UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 14

14 March 1883

Death of Karl Marx


What happened?

On 14 March 1883, Karl Marx, the German philosopher, economist and political theorist, the founder of the politico-economic theory known as Marxism died in London aged 64.

Karl Marx Biography

  • Karl Marx was born in Trier, a city in modern Germany, then part of the Kingdom of Prussia to a wealthy lawyer Heinrich Marx and his wife Henriette Pressburg. He was born on 5 May 1818.
  • Until 1830 he was educated by his father and later joined the local school. He went to the University of Bonn at the age of 17 to study law on his father’s demand although he was more inclined to philosophy and literature.
  • Marx got involved in some disputes there and got a transfer to the University of Berlin.
  • He was deeply interested in studying the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel. He was involved in a radical thinkers’ group called the Young Hegelians. Although critical of Hegel’s assumptions, the young radicals used his dialectical materialism to critique established society, religion and politics from a leftist point of view.
  • He completed his doctoral thesis in 1941 titled, ‘The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature’. It was a daring and radical work and so he submitted it to the University of Jena, which was more liberal than the Berlin University. He was awarded a PhD by the University of Jena.
  • He lived in different places in Europe with his family since his writings and work often got him on the wrong side of the authorities. He, along with associates were considered a threat to political stability.
  • He wrote extensively on the nature of man, labour power, despotism, capitalism, religion, economy, etc.
  • He said that class struggle lies in the root of social change. According to him, human history began with creative and free work, but in time, this was replaced with work that was coerced and dehumanised. This was the development most seen under capitalism.
  • He talked about the proletariat (industrial working class) that would rise in revolution against capitalism and tyranny.
  • He opined that the very structure of capitalism would be its own grave-digger, that it would ultimately give way to socialism and communism.
  • He urged the proletariat to grow a ‘class consciousness.
  • He also urged the need for universal suffrage (extending suffrage to the working class as well).
  • In his view, between the transition between the capitalistic and the utopian democratised society, there would be a proletariat dictatorship – a period where power would be wielded by the working class who would socialise the means of production by force.
  • His long-term friend and associate was fellow German Friedrich Engels. Marx and Engels co-authored the famous political pamphlet ‘The Communist Manifesto’ in 1848 which is still influential.
  • They formed a new political society, the Communist League.
  • There were revolutionary activities happening in Europe at that time and Marx hoped that they would spread all over Europe replacing monarchy and rule of the aristocrats.
  • In 1849, he went to live in London from Paris from where he was expelled.
  • In London, he worked for the organising of the working class. He wrote for several newspapers at this time.
  • Another of his famous works is the Das Kapital, whose official title is ‘Capital. Critique of Political Economy’. This book talks about economy, politics and materialistic philosophy. In this book, he says that capitalism’s motivating force is the exploitation of labour.
  • He died of ill health on 14 March 1883 in London where he was buried in a place reserved for atheists and agnostics.
  • Marx’s ideas have been of profound impact all over the world. Marxism is at the heart of the communist movement which influenced many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
  • Many communist countries hold Marxism as one of their chief principles.
  • Marx’s extensive work also led to the development of modern sociology.
Also on this day


1972: Birth of Irom Sharmila, civil rights and political activist from Manipur.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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