Karl MarxKarl Marx, (1818-1883) Prussian-born philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist, father of Communism, co-author of the 'Communist Manifesto'

Famous Karl Marx Quote

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Karl MarxKarl Marx
~ Karl Marx

The Criticism of the Gotha Program, 1875

Ratings and Comments

Georgia Peach, Savannah

I have actually heard Americans reciting this in defense of taxes. We've come a long way, baby. :-(

Rick Z, Ashdown, AR

The central fallacy in communism. Altruism is a motivator, but virtually NEVER the central motivator. What is? WII-FM: What's In It For Me?

Joe, Rochester, MI

So I may work hard, while you get the fruits of my labor? BS ... total BS. Yet this is what welfare is in the US. I work, and I'm expected to pay someone who doesn't bother to work, or pay to education illegal immigrants? More BS. Face it ... socialism and communism is all BS.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

There is nothing in this that says that a hard worker's needs are not larger than the non-worker... just that both of their needs should be met. If society has been good to me (as it has) then I agree that it is reasonable for me to give back to that society... for as they say, "there but for the grace of god goes I"... which is really just to say that there is an aspect of not just hard work, but also pure luck to differentiate the fortunate from the unfortunate... and we all deserve to have our basic needs met... it is what separates us from the animals.

E Archer, NYC

The quote is a perverted version of the law of nature -- the difference being with socialism, the 'law' is being enforced by man rather than nature. It ought to read:
"To each according to his abilities, from each according to their needs."

  • Reply
Chicago    12/6/05

Anonymous from Reston has it partly right -- we are unequal in our capacities, life has been good to many of us, by grace and good luck go many of us, and many, many of us have compassion for the less fortunate. However, involuntary 'service' to the community by the force of the local authorities is servitude, not Liberty. Virtues enforced by the mob are not virtues at all -- they are duties imposed by someone else, based on their views of 'public service', not necessarily the views of the 'servant'. The issue is free choice.

  • Reply
Jedy    12/14/05

Great con job: Many fools in this world still falling for it. - iL

Yndrd1984, Ames, IA

This has to be the clearest definition of any ideology I've ever heard. The stronger and more capable you appear, the more we'll take from you, and weaker and more desperate you look, the more you'll get. Enslave the productive to serve the unproductive. A totally self-destructive belief, but every human being should know and understand this quote.

Anonymous, Atlanta

If we all strived for this ideal in our personal lives, even in the context of a capitalist society, then perhaps we could rid the world of poverty and hunger.

Anonymous, Fort Bragg, CA

I guess most of the previous comments don't understand whats being said here. Everyone is doing work to the best of their abilities and everyone is getting what they need to survive. There is no one who isn't doing work and leaching off society. Also Karl Marx had more Socialist beliefs than communist meaning that the people would have some say in their jobs. It's not all the government telling us what we have to do. It was trying to creat equality which is something needed in this society. With capitalism we have the upper class, who sometimes don't do anything, and the lower class, who usually do most of the hard work. A lot of the time these hard working lower class proles can't get everything they need to survive, yet they are doing most of the hard work. What Karl Marx was trying to say is that as long as you do work you will get everything you need to live. This would cut down on a lot of over-consumption that seems to be a problem in america also. I think before a lot of you people complain about this quote you should actually read into the background of whats trying to be portrayed by the quote

Tomoir, Canada

Marx certainly did not think about the natural selfishness of man that leads to ineffectiveness of this idea, but if we all strive to work with one another, helping each other, and taking what we need from society, I think that we will see the best of humanity at work, rather than the bad reputation that Communism at the fault of the lazy Proletarian, as well as corruption of the government. Together, we can make communism work, no-one will be hungry, we will have good education only at the cost of working to our abilities, which some see as unfair, but looking at society as a whole, we can see that it _will_ work. People in such a society must see that they are the driving force of the State, and they rely on one another for survival. The Working Class must also realize that by taking more than they need, they only harm themselves by taking away the work of many fellow Workers and in the long run, taking away other Work done for them from themselves. Obviously, people didn't follow these morals, leading to many unpleasantnesses in past attempts at this system. This is not to say, of course, that wrongdoing leaders did not contribute to this downfall. Overall, though, we must learn to accept and follow these morals, which in fact, are not too different from what we see to be acceptible in smaller social situations, such as working together on a project, or even playing a sport, which none of us is unable to do.

t.m., atlanta

reminds me of a hillary clinton quote: "we're going to take things away from you for the common good." speaking to a crowd in communist san francisco...knows her audience. the basic problem with socialism and communism is that it takes human nature out of the picture. we should listen to our founding fathers, they considered human nature, it's why we used to have the best system of govt. on the planet. of course, as john adams said, "remember, democracy never lasts long. it soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. there never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

Chris Cantrell, SE Wisconsin

How can you all give quotes ratings based on your moral opinions?? Please consider the impact of the statement. That is like me judging people based on my perception of beauty, not their capabilities. Can not we all see the truth in what he is saying? All will work, All will be provided for. If I am good at engineering, I will be an engineer. As an engineer, me and my family will have certain needs, those will be provided for. People like to do what they are good at, don't they? Otherwise they probably would have never developed those skills. Of course, in the U.S. I am a wonderful writer (my rants not included) and an artist, but I spend my days as a security guard because my socio-economic status denies me of the capital and opportunities to pursue the path I would be most productive in. And btw... Who says we live in a democracy? Get it right, this is a capitalist police state/Republic. In a democracy, we all vote issue by issue.

helorat, Milton

Utterly amazing that there are people in this country that honestly believe this BS, and then have the incredible gall to think they are really Americans by anything other then by accident of birth. How apropos to place the Marx quote next to the FDR quote so it becomes obvious to even the casual observer that FDR was a communist just like his buddy Uncle Joe the darling of the NYT. Fortunately the real Americans know the 2d Amendment is the reset button on the Constitution, and it is getting close to the time to push it. Where is John Galt?

Jack, Green, OH

The quote is true, even if not very practical. It may be utopian, but it's the ideal way. If only people had more humane instincts instead of just plain human ones..

Mike, Norwalk

Morality has been abandon for non-reality and a justification for the ridiculous. I have been so poor a couple of times my wife and children had not even a car to sleep in (I did not accept government aid). That's not the case now and I spend at least 40 hours a month in the pursuit of helping my fellow man. The concept as stated and practiced is a blight on this country.

Christina, Rogers

nice ideal, but we are far from it.

Laura, Battle Creek, MI

Clear thinking Americans see the difference clearly and simply: What's mine is mine, keep your dirty hands off! and the touchy-feely euro-worlders have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the lies of Communism and class envy. What do I say? Go get a job, you lazy bum!

Charles, South Bend, Indiana

The problem with this ideal and what people are saying is that the world is not perfect. This quote reminds me of stories my mother told me as a child, you know the ones that tell you about imaginary lands where everything is perfect. This idea is absolutely preposterous, we don't live in a perfect world, people would surely take advantage of such a system and the entire system would have to rely on the government to implement it. Oh yeah that will turn out well, besides such a system would provide no incentive to work hard, notice i said work HARD. It would be society of sub-par workers. Ive read The Communist Manifesto, and Marx's explanations on this phenomenon were complete rubbish.

Anonymous, KY, USA

The most hideous slogan ever created. The great men of ability have always been subject to hate and persecution by their inferiors. It is the men of ability who carry the whole weight of the world on their shoulders, and I think it's time we give them a break! Great capitalists, industrialists, and the like have always provided us with employment, increased standard of living, and better technology. To see how this slogan falls apart in reality, observe the Chinese rice communes. When virtue is punished and vice rewarded- when you trade a dollar for a penny and don't make a profit, don't come cryin' to me asking why your beautiful idealistic slogan failed!

Mark, Yakima, WA

Like Winston Churchill said : the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth. The inherent virture of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

  • Reply
CC, NY    7/13/09

It may have sounded all good at the time, but it would have to be people choosing this not being forced into it. It is also dangerous for a society to become completely reliant on the government for everything. I really think it's up to us to give to the poor in society and take care of them, not the government and their programs. Are any of them any good?? If people desire more equality among each other and sharing of food, etc, start a commune.

jim k, austin

The main problem with this idea is that it goes against human nature and never works . Only a feely touchy idiot liberal would swallow such nonsense.

J Carlton, Calgary

So If I'm talented enough to be an engineer or physician....why bother? Why work at all? Why not just live off of the state and everyone else's labor? Marx had his head up his collective ass and knew nothing of real human nature.



  • Reply
RBESRQ    10/8/09

Amazing! what a wonderful collection humanities offerings - I think I'll just pass. Marx's came out of a society that was like its becoming in America today where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer - so count the days folks and make sure they don't have your address - and don't count on your guns.

Ken, Mississippi

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. When written, it was fiction...now?

Bob, Eugene, OR

In a Marxist system, abilities always shrink, and needs always grow.

Mike, Norwalk

Just another statist theocracy's canon justifying larceny with impunity. Such systematic belief system put into action constitutes an opiate of the people.

Michael, Gold Coast

It only works in monasteries.

  • Reply
Anonymous    10/8/09

Odd, Waffler seems quiet on this one ...

E Archer, NYC

RBE, when Russia embraced Marxism, EVERYONE got poorer -- except a handful of REALLY rich guys. It is a trap for the lower classes, a con for 'the war on the rich.' One minute, you're victorious over your oppressor, the next you are oppressed by the guys who funded the war. All become indebted, renters on their own land, paying protection money for 'security' or 'insurance.' It's the same game as in the days of Caesar. Pretty self-evident if you ask me.

Waffler, Smith

Jesus said it best "more blessed to give than to receive" If one is able to give then he has probably received much already. As for needs every one is different. My life and my perceived needs are so much different from others of different walks of life it is like relating to aliens. I have spent half a dozen days in the last severl weeks visiting Mexican border towns, Prgresso, Ciudad Acuna. Those folk and many in the US I cannot even relate to. Jesus also said that we will always have the poor with us so I don't know what Anonymous wants me to say. It is also said that a man is never so big as when he stoops to help a child etcetera. Giving of your abilities to a needy world is not a bad way to live but take time for oneself also. If Jesus and Confucious and so many others can say basically what Marx said it is hallelujahed. Yes Marx statement is idealistic but it simply says we should all do our best, no shirkers, no bums, no lazy street people, which of us honor or admire them, well apparently neither did Marx. Assuming that everyone in his idealistic world is performing according to their ability then yes all of them should get their basic needs met. Remember that his statement does not separate people into two classes; the able and the needy. Everyone is able (to a greater and lesser extent) and every one has basic needs.

  • Reply
Anon    10/9/09

The difference between Jesus and Marx was that Jesus left you a choice to give to those who need where Marx offered no choice thereby changing the precepts of natural law for the purpose of control. Jesus never forced anyone to believe in him and if you didn't you were free to go your own way whereas Marx killed you for trying to go your own way. Freedom to choose and to act upon those choices was the difference and I add that every choice does carry consequences.

J Carlton, Calgary

Waffler we would all be free to do more for our fellow man if we were free to pursue our own goals in our own best interests. My wife and I put 20 to 30 kids through school every year in S America, even though we are taxed almost out of existence. In reality, we are actually extorted in the name of charity by criminals who pour our money into a bottomless black hole with few or no good results. Marx was a statist criminal and his glossy version of our role in his communist world is controlling and unrealistic...at best. I can just imagine how Marx himself would have given up any of his own creature comforts to help his poorer comrades....yeah right, sure...

Waffler, Smith

Anon I would like more research on whether or not Marx ever killed anyone. J as you and your wife probably have experienced in a marriage the two partners give of their abilities to bring in the income, keep the house and raise the kids. No one usually complains about performing to their best abilities nor in providing for the needs of their wives or children. The reason I suggest that "from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs" works in that environment is LOVE. Maybe we need more love beyond the domestic domain to make it work in the greater world.

warren, olathe

Obama said the same thing. Jesus never said any thing similar to Marx. As always Waffler twists and misinterprets everything. Great Quote. Everyone should know it and where it came from. The quote was given to a group of our college students and they thought it came out of our constitution. Waffler probably was shocked to find out where it came from also.

  • Reply
    Anon    10/10/09

    Waffler, Show me where Marx or Marxism offers free choice to the individual because everytime he or she doesn't, it KILLS the free spirit of man unless he gives up his choice by consent. If forced to give it up by gunpoint or law, it is death to the power that the exercise of the right to choose expresses and what is total death but the loss of all power (rights) on earth? It's a matter of realizing that there is death of the spirit as well as death of the body and forced slavery, particularly economic, kills. Research on whether Marx killed anyone? Waffler, that was a naive question and I suspect you know that.

    anonymous, Montreal

    People say of this that "why not live off the state?" but they dont get it. You dont do something you love beuse you get a nice paycheck, the gold watch, a shiny ribbon, whatever. They are good insentives, but it isnt the reason. You always do it because you enjoy it, you are just naturally compelled. It is your calling, if you want to put it that way. Like when i teach classes to children, i want to pull my hair out, and i dont get paid. So why do i continue? Because i just do, it is plain and simple. I am happy doing it, nothing more and nothing less. Besides hasn't anyone noticed that this is exactly like raising a child? you let your child go around doing things, according to what he can do, but you are always expected to fill his needs. we live in a marxist ideology in our very own homes, no one sees, but it is. does this mean that ALL of our children will grow up to be vicious dictators who act on misinterpreted beleifs? i sure as hell hope not. because if they do, you guys can find me, print this post and stick it up my... well, this is just immature talk from a 16-year-old.

    Morgainn, Wetaskiwin

    Yes, the quote can be seen as a fallacy. And I understand the issues with communism, that ultimately it never works. The Native Americans used two punishments: Shame and Banishment. And of course, we would have to completely obliterate the globalization that we have produced over the last maybe two centuries, but all for the best. Everyone would work collectively, of course (as is the goal of communism), but I believe a degree of human nature is based out of selfishness, or it is affected by our present society. I wrote an essay on the idea of dissent, and to what extent it should be allowed. Instead of saying it should not be allowed, I said we should use two steps: Enlightenment and Empowerment. We must first enlighten on the ways of community, and global unity, and then once they have learnt the ways (we'd have to start young, like the Hitler Youth, but without racial or (hopefully) social disparity between peoples) of community, and communism, we would show them that they have the power to have their demands met. They are empowered to change the world. Anyway, back to Shame and Banishment. This would be after the Enlightenment and Empowerment, once we'd developped the communities. If anyone wasn't pulling their weight, they would be shamed, as a kind of warning. And if they continued, they would be banished. And in the way they did it, I believe, they were supposed to act as if they could not even see this person, as if he/she were a ghost. And then, perhaps this person would go to another (small) community. If he did it again, he would be banished again. Until eventually, she gets the picture, and begins to work. I think communism is possible, and I believe there are good people, and you might call me an optimist, but I feel it could be done. Also, in my essay, I mentioned how there is only one thing in common we all have, and that is what we are: humans, living on this earth. I had hoped that this system, of enlightenment and empowerment, would encourage people to work towards a cleaner environment, after having been indoctrinated to think about others perhaps a little more than themselves, or as well as themselves. The earth would be a focal point, just like freedom was 60 years ago. That is why, part of me, hopes for a global catastrophe (not that I want anyone hurt, but I think that is what it will take for people to get over this social, and emotional high of complete freedom). Anyway, that's what I think about it, but of course, that's not the only way to things. Morgainn.

    Don, Tampa, FL

    The quote comes from a great philosopher, and as such, it's not meant to be understood literally. If you dwell on it, and understand the circumstances, you will realize that Marx was and will remain one of the best philosophers and will one day be know as the man who with the best economic theory. First, to understand the quote, you must understand that the quote pertains to another to a time in a future, where the level of intelligence and selflessness is at its peak. to put the quote in layman terms, everyone would work according to his ability, therefore eveyrone would work and there would not be any parasites that leech into and live off from others work. "From each according totheir needss" - if the level of intelligence its high, people will nkow tto take what they need, according to the work they have put in. So Iif am am the CEO of manufacturing plant and am a graduate, i am worth more thatn the guy that loads at teh warehouse. Therefore, I would take more, "according to my needs" and "according to my input in the society" And because my input is worth 10 times more than the warehouse loading guy, I would take 10 times more luxurious things than him.

    Anonymous, new york

    karl was right!

    • Reply
    Lincoln    3/27/12

    Communism is the greatest form of human slavery the world has ever seen- David O. McKay. P.S. why are there Karl Marx quotes on a website titled "Liberty Quote"? Waffler: Karl Marx didn't directly kill any one that I can find-but his totalitarian ideas inspired the Soviets to kill those who didn't agree with them, the death toll in the tens of millions. by taking religion out of the system, morality expired behind the iron curtain.

    J Carlton, Calgary

    Waffler, you're right about the cooperation between myself and my wife and how we make our home and our lives work together. The difference is that I am not "married" to the entire planet, nor would I lay down my life for most of the people on it as they are disgusting lazy socialists.

    Anon, USA
    • Reply
      Anon, USA    4/12/13

      This would be interesting to know, all the people on that posted stars and thumbs up for Marx, exactly how much have they GIVEN FREELY to help 'the common good'? I dare to say most of them are probably like our VP-Biden .0000001% of their earnings!

      Cal, lewisville, TX

      Anon, they will say they give their fair share through the government.

      Geoff, san Antonio, TX

      As usual, the quote is never given in its entirety - which is a real eye-opener. The full quote is:
      "the state shall take from each according to his ability, and give to each according to his need."

      E Archer, NYC

      As a philosophy, the quote is alright for the simple-minded. When it is a dictate of the state, it is servitude. Who has the power to decide what the abilities and the needs are? And is there any limit whatsoever? For all those agreeing with this quote, PLEASE look at the result of communism which was the embodiment of this quote. The USSR was a disaster. Look at China and North Korea -- THAT is what you get. This is HIVE mentality, and you do not have a choice. It may be good for the hive, but it is not good for the individual. Humans are not bees serving a queen.

      Anonymous, New Orleans, LA

      It seems there's a number of folks on here that think that if you can't fend for yourself, then you should be doomed to starvation, begging or a life in squalor. Old people...squalor. Even if they worked all their younger lives.... disabled people....definitely starvation.... even veterans ..... or how about children with disabilities and their families.... squalor and starvation, orphans...they can beg or work for pennies as they don't really need much. Seriously... do you want beggars in the streets? more crime? more desperation? If you think it doesn't behoove producers to provide of those who cannot fend for themselves..then that is a fallacy.

      Need is the key word in this quote above. Galatians 6:2
      "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."


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