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Birth Pangs of Socialism

February 24, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 186

It would be advisable to acquaint oneself with the rudiments of socialism itself before further study of its history. Propounders of socialist theory claim that the capitalist mode of production splits society into two permanent classes: the rich owners of the means of production, and the poor wage earning class. The capitalist pays only subsistence wages to the working labor force to keep them under permanent servitude, and usurps the entire surplus value created by labor, for augmenting his own pelf and power. The laboring class cannot cast away this tyrannical yoke by peaceful means. Socialism, therefore, incites them to rise in revolt, create chaos, catch hold of political power by force, obliterate capitalism and transfer all means of production and distribution to the state for socialist socialistic management.

The transformation of feudal society into an industrial one created an upheaval in the settled life of people and agitated their minds, inciting them to think in terms of revolution, and to use force in their actions. Although this impulse affected various strata of society in different degrees, however, to revolt and to create chaos for exploiting the situation so created, was common to them all. That is how, where Utopian socialists failed, men like Marx and Engels succeeded.

Karl Heinrich Marx was born in Germany at Trier in 1818. He studied law, history and philosophy at Bonn and Berlin universities and received his Ph.D at Jena in 1842. In the same year he married Jenny von Westphalen, stepsister of Ferdinand von assistant professor in philosophy, when politics attracted him. He became a newspaper editor in Cologne. The paper was banned in 1843 due to harsh criticism against government policies and Marx moved to Paris, where he met Friedrich Engels. Working here as a journalist and a bitter critic, he was expelled from France in 1845. He went to Belgium and taught economics there for three years; and also wrote his first book, the "Poverty of Philosophy" in 1847. Here he also founded a German worker's society and joined the Communist League. He moved to London in 1849, and lived there till death in 1883.

German reactionaries, terrorist and political adventurers had been forming secret anarchist gangs for creating chaos, hoping to overthrow the government thereby. When caught such persons were imprisoned for various terms and then deported from Germany. Three such persons who attracted Marx and Engels in London deserve specific mention. The first was Karl Schapper, a student of forestry in 1832, and a member of the conspiracy organized by George Buchnner. He took part in storming the Frankfort constable station in 1833, escaped abroad and joined Mazini's march on savoy. The second was Heinrich Baucer, a shoe-maker. Both of them indulged in anarchist activities in France, imprisoned and deported. The third was Joseph Moll, a watch-maker from Cologne. All the three were revolutionary agitators and members of an underground political party, then called the League of Just.

Friedrich Engels records his meeting with these three men in the following words.

"I came to know all three of them in London in 1843. They were the first revolutionary proletarians whom I met, and...I shall never forget the deep impression that these three real men made upon me, who was then still only wanting to become a man". (Selected Works of Marx and Engels, Volume-3, Page-175)

These three impressive proletarians persuaded Engels and Marx to join the secret communist League and to reorganize it; which they did in 1847. They took charge of its control, and wrote the famous Communist Manifesto, wherein aims and objectives of the Communist Party were explained, and guidelines for operation were also laid down. The Manifesto was published in January, 1848.

The Communist Party experienced its first birth pangs in the labor room of history between the years 1847 and 1852. Marx and Engels secretly distributed by hand copies of the Communist Manifesto amongst reliable members of the worker's parties and trade unions in various countries of Europe, advising them to form Communist cells everywhere and to raise the battle cry of "Working Men of All Countries, Unite!" continued extensive field work for establishing communist cells here and there and holding secret meetings every now and then to arouse the workers for revolt fanned class hatred. Incidents of petty uprisings happened resulting in violence, arson, and plunder followed by arrests and imprisonments; but without any revolution worth its name taking place anywhere.

One such abortive attempt in Germany was suppressed in 1852. The culprits were caught and tried at Cologne in November and sentenced to imprisonment varying from three to six years; and the secret communist league was banned throughout Germany. Some years earlier the communist party in France had met with the same fate in Paris in June, 1848, which Engels lamented in the following words.

"The Manifesto has had a history of its own. Greeted with enthusiasm at the time of its appearance, by the still not at all numerous vanguard of scientific socialism, it was soon forced into the background by the reaction that began with the defeat of the Paris workers in June, 1848,and was finally ex-communicated according to law by the conviction of the Cologne Communists in November, 1852. With the disappearance from the public scene of the worker's movement that had begun with the February Revolution, the Manifesto too passed into the background". (Selected Works of Marx and Engels, Volume-I, Page-102).

Karl Marx withdrew from active politics in 1852 as a result of the Cologne mishap. He engaged himself in research work, which he carried out at the British Museum for many years to write his great work "Das Kapital". The published the first volume of this book in 1867.

Prior to become a full-time freelancer Waleed Khalid has completed his bachelor degree from Punjab University.

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