Karl Marx pours scorn on the idea that there is an entity called History which operates in deterministic style through human beings: History does nothing, it possesses no immense wealth, it wages no battles. It is man, real living man, that does all that, that possesses and fights; History is not a person apart, using man as a means for its own particular ends; History is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aim…
Marx also rejects the idea that the various historical modes of production must follow upon one another in some rigidly determined way. Nor does Marx seem to think that the productive forces are always inexorably expanding. Anyway, if the overthrow of Capitalism is inevitable, why should the working class (proletariat) not just sit back and wait for it to happen rather than organizing to bring it politically about? One might claim, as Marx seems to, that it is inevitable that the working class will grow to consciousness of its plight and act to change it, so that its ‘free’ action is somehow calculated into the broader deterministic narrative. Some Christians have tried in similar ways to resolve the apparent discrepency between free will and divine providence (i.e. predestination, John Calvinism, book of Revelation). But in practice, when he is analyzing particular political situations, Marx would seem to believe that political revolution depends on the struggle of contending social forces, and the outcome of this is in no sense historically guaranteed. There are, to be sure, historical laws; but these are the results of concerted human action, not of some destiny grandly independent of it.
As Marx famously puts it in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living… The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped off all superstitions in regard to the past. Earlier revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to drug themselves concerning their own content. In order to arrive at its own content, the revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead.
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it,” said Marx and Engels. Julius Robert Oppenheimer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, Julio Cortázar and the current Dalai Lama were/are admirers of Marxism. Oxford University professor Terry Eagleton is the premier expert on Marxism. Socialism by Thomas Fleming is the preeminent book on the very broad topic of socialism. The popular Karl Marx House museum is located in Trier, Germany.