In the mind of Karl Marx (1818-1883) the theory of socialism assumed its most intense, systematic, and revolutionary form – Communism. By the time Marx was thirty, he had completed the outlines of his theory of scientific, revolutionary socialism, otherwise known to the world as Communism. Everything he read and almost everyone he met strengthened his conviction that the capitalistic economic order was unjust, rotten, and doomed of necessity to fall. Whereas earlier socialists had anticipated a gradual and peaceful evolution toward a utopian society, Marx forecast a sudden and violent proletarian uprising by which the working class would capture governments and make them the instruments for securing worker welfare. Dogmatic and sure of his logic, Marx was certain that he alone knew and understood that the transformation of society and the future of mankind would develop inevitably according to the scientific necessity of a pattern that he found in human history.
Marx discovered three laws that he thought were written into the very fabric of world history. The first of these is the law of economic determinism, that is, the idea that economic conditions are at the root of and absolutely determinative of the character of all other human institutions including government, social organization, religion, and even art. The second law is that of the class struggle. Marx believed that human history unfurled as a dialectical process, a series of conflicts between antagonistic economic groups, the “haves” and the “have-nots.” In his own day, the antagonists were the propertied bourgeois who owned all of the means of production, and the propertyless proletarians or workers who possessed nothing but their working skills, had nothing to fall back on in hard times, and were thus at the mercy of their capitalist overlords. The third law is the inevitable coming of Communism. Marx believed that the social and economic inequalities between the two classes would come to a head and lead to a final upheaval that would raise the proletariat victoriously over the crushed bourgeois in one final and eternal triumph and forever put an end to the misery of the common man.
Although Marx was born and died in the nineteenth century, he belonged in spirit partly to the eighteenth century. His father was a religious and philosphical skeptic who trained him in the rationalist methods of eighteenth century Enlightenment thought. Very early on Marx acquired a firm faith in the experimental methods of the new science that was uncovering the laws that governed the universe in all of its manifestations. Marx thus came to postulate that natural laws govern not only physical phenomena but even economic conditions and social arrangements. He and his disciples were quick to boast that their socialism alone was “scientific,” that is, based on inexorable laws discoverable by reason and and direct observation of the facts.