Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
1. Introduction: “Read Marx, not the ‘Marxists’!”:
The hardest part about reading Karl Marx is freeing the mind of all of the distortions and lies surrounding Marx’s thought. Starting with the 2nd International (and some might say, starting with Friedrich Engels), there has been a tendency to read Marx’s thought as a rigid, positivist, determinist, and mechanical doctrine. Hence the birth of “Marxism”. Let me be clear that Marx would have been appalled how his “loyal” followers bastardized his thought. Stalin and company did not help at all and in fact furthered this tendency by codifying “Marxism” into a bourgeois state ideology, one to justify the powers that be in various ways instead of being their radical critique.
It is time to discard all preconceptions of Marx, whether learned from the popular media, from teachers and professors, or from the “Marxists” of various stripes, including the Orthodox, Leninist, Stalinist, Maoist, Trotskyist, Althusserian, and Analytic varieties. It is time to read Marx for what he was and this means reading Marx down to the letter without the mediating influence of a thousand misconceptions. Only then can we truly see Marx’s thought for what it truly is: a major step towards understanding how the working class can emancipate itself and therefore emancipate humanity, as well as a guide to critiquing the abject condition of the working class under capitalism, comprehending the general inhumanity of the world we live in, seeing how the contradictions within capitalism could lead to the transcendence of capitalist society through a global working class revolution, and understanding how we might be able to live humanly as freely associated social individuals under communism, which is simply the real human community. There is no such thing as an innocent reading of any important world figure; everyone interpreting Marx has their own agenda in mind. My only hope is that you, the reader, will take the most radical of agendas, the emancipation of the working class and humanity, as well as the “ruthless criticism of all that exists” (Marx, Letter to Ruge, September 1843), and embrace it as your own.