The industrial revolution refers to the period in which the world was making a transition from artisan products to mass production of goods using factories. After the start of the industrial revolution, the leading early economies of the world started colonizing other countries in a bid to expand their sources of raw materials and get a sufficient labor force. Some personalities were part and parcel of the industrial revolution and the colonial era. Their Activism, then, did so much to reform political and social structures for generations to come. Thus these personalities were of utmost importance to humanity. Among these personalities was Karl Marx. This paper is an exploration of the industrial revolution and the era of colonization that looks into the contribution of Karl Marx during this period.
The industrial revolution started in Great Britain and Europe before the start of the nineteenth century. The earliest advancements in the industrial revolution stated were the use of weaving machines and spinning machines that were powered by water. The machines were used in the mass production of goods that the people during this time depended on for the stabilization of their finances. The machines that were operated by water were later replaced by other more advanced machines which were run by steam. The technology was later introduced to the United States in the nineteenth century which, in a way, accelerated the economic growth of America (Sabbagh, 2004, p. 1). Much of the credit for the success of the industrial success of America can be attributed to the industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution also led to the betterment of the techniques used in the production of raw materials, which were mostly agriculture-based. The advancements in agriculture led to an increase in raw materials and an increase in the amount of food produced. The two, changes in industrial set-up due to industrial revolution and the resultant change in agriculture made Great Britain and Europe enjoy early advancements in domestic and foreign commerce and efficiency of production. They were, therefore, able to exploit resources from other parts of the world and in the process; they started colonizing other countries that had not experienced the industrial revolution. The start of colonization led to slavery because the
Great Britain and Europe needed people to work in their factories. This affected the social structure of these countries and therefore there was the development of social classes and the exploitation of the disadvantaged natives of these countries together with the slaves. This is the main connection between the industrial revolution and the colonial era with which a lot of ethical and economic questions were raised by activists regarding the fairness and the value of the way factories in the industrial revolution era were run. An example of such an activist was Karl Marx whose biography and philosophical work will be discussed in the next few paragraphs (Wheen, 2000, p. 33).
Karl Marx was born to Henrietta and Heinrich Marx in 1818 in Tier Germany. Marx studied in Tier for five years before he proceeded to pursue a law degree at Bonn University. After being involved in a duel over a debt, he was sent by his father to study at Berlin University. Here he did better, concentrating on his studies and developing a close relationship with his favorite lecturer, Bauer Bruno. Bruno’s activism in outspoken politics got him in trouble as he was dismissed from serving as a lecturer.
This was a blow for Marx who had hoped that Bruno would help him get a job as a lecturer. However, Bruno had introduced Marx to the Hagel theory developed by F. Hagel, a former professor at the University. Marx was particularly interested in this theory which stipulated that “unity would be achieved by the equalizing of all opposites, using dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis” (Hudson, 1998, p. 74). After the dismissal of Bruno, Marx started writing editorial articles his political views.
The views were mainly socio-economical issues that were intertwined with the political setup of that time. Due to the sensitivity of the editorial articles he wrote, the articles were very unpopular with publishers and thus they rarely found themselves in print. He then moved to Cologne that was characterized by a strong opposition movement. Here he was appointed the editor of a local newspaper after he wrote an article defending the freedom of the press.
In Cologne, Marx began attending socialist meetings courtesy of a friend he met there, Moses Hess. In the meetings he was given the problem that Germans who were working in industries were facing and given suggestions by the group to end the problem. The key solution, according to the socialists, lay in being a socialist country. After the meetings, Marx wrote an article about the poverty of wine farmers which made the newspaper he was working for to be banned. Afraid that the authorities might catch up with him, Marx moved to France with his girlfriend, Jenny, who he had met in Born University.
He was made the editor of Franco-German Annals, a popular political journal in France at the time. He applied the concepts of the Hegel theory in the context of Paris and branded his belief in socialism as communism. He held the argument that the oppressed and overworked working class of the time held the key to the emancipation of society. After his first publication with the journal in the year1844, the journal was banned. In the same year, Marx wrote the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” (Kelly, 2010, p. 1) in which he identified a couple of alienations in the practice of capitalism.
Marx later formed a partnership with a friend he met in Paris, Friedrich Engels, who was able to get the audience in the masses for his writings. As they worked together on their first article, Prussians pressured the French to deport Marx. They both decided to go to Belgium whose freedom of expression was the Greatest in Europe at the time. He got a residence in Brussels where he got people he shared the same political opinions with. After consulting several books in London with his friend, Engel, they worked on several publications like a book titled “Conditions of the Working Class in England, The German Ideology” (Montagna, 1981, p. 1) etc.
They also wrote The Communist Manifesto which was very influential in historical politics. After publishing the manifesto, Marx was expelled from Belgium after which they moved with Engels to Cologne where they started a communist newspaper. He fought for the freedom of expression as well as public safety until the return to power of the Austrian Emperor. He subsequently went to France and England due to political pressure after which he got a job with an American socialist newspaper. He published 487 articles for the American Newspaper. He later wrote a book titled “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Econ” (Dickens, 1996, p. 63).
After the American Newspaper ended, Marx was in financial problems again. He published Das Kapital in 1867 followed by a sequel in 1871 and celebrated the fall of Napoleon which he described as a great achievement. After the slaughter of thousands of communists and the death of his wife and daughter, Marx’s health deteriorated until he died in 1883.
Marx’s communist ideas were very popular, especially, after his death. One of the countries which adopted communism in Russia. The Russian government voted in communism promising the masses that they would provide for all their needs. However, when the communist government came into force, the promises it had made could not be fulfilled. This led to public outcry that was accompanied by an incessant demand for change from the public. This made Lenin and his political counterparts facilitate the voting out of communism in Russia. It can thus be concluded that even though Marx’s communist ideas were meant to bring a positive change in society, they had their flaws. The major one was that the ideas of communism lacked a comprehensive structure for implementation and sustainability.
Dickens, Charles. (1996). Oliver Twist. London: Oxford University Press.
Hudson, Pat. (1998). The Industrial Revolution. New Jersey. Barnes & Noble.
Kelly, Martin. (2010). Overview of the Industrial Revolution”. Web.
Montagna, Joseph. (1981). “The Industrial Revolution”. Web.
Sabbagh, Dan. (2004). “The Age of Colonialism”. Web.
Wheen, Francis. (2000). Karl Marx Karl: a life. New York. Bell & Bain.