More biographies of Marx..

Just a quick update on some more books that have come my way.

They are as follows:

  1. Leopold Schwarzschild, The Red Prussian: The life and Legend of Karl Marx, Pickwick Books, London, 1986.

This was first published in the UK in 1948 and was originally in German. Leopold Schwarzschild was a German journalist, and is lauded, on the rear dust cover by none other than Gola Mann, the historian of German history. I read Gola Mann on Germany and founnd him quite readabe.

The rear just jacket gives a clear indication of the bent of the book – since it contains a glowing review from none other than that arch anti-Marxist Karl Popper, author of ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’, a book form 1945, and which is a defence of capitalism and an attack on socialism.

2. Paul Thomas, Karl Marx, Reaktion Books, London, 2012.

This is published in the ‘Critical Lives’ series of books from the same publisher and is quite a thin book, only running to 185 pages. It might be small, but might well be useful. It will be probably be from an ‘academic’ perspective, but we shall see.

The author, Paul Thomas has also written a couple of other books on Marx, one on Marx and the Anarchists, and one with the title, Marxism and Scientific Socialism.

The book starts off badly, by attacking the contents of the the speech which Engels gave at graveside at Marx’s funeral, in which Engles states that Marx discovered and oulined the the laws of social devleopment, for the first time. Thomas, says, quite bizarely that this might not be accurate, since Marx himself never said so himself! I can see this book probably going down hill from here. I’d rather trust Engel’s interpretation than Paul Thomas’s.

     3. Sidney Hook, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx, Victor Gollanz, London, 1933. 

While the title of the book gives no clues to the slant of the book, the subtitle –  ‘A revolutionary interpretation’, sounds promising, and the first paragraph does not disappoint, which states that the book has been written to commemorate the 50th anniversery of Marx’s death, and that he was one of the greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century. So, Sidney has certainly pinned his flag to the mast. There is no doubting that he is a supporter, rather than an opponent. What kind of a supporter we will find out in due course. It is also notable that Sidney Hook was, when he wrote the book, a professor of philosophy at a US university.  It could be interesting at least.

    4. Otto Rulhe, Karl Marx: His Life and Work, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, 1929. 

An odd book. In the final chapter on Marx’s acheivment Otta advises us that Marx was neurotic and felt that he was inferior to others; he had an inferiority complex nonetheless. I can’t see it myself, but the book will get read, at least for the jokes that it probably contains.

     5. Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl Marx, Biographical Memoirs, Charles H. Kerr and Company    Cooperative, Chicago, 1901.

The oldest book in this bunch, and it could be the best, as Wilhelm actually knew Marx.  Indeed he not only knew him, but he was a member of Marx’s political family in London from 1850 to 1862 during which time he worked closely with him. It is a small book, but looking forward to going through it.











Soviet biography finished at last…

I finished reading and taking extensive notes from the Soviet biography a couple of weeks ago. The first half of the book, to my mind, is better than the second half, which can be a bit plodding. It does have good detail on the Chartists and the International Working Men’s Association and the part that Marx played in both. Also good, is the material on the Paris Commune. It was also interesting to find out towards the end of the book that Marx enjoyed solving mathematical problems in his spare time – calcus and such things. While I have not my self ever had any clue about mathematics, I am always impressed by anyone who does. I’ll not be reading up on Marx’s Mathematical Manuscripts. I’ll give that a pass, I’m afraid. I’m going to go through my notes and try and pull out the salient points.

Soviet Biography

P.N Fedoseyev, Karl Marx: A Biography, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973 (third printing, 1984).

I have restarted re-reading this biography – which is by far the best biography that I have come across so far. I’m up to 1848. Since this is a great biography I’m taking extensive notes. At 650 pages, I might be sometime getting through it.


Just a quick update. Work has taken over this last 7 months and I’ve not managed to make such a lot of progress. But things are now back on track, and I’ll have more to report soon.

Karl Marx on the Internet

If the Internet was around when Marx was he would be amazed by it. He would have had vast resources at his fingertips and would not have needed to go to the reading room of the British Library quite so much as he did, when he lived in London. He would have been at home much more rather than going back and forward to Great Russel Street.

As I am just starting my research a natural and convenient starting point (as I sit here at my kitchen table in my slippers) is to see what resources on Marx can be provided by the Internet. To find out is easily done, simply requiring me to type ‘Karl Marx’ into the little search box and see what is found.

So, while Karl Marx would certainly have found the Internet useful and inetesting, how much does the Internet find him useful and interesting; or to be more accurate – how useful and interesting do the people using the Internet find him? In Internet terms, ‘how useful and interesting’ a topic is can partly be measured by the number of times a topic appears on the Internet.

People who are anti-communist always repeat the line that ‘Karl Marx is dead and gone;  that he was wrong anyway and that nobody is really intersted in his ideas, philosophy or what he wanted to change or acheive’  or arguments broadly along those lines. But, how true is this? How popular is Karl Marx and his ideas? One way of finding out is to see how often his name is written down (and appears on the Internet). We know that the Apple iphone is popular – the sale figures testify to that – and there are lots of people using, talking about, selling and buying the iphone on the Internet. The number of instances where the word iphone appears is therefore quite high (I’ve not checked, but take I am sure that it is).

Since I going to be studying Karl Marx, his life and ideas it is probably a good idea to find out resources the Internet can offer. For a man who has been dead 130 years – the answer is ‘quite a lot’. Certainly enough to keep myself (and thousands of others) very busy for several lifetimes.

Bing – Karl Marx!!

I normally use the ‘Bing’ search engine. I use it simply because I installed the Bing Destop on my laptop a while ago and have used it ever since. It provides a search bar on the destop – which enables me to type in a query without the need to visit a search engine page, so it is convenient.

The Bing Destop also places a photograph on my destop; a new one appears each day. The pictures are generally very impressive and well worth looking. The Bing Desktop and the associated search box has stayed as part of my computing system simply because I like the daily photo. What’s not to like? The quality of the search results I hear you all shout! Well I do not know about that – I’ve not examined the quality of the search results produced by Bing or compared them to other search engines, so I do not know if they are good quality or not. But I generally find what I am looking for.

So, how does ‘Bing’ do when searching for Karl Marx? How many mentions of ‘Karl Marx’ does ‘Bing’ find? I am not sure if I was surprised or not, but – quite a lot.

I typed in ‘Karl Marx’ into the search box – and Bing! the results are immediately in front of me. Lots and lots of them. I carried out the search on 31 December 2013 and it brought up six and a half million matches. The figure shown for the number of search results is actually 6,770,000 exactly, not 6,770,006 or 6,770,546, but 6,770,000.   The figure strikes me as odd. Why should it be a round number and not an exact number? I can only assume that the figure is an estimate, since it is not exact. If anyone knows if this is the case then I’d be grateful if you can let me know.

What is also interesting is that I carried out the same search a couple of days later and got a different figure. On 2 January 2014 the search brought up 6,790,000 results, which is an increase of 20,000 in two days or 10,000 per day. This could either mean that the estimate has changed or that references to Karl Marx on the Internet are increasing. If they are increasing then an increase of 10,000 per day is remarkable. Is it the case that the name of Karl Marx is spreading across the Internet?

In addition to a plain ‘Bing Search’ the search engine also allows searches to be carried out for specific types of material which are: images, news items and videos (youtube videos).

A search for Karl Marx using the image search tool brings up 34,100 results. On first inspection, these appear mostly to be photographs of Karl Marx, with his massive beard.  I’ll delve into these ‘Karl Marx’ images at a later date and report back here on what I find.

For a man who died 130 years ago you would expect that he would not feature in a search looking for news items. While this might be the expected result it is not what happens when you search for news as brought up 202 news items. So Marx is still making the news.

A search for youtube videos brings up an even more staggeringly impressive 455,000 results. Crikey? Youtube is clearly not only about music videos, ‘Fail material’ and adverts for skin cream. What can these 455,000 be? I’ll investigate…

So, there is quite a lot of material on Karl Marx. So based on a quick search using Bing I’ve I’ve found:

  • 202 news stories;
  • 455,000 youtube videos; and
  • 6.7 million other resources.

But hang on a wee minute. Let’s us not get carried away.

As most people will know ‘Bing’, even BIG Bing is not the most developed or popular search engine on the Internet. Google for instance is Bing’s much, much bigger rival.

So, how does Marx fair on Google?

I pointed by browser over to to find out.  I found that Karl Marx is even more popular with the ‘google crawled’ bit of the Internet – than the ‘Bing crawled bit, 10 times as much.

A plain vanilla google search returns 90,900,000 pages, 6,990 news items and 6,640,000 videos. A popular man.

But that is not all. It is not all because Google also allows you to search for specific types of material: books, blogs and discussion forums/groups. It finds 9,090,000 books, that is a lot of books. The number of pages on blogs (like this one) where the name of Karl Marx appears is an incredible  1,640,000.

A search of discussions forums and groups also brings up  and incredible 2,230,000 hits. This (apparently – so google tells me) is comprised of 271,101 individual posts in 51 seperate google discussion groups. So the initial conclusion is unavoidable – Karl Marx is all over the Internet. 

I’ll examine some of the content of the Internet-based Karl Marx material in later posts as I go. So, watch this space.

It will certainly take some amount of time.  In this regard, in view of the fact that more hands (or pairs of eyes are better than one I’d like to ask for some assitance. It would be useful and helpful, if anyone reading this can help me to find the Karl Marx material  which is genuinly useful and interesting. If you come across an especially good resource then drop me a message on here. It will be much appreciated.

This post has been quite long. So, for a different scene and to give your reading eyes a rest here is an interesting link – to a photo – a photo of the the house in Trier, Germany where the man himself was born – now a museum and called appropriately enough Karl Marx House.

Karl Marx House

Biographies of Marx and Engels

There have been a number of biographies of Marx. I do not own copies of all of them. The books that I have copies of are:

E. Stepanova, Karl Marx: A Short Biography, Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow, 1960.

This is an truly excellent book – which manages to pull out the critical details of his life in only 150 pages.

P.N Fedoseyev, Karl Marx: A Biography, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973 (third printing, 1984).

I’ve read the first chapter and my initial impressions are that this is an excellent book – with plenty of detail and political analysis, and is a book which pulls out the main points from Marx’s life and work. I purchased this book when I was in Moscow in either 1984 or 1985.

David McLellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought, Macmillan, London, 1973.

I’ve read some of this, but not much and I have still to make my mind up about it. This I think is the standard textbook used in the West for students on politics courses.

Boris Nicolaievsky and Otto Maenchen-Helfen, Karl Marx: Man and Fighter, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1973.

This book was first published in 1933, with the English edition being published in 1936, revised in 1970 and 1973. I’ve not read this book yet, but intend to.

Francis Wheen, Karl Marx, Forth Estate, London, 1999.

I’ve read this book, and while I found it useful – it is a bit ‘lightweight’ for my tastes and has little analysis of Marx’s ideas or their development.

I am going to endeavour to pick up other biographies as I work on his life and works – and will update this list as I proceed.

I am aware of two other biographines of Marx – one from the 1930’s by a German Socialist and one from an American academic from 2013, which I will pick up shortly.

Frederick Engels – Biographies

I have one biography of Frederick Engels which is:

Frederick Engels – A Biography, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974 (Third Revised Edition, 1982)

I have not read this and so cannot pass comment on it, but it looks well researched, detailed and useful.

I am aware of two other biographies of Engels, that I will pick up eventually, one by a socialist and the other (I think by a current British Labour Party politician). I’ll get both of these eventually.

About this blog

For the next few years I am setting myself the task of reading and (hopefully) understanding the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. I have set up this blog to record how I get on and to share what I find out.

I have been a marxist for the last 30 years, or so, having read the manifesto of the Communist Party, V. I Lenin’s Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism and the book by Emile Burns, Introduction to Marxism as well as other associated introductory material. So, while I have a general grasp and understanding of the basic concepts of Marxism, it would be fair to say that there is more to know; much more.

I want to have a much better understanding and to be able to share this knowledge with others. Marxism is a key tool for working people to tackle the problems that we face and to build a better society. It is not dry dogma, but a guide to action. It is a toolkit for the working class in its struggle against the ruling class and capitalism and for socialism and communism.

I have therefore decided to make it my goal to acquire a good understanding of Marxism over the next few years. I do not know how I will get on, or how long it will take me or if I will acquire I really good understanding or if I will ever be finished, but this is the aim that I am setting myself.

Such is the size and variety of the writings of Marx and Engels (not to mention the vast secondary source material)  that I anticipate that it will take me years to complete this endeavour, if indeed it is ever completed at all.

I am a bit worried about the size and difficulty of the task that I am planning to undertake.  The works of Marx and Engels are not generally known for their simplicity or accessibility and so I anticipate that reading (and understanding) them will not be accomplished easily. But I am willing to give it a shot and my best efforts.


Am I up to the challenge? Well, actually I do not know. What I do know is that I have some skills, abilities and experience that will be of some use to me and which will help me make progress and to take things forward. However, I also have some ways of working that may not, and which could be an impediment. I might discuss these in a later post. There is a lot to get through and reading Marx and Engels is not the easiest of tasks to undertake. I’ll need determination, perseverance and stamina. I also have the challenge of family and working life. I am working full-time, so the only time that I have are only evening, weekends and holidays.

I am writing this first post during the Christmas holidays, for instance. How well I will be able to read, research and write-up my findings when I return to work on 6 January 2014, I do not know…but will just need to see how I get on. I suspect that progress will be slow during the first few months, but should speed up after that,once I become accustomed to the task and get into the swing of things. I am looking forward to it.

I’ll need help from other people who are more knowledgable and experienced than myself. As well as asking people for help in the normal way, I will also be asking readers of this blog for help (this is assuming that I actually manage to acquire any readers, which is by no means certain). So, if you see a question that I have posted and think that you know the answer then please give me the benefit of your wisdom.

As I progress I want to report and share what I find. I’ll record in this blog what I am doing and how I am doing it. I’ll report on the challenges and the successes and what works and what doesn’t. I’ll report on sources and resources.

I’ll record what I find out about Marx’s life and his views and his analysis. I’ll detail what I discover and the things that I find interesting. Of course, the things that I come across (which I find interesting) may not be of interest to other people, or to the people reading this blog, but hopefully some of it will be.

What is certain is that it will be an adventure. The next post will look at the books and other resources that I have on the Marx and Engels and Marxism more generally.