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Sun Nov 30, 2014, 08:39 PM

How Eleanor Marx changed the world


Eleanor Marx changed the world and in so-doing revolutionised herself. Internationalist, socialist, feminist, trade unionist – I’m compelled to write about a great British historical hero because she’s so relevant. Born in 1855 in a garret to poor political exiles, Eleanor’s arrival was disappointing to her philosopher father. He wanted a boy. But by her first birthday she was his favourite. Nicknamed Tussy, to rhyme, her parents said, with pussy not fussy, cats she adored; fussy she wasn’t. She loved Shakespeare, Ibsen, both Shelleys, good poetry, bad puns and champagne (well, German Sekt), that she described as her idea of happiness.

Eleanor braved the world to test what she’d learned from Marx and Engels at the family hearth. Tussy and Capital grew up together; her father wrote the first volume during the first decade of her life. She spent her adulthood editing this world-changing masterwork and others of his seminal manuscripts. If Marx and Engels were the theory, Eleanor was the practice. Her quest to “Go ahead!”, to live it, soon took her into new worlds including the artistic circles of early bohemian Bloomsbury. She pioneered Ibsenism in Britain, translated Flaubert’s Madame Bovary into English for the first time and was her father’s first biographer. Subsequent biographies of Marx and Engels draw on her work.


Crucially, Eleanor was the mother of socialist feminism. Suffrage reform for middle-class women within existing capitalist society failed to address “the debate on the attitude of social democracy towards working women.” Instead, she “proposed to deal with the Sex Question from the point of view of the working class and the class struggle.” Her philosophy of socialist-feminism was summarised in “The Woman Question: From a Socialist Point of View.” Understanding the role of economics in human society was essential to human happiness. She found for women, the most important element was work.


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Starry Messenger Nov 2014 OP
roguevalley Dec 2014 #1

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Mon Dec 1, 2014, 12:03 AM

1. great woman. she was from his real family, right. not the hidden one.

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