Source: Marx and Engels Through the Eyes of Their Contemporaries, Progress Publishers, 1972.
Online Version: Lafargue Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2002.
Transcription/Markup: Sally Ryan & Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
He was a man, take him for all is all,
I met Karl Marx for the first time in February 1865. The First International had been founded on September 28, 1864 at a meeting in St. Martin’s Hall, London, and I went to London from Paris to give Marx news of the development of the young organisation there. M. Tolain, now a senator in the bourgeois republic, gave me a letter of introduction.
I was then 24 years old. As long as I live I shall remember the impression that first visit made on me. Marx was not well at the time. He was working on the first book of Capital, which was not published until two years later, in 1867. He feared he would not be able to finish his work and was therefore glad of visits from young people. “I must train men to continue communist propaganda after me,” he used to say.
Karl Marx was one of the rare men who could be leaders in science and public life at the same time: these two aspects were so closely united in him that one can understand him only by taking into account both the scholar and the socialist fighter.
Marx held the view that science must be pursued for itself, irrespective of the eventual results of research, but at the same time that a scientist could only debase himself by giving up active participation in public life or shutting himself up in his study or laboratory like a maggot in cheese and holding aloof from the life and political struggle of his contemporaries.
“Science must not he a selfish pleasure,” he used to say. “Those who have the good fortune to be able to devote themselves to scientific pursuits must be the first to place their knowledge at the service of humanity.” One of his favourite sayings was: “Work for humanity.”
Although Marx sympathised profoundly with the sufferings of the working classes, it was not sentimental considerations but the study of history and political economy that led him to communist views. He maintained that any unbiased man, free from the influence of private interests and not blinded by class prejudices, must necessarily come to the same conclusions.
Yet while studying the economic and political development of human society without any preconceived opinion, Marx wrote with no other intention than to propagate the results of his research and with a determined will to provide a scientific basis for the socialist movement, which had so far been lost in the clouds of utopianism. He gave publicity to his views only to promote the triumph of the working class, whose historic mission is to establish communism as soon as it has achieved political and economic leadership of society ...
Marx did not confine his activity to the country he was born in. “I am a citizen of the world,” he used to say; “I am active wherever I am.”" And in fact, no matter what country events and political persecution drove him to France, Belgium, England – he took a prominent part in the revolutionary movements which developed there.
However, it was not the untiring and incomparable socialist agitator but rather the scientist that I first saw in his study in Maitland Park Road. That study was the centre to which Party comrades came from all parts of the civilised world to find out the opinion or the master of socialist thought. One must know that historic room before one can penetrate into the intimacy of Marx’s spiritual life.
It was on the first floor, flooded by light from a broad window that looked out on to the park. Opposite the window and on either side of the fireplace the walls were lined with bookcases filled with books and stacked up to the ceiling with newspapers and manuscripts. Opposite the fireplace on one side of the window were two tables piled up with papers, books and newspapers; in the middle of the room, well in the light, stood a small, plain desk (three foot by two) and a wooden armchair; between the armchair and the bookcase, opposite the window, was a leather sofa on which Marx used to lie down for a rest from time to time. On the mantelpiece were more books, cigars, matches, tobacco boxes, paperweights and photographs of Marx’s daughters and wife, Wilhelm Wolff and Frederick Engels.
Marx was a heavy smoker. “Capital,” he said to me once, “will not even pay for the cigars I smoked writing it.” But he was still heavier on matches. He so often forgot his pipe or cigar that he emptied an incredible number of boxes of matches in a short time to relight them.
He never allowed anybody to put his books or papers in order – or rather in disorder. The disorder in which they lay was only apparent, everything was really in its intended place so that it was easy for him to lay his hand on the book or notebook he needed. Even during conversations he often paused to show in the book a quotation or figure he had just mentioned. He and his study were one: the books and papers in it were as much under his control as his own limbs.
Marx had no use for formal symmetry in the arrangement of his books: volumes of different sizes and pamphlets stood next to one another. He arranged them according to their contents, not their size. Books were tools for his mind, not articles of luxury. “They are my slaves and they must serve me as I will,” he used to say. He paid no heed to size or binding, quality of paper or type; he would turn down the corners of the pages, make pencil marks in the margin and underline whole lines. He never wrote on books, but sometimes he could not refrain from an exclamation or question mark when the author went too far. His system of underlining made it easy for him to find any passage he needed in any book. He had the habit of going through his notebooks and reading the passages underlined in the books after intervals of many years in order to keep them fresh in his memory. He had an extraordinarily reliable memory which he had cultivated from his youth according to Hegel’s advice by learning by heart verse in a foreign language he did not know.
He knew Heine and Goethe by heart and often quoted them in his conversations; he was an assiduous reader of poets in all European languages. Every year he read Aeschylus in the Greek original. He considered him and Shakespeare as the greatest dramatic geniuses humanity ever gave birth to. His respect for Shakespeare was boundless: he made a detailed study of his works and knew even the least important of his characters. His whole family had a real cult for the great English dramatist; his three daughters knew many of his works by heart. When after 1848 he wanted to perfect his knowledge of English, which he could already read, he sought out and classified all Shakespeare’s original expressions. He did the same with part of the polemical works of William Cobbett, of whom he had a high opinion. Dante and Robert Burns ranked among his favourite poets and he would listen with great pleasure to his daughters reciting or singing the Scottish poet’s satires or ballads.
Cuvier, an untirable worker and past master in the sciences, had a suite of rooms, arranged for his personal use, in the Paris Museum, of which he was director. Each room was intended for a particular pursuit and contained the books, instruments, anatomic aids, etc., required for the purpose. When he felt tired of one kind of work he would go into the next room and engage in another; this simple change of mental occupation, it is said, was a rest for him.
Marx was just as tireless a worker as Cuvier, but he had not the means to fit out several studies. He would rest by pacing up and down the room. A strip was worn out from the door to the window, as sharply defined as a track across a meadow.
From time to time he would lie down on the sofa and read a novel; he sometimes read two or three at a time, alternating one with another. Like Darwin, he was a great reader of novels, his preference being for those of the eighteenth century, particularly Fielding’s Tom Jones. The more modern novelists whom he found most interesting were Paul de Kock, Charles Lever, Alexander Dumas Senior and Walter Scott, whose Old Mortality he considered a masterpiece. He had a definite preference for stories of adventure and humour.
He ranked Cervantes and Balzac above all other novelists. In Don Quixote he saw the epic of dying-out chivalry whose virtues were ridiculed and scoffed at in the emerging bourgeois world. He admired Balzac so much that he wished to write a review of his great work La Comedie Humaine as soon as he had finished his book on economics. He considered Balzac not only as the historian of his time, but as the prophetic creator of characters which were still in the embryo in the days of Louis Philippe and did not fully develop until Napoleon III.
Marx could read all European languages and write in three: German, French and English, to the admiration of language experts. He liked to repeat the saying: “A foreign language is a weapon in the struggle of life.”
He had a great talent for languages which his daughters inherited from him. He took up the study of Russian when he was already 50 years old, and although that language had no close affinity to any of the modern or ancient languages he knew, in six months he knew it well enough to derive pleasure from reading Russian poets and prose writers, his preference going to Pushkin, Gogol and Shchedrin. He studied Russian in order to be able to read the documents of official inquiries which were hushed over by the Russian Government because of the political revelations they made. Devoted friends got the documents for Marx and he was certainly the only political economist in Western Europe who had knowledge of them.
Besides the poets and novelists, Marx had another remarkable way of relaxing intellectually – mathematics, for which he had a special liking. Algebra even brought him moral consolation and he took refuge in the most distressing moments of his eventful life. During his wife’s last illness he was unable to devote himself to his usual scientific work and the only way in which he could shake off the oppression caused by her sufferings was to plunge into mathematics. During that time of moral suffering he wrote a work on infinitesimal calculus which, according to the opinion of experts, is of great scientific value and will be published in his collected works. He saw in higher mathematics the most logical and at the same time the simplest form of dialectical movement. He held the view that science is not really developed until it has learned to make use of mathematics.
Although Marx’s library contained over a thousand volumes carefully collected during his lifelong research work, it was not enough for him, and for years he regularly attended the British Museum, whose catalogue he appreciated very highly.
Even Marx’s opponents were forced to acknowledge his extensive and profound erudition, not only in his own specialty – political economy – but in history, philosophy and the literature of all countries.
In spite of the late hour at which Marx went to bed he was always up between eight and nine in the morning, had some black coffee, read through his newspapers and then went to his study, where he worked till two or three in the morning. He interrupted his work only for meals and, when the weather allowed, for a walk on Hampstead Heath in the evening. During the day he sometimes slept for an hour or two on the sofa. In his youth he often worked the whole night through.
Marx had a passion for work. He was so absorbed in it that he often forgot his meals. He had often to be called several times before he came down to the dining-room and hardly had eaten the last mouthful when he was back in his study.
He was a very light eater and even suffered from lack of appetite. This he tried to overcome by highly flavoured food – ham, smoked fish, caviare, pickles. His stomach had to suffer for the enormous activity of his brain. He sacrificed his whole body to his brain; thinking was his greatest enjoyment. I often heard him repeat the words of Hegel, the philosophy master of his youth: “Even the criminal thought of a malefactor has more grandeur and nobility than the wonders of the heavens.”
His physical constitution had to be good to put up with this unusual way of life and exhausting mental work. He was, in fact, of powerful build, more than average height, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and had well-proportioned limbs, although the spinal column was rather long in comparison with the legs, as is often the case with Jews. Had he practised gymnastics in his youth he would have become a very strong man. The only physical exercise he ever pursued regularly was walking: he could ramble or climb hills for hours, chatting and smoking, and not feel at all tired. One can say that he even worked walking in his room, only sitting down for short periods to write what be thought out while walking. He liked to walk up and down while talking, stopping from time to time when the explanation became more animated or the conversation serious.
For many years I went with him on his evening walks on Hampstead Heath and it was while strolling over the meadows with him that I got my education in economics. Without noticing it he expounded to me the whole contents of the first book of Capital as he wrote it.
On my return home I always noted as well as I could all I had heard. At first it was difficult for me to follow Marx’s profound and complicated reasoning. Unfortunately I have lost those precious notes, for after the Commune the police ransacked and burned my papers in Paris and Bordeaux.
What I regret most is the loss of the notes I took on the evening when Marx, with the abundance of proof and considerations which was typical of him, expounded his brilliant theory of the development of human society. It was as if scales fell from my eyes. For the first time I saw clearly the logic of world history and could trace the apparently so contradictory phenomena of the development of society and ideas to their material origins. I felt dazzled, and the impression remained for years.
The Madrid socialists had the same impression when I developed to them as well as my feeble powers would allow that most magnificent of Marx’s theories, which is beyond doubt one of the greatest ever elaborated by the human brain.
Marx’s brain was armed with an unbelievable stock of facts from history and natural science and philosophical theories. He was remarkably skilled in making use of the knowledge and observations accumulated during years of intellectual work. You could question him at any time on any subject and get the most detailed answer you could wish for, always accompanied by philosophical reflexions of general application. His brain was like a man-of-war in port under steam, ready to launch into any sphere of thought.
There is no doubt that Capital reveals to us a mind of astonishing vigour and superior knowledge. But for me, as for all those who knew Marx intimately, neither Capital nor any other of his works shows all the magnitude of his genius or the extent of his knowledge. He was highly superior to his own works.
I worked with Marx; I was only the scribe to whom he dictated, but that gave me the opportunity of observing his manner of thinking and writing. Work was easy for him, and at the same time difficult. Easy because his mind found no difficulty in embracing the relevant facts and considerations in their completeness. But that very completeness made the exposition of his ideas a matter of long and arduous work ...
He saw not only the surface, but what lay beneath it. He examined all the constituent parts in their mutual action and reaction; he isolated each of those parts and traced the history of its development. Then he went on from the thing to its surroundings and observed the reaction of one upon the other. He traced the origin of the object, the changes, evolutions and revolutions it went through, and proceeded finally to its remotest effects. He did not see a thing singly, in itself and for itself, separate from its surroundings: he saw a highly complicated world in continual motion.
His intention was to disclose the whole of that world in its manifold and continually varying action and reaction. Men of letters of Flaubert’s and the Goncourts’ school complain that it is so difficult to render exactly what one sees; yet all they wish to render is the surface, the impression that they get. Their literary work is child’s play in comparison with Marx’s: it required extraordinary vigour of thought to grasp reality and render what he saw and wanted to make others see. Marx was never satisfied with his work – he was always making some improvements and he always found his rendering inferior to the idea he wished to convey ...
Marx had the two qualities of a genius: he had an incomparable talent for dissecting a thing into its constituent parts, and he was past master at reconstituting the dissected object out of its parts, with all its different forms of development, and discovering their mutual inner relations. His demonstrations were not abstractions – which was the reproach made to him by economists who were themselves incapable of thinking; his method was not that of the geometrician who takes his definitions from the world around him but completely disregards reality in drawing his conclusions. Capital does not give isolated definitions or isolated formulas; it gives a series of most searching analyses which bring out the most evasive shades and the most elusive gradations.
Marx begins by stating the plain fact that the wealth of a society dominated by the capitalist mode of production presents itself as an enormous accumulation of commodities; the commodity, which is a concrete object, not a mathematical abstraction, is therefore the element, the cell, of capitalist wealth. Marx now seizes on the commodity, turns it over and over and inside out, and pries out of it one secret after another that official economists were not in the least aware of, although those secrets are more numerous and profound than all the mysteries of the Catholic religion. Having examined the commodity in all its aspects, considers it in its relations to its fellow commodity, in exchange. Then he goes on to its production and the historic prerequisites for its production. He considers the forms which commodities assume and shows how they pass from one to another, how one form is necessarily engendered by the other. He expounds the logical course of development of phenomena with such perfect art that one could think he had imagined it. And yet it is a product of reality, a reproduction of the actual dialectics of the commodity.
Marx was always extremely conscientious about his work: he never gave a fact or figure that was not borne out by the best authorities. He was never satisfied with secondhand information, he always went to the source itself, no matter how tedious the process. To make sure of a minor fact he would go to the British Museum and consult books there. His critics were never able to prove that he was negligent or that he based his arguments on facts which did not bear strict checking.
His habit of always going to the very source made him read authors who were very little known and whom he was the only one to quote. Capital contains so many quotations from little-known authors that one might think Marx wanted to show off how well read he was. He had no intention of the sort. “I administer historical justice,” he said. “I give each one his due.” He considered himself obliged to name the author who had first expressed an idea or formulated it most correctly, no matter how insignificant and little known he was.
Marx was just as conscientious from the literary as from the scientific point of view. Not only would he never base himself on a fact he was not absolutely sure of, he never allowed himself to talk of a thing before he had studied it thoroughly. He did not publish a single work without repeatedly revising it until he had found the most appropriate form. He could not bear to appear in public without thorough preparation. It would have been a torture for him to show his manuscripts before giving them the finishing touch. He felt so strongly about this that he told me one day that he would rather burn his manuscripts than leave them unfinished.
His method of working often imposed upon him tasks the magnitude of which the reader can hardly imagine. Thus, in order to write the twenty pages or so on English factory legislation in Capital he went through a whole library of Blue Books containing reports of commissions and factory Inspectors in England and Scotland. He read them from cover to cover, as can be seen from the pencil marks in them. He considered those reports as the most important and weighty documents for the study of the capitalist mode of production. He had such a high opinion of those in charge of them that he doubted the possibility of finding in another country in Europe “men as competent, as free from partisanship and respect of persons as are the English factory inspectors”. He paid them this brilliant tribute in the Preface to Capital.
From these Blue Books Marx drew a wealth of factual information. Many members of Parliament to whom they are distributed use them only as shooting targets, judging the striking power of the gun by the number of pages pierced. Others sell them by the pound, which is the most reasonable thing they can do, for this enabled Marx to buy them cheap from the old paper dealers in Long Acre whom he used to visit to look through their old books and papers. Professor Beesley said that Marx was the man who made the greatest use of English official inquiries and brought them to the knowledge of the world. He did not know that before 1845 Engels took numerous documents from the Blue Books in writing his book on the condition of the working class in England.
To get to know and love the heart that beat within the breast of Marx the scholar you had to see him when he had closed his books and notebooks and was surrounded by his family, or again on Sunday evenings in the society of his friends. He then proved the pleasantest of company, full of wit and humour, with a laugh that came straight from the heart. His black eyes under the arches of his bushy brews sparkled with pleasure and malice whenever he heard a witty saying or a pertinent repartee.
He was a loving, gentle and indulgent father. “Children should educate their parents,” he used to say. There was never even a trace of the bossy parent in his relations with his daughters, whose love for him was extraordinary. He never gave them an order, but asked them to do what he wished as a favour or made them feel that they should not do what he wanted to forbid them. And yet a father could seldom have had more docile children than he. His daughters considered him as their friend and treated him as a companion; they did not call him “father”, but “Moor” – a nickname that he owed to his dark complexion and jet-black hair and beard. The members of the Communist League, on the other hand, called him “Father Marx” before 1848, when he was not even thirty years of age ...
Marx used to spend hours playing with his children. These still remember the sea battles in a big basin of water and the burning of the fleets of paper ships that he made for them and set on fire to their great joy.
On Sundays his daughters would not allow him to work, he belonged to them for the whole day. If the weather was fine, the whole family would go for a walk in the country. On their way they would stop at a modest inn for bread and cheese and ginger beer. When his daughters were small he would make the long walk seem shorter to them by telling them endless fantastic tales which he made up as he went, developing and intensifying the complications according to the distance they had to go, so that the little ones forgot their weariness listening.
He had an incomparably fertile imagination: his first literary works were poems. Mrs. Marx carefully preserved the poetry her husband wrote in his youth but never showed it to anybody. His family had dreamt of him being a man of letters or a professor and thought he was debasing himself by engaging in socialist agitation and political economy, which was then disdained in Germany.
Marx had promised his daughters to write a drama on the Gracchi for them. Unfortunately he was unable to keep his word. It would have been interesting to see how he, who was called “the knight of the class struggle”, would have dealt with that terrible and magnificent episode in the class struggle of the ancient world. Marx fostered a lot of plans which were never carried out. Among other works he intended to write a Logic and a History of Philosophy, the latter having been his favourite subject in his younger days. We would have needed to live to a hundred to carry out all his literary plans and present the world with a portion of the treasure hidden in his brain.
Marx’s wife was his lifelong helpmate in the truest and fullest sense of the word. They had known each other as children and grown up together. Marx was only seventeen at the time of his engagement. Seven long years the young couple had to wait before they were married in 1843. After that they never parted.
Mrs. Marx died shortly before her husband. Nobody ever had a greater sense of equality than she, although she was born and bred in a German aristocratic family. No social differences or classifications existed for her. She entertained working people in their working clothes in her house and at her table with the same politeness and consideration as if they had been dukes or princes. Many workers of all countries enjoyed her hospitality and I am convinced that not one of them ever dreamt that the woman who received them with such homely and sincere cordiality descended in the female line from the family of the Dukes of Argyll and that her brother was a minister of the King of Prussia. That did not worry Mrs. Marx; she had given up everything to follow her Karl and never, not even in times of dire need, was she sorry she had done so.
She had a clear and brilliant mind. Her letters to her friends, written without constraint of effort, are masterly achievements of vigorous and original thinking. It was a treat to get a letter from Mrs. Marx. Johann Philipp Becker published several of her letters. Heine, a pitiless satirist as he was, feared Marx’s irony, but he was full of admiration for the penetrating sensitive mind of his wife; when the Marxes were in Paris he was one of their regular visitors.
Marx had such respect for the intelligence and critical sense of his wife that he showed her all his manuscripts and set great store by her opinion, as he himself told me in 1866. Mrs. Marx copied out her husband’s manuscripts before they were sent to the print-shop.
Mrs. Marx had a number of children. Three of them died at a tender age during the period of hardships that the family went through after the 1848 Revolution. At that time they lived as emigrants in London in two small rooms in Dean Street, Soho Square. I only knew the three daughters. When I was introduced to Marx in 1865 his youngest daughter, now Mrs. Aveling, was a charming child with a sunny disposition. Marx used to say his wife had made a mistake as to sex when she brought her into the world. The other two daughters formed a most surprising and harmonious contrast. The eldest, Mrs. Longuet, had her father’s dark and vigorous complexion, dark eyes and jet-black hair. The second, Mrs. Lafargue, was fair-haired and rosy-skinned, her rich curly hair had a golden shimmer as if it had caught the rays of the setting sun: she was like her mother.
Another important member of the Marx household was Helene Demuth. Born of a peasant family, site entered the service of Mrs. Marx long before the latter’s wedding, when hardly more than a child. When her mistress got married she remained with her and devoted herself with complete self-oblivion to the Marx family. She accompanied her mistress and her husband on all their journeys over Europe and shared their exile. She was the good genius of the house and could always find a way out of the most difficult situations. It was thanks to her sense of order, her economy and skill that the Marx family were at least never short of the bare essentials. There was nothing she could not do: she cooked, kept the house, dressed the children, cut clothes for them and sewed them with Mrs. Marx. She was housekeeper and major domo at the same time: she ran the whole house. The children loved her like a mother and her maternal feeling towards them gave her a mother’s authority. Mrs. Marx considered her as her bosom friend and Marx fostered a particular friendship towards her; he played chess with her and often enough lost to her.
Helene loved the Marx family blindly: anything they did was good in her eyes and could not be otherwise; who ever criticised Marx had to deal with her. She extended her motherly protection to everyone who was admitted to intimacy with the Marxes. It was as though she had adopted all of the Marx family. She outlived Marx and his wife and transferred her care to Engels’ household. She had known him since she was a girl and extended to him the attachment she had for the Marx family.
Engels was, so to speak a member of the Marx family. Marx’s daughters called him their second father. He was Marx’s alter ego. For a long time the two names were never separated in Germany and they will be for ever united in history.
Marx and Engels were the personification in our time of the ideal friendship portrayed by the poets of antiquity. From their youth they developed together an parallel to each other, lived in intimate fellowship of ideas and feelings and shared the same revolutionary agitation; as long as they could live together they worked in common. Had events not parted them for about twenty years they would probably have worked together their whole life. But after the defeat of the 1848 Revolution Engels had to go to Manchester, while Marx was obliged to remain in London. Even so, they continued their common intellectual life by writing to each other almost daily, giving their views on political and scientific events and their work. As soon as Engels was able to free himself from his work he hurried from Manchester to London, where he set up his home only ten minutes away from his dear Marx. From 1870 to the death of his friend not a day went by but the two men saw each other, sometimes at one’s house, sometimes at the other’s.
It was a day of rejoicing for the Marxes when Engels informed them that he was coming from Manchester. His pending visit was spoken of long beforehand, and on the day of his arrival Marx was so impatient that he could not work. The two friends spent the whole night smoking and drinking together and talking over all that had happened since their last meeting.
Marx appreciated Engels’ opinion more than anybody else’s, for Engels was the man he considered capable of being his collaborator. For him Engels was a whole audience. No effort could have been too great for Marx to convince Engels and win him over to his ideas. For instance, I have seen him read whole volumes over and over to find the fact he needed to change Engels’ opinion on some secondary point that I do not remember concerning the political and religious wars of the Albigenses. It was a triumph for Marx to bring Engels round to his opinion.
Marx was proud of Engels. He took pleasure in enumerating to me all his moral and intellectual qualities. He once specially made the journey to Manchester with me to introduce me to him. He admired the versatility of his knowledge and was alarmed at the slightest thing that could befall him. “I always tremble,” he said to me, “for fear he should meet with an accident at the chase. He is so impetuous; he goes galloping over the fields with slackened reins, not shying at any obstacle.”
Marx was as good a friend as he was a loving husband and father. In his wife and daughters, Helene and Engels, he found worthy objects of love for a man such as he was.
Having started as leader of the radical bourgeoisie, Marx found himself deserted as soon as his opposition became too resolute and looked upon as an enemy as soon as he became a socialist. He was baited and expelled from Germany after being decried and calumniated, and then there was a conspiracy of silence against him and his work. The Eighteenth Brumaire, which proves that Marx was the only historian and politician of 1848 who understood and disclosed the real nature of the causes and results of the coup d’etat of December 2, 1851, was completely ignored. In spite of the actuality of the work not a single bourgeois newspaper even mentioned it.
The Poverty of Philosophy, an answer to the Philosophy of Poverty, and A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy were likewise ignored. The First International and the first book of Capital broke this conspiracy of silence after it had lasted fifteen years. Marx could no longer he ignored: the International developed and filled the world with the glory of its achievements. Although Marx kept in the background and let others act it was soon discovered who the man behind the scenes was.
The Social-Democratic Party was founded in Germany and became a power that Bismarck courted before he attacked it. Schweitzer, a follower of Lassalle, published a series of articles, which Marx highly praised, to bring Capital to the knowledge of the working public. On a motion by Johann Philipp Becker the Congress of the International adopted a resolution directing the attention of socialists in all countries to Capital as to the “Bible of the working class”.
After the rising on March 18, 1871, in which people tried to see the work of the International, and after the defeat of the Commune, which the General Council of the First International took it upon itself to defend against the rage of the bourgeois press in all countries, Marx's name became known to the whole world. He was acknowledged as the greatest theoretician of scientific socialism and the organiser of the first international working-class movement.
Capital became the manual of socialists in all countries. All socialist and working-class papers spread its scientific theories. During a big strike which broke out in New York extracts from Capital were published in the form of leaflets to inspire the workers to endurance and show them how justified their claims were.
Capital was translated into the main European languages – Russian, French and English, and extracts were published in German, Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch. Every time attempts were made by opponents in Europe or America to refute its theories, the economists immediately got a socialist reply which closed their mouths. Capital is really today what it was called by the Congress of the International – the Bible of the working class.
The share Marx had to take in the international socialist movement took time from his scientific activity. The death of his wife and that of his eldest daughter, Mrs. Longuet, also had an adverse effect upon it.
Marx’s love for his wife was profound and intimate. Her beauty had been his pride and his joy, her gentleness and devotedness had lightened for him the hardships necessarily resulting from his eventful life as a revolutionary socialist. The disease which led to the death of Jenny Marx also shortened the life of her husband. During her long and painful illness Marx, exhausted by sleeplessness and lack of exercise and fresh air and morally weary, contracted the pneumonia which was to snatch him away.
On December 2, 1881, Mrs. Marx died as she had lived, a Communist and a materialist. Death had no terrors for her. When she felt her end approach she exclaimed: “Karl, my strength is ebbing.” Those were her last intelligible words.
She was buried in Highgate Cemetery, in unconsecrated ground, on December 5. Conforming to the habits of her life and Marx’s, all care was taken to avoid her funeral being made a public one and only a few close friends accompanied her to her last resting-place. Marx’s old friend Engels delivered the address over her grave ...
After the death of his wife, Marx’s life was a succession of physical and moral sufferings which he bore with great fortitude. They were aggravated by the sudden death of his eldest daughter, Mrs. Longuet, a year later. He was broken, never to recover.
He died at his desk on March 14, 1883, at the age of sixty-four.
Last updated on 13.11.2003