Thursday, 12 February 2009

Karl Marx

On Lincoln

Lincoln is a sui generis figure in the annals of history. He has no initiative, no idealistic impetus, no historical trappings. He gives his most important utterances the most commonplace form. Other people claim to be 'fighting for an idea', when it is a matter for them of fighting for square feet of land. Lincoln, even when he is motivated by an ideal, talks about square feet ... Lincoln is not the product of a popular revolution. This ... average person of good will was placed at the top by the interplay of the forces of universal suffrage unaware of the great issues at stake. The new world has never achieved a greater triumph than by this demonstration that, given its social and political organisation, ordinary people of good will can achieve feats which only the heroes could achieve in the old world.

Karl Marx, Die Presse, 22 August 1862

On Religion
One of my favourite pieces from Marx, taken from Critique of Hegel's Theory of Right. Contains one of his most famous phrases, almost always used out of context...

Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed man's self-consciousness an self-awareness as long as he has not found his feet in the universe. But man is not an abstract being, squatting outside the world. Man is the world of men, the State, and society. This State, this society, produce religion which is an inverted world consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spritual point d'honeur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its general basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realisation of the human being inasmuch as the human bieng possesses no true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion, as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions.

... The immediate task is to unmask human alienation in its secular form, now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form. Thus the criticism of heaven transforms itself into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of laws, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

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