Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings

By Karl Marx; Max Eastman | Go to book overview
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EDITOR'S PREFACE

THE November revolution in Germany in 1918 marked the beginning of the era of Socialism. Socialism and Socialisation are the catchwords of the hour. But what does Socialism signify? It is urgently necessary that everyone, and not merely the intellectuals, should become familiar with the fundamental teachings of Socialism.

The founder of scientific Socialism was Karl Marx, who was born in Treves in 1818, and who died in London in 1883. The fundamental teachings of Socialism are contained in Marx's principal work: Das Kapital. It is therefore today the imperative duty of everyone who is anxious to understand the trend of our present social development--and a forteriori of everyone desirous of contributing actively to such development-to acquire a knowledge of that work.

But this duty is by no means easy to fulfil. Whoever wishes to read Marx's Capital, encounters a superabundance of difficulties. We may, indeed, go further, and say that it is quite incomprehensible for the layman. And the majority of mankind are composed of laymen.

In the first place there is the enormous size of the work --not less than 2200 large printed pages filling three volumes. Who can be expected to read this, if he be not a specialist in political economy, and if he have professional business to attend to? Secondly, there is Marx's manner of expressing himself, which is uncommonly difficult to grasp. Sycophants, anxious to praise everything done by a great man, have maintained that Marx's style is clear, precise, and easy of comprehension. This does not even hold good of his short essays destined for newspapers. And when such assertions are put forward in regard to his books on political economy, these assertions are absolutely false. In order to understand Marx, various conditions must be postulated:

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