The name conjures up an intimidating bearded revolutionary intent on violently overthrowing society.
Shlomo Avineri, professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University and former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, shatters that conception in his superb new biography, Karl Marx: Philosophy and Revolution (Yale University Press).
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Trier, a region in Germany’s Rhineland under French rule, where Jews enjoyed the fruits of emancipation. Both of his grandfathers were rabbis. With Napoleon’s defeat, the repressive Congress of 1815 ceded control of Trier to Prussia. Under the new regime, Karl’s father, changed his name from Heschel to Heinrich and had his family converted to Lutheranism to gain a position in the Prussian civil service.
Marx never practiced any form of Christianity, but his baptism permitted him to marry Jenny von Westphalen, daughter of an aristocratic German family. His in-laws, however, did not provide the couple and their three daughters with much financial support.