38 Marx Meets Engles 1844 INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM unleashed unprecedented productivity but plunged millions into misery. The socialist movement offered visions of a workers' paradise, ranging from anarchism to state-centered communism, but no one could explain how to get there. Then, in 1844, Karl Marx teamed up with Friedrich Engels. Marx, 26, was in Paris, hashing out his own communist philosophy; Engels, 24, was a theorist he admired. When Engels passed through town on a business trip--he ran the British branch of his family's textile firm--the two Germans spent 10 days talking. And a 39-year partnership had begun.
Their first great collaboration, the Communist Manifesto (1848), opened with the words, "A specter is haunting Europe." The specter was communism--and the authors made its victory seem inevitable. All history, they declared, was driven by class struggle. The bourgeoisie had superseded the nobility and called the proletariat into existence. Since capitalists exploited workers with ever-increasing ferocity, proletarians would one day realize they had "nothing to lose but their chains" and overthrow the bourgeoisie. The revolution would communalize property and production, eliminating classes. When that was done, the state--along with oppression and want--would disappear.
Within a hundred years or so, a third of humanity was living under governments that called themselves communist. But oppression and want persisted; a few decades later revolutions drove most of those regimes from power. Today, Marxism is a theory relegated mainly to intellectual debate.