Life and Work of Karl Marx – V: The New World Outlook

MEANWHILE, the reactionary Prussian government which had kept Marx’s activities in Paris under close observation from the first day on, succeeded in January 1845 in getting the French authorities to expel him. He was ordered to leave Paris within 24 hours, and to be out of France in the shortest possible time. When the liberal press protested against this outrageous act, the French Government offered to let him stay on in Paris if he withdraw from all anti-Prussian agitation. Marx’s answer was to leave France. He could not return to Germany because of a warrant for arrest awaiting him at the Prussian border. So he emigrated to Belgium.


Marx arrived in Brussels in early February. In her memories, Short Sketch of an Eventful Life, Jenny Marx recalled: “…at the beginning of 1845, the Police Commissioner came to our house and showed us an expulsion order…. ‘Karl Marx must leave Paris within 24 hours,’ the order ran. I was given more time, which I made use of to sell my linen. I got ridiculously little for it, but I had to find money for our journey, Ill, and in bitterly cold weather, I followed Karl to Brussels.”

Official Belgium gave a cold reception to the revolutionary émigré and his family. The police forbade Marx to publish anything having to do with the country’s current politics, thus preventing him from earning a living as a journalist. Soon the Marx family was faced with the threat of material privation, a situation that was too often to haunt it in the future. It was only thanks to Engels’ energetic measures that Marx was able to continue his work. Engels sent a sum raised by subscription among friends and acquaintances, adding to it the first part of the royalties for his book The Condition of the Working Class in England.

The Prussian government would not leave Marx alone and began to put pressure on the Belgian government. Marx had to give up his Prussian citizenship so that the Prussian police would have no official pretext for meddling in his affairs. He never applied to become a citizen of any other country, remaining a citizen of the world revolutionary movement till the end of his days.

Meanwhile, his family was growing. Second daughter Laura was born in Brussels, and at the end of 1846, the first son Edgar. During their first year in Brussels, the Marxes were joined by Helene Demuth, a peasant maid who had been staying with the Westphalens. She came to help Jenny manage the household. Devoted, energetic and practical-minded, she enjoyed the respect and affection of the entire family.

To be able to carry on his theoretical research, Marx needed to make a more detailed study of the socio-economic conditions and class struggle in England. He and Engels spent several weeks in England in 1845. At that time there was an upsurge of the Chartist moment. Marx observed Chartist demonstrations and meetings and studied the methods of organizing mass actions. In Manchester, Marx and Engels for the first time embarked on a joint study of classical English political economy.

Back in Brussels, Marx and Engels set about writing a new philosophical work in which they intended to systematize their views and “to clear the ground” for their propagation in Germany and other countries. In barely six months the two friends finished a wide-ranging manuscript to which they gave the title, The German Ideology.

As with many of the works of Marx and Engels, The German Ideology was a polemical study, a settling of accounts with the various forms of philosophical idealism then dominant in Germany, as well as with the weaknesses of Feuerbach’s materialism. As in every scientific dispute, new ideas emerged from this polemic also. Marx and Engels worked out in The German Ideology, for the first time and in a comprehensive and systematic manner, the fundamentals of dialectical and historical materialism, the world outlook of the working class. They were able to accomplish this because they based themselves on the storehouse of knowledge built up with the development of bourgeois society, especially the till then greatest achievement of progressive thinking in Europe: German classical philosophy, English political economy, French utopian Socialism and French revolutionary doctrines of class struggle. To note and appreciate the contribution of every people to the world’s culture was in their eyes a natural law for all scientists and humanists.

Where Hegel and the young Hegelians had attributed the development of nature, of man and of social relations, to the development of the Idea, Marx and Engels recognized, in direct contradiction, that the idea was a reflex of nature, of material things. Feuerbach had also seen that. But Marx and Engels further developed materialism—which they applied not only to nature but also to society—as well as the Hegelian dialectical method. They freed these from their Idealist encumbrances, and established them for what they really were—the science of the general laws of the movement, structure and development of nature, society and thought. Thus emerged a completely new quality in philosophical thinking; dialectical materialism.


Dialectical materialism, founded by Marx and Engels, explains the world and its development, not as the Idealists did through the spirit, the Idea, but through matter, through itself. It holds that not only do all natural phenomena have a material basis, but the development of human society is based on material forces and their evolution. It teaches that things and phenomena are not fixed, motionless, but are rather in a constant state of development and change; that this development does not proceed evenly, but that quantitative changes lead to qualitative changes and sudden leaps, and vice-versa; and that it is the inner contradictions in things and phenomena, and the struggle of antagonism caused by these contradictions, that drive development forward. This dialectical materialism is in essence creative, revolutionary; every dogmatic mode of thinking is foreign to it. In place of passive observations, dialectical materialism puts the unity of theory and revolutionary activity. Marx had already formulated these essential points of his philosophy in the spring of 1845 in the pregnant sentence: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”— a thought only put down in his notebook then, but which was later to become famous as one of the “Theses on Feuerbach”. In this short sentence was already embedded “the brilliant germ of new world outlook”, as Engels wrote later.

(To be continued)

The biographical sketch of Karl Marx which we have been publishing since the last 4 issues is based mainly on ‘Karl Marx—A Biography”, edited by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, supplemented with material from Franz Mehring’s “Karl Marx—The story of His Life” and: Karl Marx—A Biography”, prepared by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This series which was carried by PD in the year 1983 was compiled by Com Ramdas, then member of Central Committee of CPI(M).





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