“Go on! Get Out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) was the German philosopher and radical socialist whose Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital would form the basis of Marxism, and revolutionize the world for better and for worse. Born in Prussia, he experimented with sociopolitical theories in university, and by the 1840s had become a radical journalist. His writings were viewed as dangerous by the authorities, and in the span of a few years, he was expelled from Germany, France, Belgium, then Germany again, before finding refuge in London, where he settled and lived for the remainder of his life.
Karl Marx’s father was a successful lawyer, a man of the Enlightenment, and a passionate advocate for Prussian reform, who had converted from Judaism to Lutheranism to avoid legal restrictions that barred Jews from high society. Karl received a liberal education in a school whose enlightened leanings made it suspect in the eyes of the reactionary authority, who raided it in the 1830s, confiscated writings deemed subversive from its library, and forced changes in the teaching staff.
Marx’s early years of higher education were marked by poor grades, imprisonment for drunkenness, riotous behavior, and general rowdiness, before buckling down to serious study of the law and philosophy. He was strongly influenced by Hegel, and joined a radical student group known as the Young Hegelians, which marked the beginning of his transformation into a radical, and eventually revolutionary, thinker.
Marx received a doctorate in 1841, but his politics kept him from getting a teaching job, so he took to journalism. Within a year, however, his newspaper was suppressed, and he was forced to move to Paris and the relatively freer French environment. In Paris, he met Freidrich Engels, and the two developed a friendship and began a collaboration that would revolutionize the world.
In 1845, the Prussians pressured the French into expelling Marx, so he moved to Belgium, where he founded a correspondence committee to link European socialists. That inspired English socialists to form the Communist League, and ask Marx and Engels to write a platform for their party. The result was the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.
Shortly thereafter, Marx was expelled from Belgium. He went to France, which also expelled him. He returned to Prussia, but by then he had been stripped of his citizenship, and the authorities refused to re-naturalize him, so he ended up in London in 1849. He spent the remainder of his life writing, and in 1867 published Das Kapital, which, twinned with the earlier Communist Manifesto, became the philosophical bedrock of Marxism and communist theory.
On his deathbed in 1883, as he lay expiring from pleurisy, he was solicited for final words, to which he replied before breathing his last: “Go on! Get Out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”