Karl Heinrich Marx, one of the fathers of communism, was born on May 5, 1818 in Trier, Germany. He was educated at a variety of German colleges, including the University of Jena. He was an editor of socialist periodicals and a key figure in the Working Man's Association. Marx co-wrote his best-known work, "The Communist Manifesto" (1848), with his friend, Friedrich Engels. Marx's most important work, however, may be "Das Kapital" (1867), an analysis of the economics of capitalism. He died on March 14, 1883 in London, England.
Friedrich Engels is perhaps best remembered as the confidant, colleague, and benefactor of Karl Marx. Engels was born into a Calvinist family on November 28, 1820. The family owned fabric mills in the Rhineland and had business interests in Manchester, England, Engels joined the family business at age 16; he never had a formal university education. Despite his family's industrial background, Engels was sympathetic to the poverty of the working masses. At age 18 he published an attack on industrial poverty, and later joined the Hegelian movement that so influenced Marx and bothered conservative Prussian authorities. Engels first met Marx in 1842, while Marx was editor of a radical newspaper in Cologne. However, they did not establish their lifelong friendship until they met again in Paris two years later. Engels published several works related to economics, the first of which, Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy (1844), attempted to reconcile Hegelian philosophy with the principles of political economy. His second book, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), was a damning description and condemnation of the poverty generated by the Industrial Revolution. Engels also co-authored three major works with Marx, the most important being the Communist Manifesto (1948). Engels also wrote several historical works, which are more important to historians than to economists. These include The Peasant War in Germany (1850), Germany: Revolution and Counter-Revolution (1851), and The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). In general, these works are more descriptive than theoretical, and they closely parallel Marx's views on industrialization and class struggle. In addition to being a friend of Marx, Engels was his prime benefactor for a number of years. During their early years in London, beginning in 1849, the Marx family was nearly destitute, and it was only through the generosity of Engels that they prevailed. Engels was also responsible for the publication of Marx's Das Kapital. Before his death, Marx was only able to complete the first volume of this work, and so Engels edited and arranged for the publication of the last two volumes after Marx's death. Engels was an engaging and thoughtful writer. It was perhaps his great fortune and misfortune that he was connected so closely to Marx. On the one hand, he was responsible for bringing much of Marx's work to fruition in his role as benefactor and editor. On the other hand, the shadow of Marx eclipsed some of the exposure that Engels's own ideas and contributions might have had. Engels died of throat cancer in London, 1895. Following cremation at Woking Crematorium, his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne as he had requested.
Leon Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronshteyn, the son of a prosperous Jewish farmer in the Ukraine. Sent to Odessa for his secondary-school education, he became a member of a Marxist circle in 1896. Imprisoned many times, he escaped from exile in Siberia in 1902 by using the name of a jailer called Trotsky on a false passport. During World War I, he lived in Switzerland, France, and New York City, where he edited the newspaper Novy Mir (New World). In 1917, after the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II, he went back to Russia and joined Lenin in the first, abortive, July Revolution of the Bolsheviks. A key organizer of the successful October Revolution, he was People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs in the Lenin regime. But antagonism developed between him and Joseph Stalin during the Civil War of 1918--20, and after Lenin's death Stalin exiled him. Trotsky fled across Siberia to Norway, France, and finally Mexico, carrying with him source material on his experiences in the revolution. In Mexico he began working on the biography of his bitter enemy Stalin in a heavily barred and guarded home in Coyoacan. He realized he was racing against time and was able to complete 7 of the 12 chapters before a member of the Soviet secret police managed to work his way into the household by posing as a convert to Trotskyism. An attempt made on Trotsky's life in May 1940 was unsuccessful. Two months later another attempt was made. This one was successful---Trotsky was killed with a pickax at the desk where he was writing "Stalin," and the manuscript was spattered with its author's blood. The construction of the remaining five chapters was accomplished by the translator Charles Malamuth, from notes, worksheets, and fragments. Malamuth's translation of the initial chapters had been completed and checked by Trotsky before his death. A ruthless, energetic, and messianic visionary, Trotsky inspired both confidence and mistrust among those around him. In his later years, he was the focus of communists opposed to Stalin. A writer of power and venom, he was an advocate of permanent world revolution.