, critical attitude to the Hegelian dialectic and who has made genuine discoveries in this field. He is in fact the true conqueror of the old philosophy. The extent of his achievement, and the unpretentious simplicity with which he, Feuerbach, gives it to the world, stand in striking contrast to the opposite attitude (of the others). Feuerbach’s great achievement is: (1) The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned;(2) The establishment of true materialism and of real science, by making the social relationship of “man to man” the basic principle of the theory; (3) His opposing of the negation of the negation, which claims to be the absolute positive, the self-supporting positive, positively based on itself.
    • Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)
  • Communism... is the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man; it is the true resolution of the conflict between existence and essence, objectification and self-affirmation, freedom and necessity, individual and species. It is the riddle of history solved and knows itself as the solution.
    • Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts 89 (1844)
  • History is not like some individual person, which uses men to achieve its ends. History is nothing but the actions of men in pursuit of their ends.
    • Die Heilige Familie (1845)
  • The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
    • "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845), Thesis 11
Karl Marx
  • Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
    • Alternative translation: "The first time as a tragedy, the second time as a comedy."
    • The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)
  • Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
    • The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852)
  • It is a bad thing to perform menial duties even for the sake of freedom; to fight with pinpricks, instead of with clubs. I have become tired of hypocrisy, stupidity, gross arbitrariness, and of our bowing and scraping, dodging, and hair-splitting over words. Consequently, the government has given me back my freedom.
    • Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge on 25 January 1843, after the Prussian government dissolved the newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, of which Marx was the editor
  • In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society - the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within which they have been at work before. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic - in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so we can not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. In broad outlines we can designate the Asiatic, the ancient, the feudal, and the modern bourgeois modes of production as so many progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production - antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from the social conditions of life of the individuals; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society.
    • Preface to 'A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy' (1859)
Karl Marx
  • We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism.
    • Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vi pp 503-5
  • Neither of us cares a straw for popularity. A proof of this is for example, that, because of aversion to any personality cult, I have never permitted the numerous expressions of appreciation from various countries with which I was pestered during the existence of the International to reach the realm of publicity, and have never answered them, except occasionally by a rebuke. When Engels and I first joined the secret Communist Society we made it a condition that everything tending to encourage superstitious belief in authority was to be removed from the statutes.
    • "Against Personality Cults," from a November 10, 1877 letter to W. Blos
  • Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough.
    • Marx's last words according to his housemaid- David K. Israel

Zur Judenfrage

Zur Judenfrage (1843), by Karl Marx
  • Every emancipation is a restoration of the human world and of human relationships to a man himself.
Karl Marx
  • What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
  • Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time. An organization of society [such as communism] which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make [this] Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.
    • This piece is a critical satirical piece where Marx defends Judaism against attack and tries to shift the focus of disdain from Judaism to the real object of that disdain: huckstering and love of money.[citation needed]

Die Deutsche Ideologie

Die deutsche Ideologie (1845/46), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.
    • Volume I, Part 1
  • The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature.
    • Volume I; Part 1; "Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook"; Section A, "Idealism and Materialism"
  • The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the state are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they appear in their own or other people's imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they are effective, produce materially, and are active under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will.

    The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of the politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics of a people. Men are the producers of their conception, ideas, etc. — real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.

Karl Marx
  • Where speculation ends — in real life — there real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development of men. Empty talk about consciousness ceases, and real knowledge has to take place. When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of activity loses its medium of existence. At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men. Viewed apart from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its seperate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history. On the contrary, our difficulties begin only when we set about the observation and the arrangement — the real depiction — of our historical material, whether of a past epoch or of the present.
    • Volume I, Part 1, [The Materialist Conception of History].
  • Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals. Its organisation is, therefore, essentially economic, the material production of the conditions of this unity; it turns existing conditions into conditions of unity. The reality, which communism is creating, is precisely the true basis for rendering it impossible that anything should exist independently of individuals, insofar as reality is only a product of the preceding intercourse of individuals themselves.
    • Volume I, Part 4
  • Nicht das Bewußtsein bestimmt das Leben, sondern das Leben bestimmt das Bewußtsein.
    • It is in fact not the consciousness dominating life but the very life dominating consciousness.
    • Volume III, 27.
  • Sprache entsteht, wie das Bewußtsein, erst aus dem Bedürfnis, der Notdurft des Verkehrs mit anderen Menschen.
    • Language comes into being, like consciousness, from the basic need, from the scantiest intercourse with other human.
    • Volume III, 30.
  • Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.
    • (The German Ideology, International Publishers, ed. Chris Arthur, p. 103)

Das Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei

Das Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
  • All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
Karl Marx statue
  • The theory of Communism may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.
  • Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeosis epoch from all earlier ones.
  • It [the bourgeoisie] has pitilessly torn asunder the motley of ties that bound man to his "natural superiors," and left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment."
  • The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
  • A spectre is haunting Europe; the spectre of Communism.
  • What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
  • Communism deprives no man of the ability to appropriate the fruits of his labour. The only thing it deprives him of is the ability to enslave others by means of such appropriations.
  • But every class struggle is a political struggle.
  • Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.
  • All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the labourer lives merely to increase capital, and allowed to live only so far as the interest to the ruling class requires it.
  • When people speak of ideas that revolutionize society, they do but express the fact that within the old society, the elements of a new one have been created.
  • The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.
  • The working men have no country. We cannot take away from them what they have not got.
  • Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.
  • No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.
  • In place of the bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, shall we have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
Karl Marx statue
  • A class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increase capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
  • He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance.

Grundrisse (1857)

"Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie/Rohentwurf" (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy" (1857/58)
  • Die Gesellschaft besteht nicht aus Individuen, sondern drückt die Summe der Beziehungen, Verhältnisse aus, worin diese Individuen zueinander stehn.
    • Any society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of relationships [and] conditions that the individual actor is forming.
  • Die Natur baut keine Maschinen, keine Lokomotiven, Eisenbahnen, electric telegraphs, selfacting mules etc. Sie sind Produkte der menschlichen Industrie; natürliches Material, verwandelt in Organe des menschlichen Willens über die Natur oder seiner Betätigung in der Natur. Sie sind von der menschlichen Hand geschaffene Organe des menschlichen Hirns; vergegenständliche Wissenskraft. Die Entwicklung des capital fixe zeigt an, bis zu welchem Grade das allgemeine gesellschaftliche Wissen, knowledge, zur unmittelbaren Produktivkraft geworden ist und daher die Bedingungen des gesellschaftlichen Lebensprozesses selbst unter die Kontrolle des general intellect gekommen, und ihm gemäß umgeschaffen sind.
    • Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it.

About Beauty :'The beauty is the main positive form of the aesthetic assimilation of reality,in which aesthetic ideal finds it direct expression...' (another English translation of grundrisse)

Das Kapital

Das Kapital (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy) (1867)
  • The commodity is first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind. The nature of these needs, whether they arise, for example, from the stomach, or the imagination, makes no difference. Nor does it matter here how the thing satisfies man's need, whether directly as a means of subsistence, i.e. an object of consumption, or indirectly as a means of production
I, 1, 126
  • Capital is money, capital is commodities. By virtue of it being value, it has acquired the occult ability to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs.
  • A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst of architects from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.
    • Volume I, Chapter 7
  • Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.
    • Volume I, Chapter 10
  • In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.
    • Volume I, Chapter 10
Karl Marx
  • Die Technologie enthüllt das aktive Verhalten des Menschen zur Natur, den unmittelbaren Produktionsprozesss seines Lebens, damit auch seiner gesellschaftlichen Lebensverhältnisse und der ihnen entquellenden geistigen Vorstellungen.
    • Technology discloses the active relation of man towards nature, as well as the direct process of production of his very life, and thereby the process of production of his basic societal relations, of his own mentality, and his images of society, too.
    • Volume I, Chapter 13: "Machinery and Big Industry"
  • Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the labourer.
    • Volume I, Chapter 15 (last sentence)
  • The battle of competition is fought by the cheapening of commodities.
    • Volume II, Chapter 10


  • Your favourite virtue ... Simplicity
    Your favourite virtue in man ... Strength
    Your favourite virtue in woman ... Weakness
    Your chief characteristic ... Singleness of purpose
    Your idea of happiness ... To fight
    Your idea of misery ... Submission
    The vice you excuse most ... Gullibility
    The vice you detest most ... Servility
    Your aversion ... Martin Tupper
    Favourite occupation ... Book-worming
    Favourite poet ... Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Goethe
    Favourite prose-writer ... Diderot
    Favourite hero ... Spartacus, Kepler
    Favourite heroine ... Gretchen [Heroine of Goethe's Faust]
    Favourite flower ... Daphne
    Favourite colour ... Red
    Favourite name ... Laura, Jenny
    Favourite dish ... Fish
    Favourite maxim ... Nihil humani a me alienum puto [Nothing human is alien to me]
    Favourite motto ... De omnibus dubitandum [Everything must be doubted].
    • Marx's replies to a set of questions given to him by his daughters Jenny and Laura in 1865 [1]
  • There is something in human history like retribution; and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself. The first blow dealt to the French monarchy proceeded from the nobility, not from the peasants. The Indian revolt does not commence with the ryots, tortured, dishonoured and stripped naked by the British, but with the sepoys, clad, fed and petted, fatted and pampered by them.
    • In an article written for the New York Daily Tribune, September 16, 1857 [2]
  • If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist
    • Original: Ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.
    • Marx quoted and translated by Engels (in a letter to Eduard Bernstein) about the peculiar Marxism which arose in France 1882. Original: "Ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste" [3]


  • Children should educate their parents.
  • Despite all its shortcomings, this Constitution looms against the background of Russian, Prussian and Austrian barbarism as the only work of liberty which Eastern Europe has ever created independently, and it emerged exclusively from the privileged class, from the nobility. The history of the world has never seen another example of such nobility of the nobility.
  • I do not like money, money is the reason we fight.
  • Sell a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and you've ruined a wonderful business opportunity.
    • On Capitalism
  • The product of mental labor — science — always stands far below its value, because the labor-time necessary to reproduce it has no relation at all to the labor-time required for its original production.
    • Collected Works, Volume 34, page 87.
  • The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs.
  • You will!
    • Apocryphal retort to a heckler asking who would clean the floors after the revolution.


  • The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament.
  • Democracy is the road to socialism.
    • A characterization of the Communist Manifesto.

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