Why was Karl Marx against nationalism

Karl Marx - the career of an idea

The program "Manifesto of the Communist Party", jointly written by Marx and Engels, is one of the most influential political works in world history, along with the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights of 1789 and the American Declaration of Independence. "Never before has a movement triggered by philosophy and based on it exercised such power," said the philosopher Hans Joachim Störrig. In the second half of the 20th century, half of the world's population lived under governments that built their ideological foundation on Marx.

Marx has thereby redeemed his own claim. As a young man he had already formulated: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways, but what matters is to change it."

Marx core ideas

Marx always wanted to be understood as a scientist and not as a philosopher. The analysis of the work was at the center of his thinking. The human being is "the animal that produces itself", according to the editors of the critical Marx edition Siegfried Landshut and J. P. Meyer. To analyze the work it was necessary to acquire economic knowledge. These were conveyed to Marx primarily by his friend and colleague Friedrich Engels.

Marx then formulated the theory of surplus value. It says that a person can create more value than is necessary for its own maintenance. The capitalist makes the difference his own by making the worker work more than he pays him for his livelihood. This is how profit is made.

Marx's theory is ultimately based on the idea that the material basis shapes social life: "Being determines consciousness." How we live and work shapes what we feel and think. In addition, Marx believes that history is subject to laws similar to those of nature. He therefore came to the conclusion that bourgeois capitalist society, with the same necessity with which a stone falls to the ground, would perish from its internal contradictions.

The main work of Marx: Das Kapital

Effect and consequence

Marx Thinking - similar to the boom in the economy - has experienced boom phases and deep depressions in the past 100 years.

His theory shaped the systemic conflict of the Cold War. In Russia, Lenin and his successor Stalin made communism an ideology in the form of so-called historical materialism and implemented it into political reality. Mao in China, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Kim Il-Sung in North Korea and Fidel Castro in Cuba also referred to the German scholar from Trier. They were all convinced that Marx had found a universal truth. This did not prevent them from adapting Marx's theory to their own needs. It was not without reason that Albert Camus, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote as early as 1956: "We will never be able to redress the injustice we did to Marx."

Collapse of the Eastern Bloc

The communist countries all turned into brutal dictatorships within a few years - as in the case of the Soviet Union and China. The inevitable revolution in the industrialized countries prophesied by Marx did not materialize. On the contrary: the Russian system, which had always seen itself as the forerunner of communism, perished in the competition with the capitalist West.

Further assumptions of Marx turned out to be wrong or at least one-sided. The liberal philosopher Karl Popper showed that Marx's teaching - contrary to its claims - did not meet scientific criteria. The reduction of law, culture and art to a mere superstructure that would be determined by the economic basis did not do justice to the matter.

Thus, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was easy to dismiss Marx's teaching as the wrong track of history. The liberal democracies of the West with their capitalist economic system - it seemed - had finally won the systemic conflict of the second half of the 20th century.

Memorial in Berlin: Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx

Global financial crisis

That this was not the case became evident with the global financial crisis of 2007 at the latest. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs and their houses. And: Marx is modern again.

Marx had not only described globalization as a consequence of capitalism. He had also described the internal contradictions of bourgeois capitalist society, which in his opinion should lead to regularly recurring crises. Marx had also predicted the accumulation of more and more capital in the hands of a few - "in the current economic crisis more topical than ever," says the economist Werner Krämer.

Marx's grandchildren and great-grandchildren

Not least the rapid rise of China has made many observers puzzled: Does communism work after all? However, what is now being sold as communism in China or in Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam and which refers to Marx as the forefather has little in common with Marx's own teaching.

The concentration inward and the associated nationalism in China, for example, was far from Marx. He always saw liberation only in the hands of the international proletariat. China is also, according to Krämer, who taught in China for some time, "a relatively unjust society. The difference between rich and poor is huge." This is a sign that "in China today there is a great contradiction between Marxism in theory and the current economic order."