Myths & Legends

Edited by
Rob Lucas & Andy Blunden



Marx Myths & Legends
A critical reading of the work of Karl Marx now requires us to lay to one side the myths and legends which have obscured his ideas over the past one hundred and twenty years- distortions and misinterpretations to which perhaps no thinker has been more prone. In one sense, this is not difficult, because there is enough of his writing preserved, albeit in translation, for any of us to read Marx in his own words. Most however have been unwilling or unable to do this. The fifty volumes of the MarxEngels Collected Works are forbidding, and when beginning as one almost inevitably does, with the received wisdom surrounding Marx‘s name, there is much to discourage a reader from seriously taking on the task of understanding Marx. The aim of this project is thus to begin to challenge some of those myths in order to clear the way for a fresh reading of Marx that will hopefully be less prone to the distortions, misunderstandings and blatant falsehoods that have so far surrounded Marx. We believe that what Marx had to say remains of considerable relevance to an understanding of problems we face today, but that a reading of Marx now must maintain a critical caution which does not merely reproduce received ideas- positive or negative- about Marx‘s work. The distortion and questionable interpretation of Marx‘s work is in many senses a direct result of his great success. His name became synonymous with a vast movement which not only changed, but virtually defined the twentieth century. The leaders of the communist parties needed to prove themselves true disciples of Marx, while anticommunists followed suit by attributing everything they hated to Karl Marx. Interpretation of Marx has thus been driven by a number of historical factors, and any attempts to gain, for example, a ―scholarly‖ understanding have necessarily been secondary. Yet this is not to mourn any supposed loss of the purity of Marx‘s thought to the struggles and conflicts in which he has been implicated! It is not simply a case of counterposing a ―true‖ Marx to the Marx that gave his name to the movements of the twentieth century. To set against the distortions we cannot raise up a singular, uncontradictory Marx, abstracted from history and ultimately separable from everything that comes within ―Marxism‖, yet it remains that there is much in that received wisdom about Marx that is refutable, or at least rendered distinctly questionable, with a little attention to the textual and historical evidence. There is thus, on the one hand, the generally negative task of demythologising Marx where we need primarily to just look at the evidence carefully. This task is the guiding one of ―Marx Myths & Legends‖, but on the other hand Marx interpretation must to some extent also involve a battle over facts, and the negative task is inextricable from a more positive interpretive one. In areas where controversies remain, we hope to present a heterodox and critically open account, whilst the project itself will be ongoing, with new texts added gradually to cover more areas of Marx mythology and take account of other areas of debate. We encourage readers to contribute their own Critiques & Rejoinders to the articles published here. Divisions of Marx Myths & Legends The myths and legends about Marx broadly fall from the start into two camps; on the one hand those myths propagated tendentiously or maliciously by opponents of socialism, and on the other, the myths of those who claimed Marx as their authority.


They have been the product of various historical factors, and the question of any responsibility for such myths is a complex one. But it remains of central importance that Marx is fundamentally a contested thinker, bound more than any other to specific interests and conflicts within modernity, and the myths and legends historically reflect this. Both of the broad ―pro‖ and ―anti‖ camps share thereby a common core of myths, namely those which conflate Karl Marx with the Communist International, and its most prominent leaders, Lenin and Stalin. The ghastly nature of ―real existing socialism‖ and the ideology of those states has often been simplistically identified with Marx by opponents of socialism. The first group of myths which we deal with therefore are those which ascribe to Karl Marx political ideas about workers‘ states, state-ownership, centralised planning and suppression of individual freedom. These are dealt with primarily in the section on ‗―Myths Conflating Marx with ―State Socialism‖‘ Another group of myths about Marx that have been propagated by opponents of socialism are ad hominem: they seek to call into question Marx‘s ideas by attacking his character. Articles dealing with these myths are grouped under the section on ―Myths about Marx‘s Character‖. According to these legends, Marx was a megalomaniac, a bully, an anti-Semite and a racist, a snob, a womaniser and a sexist, a boring writer and a plagiarist. It is easy to anachronistically impute such charges to individuals of periods prior to contemporary notions of political correctness, but without employing a kind of historical relativism it is valid to question the real intellectual and historical merits of such accusations when their target is often more properly the prejudices and illusions of an entire age than those of an individual. Works such as Hal Draper‘s ―Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype‖ can thus be useful in elucidating the real historical context of some of Marx‘s remarks and language. Though Marx, as represented by Francis Wheen for example, may not have been a perfect human being, it is fair to say that many commonplace stories about Marx‘s character are distinctly questionable. The contexts of the reception of Marx‘s ideas have been very different from that in which they were formed, and this in itself is perhaps the reason for many myths. Marx‘s way of thinking was arguably already somewhat alien to the dominant intellectual trends of its time, and the critical spirit on which Marx had been raised as a Young Hegelian was foreign to the majority of his original readers. Consequently, from the moment what he wrote left his pen it was interpreted in the spirit of nineteenth century socialism, and its dialectical, Hegelian aspects were largely misunderstood or just set aside. Thus a third group of myths is also shared by many friends and foes alike: myths conflating Marx with 19th Century socialism and positivism. His most intelligent interpreters, and those who were to become his principal advocates after his death, were capable of distinguishing between the ideology of the broader socialist movement of the times and the ideas of Karl Marx, even if they did not clearly understand that difference. The fourth and most enduring group of myths about Karl Marx originates from his most illustrious and faithful advocates, Frederick Engels, Georgi Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky, and were perpetuated by the leaders and thinkers of ―actually existing socialism‖. According to these, Marx was the founder of a coherent philosophical and metaphysical system, and a definite, repeatable methodology. We are talking about the myth of dialectical materialism, or ―scientific socialism‖ — that ideology ―cast from a single piece of steel‖[1]. Beyond this group we must add further ―Myths of Marxism‖- myths based on more simplistic interpretations of Marx‘s ideas: that Marx was an economic determinist, or for that matter, any kind of determinist or any kind of economist, that Marx declared philosophy to be obsolete, or alternatively, that he was a materialist philosopher. Lastly we come to a collection of more recently founded myths- some of which have their roots in Marxist tradition, but have become more important in later debates. In this group we place the myth that conflates Marx with Alexandre Kojève and


Hegel‘s ―master-servant dialectic,‖ the myth that Marx had a theory of ideology as ―false consciousness‖, and the myth that there is a necessarily disdainful attitude towards the natural world in Marx‘s allegedly ―promethean‖ or productivist views. These myths can perhaps be attributed to a filtering of Marx through the intellectual climate of the second half of the twentieth century, in which issues of ―recognition‖, ―ideology critique‖, and the critique of the ―Enlightenment‖ dominated. The categories dealt with so far in this project are intended only provisionally, and do not cover exhaustively every area of Marx mythology. As the project grows we intend to broaden its scope and increasingly cover areas of potential controversy, as well as developing upon what we already have through critical dialogue. Marx should be read just as you would read anyone else: critically and for yourself, not uncritically or secondhand. Marx Myths & Legends will have succeeded as a project if it at least helps some to begin to study Marx with a strong mistrust for the prejudices, preconceptions and layers of congealed misinterpretation that surround his life and work. Andy Blunden & Rob Lucas, April 2005. 1.Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Chapter 6, Lenin 1908


Marx Myths & Legends
Texts i. Myths Conflating Marx with “State Socialism” 1. A Manifesto of Emancipation by Paresh Chattopadhyay 2. The „Dictatorship of the Proletariat‟ in Marx and Engels by Hal Draper ii. Myths about Marx‟s Character 3. Marx and the working-class by Francis Wheen 4. Marx‟s „Illegitimate Son‟ by Terrell Carver 5. Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype by Hal Draper 6. Reading the “unreadable” Marx by Humphrey McQueen iii. Myths conflating Marx with 19th Century Socialism and Positivism 7. The Tradition of Scientific Marxism by John Holloway 8. Karl Marx and Religion by Cyril Smith iv. The Myth of Dialectical Materialism 9. The Origins of Dialectical Materialism by Z. A. Jordan 10. The Legend of Marx, or "Engels the founder" by Maximilien Rubel v. Other Myths of Marxism 11. Karl Marx: Economist or Revolutionary? by Harry Cleaver 12. The Myth of Marx‟s Economic Determinism by Peter Stillman 13. Marx and Materialism by Cyril Smith 14. The Myth of „Simple Commodity Production‟ by Christopher J. Arthur vi. Recent Myths 15. Hegel‟s Master-Slave Dialectic and a Myth of Marxology by Christopher J. Arthur 16. Ideology and False Consciousness by Joseph McCarney 17. „The creatures,too,must become free‟: Marx and the Animal/Human Distinction by Lawrence Wilde


Paresh Chattopadhyay

A Manifesto of Emancipation: Marx‟s “Marginal Notes to the Programme of the German Workers‟ Party” after One hundred and twenty-five years
An earlier version of the paper was presented at ―Marxism 2000,‖ University of Massachusetts at Amherst, September 21-24, 2000. Amended by the author for inclusion in ―Marx Myths and Legends.‖ Marx‘s ―Marginal Notes‖ of 1875 or what he called in a letter (to Bracke, May 5, 1875), a ―long scrap of paper,‖ was a purely occasional text which its author felt compelled to compose, in order to underline what he thought to be the serious shortcomings in a workers‘ programme. However, the document could perhaps be considered kind of a second ―Communist Manifesto,‖ authored by Marx alone this time of course. Both of them concern party organisation — the Communist League and the German Workers‘ Party. The second document was enriched by Marx‘s great theoretical breakthroughs as well as by his involvement in the new forms of working class struggles as manifested above all in the work of the First International and the Paris Commune, posterior to the ―Communist Manifesto.‖ Given the necessarily limited scope of this second document, compared with the first, its focus is also relatively circumscribed, being confined to the critique of the specific points in the Programme that Marx found unacceptable. Nevertheless, in spite of the narrowness of scope and the resulting selective character of the themes involved, this document contains, drawing on the author‘s whole life‘s work, a condensed discussion of the most essential elements of the capitalist mode of production, its revolutionary transformation into its opposite and a rough portrayal, in a few bold strokes, of what Marx had called in Capital the ―union of free individuals‖ destined to succeed the existing social order. In this paper we propose to concentrate mostly on the economic aspects of this document. As in the Gothakritik labour is the central theme around which Marx‘s arguments revolve, we start with Marx‘s critique of the conception of labour as it appears in the Programme. Next we pass on to Marx‘s very brief discussion of the Lassallean notion of wage labour which of course is the essence of the capitalist mode of production. Then we propose to treat Marx‘s portrayal of the future society centered basically on the problem of allocation-distribution of the society‘s total product. We conclude by stressing the immensely emancipatory character of the document. As we go along we will seek to dispel a number of misunderstandings — even among Marx‘s professed followers — concerning Marx‘s categories of labour, value and state, all appearing in the ―Critique.‖ Labour and Division of Labour The Gothakritik starts with the Programme‘s assertion that labour is the source of all wealth and all culture. Marx underlines à contrario that labour is not the source of all material wealth and that nature also is a source. This idea of wealth as the conjoint product of human labour and nature is a continuing idea of the Marxian ―Critique of Political Economy‖ from its very inception. In his Parisian manuscripts of 1844 Marx refers to nature as the ―non-organic life‖ of the human and the human as ―a part of nature.‖ ―The labourer can create nothing without nature, without the sensuous (sinniliche) external world‖ (1966a: 77,80, emphasis in text) ... One and a half decades later Marx writes: ―It is false to say that labour in so far as it creates (hervorbringt) use values, that is material wealth, is the unique source of the latter ... The use value always has a natural substratum. Labour is the natural condition of the human, the condition of material exchange between


human and nature, independent of all social forms‖ (1958: 30). This whole idea would appear in almost identical terms in Capital I.[1] Speaking of labour in the labour process where products do not take commodity form, Marx observes that ―this is the purposeful (zweckmässig) activity for the creation of use-values, the appropriation of the objects of nature for human needs, the global condition of material exchange between the human and nature, an everlasting natural condition of human existence and thus independent of all forms of this existence, rather equally common to all its social forms‖ (1962a: 198; 1965: 735. In the French version the expression ―natural condition‖ was changed for ―physical necessity‖ and the term ―everlasting‖ was dropped). In the same way, in his manuscript for Capital III Marx writes about labour as ―human productive activity in general through which the human mediates material exchanges with nature, divested not only of all determinate social forms and characters but even in its simple natural existence, independent of society and removed from all societies, and, as an expression and affirmation of life, common to the human not yet social and to the one who is in any way determined socially‖ (1992: 843-44. Engels‘s edited version is very slightly different. See Marx 1964: 823-24). The second point about labour and its role in production — nature‘s contribution being abstracted here — that Marx makes in the Gothakritik concerns labour‘s relation to society in this regard. Correcting the somewhat defective formulation of the ―Program,‖ Marx observes that only labour producing in society — ―social labour‖ — creates ―material wealth;‖ isolated labour can create use value only. About a decade earlier Marx had told the workers that ―a man who produces an article for his own immediate use, consumes it himself, creates a product but not a commodity,‖ and that ―to produce a commodity‖ it is ―not only Labour but social Labour‖ that is relevant (1968: 201; emphasis and capitalization are in text). It is also well known that according to Marx it is not labour as such but ―socially necessary labour (time)‖ that produces commodities. Some critics of Marx, particularly among the feminists, have inferred from these statements that according to Marx the only labour that is social is commodity producing labour (see the discussion in Custers 1997). However, this inference is invalid. From the premise that only social labour produces commodities it does not follow that only the commodity producing labour is social labour. Apart from this non sequitur, such a position would signify that all use value producing labour is non-social labour, that all labour engaged in material production in non-commodity societies is non-social labour — which of course would be absurd from Marx‘s point of view. First of all, in what sense commodity producing labour is ―social labour"? Marx‘s position is very clear on this question. This type of labour is social labour because it is subordinated to the social division of labour, is socially determined average labour (time), and destined to satisfy certain social want. Secondly, the producers here enter into social contact through exchange of products taking commodity form. Marx, at the same time stresses the very specific character of the sociality of this labour. ―The conditions of labour positing exchange value are social determinants of labour or determinants of social labour, but social not in a general (schlechthin), but in a particular (besondere) way. This is a specific kind of sociality.‖ It is a situation in which ―each one labours for oneself and the particular labour has to appear as its opposite, abstract general labour,‖ and ―in this form social labour.‖ It has this ―specific social character only within the limits of exchange‖ (1958: 24; 1959: 525; 1962a: 87; emphasis in text). The third point about labour in Marx‘s critique of the ―Program‖ is how Marx envisages labour in the new society after capital has disappeared from the scene. At its initial phase the new society cannot yet completely get rid of the legacy of the mode of labour of the old society — including the division of labour, particularly the division between physical and mental labour. Now, in one of his early texts Marx speaks of the ―abolition of the division of labour‖ as the task of the ―communist revolution,‖ even of ―abolition of labour‖ tout court (1973a: 70, 364). However, in the Gothakritik Marx‘s


stand does not appear to be quite the same on this question. Referring to ―a higher phase‖ of the Association which will have completely transgressed ―the narrow bourgeois horizon,‖ Marx does not say that either labour or division of labour would be ―abolished.‖ He stresses that labour in that society would not simply be a means of life but would itself become life‘s ―first need.‖ Similarly not all division of labour would be abolished, but only the division of labour which puts the individuals under its ―enslaving subordination‖ (knechtende Unterordnung). Let us examine to which extent there is a ―break‖ (―coupure‖) between the early Marx and the late Marx in this regard. In his Parisian excerpt notebooks of 1844 Marx distinguishes between two types of labour. The first is labour in the absence of private property in the means of production where ―we produce as human beings.‖ Here labour is a ―free manifestation of life and therefore enjoyment of life,‖ where the ―particularity of my life is affirmed.‖ Here labour is ―true, active property.‖ Contrariwise, the second type of labour, that is labour exercised under private property, is the ―alienation of life.‖ Here ―my individuality is to such an extent alienated that this activity is hated by me and is a torment. It is only an appearance of activity imposed only by an external, contingent necessity, and not enjoined by an inner necessary need‖ (1932: 546, 547). One year later, in another manuscript, Marx observes that the labourer‘s activity is not ―a free manifestation of his human life,‖ it is rather a ―bartering away (Verschachern), an alienation of his powers to capital.‖ Marx calls this activity ―labour‖ and writes that ―‗labour‘ by nature (Wesen) is unfree, inhuman, unsocial activity conditioned by and creating private property,‖ and then adds that ―the abolition of private property only becomes a reality if it is conceived as the abolition of ‗labour‘‖ (1972a: 435-36; emphasis in text). Now, labour as a pure process of material exchange between human beings and nature is a ―simple and abstract‖ category and as such does not take account of the social conditions in which it operates. However, all production, considered as ―appropriation of nature from the side of the individual,‖ takes place ―within and is mediated by definite social forms‖ (Marx 1958: 241, 280). When labour‘s social dimension is brought in, labour takes on a new meaning. The question becomes relevant as to whether the labour process operates ―under the brutal lash of the slave supervision or the anxious eye of the capitalist‖ (1962a: 198-99). In fact these two broad forms of labour epitomize, by and large, at least the dominant type of labour that has operated in all class-societies. Traditionally, labour has been a non-free activity of the labouring individual — either as directly forced labour under ―personal dependence‖ as in pre-capitalism or as alienated labour under ―material dependence‖ or ―servitude of the object‖ (Knechtshaft des Gegenstandes) in commoditycapitalist society (Marx 1953: 75; 1966a: 76). Such labour has reduced the labourer into a ―labouring animal‖ (Marx 1962b: 256). Consequently, the division of labour practised so far has been absolutely involuntary where the ―human being‘s own activity dominates the human being as an alien, opposite power‖ (Marx 1973a: 33). It goes without saying that such labour is totally incompatible with the human being‘s ―free individuality‖ under the Association. This labour in the sense of the ―traditional mode of activity‖ (bisherige Art der Tätigkeit) ceases to exist in the Association, it is ―abolished‖ (Marx 1973a: 70). Referring to Adam Smith‘s idea of labour being ―sacrifice of freedom,‖ Marx notes that labour, as it has appeared ―in its historical forms of slavery, serfdom and wage labour,‖ always appears ―repulsive, forced from outside;‖ labour has not yet created the ―subjective and objective conditions in which labour would be attractive and self-realising for the individual.‖ However, labour could also be seen as an ―activity of freedom,‖ as selfrealizing and indeed as ―real freedom‖ when labour is exercised toward removing the obstacles for reaching an end (not imposed from outside) (1953: 505). Thus when Marx speaks of ―abolition‖ of division of labour and labour itself in his writings anterior to the Gothakritik, it is precisely with reference to the different forms of hitherto existing modes of labour which far from being a self-realizing activity of the individual, unimposed from the exterior, a free manifestation of human life, has been their negation. This is the labour


which has to be abolished along with the associated division of labour. Thereby labour, transformed into a ―self (affirming) activity‖ (Selbstätigkeit), becomes, as the Gothakritik says not only a means of life but also life‘s ―prime need‖ in a higher phase of the Association.[2] Again, it is about this hitherto existing type of labour that Marx observes in the Gothakritik that the ―law of the whole hitherto existing history ―has been that ―in proportion as labour is socially developed and thereby becomes a source of wealth and culture, there develops poverty and demoralization on the side of the labourers, wealth and culture on the side of the non-labourers.‖ Significance of Wage Labour Marx portrays, in a few bold strokes, the essence of the capitalist mode of production through his attack on the Lassallean idea of wage which Lassalle had taken over from the bourgeois economists. Here Marx makes two points. The first concerns the Lassallean ―iron law of wages,‖ where wages are supposed to be at a level corresponding to the minimum of subsistence just sufficient for the workers to live and the perpetuate their class. It should be pointed out that this formulation of wage determination by the workers‘ minimum subsistence is not very different from the formulation that we find in Marx‘s writings in the 1840s (see Marx 1965: 27, 152; 1966b: 65; 1973: 406). In his polemic with Proudhon on the question of wage labour, Marx‘s reference point was Ricardo‘s ―natural price of labour which is necessary to enable the labourers to subsist and to perpetuate their race‖ (see Ricardo 1951: 93). In fact Engels himself pointed out in a note in the first German edition (1885) of Marx‘s Proudhon-critique (1847) that the formulation was first advanced by him (Engels) in 1844 and 1845. ―Marx had adopted it and Lassalle had borrowed it from us.‖[3] Later Marx abandoned this position. Instead Marx emphasized in Capital the relativity of natural needs of the labourer — food, clothing, heating, housing — dictated by climate and physical conditions of a country as well as ―a moral and historical element.‖ Particularly during the process of ―extensive‖ accumulation of capital, the labourers receiving in the form of payment a bigger portion of the net product — created by themselves — have the possibility of ―increasing the circle of their enjoyment, of being better fed, clothed and furnished and making a small reserve fund‖ (1962a: 185, 646; 1965: 720, 1127). Similarly in unpublished ‗sixth chapter‘ of Capital Marx wrote: ―The minimum wage of the slave appears as a constant magnitude, independent of his labour. For the free labourer this value of his labour power and the corresponding average wage are not predestined by the limits determined by his sheer physical needs, independently of his own labour. It is here like the value of all commodities, a more or less constant average for the class; but it does not exist in this immediate reality for the individual labourer whose wage may stay above or below this minimum‖ (1988: 102; emphasis in text). In the Gothakritik Marx cites Lange‘s work showing the Malthusian population theory as the basis of Lassalle‘s iron law of wages.[4] In this connection it must be stressed that while Marx has no minimum subsistence theory of wages he does speak of ―absolute impoverishment‖ of the labourers under capitalism, which has an unusual and deep significance. In fact wage labour itself — irrespective of the level of wages received by the labourer — signifies ―absolute poverty‖ of the labourer. In two manuscripts Marx tersely identifies, almost in the same words, ―labour (labour power) as the absolute poverty not as penury but as total exclusion from the objective wealth‖ [1953: 203; 1976b; 148. ―Labour‖ (Arbeit) in the first manuscript was changed into ―labour power (Arbeitsvermögen) in the second].[5] The second point that Marx makes on wage labour is of the highest importance clearly showing his fundamental difference with the entire bourgeois political economy (―classical‖ as well as ―vulgar‖) in this regard. Marx underlines that wage is not what it appears to be, that is value or price of labour. It is, on the contrary, a masked form of the value or price of labour power. ―Thereby,‖ writes Marx, ―the whole hitherto existing bourgeois conception of wage as well as the criticism directed against it (hitherto) was once and for all thrown overboard


and it was clearly shown that the wage labourer is permitted to work for his living, that is to live in so far as he works gratis a certain time for the capitalist; that the whole capitalist system of production revolves around the prolongation of this unpaid labour (Gratisarbeit) through the extension of the working day or through the development of productivity, intensity of labour etc. and that the system of wage labour is a system of slavery and, indeed, a slavery which becomes more severe to the same extent as the social productive powers develop, whether the labourer receives a higher or a lower wage‖ (emphasis in text).[6] As to the conception of wage itself Marx is here restating in an extremely condensed form what he had written in Capital I (Chapter 16, Chapter 19 in the French version) (―On the transformation of value, respectively price of labour power in wages‖). There he had shown that as regards the ―value and price of labour‖ or wage as the ―phenomenal form‖ in contrast to the ―essential relation‖ which is manifested therein, that is value and price of labour power, the same distinction holds as that between all phenomenal forms and their hidden substratum. He added that it had taken a long time for the world history to decipher the secret of wage, which was in fact Marx‘s own achievement.[7] Distribution in the New Society Coming to the question of distribution in the ―cooperative society,‖ Marx restates his two well-known fundamental materialist propositions. First, the juridical relations arise from the ―economic,‖ that is production relations and not inversely, and, secondly, the distribution of the means of consumption is a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production, which in its turn is a character of the mode of production itself. Thus Marx faults the ―programme‖ for limiting its scope exclusively to the distribution of the means of consumption among the members of the new society. ―Vulgar socialism,‖ following the bourgeois economists, treats distribution — basically of the means of consumption — independently of the mode of production and presents socialism as turning exclusively on distribution.[8] As the ‗Programme‘ spoke of the distribution of society‘s labour-product, Marx‘s approach to distribution in his critique was correspondingly directed against the Lassallean approach in terms of distribution of society‘s total product, and not explicitly in terms of the broader question, that of allocation of society‘s labour time. However, already earlier, in his 1857-58 manuscripts, Marx had emphasized that ―all economy is finally reduced to the economy of time‖ and spoken of the two aspects of the employment of society‘s available labour time. First, society‘s labour time must be economised — less time society requires to produce the daily requirements, more time it gains for other material and spiritual production. Secondly, society must distribute its labour time among different branches appropriately in order to obtain production corresponding to its needs. However, on the basis of collective production the economy of time as well as planned distribution of labour time among different branches of production remains the first economic law. This becomes even a law of much higher degree.‖ Marx immediately adds that this is essentially different from measuring exchange values (labour or labour products) by labour time‖ (1953: 89).[9] In Capital I (Chapter one) Marx offers an outline of the mode of distribution of the total social product within the ―union of free individuals‖ without yet distinguishing between the different phases through which the new society is supposed to pass. However, in the light of the Gothakritik where (in fact the only place where) Marx distinguishes between two phases of communism, the mode of distribution of the social product under communism as he proposes in Capital I as well as in the manuscript for Capital II (Chapter 18 in Engels‘s edition) could only refer to the ―first phase‖ of the new society. What we find particularly in Capital I would only be elaborated in the Gothakritik. According to the earlier text, a part of the total social product is not distributed among the individual members but is kept aside for serving again as means of production. The rest serves as means of consumption distributed according to the magnitude of labour time that each producer contributes to the total social labour time. Here the labour time that each


individual offers towards the creation of the social product corresponding to different needs of society, serves as the measure of the share of the labouring individual in the common labour as well as the portion of the total consumption which comes back to the labouring individual.[10] An important purpose of Marx‘s elaboration of this scheme in the Gothakritik was the refutation of the Lassallean notion of distribution allowing each individual labourer the ―undiminished fruit‖ of her or his labour (taken over by Lassalle from the earlier socialists including Proudhon). Following the lead of Capital I Marx discusses in the Gothakritik two basic aspects of the distribution of the social product mainly with reference to the society‘s ―first phase‖ — namely, the division of the product between society‘s production needs and consumption needs, and secondly, the allotment of the means of consumption among society‘s members. As to the first problem, one part of the social product serves as common funds that include replacement and extension of the means of production as well as society‘s insurance and reserve funds against uncertainty. The rest serves as means of collective consumption and personal consumption. As to the mode of distribution of the means of consumption, as producers are united with the conditions of production in the new society, they are, to start with, no longer sellers of their labour power, and the wage form of return to their labour ceases right from the ―first phase.‖ Here the labourers receive from their own (free) Association not wage but some kind of a token indicating the labour time contributed by them to the total social labour time — after deduction for common funds. These tokens allow the labourers to draw from the social stock of means of consumption the amount costing the same amount of labour. At no stage, however, of the allocation-distribution process does the product of labour take the value form. Right from the start the new society — as it has ―just come out of the capitalist society‖ — based on the common appropriation of the conditions of production excludes, by definition, all exchange in value form of the objectified labour against objectified labour as well as of the objectified labour against living labour. As the Gothakritik says, ―Within the cooperative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products, just as little does labour applied to the products appear as value of these products‖ (emphasis in text).[11] Indeed, in the de-alienated Association there is no need for, in fact no possibility of, products of individual labour to be mediated by exchange in value form in order to be what they really are, that is social. Earlier Marx had written that in the communitarian society where ―community is posited before production,‖ the ―individual‘s participation in the collective products is not mediated by independent labour or products of labour. It is mediated by the social conditions of production within which the individual‘s activity is inserted‖ (1953: 89; 1958: 27). Naturally, in the absence of commodity production the tokens, that the producers receive from their association, indicating the labour time contributed by them to the total social product, are not money. In the ―first phase‖ of the new society the right of the individual producers to receive consumption goods proportional to the labour contributed by them (after necessary deductions) is an ―equal right‖ in the sense that the measurement involved is done with an ―equal standard,‖ labour, though the equal right is, at the same time, ―unequal,‖ given the unequal contribution of the individual producers. In so far as a given amount of labour in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labour in another form, the principle here involved is the same as that which prevails under commodity production, even though commodity production has ceased to exist.[12] Since the new society has just come out of the capitalist society and has not yet been able to ―develop on its own foundations,‖ the new mode of distribution cannot be completely free from the old mode. The determining principle of distribution among individuals continues to be each one‘s labour contribution, and not (yet) human needs, this equal-unequal right being thus still within the bourgeois horizon, it is a ―bourgeois right.‖ The latter is fully overcome only in a ―higher phase‖ of


the Association with the overcoming of the enslaving division of labour, with labour becoming a ―first need‖ of life and with the ―spring of cooperative wealth‖ flowing more abundantly. A Manifesto of Emancipation While elaborating on the hitherto existing human labour as enslaving Marx, in the Gothakritik, also suggests that the situation has now arisen where conditions of negating this labour with the corresponding division of labour have been created. ―Finally,‖ adds Marx, ―in the modern capitalist society the material etc. conditions are created which enable and compel the labourers to break this malediction.‖[13] The Gothakritik gave Marx the occasion — though not for prescribing ―receipts for the cook shops of the future‖ (1962a: 25) for at least offering some broad indicators regarding how he conceived the new society to be after the demise of the old. Let it be emphasized at the outset that for Marx the socialist (equivalently communist) society is nothing short of a ―union of free individuals‖ because for him the (self) emancipation of the ―wage slaves‖ automatically implies human emancipation in general inasmuch as in capitalism — the last antagonistic social formation in human evolution here is no class below the proletariat.[14] The ―associated mode of production‖ on which the new society is based and the corresponding collective (social) appropriation of the conditions of production stand opposed to all earlier modes of production and appropriation appearing in what Marx famously calls the ―prehistory of human society‖ (1958: 14). Marx calls the new society the ―union of free individuals‖ (1962a: 92) because the individuals here are free in the sense that in the social relations of production, the ensemble of which constitutes the basis of a society, there is no longer any ―personal dependence‖ — the first social form of unfreedom — as in precapitalism nor any ―material dependence"- the second social form of unfreedom — as in the commodity (capitalist) production. In fact long before the arrival of the new society, capital tends to destroy all bonds of personal dependence such as are found in patriarchy, in the relations of the feudal lord and vassal, in those of the landlord and serf, in the system of casts and class etc. However, while capital destroys personal dependence, it establishes in its turn material dependence. ―Under capital personal independence is based on material dependence.‖ This is shown in (generalized) commodity production (including wage labour). This ―(personal) freedom is an illusion and is more correctly considered as indifference.‖ While the determining factor in the pre-capitalist case appears to be the ―personal limitation‖ of one individual by another, the determining factor in the (generalized) commodity production (capitalism) is built-up into a ―material limitation‖ of the individual by circumstances that are independent of the individual and over which the individual has no control. ―The social production is not subordinated to the individuals. The individuals remain subordinated to the social production which exists outside of them as a fatality‖ (Marx 1953: 76, 81).[15] Naturally, in the Gothakritik, focusing particularly on the post bourgeois society, Marx leaves aside the question of the first social form of unfreedom and refers only to the second social form of unfreedom embodied in commodity production and wage labour, neither of which has any place in socialism (communism) conceived as a society of free and associated producers. [16] After the disappearance of the two social forms of unfreedom, the humanity arrives, in socialism, at ―free individuality based on the universal development of the individual and the subordination of their common social productivity as their (own) social power‖ (Marx 1953: 75). Commodity production and wage labour — besides the earlier forms of personal dependence — are not the only enemies of human freedom. There is also the institution of the state which was always considered by Marx as antipathetic to human freedom. ―The existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable,‖ he already announced in an early polemic (1976a: 401-402). A little later Marx wrote that ―the working class in course of its development will substitute the old civil society by an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will no more be (any) political power


properly speaking‖ (1965: 136), and one year later in the Manifesto he (and Engels) added that with ―production concentrated in the hands of the associated individuals, public power will lose its political character‖ (1966b: 77). Much later, only four years before he composed the Gothakritik, he praised the Parisian communards for their ―Revolution not against this or that state power ... but against the state itself‖ (in Marx and Engels 1971: 152, emphasis in text). So, it should be clear that for Marx, after the demise of the proletarian political power along with the proletariat at the end of the revolutionary transformation period‖ and the consequent disappearance of classes, the state, like commodity production and wage labour — embodying human unfreedom — can have no place in socialism. However, unlike what he does with commodity production and wage labour, Marx does not, in the Gothakritik, directly treat the question of the state in relation to the Association. He simply wonders about which social functions would remain in the communist society analogous to the present day state functions. That this is no way implies the continued existence of the state in the new society is clear in Marx‘s denunciation, in the same document, of the ―Lassallean sect‘s servile faith in the state,‖ which he considers as ―remote from socialism.‖[17] Let us conclude by noting that Marx‘s Gothakritik did not have much luck with his followers at any period. Its emancipatory message was too strong for the immediate followers to take. The text was suppressed for a long period before being published by Marx‘s followers (at the insistence of Engels) more than fifteen years after its composition. Even after it was published, its reception by the ‗Marxists‘ was far from complete. We shall refer here to the best of the cases — to Lenin‘s State and Revolution, perhaps the most libertarian work within ‗orthodox Marxism.‘ this work apparently follows the Gothakritik so closely that Lenin is said to have ―built his whole State and Revolution on it‖ (Dunayevskaya 1991: 154). On a careful reading of the book (undoubtedly incomplete), however, one finds that Lenin‘s emancipatory idea falls far short of that of Marx (and Engels). Lenin conceives socialism — equated with the first phase of communism (contrary to Marx) — not in terms of new (real) social relations of production, as a free association of producers based on the ―associated mode of production,‖ but in terms of specific ownership (that is juridical) form, in terms of ―social ownership‖ of the means of production, which is reduced to the ownership of the means of production by the ―working class state.‖ While Lenin apparently excludes commodity production from socialism, he envisages ―equality of labour and wage‖ for all citizens, now transformed into the ―hired employees of the state‖ — in other words, the existence of wage labour and its employment by the (socialist) state. On the other hand, reading his own ideas into Marx‘s text, Lenin envisages the existence of ―bourgeois state‖ to enforce what Marx calls the (remaining) ―bourgeois right‖ in distribution in the first phase of communism. This seems to be a strange logic — absolutely unwarranted by Marx‘s text — which stands Marx on his head. In Marx the first phase of the new society is inaugurated after the disappearance of the proletarian rule (along with the proletariat) — that is, all class rule. If Lenin is correct, the workers themselves — no longer proletarians — would have to recreate a bourgeois state to enforce ―bourgeois right.‖ On the other hand, according to Marx, the existence of state itself — bourgeois or proletarian — ends along with the classes at the end of the ―revolutionary transformation period‖ and the beginning of the new society. Whatever ―bourgeois right‖ remains in the sphere of distribution, it does not require a particular political apparatus — a state (least of all a bourgeois state) — to enforce it. Quite logically Marx envisages society itself distributing not only the labour tokens among its members, but also the total (social) labour time among the different branches of production. Indeed, Lenin‘s socialism — particularly if we take his other writings into consideration as well — turns out to be much closer to Lassalle-Kautsky state owned-andplanned economy than to Marx‘s emancipatory project of the ―union of free individuals.‖ Let us add that Lenin‘s inability to break altogether with the heritage of the Second International on the state appears also in his (mis)reading of Marx‘s discourse on the


commune (1871). About a month before the Bolshevik seizure of power (1917), Lenin wrote: ―Marx taught ... that the proletariat must smash the ready-made state machine and substitute a new one for it ... This new machine was created by the Paris Commune.‖ We earlier saw how Marx spoke admiringly about the Parisian Revolution aiming to destroy the state as such, not simply a particular kind of state. In fact, ‗substituting the existing state machine by a new state machine (as Lenin would have it) was precisely considered by Marx to be the hallmark of all earlier revolutions, not of the proletarian revolution whose aim a contrario is to ―throw off this deadening ―incubus‖ altogether in course of the revolution. In Marx‘s view, the Paris Commune, far from ‗creating a new state machine,‘ aimed to destroy the machine itself. Paresh Chattopadhyay Université du Québec à Montréal e-mail Endnotes 1. ―As the creator of use values, as useful labor, labor is the condition of existence of the human, independent of all social forms, an everlasting natural necessity, for mediating the material exchange between the human and nature .... The human can only proceed in production as nature itself, that is, can only change the forms of matter. Still more. In this labor of simple transformation, the human is again constantly supported by forces of nature. Labour is thus not the unique source of the produced use values, the material wealth‖ (1962a: 57-58; 1965: 570-71, the term ―Formung‖ (formation) in the German version was changed into ―transformation‖ in the French version). 2. Quite in the spirit of the Gothakritik Marx writes in an earlier text: ―As if the division of labor would not be just as much possible if the conditions of labor belonged to the associated laborers and they act in relation to them as these are in nature, their own products and the material elements of their own activity‖ (1962b: 271). 3. ―The proposition that the ‗natural,‘ that is normal price of labour power coincides with the minimum wage, that is exchange value of the subsistence absolutely necessary for the life and reproduction of the labourer — this proposition I established for the first time in the Outline (1844) and The Condition (1845). It was later adopted by Marx. Lassalle borrowed it from us ... In Capital Marx corrected this proposition while analysing the conditions that allow the capitalists to lower more and more the price of labour power below its value‖ (Engels in Marx 1972b: 83). 4. For a thorough discussion of the roots of the Lassallean iron law of wages in Ricardo and Malthus as well as of Marx‘s fundamental difference with the RicardoMalthus-Lassalle approach see the unjustly neglected work of K. Diehl (1905: 5-7; 62-65; 70-860. 5. Marx elaborates this: ―since the real (wirkliche) labour of appropriating the natural elements for satisfying human needs is the activity through which the material exchange between the human and nature is mediated, the labour power which is denuded of the means of production, the objective conditions of appropriating the natural elements through labour, is also denuded of the means of subsistence. Therefore the labour power denuded of the means of production and of the means of subsistence is the absolute poverty as such and the labourer is its personification‖ (1976b: 35; emphasis in text). 6. Almost two decades earlier, in a letter to Engels (January 14, 1958), Marx had rejected the bourgeois theory of profit in almost the same terms, saying that ―I have thrown overboard (über den Haufen geworfen) the whole doctrine of profit as it had existed hitherto‖ (helped by his rereading of Hegel‘s Logic ―by mere accident‖). With the whole bourgeois conception of wage and doctrine of profit gone, one wonders what remains of the claim that Marx was a Ricardian — albeit a critical one — after all. 7. To note in this connection is Marx‘s use of the well-known Hegelian distinction between ―essence‖ and ―being‖ and the discussion around it as we find in the opening lines


of the second book of Logic. (See Hegel 1963: 1). Marx repeats this almost verbatim in the Gothakritik by emphasizing that Lassalle had taken ―appearance for essence‖ in his (mis)understanding of wage. By the way this also disproves Althusser‘s contention that the Gothakritik is ―totally free from any trace of the influence of Hegel‖ (1969: 21). 8. Marx credits Ricardo for having ―instinctively conceived distribution as the most definite expression‖ of the relations of the ―agents of production in a given society‖ (1953: 8; 1992: 895; 1964: 885). This way of conceiving distribution, even ―instinctively‖ (that is, not consciously and explicitly), seems to have disappeared in the post-Ricardian bourgeois political economy. Marx particularly mentions John Stuart Mill for having conceived distribution independently of the mode of production, for considering the ―bourgeois forms of production as absolute, but the bourgeois forms of distribution as relative, historical‖ (1962b: 80; 1992; 895; 1964: 885). The tendency of treating distribution in abstraction from the mode of production has continued in bourgeois political economy. This is clearly seen in Sen (1997). 9. In this regard see also Marx‘s letters to Engels, January 8, 1868 and to Kugelman, July 11, 1968. 10. In the ―union of free individuals,‖ Marx observes, ―the labour time would play a double role. Its socially planned distribution regulates the correct proportion of the different functions of labour in relation to different needs. On the other hand, the labour time serves simultaneously as the measure of the individual share of the producers in the common labour and thereby also in the individual share of consumption in the common produce‖ (1962a: 93; 1965: 613. In the French version the term ―planned‖ (plannässige) before the term ―distribution‖ was left out. 11. In fact this had always been Marx‘s position. The texts in this regard are too numerous to be cited here. There exists no text which contradicts this position. The contrary position — that according to Marx commodity production continues in socialism — taken by a number of authors, Marxist and non-Marxist, including some adherents of the so-called market socialism or socialist market, is based on a complete misreading of Marx‘s texts (See, among others, Dobb 1940: 299-300; Lange 1945: 128; J. Robinson 1963: 23; Lukács 1971: 688; Schweickert 1996: 339-40). 12. In Capital I Marx had invoked the principle of commodity exchange in this connection ―just to draw a parallel‖ with commodity production without implying in any way that the communist society (even in its ―first phase‖) is a commodity society (1962a: 93; 1965: 613). 13. In an earlier text Marx observes: ―The development of the faculties of the human species, though at first effected at the cost of the majority of the human individuals and even of the whole classes of human beings, ends up by breaking through this antagonism and coincides with the development of the singular individuals. Thus a higher development of individuality is brought only through a historic process in which the individuals are sacrificed‖ (1959: 107). 14. ―The proletariat,‖ wrote the young Marx, ―cannot abolish its own conditions of existence without abolishing the inhuman conditions of the present society which are summed up in its own situation (1972a: 38) Again, in his last programmatic writing for the working class he penned: ―The emancipation of the working class is the emancipation of all human beings irrespective of sex or race‖ (1965: 1538). 15. Earlier he had written that in the exchange process ―the individual‘s own power over the object appears as power of the object over the individual; master of his production, the individual appears as the slave of his production‖ (1932: 526). 16. The second social form of human unfreedom inherent in commodity production, including wage labour, seems not to have been recognized by the eminent humanist and libertarian economist A.K. Sen. While he rightly stresses the liberating aspect of commodity production (―market‖) for the individuals in a largely pre-capitalist environment and correctly refers to Marx in this connection, he fails to notice the


enslaving side of commodity production itself in relation to the participating individuals (even in ‗perfect‘ market situation) precisely emphasized by Marx. Sen, of course, does not question the wage system either, denounced by Marx as ―wage slavery.‖ See Sen 1999. 17. The ―present day state‖ is brought in by Marx as simply an analogy in the same way as Marx, while discussing the mode of distribution of the means of consumption in socialism, brings in commodity production ―just to give a parallel‖ (1962a: 93). In no way follows that either the state or commodity production would continue to prevail in the Association. Let us add that in his (probably) last theoretical writing Marx sarcastically mentions the ―Social State‖ ascribed to him by somebody ―generously‖ (1962c: 360-371). Bibliography Althusser, L. 1969 ―Avertissement.‖ In Karl Marx. Le Capital. Edited by L. Althusser. vol 1. Paris: Garnier Flammarion. Custers, Peter. 1997. Capital Accumulation and Women‘s Labour in Asian Economies. London: Zed Books. Diehl, K. 1905. Sozialwissenschaftliche Erläuterungen zur Ricardo‘s ―Grundgesetzen der Volkswirtschaft und Besteurung,‖ vol. 2, Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann. Dobb, M. 1966. Politician Economy and Capitalism. London: Routledge. Dunayevskaya, R. 1991. Rosa Luxemburg, Women‘s Liberation and Marx‘s Philosophy of Revolution. Chicago, University of Illinois Press. Hegel G.W.F. 1963, Wissenschaft der Logik. Edited by G. Lasson, vol. 2. Hamburg: F. Meiner. Lange, O. 1945. ―Marxian Economics in the Soviet Union.‖ American Economic Review, March. Lukacs, G. 1971. Zur Ontologie des gesellschaftlichen Seins. vol. 1, Part 4. Berlin: H. Luchterhand Verlag. Marx, K. 1932. ―Aus den Exzerptheften: Ökonomische Studien.‖ In Marx and Engels. Gesamtsausgabe (hereafter MEGA) Section 1, vol. 3. Berlin: Marx-Engels Verlag. Marx, K. 1953. Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Berlin; Dietz Verlag. Marx, K. 1958. Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. (1859). Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1959. Theorien über den Mehrwert (1861-1863), vol. 2. Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1962a. Das Kapital. vol. 1 (1867, 1873). Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1962b. Theorien über den Mehrwert (1861-1863), vol. 3. Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1962c, Randglossen zu Adolph Wagners ‗Lehrbuch‘ In Marx-Engels, Werke (hereafter MEW) 19. Berlin, Dietz. Marx, K. 1964. Das Kapital. vol. 3 (1863-1867). Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1965. ―Le Capital.‖ vol. 1 (1875) ―Misère de la philosophie (1847); ―Discours sur le libre échange‖ (1848), ―Considérants du programme du parti ouvrier français‖ (1880) in K. Marx Oeuvres: Économie vol. 1. Paris: Gallimard. Marx, K. 1966a. ―Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte‘ (1844). In K. Marx and F. Engels. Studienausgabe (hereafter MESA). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. Marx, K. (and Engels) 1966b ―Manifest der kommunistischen Partei‖ in MESA III. Frankfurt a Main: Fischer. Marx, K. 1968. ―Wages, Price and Profit.‖ (1865). In Marx and Engels. Selected Works (in one volume). Moscow: Progress. Marx, K. 1971. First Outline of the Civil War in France (1871). In Marx and Engles On the Paris Commune. Moscow: Progress. Marx, K. 1972a, Die Heilige Familie in Marx-Engels, Werke (Berlin, Dietz). Marx, K. 1972b. Das Elend der Philosophie. (1847, 1885) In MEW 4, Berlin, Dietz. Marx, K. 1972c. ―Über Friedrich Lists Buch ‗Das nationale System der politischen Ökonomie‘‖ (1845). In Beiträge zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung. Heft 3. Marx, K. 1973a. Die Deutsche Ideologie (1845-1846) In MEW 3. Berlin: Dietz.


Marx, K. 1973b. Lohnarbeit und Kapital. (1849). In MEW 6, Berlin, Dietz. Marx, K. 1974. Kritik des Gothaer Programmentwurfs von 1875. Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1976a. ―Kritische Randglossen zu dem Artikel ...‖ (1844) In MEW 4, Berlin: Dietz. Marx, K. 1976b, ―Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Manuskript 1861-1863)‖ in MEGA, Section 2, Berlin, Dietz. Marx, K. 1988, Resultate des unmittelbaren Produktionsprozesses (1863-1865). In MEGA, vol. 4, part 1. Berlin, Dietz. Marx, K. ―Ökonomische Manuskripte (1863-1867).‖ In MEGA, Section 2, vol. 4, Part 2. Berlin: Dietz, 1992. Ricardo D. 1951, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. In Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo edited by P. Sraffa Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Robinson, Joan. 1963, An Essay on Marxian Economics. London: Macmillan. Sen, Amartya 1997. On Economic Inequality (2nd edition). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sen, Amartya 1999. Development as Freedom. New York: Alfred Knopf. Schweickert, D. 1996. Against Capitalism. Boulder: Westview Press.


Hal Draper 1987 The „Dictatorship of the Proletariat‟ in Marx and Engels
Source: Chapter 1 of The ‗Dictatorship of the Proletariat‘ from Marx to Lenin, by Hal Draper, Monthly Review Press, 1987. Copyright: reproduced with permission of Hal Draper‘s estate at the Center for Socialist History. All rights remain with the author‘s estate. 1 The „Dictatorship of the Proletariat‟ in Marx and Engels The phrase ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ first appeared in a series of articles by Marx, later titled The Class Struggles in France 1848-1850, published in what was then Marx‘s own London magazine. The first article, written in January 1850, came off the press in early March. The expression or its equivalent appeared not once but three times – in each of the three installments (or chapters) that comprised the original series. This work was Marx‘s attempt to sum up the political meaning of the European revolution of 1848-49. Marx had taken an active part in this revolution in the German arena, as editor of the leading organ on the revolutionary left, at the same time closely following the turbulent developments in France and Vienna in particular. The revolution was now over, and Marx was thinking over its lessons. The first question is: when it appeared in print in the spring of 1850, what did the phrase mean to Marx and to his contemporaneous readers? The key fact, which was going to bedevil the history of the term, is this: in the middle of the nineteenth century the old word ‗dictatorship‘ still meant what it had meant for centuries, and in this meaning it was not a synonym for despotism, tyranny, absolutism, or autocracy, and above all it was not counterposed to democracy. 1. Short Sketch of ‗Dictatorship‘ The word ‗dictatorship‘ in all languages (dictature, Diktatur, etc.) began as a reference to the dictatura of the ancient Roman Republic, an important constitutional institution that lasted for over three centuries and left its enduring mark on all political thought. This institution provided for an emergency exercise of power by a trusted citizen for temporary and limited purposes, for six months at the most. Its aim was to preserve the republican status quo; it was conceived to be a bulwark in defense of the republic against a foreign foe or internal subversion; indeed it was directed against elements whom we might today accuse of wanting ―dictatorship.‖ It worked – at least until Julius Caesar destroyed the republican dictatura by declaring himself unlimited ―dictator‖ in permanence, that is, a dictator in our present-day sense.[1] The modern analogue of the Roman dictatura is the institution of martial law (or ―state of siege‖). This device has the three distinguishing features of the Roman one: it is based on constitutional legality, not tyranny; it is temporary; it is limited, especially in its ability to impose new laws or constitutions. Again and again, institutions of the martiallaw type have provided for some form of crisis government or emergency regime. Few claim that these institutions are ipso facto antidemocratic, though of course they can be perverted to antidemocratic uses like everything else.[2] The old meaning conditioned all European political thought and language right into the nineteenth century, though the application of the term tended to blur in some respects. Most consistently it kept referring to an emergency management of power, especially outside of normal legality. The one-man aspect of its meaning was sometimes primary, but it was often muffled, particularly by rightists attacking the dominance of a popularly elected body.[3]


In the French Revolution – like all revolutions a bubbling cauldron of political terminology – the Girondins liked to denounce the ―dictatorship of the National Convention‖ (the zenith of revolutionary democracy at the time) or the ―dictatorship of the Commune of Paris‖ (the most democratic expression yet seen of a mass movement from below).[4] For over a century no one would blink when the British Parliament was attacked as a ―dictatorship‖ on the ground that it held all power, though this usage dropped even the crisis-government aspect of the term. The history of ‗dictatorship‘ on the left begins with the very first socialist-communist movement, the first fusion of the socialistic idea with membership organization: the socalled ―Conspiracy of the Equals‖ led by Babeuf in 1796, in the backwash of the failed French Revolution. In an influential book published in 1828, Babeuf‘s lieutenant Buonarroti described the activity and politics of this movement in some detail, thereby producing a textbook of Jacobin-communist politics that helped educate (and miseducate) the ―Blanquist‖ leftists of the next two decades. (It was quickly published in English by left Chartists.) Buonarroti described the conspirators‘ discussion on the transitional revolutionary government to take power after victory. While eschewing the term ‗dictatorship‘ because of its one-man meaning, he left no doubt that the revolutionary government was to be the dictatorship of the small band making the revolution, which had the task of educating the people up to the level of eventual democracy. This concept of Educational Dictatorship was going to have a long future before it. There was not the slightest question of a ‗dictatorship‘ of, or by, the working-people, corrupted as they were by the exploitive society to be overthrown. The revolutionary band of idealistic dictators alone would exercise the transitional dictatorship, for an unspecified period of time, at least a generation.[5] This was also the entire content of the concept of dictatorship held by Auguste Blanqui and the Blanquist bands of the thirties and forties. In addition, the Blanquists (and not only they) advocated the ―dictatorship of Paris‖ over the provinces and the country as a whole – which meant, above all, over the peasants and the rural artisanry; for had not the provinces shown in the Great Revolution that they tended toward counterrevolution? In the name of The People, the revolutionary saviors would defend the revolution against the people. Incidentally, the ascription of the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ to Blanqui is a myth industriously copied from book to book by marxologists eager to prove that Marx was a putschist ―Blanquist,‖ but in fact all authorities on Blanqui‘s life and works have (sometimes regretfully) announced that the term is not to be found there. More important, the concept of political power exercised by the democratic masses is basically alien to the Blanquist idea of Educational Dictatorship.[6] By the nineteenth century political language had long included references to the ―dictatorship‖ of the most democratic assemblies, of popular mass movements, or even of The People in general. All Marx did at the time was apply this old political term to the political power of a class. But Marx‘s usage in 1850 was significantly conditioned not merely by the long history of the word but particularly by its history in the revolutionary period he had just passed through. 2. ‗Dictatorship‘ in the 1848 Revolution Revolutions are by nature periods of crisis management and emergency power, in which the old legalities totter or tumble. This is true on both sides, for counterrevolutions are no greater respecters of legality. The revolution of 1848 saw the imposition of a ―dictatorship,‖ that of General Cavaignac, which was the herald of its modern history. But the necessity of some sort of dictatorship (in the terminology of the day) was recognized on all sides and freely discussed by the most disparate political tendencies from right to left.[7]


The essential meaning of ‗dictatorship‘ at this time can be seen best in the case of Louis Blanc, one of the pinkest social-democrats in the early history of the movement. He constituted the left wing of the provisional government that took power in the February Revolution. This government naturally assumed power extralegally, through an announcement before a mass demonstration. Even Lamartine, its right-wing leader who was anxious to lead the revolution into conservative channels, called himself and his colleagues ―dictators‖ for this reason. Louis Blanc advocated the continuance of the ―dictatorship,‖ through the postponement of elections, in order to allow for a period of reeducation of the people. Not only at the time but in a book published ten years later, Blanc advocated that the provisional government should ―regard themselves as dictators appointed by a revolution which had become inevitable and which was under no obligation to seek the sanction of universal suffrage until after having accomplished all the good which the moment required.‖ Blanc not only wanted a longer postponement than did the revolutionary workers‘ clubs of Paris, he also advocated the old idea of the ―dictatorship of Paris‖ over the country.[8] Obviously ‗dictatorship‘ was not the property of ―extremists‖ and wild-eyed revolutionaries. Far from being counterposed to democracy, it was viewed – favorably or hostilely – as an aspect of the movement of the Democracy. Everyone had his own idea of what the proper sort of ‗dictatorship‘ should be. Wilhelm Weitling had long advocated a messianic dictatorship with himself as the messiah, and in 1848 he openly advocated a dictatorship with a ―single head‖; a couple of weeks later, Marx attacked and rejected Weitling‘s proposal in the same forum that Weitling had used.[9] Bakunin, involved in the revolutionary movement in Bohemia, later recounted that his aim was the establishment of a ―government with unlimited dictatorial power,‖ in which ―all will be subjugated to a single dictatorial authority,‖ through three secret societies based on ―strict hierarchy and unconditional discipline.‖ This was only the first version of Bakunin‘s lifelong fabrication of various forms of a ―secret dictatorship‖ exercised by ―Invisible Dictators.‖[10] These concepts of ‗dictatorship‘ (and others) were plainly antidemocratic, just as most concepts of ‗government‘ were anti-democratic. But, like the word ‗government,‘ ‗dictatorship‘ could be filled with various contents, denoting some extralegal sort of emergency regime; and it was. In the ―June days‖ of 1848, when the Paris working class erupted in the greatest revolt that modern history had yet seen, the panic-stricken provisional government replied by entrusting the power of military ―dictatorship‖ to General Cavaignac, who used it for an educational bloodletting on a mass scale even after the fighting was over. (The term ‗dictatorship‘ was not used officially, but was common in the press and on everyone‘s tongue; the official term was ―state of siege.‖) To be sure, Cavaignac‘s dictatorship was not a modern dictatorship, but it was the prelude to the modern history of the term. It provided the juridical basis for the state-ofsiege provision put into the French constitution of November 1848, which in turn led to the law of August 9, 1849, still in force in the twentieth century as the basic law of ―constitutional dictatorship‖ in France. It provided the model for martial-law institutions in Berlin and Vienna later in 1848. It cleared the way for the dictatorship of Napoleon III, which did not call itself a dictatorship but merely the Second Empire. It made dictatorship a European institution.[11] During this revolution Marx was the dominant figure on the extreme left of the revolution in Germany, as editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne. Like everyone else, the N. R. Z. referred to dictatorship. But the first mention of ‗dictatorship‘ in its columns was not by Marx but occurred in a quotation from the head of the provisional government that had taken power in the revolution behind the mass surge of revolt – and which was determined to prevent the revolution from overthrowing the Crown and its absolutist government. The prime minister, Camphausen, a Rhenish capitalist, strenuously argued that if the provisional government and its assembly took sovereign power in the


name of the popular rule, this would be a ―dictatorship‖ – the dictatorship of the Democracy indeed. If the new government democratized the elite system of voting, this would be dictatorship too. Now the main line championed by Marx‘s N.R.Z. was the simple proposal that the National Assembly declare itself sovereign, repudiating the absolutist government and appealing to the people. No one doubted that this raised the question of revolutionary legality. That is what revolutions are for. The term ‗dictatorship‘ on all sides simply reflected this problem, as Camphausen had exemplified by his attack on the dictatorship of the Democracy. It was in this context that the N.R.Z. advocated that the ‗dictatorship‘ of the popular assembly put through a whole series of democratizing measures to revolutionize Germany‘s autocratic society. Marx wrote: Every provisional state setup after a revolution requires a dictatorship, and an energetic dictatorship at that. From the beginning we taxed Camphausen with not acting dictatorially, with not immediately smashing and eliminating the remnants of the old institutions. There was no question of a ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ here because Marx‘s policy in this revolution was to champion the initial assumption of power not by the working-class movement (which was just getting organized) but by the liberal bourgeoisie, whose historical task it was (as Marx then saw it) to uproot the old regime of Crownbureaucracy-feudalists and establish a bourgeois democratic society, in which the proletariat could develop its own movement and its own class struggle looking toward eventual victory. But the German bourgeoisie, in large part precisely because it saw a revolutionary proletariat pressing behind it, refused to play out this drama, and instead clung to the absolutist government‘s power as its bulwark against the future proletarian threat. The most important lesson that Marx learned from the revolutionary experience was that the German bourgeoisie could not be relied on to make its own revolution, the bourgeois democratic revolution which would eventually lay the basis for the proletarian socialist revolution. The two tasks would have to be telescoped, unlike the pattern that France had exemplified. A German revolution would have to be pushed forward and still forward, from stage to stage, pressing leftward, until power could be taken by the extreme left, the revolutionary proletariat. This is, the concept which Marx summarized as ―permanent (that is, ongoing or continuous) revolution,‖ ―a revolution which does not come to a halt until the proletariat has taken power.‖ It is this conclusion that introduced the question of proletarian power (or, same thing, proletarian ‗dictatorship‘) into Marx‘s writings of 1850 analyzing the defeated revolution.[12] 3. The Fear of the ‗Dictatorship‘ of the People For decades Europe lay in the shadow of the defeated revolution. In the words of the Communist Manifesto, the ruling classes had trembled before the specter of a Communist revolution, and one of the lesser consequences fell on their mode of language. Above all, talk of the threatened (and just averted), ―dictatorship‖ or ―despotism‖ of the people became journalistic commonplace. Of course the idea of the ―despotism of the people‖ goes back to Plato‘s and Aristotle‘s horror of democracy as a threat to established society; but in the 1850s this fear became pandemic. The London Times thundered against giving the vote to the majority of the people on the ground that this would in effect disenfranchise ―the present electors‖ by making the lower classes ―supreme.‖ Manchester capitalists denounced a strike as ―the tyranny of Democracy.‖ The liberal Tocqueville, writing in 1856 about the Great French Revolution, regretted that it had been carried through by ―the masses on behalf of the sovereignty of the people‖ instead of by an ―enlightened autocrat‖; the revolution was a period of ―popular‖ dictatorship, he wrote. It was perfectly clear that the ―dictatorship‖ he lamented was the establishment of ―popular sovereignty.‖[13]


In 1849 Guizot, the last prime minister to serve under a French king, published an interesting book, On Democracy in France. In a great passage, the historian-statesman complained: everyone claims to be for democracy nowadays, including monarchists and republicans as well as leftists; but democracy means chaos, class war, and popular despotism. Popular despotism means that the people impose their will over those classes which, though a minority, have the mission of ruling society. The newfangled notion that sovereignty should flow from elections is totally un-French. ―Popular tyranny or military dictatorship may be the expedient of a day, but can never be a form of government.‖ Guizot assumed what everyone knew: democracy meant All Power to the People. This meant the dictatorship of the people. This dictatorship he was against. [14] Early in the same year, a Spanish conservative became famous all over Europe for a speech made in Spain‘s parliament that said bluntly and even crudely what few others dared to put into words so frankly. Juan Donoso Cortés had been one of the Spanish political leaders who had helped put General Narvaez into power as a virtual dictator even before the European revolution had broken out. In his ―Speech on Dictatorship,‖ Donoso had no compunction about asserting that power belonged in the hands of the propertied bourgeoisie by right of ―intelligence‖ and by right of the saber. As for legality: ‗When legality suffices to save society, then legality. When it does not suffice, dictatorship.‖ Yes, he admitted, the word ‗dictatorship‘ is a ―fearful word,‖ but the word ‗revolution‘ is ―the most fearful of all.‖ It was only a question of what kind of dictatorship you favored: ―it is a question of choosing between the dictatorship of the insurrection and the dictatorship of the [present] government,‖ and he chose the latter. Then came his high point: It is a question of choosing between the dictatorship from below and the dictatorship from above: I choose the dictatorship from above, since it comes from a purer and loftier realm. It is a question of choosing, finally, between the dictatorship of the dagger and the dictatorship of the saber: I choose the dictatorship of the saber, since it is nobler. The greatest dictatorship of all existed in England; for (mark this!) the British Parliament could do anything it wanted: ―Who, gentlemen, has ever seen so colossal a dictatorship?‖ asked the Spanish reactionary triumphantly. It was something of an anticlimax for Donoso to reveal that God is a dictator also. This speech was quickly translated into many languages and published all over the world.[15] At the time, less attention was given to an important book on the European revolution published in 1850 by Lorenz von Stein, who eight years before had written one of the very first studies of the burgeoning of socialism in France. Stein‘s analysis of ―dictatorship‖ was complex, and cannot be summarized here; suffice it to say that he discussed it wholly in terms of class power, in particular in the context of the new proletariat‘s class struggles. He saw the question of ―dictatorship‖ in terms of Louis Blanc, whom he accepted as the spokesman of the French working class. ―Social dictatorship,‖ wrote Stein, ―became the slogan of the proletariat‖ (meaning Blanc), ―and popular representation the slogan of the Democracy and the property owners‖ (meaning the bourgeois democracy led by Lamartine). Louis Blanc‘s followers, the socialdemocrats, could decide to ―overthrow the government, replace it exclusively by Social Democrats, and therewith establish the rule of the proletariat.‖ The social-democrats‘ idea of popular sovereignty became the idea that ―a Provisional Government should uphold a dictatorship until it has carried out all measures it considers necessary.‖ ―The struggle of the classes for control of the state was here clearly formulated.‖ Aside from the fact that he took Louis Blanc‘s rhetoric seriously, Stein presented the most sophisticated of the antirevolutionary analyses of the revolution. In some passages he seemed on the verge of using the very term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat,‘ but it did not actually appear.[16] Marx went over the same ground, in his own way, but with much the same acceptance of the current vocabulary. Like Stein, Guizot, and everyone else, he not


infrequently used ‗despotism‘ in much the same way as ‗dictatorship‘: in combinations like ―class despotism‖ (applied to bourgeois-democratic regimes), ―parliamentary despotism,‖ the industrial ―despotism‖ of the factory, or the ―despotic inroads on the rights of property‖ to be made by a workers‘ state. The term ‗class despotism‘ which he used quite often in the 1850s was virtually a variation on ‗class dictatorship.‘[17] In Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution 3, I have made a detailed survey of how the word ‗dictatorship‘ occurs in the writings of Marx and Engels, but the conclusion is not startling: they used the term in ways as various as everyone else did in their day, particularly in metaphorical ways, many of which are still current. They might refer to the ―intellectual dictatorship‖ of the medieval church, or of the popes; or to a financier as ―dictator‖ of the Crédit Mobilier. The petty states of Germany were under the ―dictatorship‖ of Prussia or Austria; the Berlin government submitted to a ―FrancoRussian dictatorship‖; all Europe was under a ―Muscovite dictatorship‖; and just as the referee is the dictator on a soccer field, so too it was standard for the editor of a daily newspaper to be called ―dictator‖ of the press room, even though he was subordinate to owners. Marx exercised the same ―dictatorship‖ as editor of the Cologne daily he put out during the hectic days of revolution in 1848-49.[18] The term ‗military dictator[ship]‘ was less elastic; in fact, as far as I know, Marx and Engels never used this term about anyone or any regime toward which they felt kindly. I suspect this was true of the general usage too.[19] But on the other hand, Marx applied the term ‗dictator‘ pejoratively to a number of political figures who exercised no dictatorship at all: in these cases the term merely stressed some sort of domination in another form. Among these cases we find the Irish leader Parnell, Bismarck, Lord Palmerston, and a few others. This usage, fairly common in the press, should remind us of how often Franklin D. Roosevelt was called a ―dictator‖ long after the meaning of the term had hardened.[20] More to the point are the cases where Marx or Engels attacked efforts toward personal domination inside the working-class or socialist movement; the word ‗dictatorship‘ was indeed apt to crop up in the denunciation. The two best cases in point are those of Bakunin and Lassalle, both seekers after personal dictatorship inside the movement, and both attacked for this reason by Marx or Engels. Bakunin‘s schemes for a ―Secret Dictatorship‖ of his coterie (in the name of anarchist ―libertarianism,‖ of course) were the basis of the Bakuninists‘ drive to take over the International from about 1869 on; and by that time Marx came to understand that ―This Russian evidently wants to become dictator of the European working-class movement.‖ The International published a brochure written mainly by Engels and Lafargue, exposing ―the organization of a secret society with the sole aim of subjecting the European workers‘ movement to the secret dictatorship of a few adventurers ...‖ This brochure, for years derogated by unreliable historians, has been confirmed in all essential respects by the accumulation of evidence on Bakunin‘s dictatorial aspirations.[21] Ferdinand Lassalle was for several years defended by Marx against the Communist club in the Rhineland which rejected Lassalle‘s bid for membership. It is now known that Lassalle did not bother to conceal his ―hankerings for dictatorship‖ of the workers‘ movement, at least not from associates whom he regarded as inferiors. Marx found this out only in 1856. Then in an 1862 visit to Marx, Lassalle revealed more of his dictatorial ideas, his hostility to ―individual liberty,‖ and his propensity for behaving ―as if he were the future workers‘ dictator.‖ Marx told him that they were poles apart, agreeing ―on nothing except some far-distant ultimate ends,‖ and chaffed him as an ―enlightened Bonapartist.‖ The accuracy of this assessment was fully confirmed when research turned up Lassalle‘s attempt in 1863 to use the newly organized Lassallean social-democratic organization to make a deal with Bismarck: the Lassallean socialists would support a ―social dictatorship‖ by the Crown in exchange for concessions. In this letter Lassalle pointed to his own personal ―dictatorship‖ in the organization as evidence of the


willingness of the ―working class‖ to support dictatorship. The general nature of Lassalle‘s machinations with Bismarck were known in the movement at the time, and were reported to Marx. It is hard to see why the myth of Marx‘s ―personal‖ hatred for Lassalle had to be invented to account for hostility to a man with such politics. [22] In a number of other cases Marx expressed his opinion on efforts at personal dictatorship in the movement. Of Auguste Comte, whose sect called itself Positivist and was active in working-class circles, Marx wrote that he was a ―prophet‖ of ―personal Dictatorship‖ – ―author of a new catechism with a new pope and new saints.‖ In England, where H. M. Hyndman founded a self-styled Marxist group, the Social Democratic Federation, his dictatorial conduct as boss of the organization was notorious. Hyndman, wrote Engels, had alienated associates particularly by ―his impatience to play the dictator.‖ In what was left of the Chartist movement by 1855, Ernest Jones thought to stem decay by concentrating all organizational power in his own hands. Marx wrote the news to Engels that Jones ―has proclaimed himself dictator of Chartism,‖ stirred a storm of indignation against himself, and showed himself an ―ass‖ in his effort ―to play the dictator himself.‖

These examples of the use of ‗dictatorship‘ indicate the spectrum of meaning common in the nineteenth century. Indeed, much of this spectrum still conditions the term today; metaphorical uses are still common. But when Marx first wrote down the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat,‘ it was a very specific sort of metaphorical usage. 4. ‗Dictatorship of the Proletariat‘: First Period Quite early, by 1844, Marx came to the conclusion that, to achieve a communist transformation of society, the proletariat first had to conquer political power. This idea played a basic role for him, and various terms expressing it dot his writings: not only ‗conquest of political (or state) power,‘ but ‗rule of the proletariat‘ in particular; the outcome would be a ‗workers‘ state‘; in terms of the British movement, this meant ‗proletarian ascendancy.‘ We are going to see that, under given circumstances, one of these terms was also going to be ‗dictatorship of the proletariat.‘ [24] Marx recognized that this aim, the political ‗rule of the proletariat,‘ was not at all unique to his own theory; on the contrary, he liked to stress that all other real workingclass movements set this as their goal. This is strongly stated in the Communist Manifesto:

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: constitution of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois rule, conquest of political power by the proletariat. Above all, Marx knew and appreciated that the left Chartists (e.g., Harney) regularly advocated the ―ascendancy‖ (or rule, or political power) of the proletariat. [26] These Chartists, like Marx, had no trouble with the alleged problem raised by modern marxologists: How can a whole class rule? The answer was the same for Marx and the Chartists as it was for their opponents, for (say) the liberal historian Macaulay, who feared universal suffrage on the ground that it would put ―supreme power‖ in the hands of a class, the class of labor, hence generating a ―despotism,‖ by which he openly meant a despotism over the bourgeoisie. [27] We are going to see, then, that Marx used the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ in exactly the same way as he used ‗rule of the proletariat‘ and the other labels for a workers‘ state. But under what circumstances did he tend to do so? A major clue is found in the fact that Marx‘s and Engels‘ use of the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ clustered in three periods and was in fact notably absent in between. These three periods were the following: Period I: 1850 to 1852, the postrevolutionary period after the upheaval of 1848-1849. Period II: 1871 to 1875, the postrevolutionary period after the Paris Commune. Period III (naturally involving Engels only): a sort of echo from 1875. [28]


In view of the career of the word ‗dictatorship,‘ there is now no very difficult problem about Marx‘s willingness to replace ‗rule‘ with ‗dictatorship‘ in certain contexts. But a review of these contexts is enlightening. Locus 1. In the first chapter of his Class Struggles in France, Marx mentioned that in the course of the revolution in France, ―there appeared the bold slogan of revolutionary struggle: Overthrow of the bourgeoisie! Dictatorship of the working class!‖ Since there is absolutely no record that ―dictatorship of the proletariat‖ appeared as a slogan at all, I suggest that Marx is not saying here that it appeared; he is only placing it in apposition with the slogan that did appear, the first-mentioned slogan, namely ―Overthrow of the bourgeoisie!‖ In effect he is explaining what the first-mentioned slogan meant. In the same passage, by the way, Marx freely used ―bourgeois terrorism‖ and ―bourgeois dictatorship‖ interchangeably with bourgeois ―rule‖ to characterize the ―bourgeois republic. [29] In the second chapter, Marx mentioned that the proletariat was not yet sufficiently developed to take power itself. ―the proletariat ... [was] not yet enabled through the development of the remaining classes to seize the revolutionary dictatorship ...‖ In writing this, Marx, as often, excluded the idea of a seizure of power by a minority in the Blanquist fashion.[30] In the third chapter (written in March 1850 and published in April) Marx dissected the pink socialism of Louis Blanc and reported that as against such social-democratic reform currents, ―the proletariat increasingly organizes itself around revolutionary socialism, around communism, for which the bourgeoisie itself has invented the name of Blanqui.‖ It is important to note what this clearly states: Blanqui‘s name was inventively applied to the communist tendency by its enemies, the bourgeoisie – and not by Marx himself.[31] Marx‘s chapter goes on to say that this revolutionary socialism ―is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally‖ and thence to the revolutionizing of all society. Please note that Marx‘s emphasis is on the term ‗class dictatorship.‘ Marx‘s reference to Blanqui is a shorthand reference to the then well-known use of Blanqui‘s name as a revolutionary bogey by the counterrevolutionary politicians. At a crucial point in April 1848, when a workers‘ demonstration against the government was building up, the right-wing Provisional Government leaders organized a massive campaign to circulate the story that Blanqui and his friends were preparing to overthrow the government and take over. (One of the first well-organized ―red scares.‖) Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution 3 gives some space to Louis Blanc‘s own historical account of the use made of Blanqui‘s ―name as a sort of bugbear.‖ Blanc referred to ―the part so cleverly assigned to M. Blanqui, the better to frighten the bourgeoisie‖ – a role assigned, or invented, by the government majority anxious to put an end to revolutionary pressure from below. This is the meaning of Marx‘s reference to the communist bugbear ―for which the bourgeoisie itself has invented the name of Blanqui.‖

The repeated claim that in this passage Marx was himself equating the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ phrase with Blanqui is a remarkable distortion that is almost standard among marxologists, not infrequently based on outright mistranslation.[33] Locus 2. In April 1850 the phrase ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ again cropped up, in connection with the Blanquists but not as their expression. At this time, still expecting that the quiescent revolution would burst out again on the Continent, Marx and his comrades of the Communist League, in London exile, looked for cooperative relations with other revolutionary groups. One of these was the left wing of the Chartists, led by Harney, already in close touch with Marx‘s circle. Among the French, the only group Marx considered to be revolutionary was the Blanquist tendency, which had no prominent leaders and few ideas but did have some influence in the emigré


community. Talks took place among these three tendencies looking toward the establishment of a sort of united-front organization for revolutionary cooperation. A number of programmatic points were jotted down – not by Marx or Engels – for consideration under the heading ―Société Universelle des Communistes Révolutionnaires.‖ [The full story of SUCR is set out for the first time in Chapter 12 of Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution 3, which gives particular attention to the myths spun about SUCR by such writers as Nicolaievsky.] All we really know of SUCR is that some sort of preliminary agreement was reached to discuss this proposal. All the participants signed the paper with the programmatic points. There is no evidence that any organization resulted. Indeed all the evidence indicates that the idea remained strictly on paper and never got off the ground. By October Marx – who had meanwhile come to the conclusion that the revolutionary situation was over for that period – repudiated the SUCR project.[34] For what it is worth, then, we can report that the SUCR program set down this article first of all: ―The aim of the association is the downfall of all the privileged classes, to subject these classes to the dictatorship of the proletarians, maintaining the revolution in permanence until the realization of communism ...‖ [35] The ―dictatorship of the proletarians‖ is a formula that Marx never used elsewhere; this is only one of several reasons to believe that the program was drafted not by Marx but by August Willich, a member of the Communist League close to the Blanquists personally.[36] There is no mystery about why this phrase, as well as ―revolution in permanence,‖ appealed to these people. The attractive appeal of these terms to Blanquist types who did not understand their content suggests a hypothesis on why, and under what circumstances, Marx occasionally used the term dictatorship of the proletariat. [37] The same hypothesis explains why the term makes its appearance in connection with the Blanquists but not by the Blanquists. Ordinarily Marx‘s term for the idea would be, as we have seen, ‗rule of the proletariat,‘ ‗political power of the working class,‘ etc. But when it is a question of counterposing this class concept to the Blanquist-type dictatorship, it is dressed in the formula ‗class dictatorship.‘ Class dictatorship is then counterposed to Blanquist dictatorship, to make the contrast. Particularly in united fronts with the Blanquists, it was only such a formulation that would be acceptable to Marx. On its basis he could undertake to do what was necessary to re-educate his partners. Joint collaboration with these partners took place on a formulation that preserved the class character that was fundamental for Marx, while at the same time no doubt making the Blanquists happy with its revolutionary flavor. To understand this, the reader must put aside the modern aura that makes ‗dictatorship‘ a dirty word for us; for this aura did not yet exist. How do you counteract the primitive notion of dictatorship that was so common precisely among the people who wanted to be good revolutionaries? You tell them: Dictatorship? That means rule. Yes, we want the rule of the proletariat; but that does not mean the rule of a man or a clique or a band or a party; it means the rule of a class. Class rule means class dictatorship. This is how the term came from Marx‘s pen in 1850: an instrument in the reeducation of the Blanquist and Jacobin-revolutionary currents around Marx‘s own circle. The marxological myth which had ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ pegged as a ―Blanquist‖ idea had history turned upside-down. ‗Dictatorship of the proletariat‘ came into existence as an attempt to show would-be revolutionaries that there was another way of being revolutionary, Marx‘s way. This understood, we can restate our basic thesis on the meaning of the term to Marx. For Marx and Engels, from beginning to end of their careers and without exception, ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ meant nothing more and nothing less than ‗rule of the proletariat,‘ the ‗conquest of political power‘ by the working class, the establishment of a workers‘ state in the immediate postrevolutionary period. [38]


The subsequent career of the term provides proof after proof of this thesis; at the same time no evidence turns up to gainsay it. This is the claim to be tested in the light of the facts. 5. The First Period – Continued The next appearances of the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ were echoes from Locus 1. Locus 3. Otto Lüning, the socialistic editor of a leftist paper in Frankfurt, wrote a four-installment review of Marx‘s N.R.Z. Revue articles on The Class Struggles in France. It was published in June in Lüning‘s Neue Deutsche Zeitung.[39] What Lüning criticized above all was the ―red thread‖ that wound through Marx‘s conception of society and history: ―the cleavage of present-day society into different classes‖ with contradictory interests. Lüning‘s kind of socialism believed in class harmony and reform. He therefore repeatedly underlined that Marx advocated the taking of political power by the working class: for Marx the aim of the revolutionary movement is ―the revolutionary rule, the dictatorship of the working class.‖ But what Lüning keeps attacking is the ―rule.‖ He finally reveals that his sharpest disagreement is with Marx‘s emphasis on ―the transference of rule from one class to another‖ instead of on ―the destruction of class differences.‖ At no point did Lüning indicate any special interest in the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat,‘ which he himself mentioned in passing. Throughout he was intent on repudiating the aim of a working-class state, of class rule, as well as (later in his review) attacking the very idea of a class interpretation of history. Obviously Lüning‘s views had a great future as the format for anti-Marxism, but it was not ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ that drew blood.[40] Marx, who at first intended to write a longer analysis of Lüning for the N. R. Z. Revue, compromised on a letter to the editor in the latter‘s paper. Marx‘s letter was short and sententious and replied only to Lüning‘s claim that Marx had written only about ‗rule of the proletariat‘ and not about the further aim of abolishing class differences. It referred to the charge about ―the rule and the dictatorship of the working class‖ but, just like Lüning, was interested only in the ―rule‖ idea. The letter listed a series of references and citations to Marx‘s writings in which the ―abolition of class differences‖ had been prominently discussed, including the very passage that Lüning was reviewing.[41] What stands out, in Marx‘s letter as in Lüning‘s attack, was that the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ was not specially involved – for either of them. Both assumed that it had no special content other than ‗rule of the proletariat.‘ Locus 4. Lüning‘s associate editor and brother-in-law was a good friend and comrade of Marx‘s, Joseph Weydemeyer. In 1851 Weydemeyer had to flee government harassment in Germany, and finally decided to emigrate to the United States. Soon after his arrival in November, he began writing for the radical German-American press, while corresponding with Marx. His first article appeared in the New York Turn-Zeitung for January 1, 1852, an issue which also offered the first installment of Engels‘ Peasant War in Germany as well as Weydemeyer‘s announcement of his own forthcoming weekly. [42] The title of Weydemeyer‘s article was ―Die Diktatur des Proletariats‖ (The Dictatorship of the Proletariat). The article was solely concerned with the subject of the rule of the working class as expounded in the Communist Manifesto, which is the source of the contents of the piece. The term in the title is not even repeated in the body of the article until the last passage, which speaks of the need for any revolution to have ―a dictatorship at its head,‖ and then presents the idea of the dictatorship of ―the proletariat which is concentrated in the big cities,‖ not the proletariat tout court. Obviously Weydemeyer did not grasp the idea of a class dictatorship, however many times Marx had underlined that term. Now as he wrote an article condensing the teachings of the Man (as was clearly Weydemeyer‘s aim), why did the title term occur to him? The answer, not very


conjectural, is that he had only recently stood close on the sidelines as his associate Lüning had lifted a lance against ―the rule, the dictatorship of the working class.‖ [43] Marx must have recently received a copy of Weydemeyer‘s article (though there is no record of this) when on March 5, 1852, in response to his friend‘s letters, Marx wrote him a lengthy bit of advice on how to deal with issues in the German-American press. It was in this context that Marx criticized the refusal by writers like Karl Heinzen to recognize the existence of classes in society. Marx wrote that no credit was due to him for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the class struggle among them. What I did that was new was (1) to show that the existence of classes is simply bound up with certain historical phases of the development of production; (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. If the reader substitutes the usual ‗rule of the proletariat‘ for the striking phrase here, the content of this statement will be perfectly clear. There is nothing whatever in this passage to indicate that Marx thought he was making an unusual pronouncement. Then why did he use ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ instead of his usual term? Well, this is precisely what is explained by the fact that Weydemeyer himself had just given that term special visibility. Marx‘s letter was simply echoing the title of the article by Weydemeyer, who was himself echoing the recent exchange in the NDZ between Marx and Lüning. Marx was throwing in a phrase that had special associations for his correspondent. Writing a personal letter, Marx could let this be understood. When taken out of this context and held up to view as if it were an extraordinary statement, its significance is distorted. [44] 6. The Second Period of ‗Dictatorship of the Proletariat‘ In the two decades before the Paris Commune, there was not a single case of Marx‘s use of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat. [45] As always, he kept referring to the ‗rule of the proletariat,‘ ‗conquest of political power,‘ ‗workers‘ state,‘ and similar expressions to denote the assumption of state power by the working class. Accidental? It is entirely explainable in terms of the thesis offered above. During these two decades, in which the left movement was at a low ebb, Marx‘s work and activities did not involve him in any connection with Blanquist elements. There was no need for him to deal with their conception of dictatorship. For the same reason the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ did not appear in The Civil War in France, the defense and analysis of the Paris Commune that Marx wrote for the General Council of the International. At this time, and until the Communard refugees started trickling into London, the Blanquists had refused any ties with the International; it was not ―revolutionary‖ enough for them. In The Civil War in France Marx argued that the Commune was a working-class government,‖ ―the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of Labour.‖ The Commune was a workers‘ state of brief duration and naturally with all kinds of limitations and inadequacies. Marx‘s characterization of the Commune was so sweeping in this regard that there can be no doubt that, for him, it was accepted as an example of the rule (or ―dictatorship‖) of the proletariat. At the same time The Civil War in France filled pages with a description and celebration of the extraordinary advance in democracy represented by the Commune government form and actions. The Commune ―supplied the Republic with the basis of really democratic institutions‖; its measures ―could but betoken the tendency of a government of the people by the people.‖[46] It is clear that, in Marx‘s eyes, the Commune took no ―dictatorial‖ measures – if the present-day meaning of the word is used. Indeed, there had been a proposal inside the Commune to do just that, as the military situation grew more and more precarious before the military power of the Versailles government. The Blanquist-Jacobin majority of the Commune proposed to set up a dictatorial body to be called (shades of Robespierre) a


Committee of Public Safety, with special arbitrary powers. The debate over ―dictatorship‖ (this is how it was put) was acrimonious; when the proposal was adopted, the Minority walked out of the Commune. This split would have attracted more attention from historians than it has if the final Versaillese assault on the city had not commenced at virtually the moment of the split, making it academic as all pitched in to the military defense. But in hindsight it is important to note that the antidictatorial Minority represented most of the International people as well as the Proudhonists, and in particular it included all the figures who had any special connection with Marx or showed any tendency to look to his ideas (for example, Serraillier, who was practically Marx‘s personal representative; Frankel, Longuet, Varlin).[47] Since the Paris Commune clearly had no ―dictatorial‖ trappings in the modern sense, it has always represented a problem for those who maintain that Marx‘s ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ meant something specially ―dictatorial‖ as compared with a mere workers‘ state. When we find that Marx (not only Engels) had no compunction about calling it a ―dictatorship of the proletariat,‖ this fact itself speaks volumes about our basic thesis. After the fall of the Commune, Blanquist Communards among others found their way to London, where they began working with Marx, especially on refugee aid; several were co-opted onto the General Council. No evidence is needed to understand that Marx naturally discussed his views with them, as with others; but there is good evidence nevertheless. In other words, as in the 1850s, Marx tried to ―re-educate‖ them from his standpoint.[48] The Blanquists just as naturally set out to turn the International into a Blanquist sect. With this two-way influence, it is of the greatest interest that now we find Marx – once again after twenty years – using the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat.‘ And we will also now find the Blanquist refugees using it too! – in their case, for the first time.[49] Locus 5. The first post-Commune meeting of the International was the London Conference of September 1871. At its end there was an anniversary celebration of the International‘s founding, bringing the participants together in a social occasion – a banquet plus ―toasts‖ (short speeches). Marx was voted into the chair and forced to make a short speech. A correspondent of the New York World sent in a longish dispatch about the banquet (―The Reds in Session‖) with a considerable summary of Marx‘s talk. About the Commune, Marx reiterated his view that ―the Commune was the conquest of the political power of the working classes.‖ Its aim was to remove any ―base for class rule and oppression‖: ―But before such a change could be effected a proletarian dictature would become necessary.‖ (The verbs are those of the reporter‘s paraphrase.) Thus Marx‘s first use of the term since 1852 took place before an assemblage heavily weighted with Blanquist Communards, where ―the name that set the whole assembly in motion like an electric shock was Blanqui‘s‖ (in the words of the dispatch). Apparently Marx even used the French form of the term (dictature). He was once again confronting the Blanquist mind with his own conception of class dictatorship.[50] Locus 6. Marx‘s next use of the term came in an article written around the turn of the year 1872 into 1873, as a polemic against Proudhon and anarchism, not so much on anarchism itself as on the anarchist stance of principled hostility to revolutionary political activity. It was published in December 1873 in an Italian socialist annual under the title ―Indifference to Politics.‖ The article begins abruptly with a long section, all in quotation marks, which purports to represent what an antipolitical Proudhonist or anarchist would say if he set down his views frankly. The ‗dictatorship‘ term occurs in the course of this fictitious speech; for the speaker is shown attacking the idea of the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ in the same way as he attacks any idea of political action or political power. In this way the Proudhonist is represented as asserting: ―If the political struggle of the working class assumes violent forms, if the workers substitute their revolutionary


dictatorship for the dictatorship of the bourgeois class, they commit the terrible crime of violating principle, for‖ (continues Marx) ―the workers do not lay down arms and abolish the state but rather ―give it a revolutionary and transitional form.‖ As usual, the ‗dictatorship‘ phrase is used here as only another formulation for workers‘ political power; but there is a special interest. Here Marx makes the thought plain by counterposing two class ―dictatorships‖; the ―dictatorship of the bourgeois class‖ is made coordinate with the ―revolutionary dictatorship‖ of the working class. This usage underlines that Marx thinks of class dictatorships (either one) in terms of the class nature of political power, rather than in terms of special governmental forms. [51] When the Hague Congress of the International (September 1872) decided to transfer the center to New York – a proposal Marx made, no doubt, in order to stave off the coming push by the Blanquists to take over the movement for their own purposes, having helped save it from Bakunin – the Blanquists reacted by announcing their split from the International and their open reconstitution of a Blanquist sect. By this time their programmatic ideas had undergone a degree of ―Marxification,‖ though not on their basic notion of revolution by a putschist band. In pamphlets, Internationale et Revolution (1872) and Aux Communeux (1874), they set down their ideas. As Engels wrote to a friend, the 1872 brochure ―quite seriously explains all our economic and political principles as Blanquist discoveries.‖ This is a jocular exaggeration, but indeed the Blanquists threw in the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ as a new formulation (new for them) for the coming Blanquist seizure of power. [The passages in the Blanquist brochures which talked about ―dictatorship‖ are quoted and discussed in Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution 3; they would be digressive here. Suffice it to say that other passages in the brochures still made it clear that, however new their phraseology, they still advocated the assumption ofrevolutionary power by a minority band, in the traditional Blanquist sense.] This led to Engels‘ first use of the term under his own name. [52] Locus 7. Hard on the heels of Marx‘s Italian article, Engels used the term in Part III of his work The Housing Question. It occurred in two passages. In the first Engels discussed the Blanquist pamphlet of 1872, which, he claimed, ―adopted, and almost literally at that, the views of German scientific socialism on the necessity of political action by the proletariat and of its dictatorship as the transition to the abolition of classes and with them of the state – views such as had already been expressed in the Communist Manifesto and since then on innumerable occasions.‖ This shows strikingly that Engels saw nothing in the term ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ which was not already in, say, the Manifesto – which said nothing about any ―dictatorship.‖ The second passage is interesting for a similar reason. Here Engels was polemizing against a Proudhonist, who attacked the very notion of class political power, or ―class rule.‖ Engels replies: why, every political party wants to establish its rule in the state; a socialist workers‘ party likewise strives for the rule of the working class. Moreover, every real proletarian party, from the English Chartists onward, has always put forward a class policy, the organization of the proletariat as an independent political party, as the first condition of the struggle, and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the immediate aim of the struggle. What leaps to the eye is Engels‘ assumption that ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ has no special meaning other than the establishment of the ―rule‖ of the working class. ―Every‖ real working-class party stands for it: this statement can make no sense to anyone who believes that there is some special ―theory of proletarian dictatorship‖ in Marx and Engels, involving special notions about ―dictatorial‖ measures. [53] Locus 8. The clearest explanation of the meaning of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ came soon (1874) in an article by Engels devoted precisely to the Blanquists‘ adoption of the term, in their brochure Aux Communeux. This article, ―Program of the Blanquist Refugees of the Commune,‖ is, far and away, the best analysis of the Blanquist tendency


ever published, but this is not our present subject. Its statement on our subject goes as follows: From the fact that Blanqui conceives of every revolution as the coup de main of a small revolutionary minority, what follows of itself is the necessity of dictatorship after its success – the dictatorship, please note, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small number of those who made the coup de main and who themselves are organized beforehand under the dictatorship of one person or a few. One can see that Blanqui is a revolutionary of the previous generation. There could be no more instructive differentiation between – on the one hand – Marx‘s conception of the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ as the rule (‗dictatorship‘) of a majority c lass or class movement, and – on the other – the traditional conception of dictatorship, the idea of the ―previous generation,‖ as the dictatorship of the party or revolutionary band, hence entailing the dictatorship of the latter over the proletariat.[54] Locus 9. The confrontation with the Blanquists, we see, produced several contexts for the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ during the first half of the 1870s. The term had cropped up, and this no doubt accounts for the fact that it was used by Marx in an important document in 1875. As the two German socialist parties – the so-called ―Eisenachers‖ led by Bebel and the Lassalleans – prepared to unite at a congress in Gotha, a draft program made for the occasion was filled with concessions to the Lassalleans. Marx, incensed, sent a letter to Eisenacher leaders, critically analyzing the program and attacking the Lassallean formulations and ideas. This ―Critique of the Gotha Program‖ was neither a personal letter nor a public article, but a restricted circular of political discussion. The passage referring to ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ is one of the most oftenquoted loci, but also one of the barest. It came in a section where Marx first attacked the Lassallean formula ―free state.‖ No, wrote Marx, we do not want to make the state ―free,‖ but rather to put it under democratic control. ―Freedom consists in transforming the state from an organ set above society into one thoroughly subordinated to it, and today too the state forms are more free or less free to the extent that they restrict the ‗freedom of the state.‘‖ This was a blow struck against ―the Lassallean sect‘s servile belief in the state.‖ Marx next objected to confusing the terms ―present-day state‖ and ―present-day society.‖ The latter is capitalist society, and different present-day states may have capitalist society as their social basis. He then raised a question about the ―future‖ state beyond bourgeois society: The question comes up, then: what transformation will the state undergo in a communist society? In other words, what societal functions will remain there that are analogous to the present state functions? His answer was lamentably brief: Between the capitalist and the communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. To this there corresponds a political transition period whose state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. The one thing this short statement makes clear is that Marx did not think in terms of more or less dictatorial forms of the transitional period represented by the workers‘ state. Especially in the twentieth century it was not uncommon to read that, according to Marx, a workers‘ state might or might not be a ―dictatorship of the proletariat,‖ depending presumably on how severely dictatorial it had to become. This interpretation is excluded by Marx‘s words: the workers‘ state ―can be nothing but‖ a dictatorship of the proletariat; in other words, the two terms are synonymous. In this connection, it is worth noting that, soon after the passage quoted, Marx warned against confusing the ―state‖ with the ―government machine.‖ This has to be applied to the previous statement that in the transitional period the state will be the dictatorship of the proletariat. For Marx this was a statement about the societal content of the state, the class character of the political power.


It was not a statement about the forms of the government machine or other structural aspects of government or policies.[55] This was the last appearance of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ in Marx‘s writings. 7. The Third Period of ‗Dictatorship of the Proletariat‘ When Marx died in 1883, the term had not come up for eight years; and another seven years passed before it appeared again under Engels‘ name. During this fifteen-year hiatus, the old Blanquist problem that had originally elicited the term had completely changed. When the term re-emerged, it was as an echo from 1875, that is, it was due to the publication of Marx‘s ―Critique of the Gotha Program.‖ In 1890 the German Social-Democratic Party was preparing to adopt a new party program, replacing the Gotha Program of 1875. (The new program was going to be adopted by the Erfurt Congress of 1891.) Engels was determined to use the pre-Congress discussion to make known to the movement what the party leadership (specifically Liebknecht, Bebel being in prison) had done its best to suppress, namely Marx‘s views on Lassalle and Lassalleanism. Engels disinterred the manuscript from Marx‘s papers and, with some difficulty, managed to get it published in the party press. [56] Locus 10. In October 1890, as he was pulling the critique out of the archive, he sat down to write a letter to a comrade discussing the materialist conception of history. This is one of the letters in which Engels explained that this conception does not present economic factors as alone operative in history. Look at Marx‘s Eighteenth Brumaire, he advised, ―which almost exclusively concerns itself with the special role that political struggles and events play, naturally within the framework of their general dependence on economic conditions.‖ Pointing to other analyses by Marx, he added: Or why then do we fight for the political dictatorship of the proletariat, if political power is economically powerless? Force (i.e., state power) is also an economic power. [Letter to C. Schmidt, October 27, 1890] Once again, we see, Engels assumed, as a matter that did not even require discussion, that ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ was a mere synonym for the conquest of political power by the working class. Once again, if the term is assigned a narrower or more special meaning, this rather casual reference by Engels ceases to make sense. [57] When Marx‘s ―Critique‖ was published in the Neue Zeit, it was a ―bombshell‖ (as Engels said). The main reason for this was its criticism of Lassalleanism, but the reference to the ―revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat‖ was equally denounced by the right wing of the party. One leader of the parliamentary group repudiated it on the floor of the Reichstag. For a while the entire party leadership boycotted Engels personally for daring to make Marx‘s views known to the party membership and the public. Never before had the right wing‘s hostility to Marx come out in the open as it did now.[58] Locus 11, Meanwhile Engels was working on a new edition of Marx‘s The Civil War in France. In March he finished his new introduction to that analysis of the Paris Commune. This was in effect an essay on the Commune: once more he dissected the Blanquist approach to revolution – the viewpoint that a relatively small number of resolute, well-organized men would be able ... to maintain power until they succeeded in sweeping the mass of people into the revolution and ranging them round the small band of leaders. This involved, above all, the strictest, dictatorial centralization of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary government. Like Marx, Engels reviewed the Commune‘s implementation of real democracy. And then, at the very end, he paid his respects to the right-wingers who were attacking Marx‘s ―Critique‖: Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the phrase: dictatorship of the proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.


In calling the Commune a ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ Engels was echoing Marx‘s banquet speech of 1871, which until quite recently was virtually unknown to the marxological industry. Hence for a very long time it was customary for writers to assert that this was Engels‘ own invention – for how could the Commune be a ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ if it did not take some sturdily ―dictatorial‖ steps? Plainly these marxologists will have to argue that Marx – like Engels – did not understand ―Marxism‖; only they do, having virtually invented it.[59] Locus 12. Three months later, Engels had another bombshell ready for the ―SocialDemocratic philistine‖ wing of the party: a critique of the draft Erfurt Program. He was taking the opportunity, he said, ―to strike at the peaceable opportunism of the Vorwärts [the party organ]‖ and at the reformist view that bourgeois society would of itself ―grow‖ into socialist society. (By the way, the myth that by this time Engels had become an advocate of ―peaceable‖ gradualism was invented, after his death, by the very people against whom this campaign was directed.) Engels‘ critique of the draft program especially raised the question of including a demand for the democratic republic as one of the ―democratic‖ planks, and argued that a peaceful assumption of power was not possible in Germany. This emphasis was directed head-on against the trend toward reformist adaptation to the German imperial state which was developing in the party. He wrote: If anything is established, it is that our party and the working class can come to power only under the form of the democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the great French revolution [the Paris Commune] has already shown. It was another chance for Engels to get in a lick for the phrase that had recently upset all the Social-Democratic philistines; in a different year he might have said, ―specific form for the workers‘ state.‖ But the important thing was that he was explaining the relationship between the governmental form (democratic republic) and the class content of the state (dictatorship of the proletariat). The Paris Commune [Because of the expression ―great French revolution,‖ the assumption has often been made that Engels meant the French Revolution of 1789; but the idea that he, or anyone else, could view 1789 (or 1793) as a ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ is too absurd to entertain. The specific reasons why this interpretation is untenable are presented in Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution 3.[60]] had shown in revolutionary practice that a workers‘ state (dictatorship of the proletariat) could and probably would be based on the forms of the democratic republic. [61] Engels‘ coupling of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ with the term ‗democratic republic‘ has been another target for the marxological campaign to turn ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ into a special slogan about dictatorship. Much of this campaign depends, unwittingly, on the later pattern according to which the term ‗democratic‘ was used as a shorthand form for ‗bourgeois-democratic,‘ especially but not only in the Russian movement. But neither Marx nor Engels ever limited the word ‗democratic‘ to the meaning of ‗bourgeois-democratic.‘ Indeed, no one has ever tried to show that they did; we are again dealing with an unthought-through assumption, based on the naive belief that one‘s own political jargon had arisen with Adam. But the main difficulty has not been inability to see that ‗democratic republic,‘ to most people, meant a republic that was democratic, and not some special term that only the sophisticated initiates could understand. The main difficulty, as before, is the assumption that a ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ has to be ―dictatorial‖ in the modern sense, and therefore could not be clothed in straightforward democratic forms. [62] Engels, who thought that a ‗democratic republic‘ meant a democratic republic, had a proposal to make in his critique of the draft Erfurt Program, especially for those who argued that the demand for a democratic republic could not be openly placed in the program because the government would utilize it as a pretext to harass the party. We can get around that, he suggested: ―in my opinion what should go in and can go in is the


demand for the concentration of all political power in the hands of the people‘s representation.‖ This is a classic formulation of the meaning of thoroughgoing democracy: ―the concentration of all political power in the hands of the people‘s representation.‖ It would stand for the illegal ―democratic republic, ― which is ―the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat.‖ Engels, the advocate of that revolutionary dictatorship which so appalled the right wing, was arguing with them that they should say something about their goal of a democratic republic instead of adapting themselves to the legality of the kaiser‘s regime.[63] 8. Engels vs. Plekhanov: Pointer to the Future The last echo of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ that comes to us from Engels‘ last years points straight ahead to the next period, in which the term parted company with Marx and Engels. In 1893 a young Russian Social-Democratic emigré visited Engels. Plekhanov, the leader and theoretician of the relatively new Russian Marxist group, had given him a letter of recommendation. A third of a century later, A. M. Voden wrote up his memoirs, including his ―Talks with Engels.‖ Just why ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ came into the conversation is not clear from Voden‘s account. The two were discussing the relations between Narodniks (Russian Populists) and the Russian Social-Democrats, including Plekhanov‘s attitude. Voden writes: Engels asked how Plekhanov himself stood on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. I was forced to admit that G. V Plekhanov had repeatedly expressed his conviction to me that when ―we‖ come to power, of course ―we‖ would allow freedom to no one but ―ourselves‖ ... However, in response to my question who exactly should be taken to be the monopolists of freedom, Plekhanov answered: the working class headed by comrades who correctly understand Marx‘s teachings and who draw the correct conclusions from those teachings. And in response to my question on what comprises the objective criteria for a correct understanding of Marx‘s teachings and the correct practical conclusions flowing therefrom, G. V Plekhanov limited himself to the statement that it was all laid out ―clearly enough, it seems‖ in his (Plekhanov‘s) works. If Voden‘s report was accurate (and there is no reason to doubt it), then it is clear what the leader and teacher of Russian Social-Democracy – destined also to be the leading theoretician of Russian Menshevism – was teaching his movement. When ―we‖ seize power, democratic rights (―freedom‖) would be withdrawn from opponents, and a dictatorial regime would be imposed with the dictatorship in the hands of the victorious party or just its leadership. There is no mystery about where Plekhanov – himself a Narodnik only a few years before – had gotten these notions: this conception of dictatorship had long been the unquestioned orthodoxy of the Blanquist and Bakuninist elements who had long provided most of the training of Russian (and other) revolutionaries. He did not get it from Marx‘s old term; the relationship was the other way ‘round – this was the standard conception which he imposed on Marx‘s term when he heard it. And what did Engels think of this, when told by Voden? We learn this in Voden‘s memoirs, which continue as follows: After inquiring whether I personally on the other hand was satisfied with such an objective criterion [that is, Plekhanov‘s], Engels expressed the opinion that the application of that sort of criterion would either lead to the Russian Social-Democracy‘s turning into a sect with its unavoidable and always undesirable practical consequences, or it would give rise in the Russian Social-Democracy – at least among the emigré Russian SocialDemocrats – to a series of splits from which Plekhanov himself would not benefit. In short, thought Engels, Plekhanov‘s perspective would wreck the movement, either by a split or (what amounts to the same thing) sectification. There is an indication in Voden‘s memoirs that there was more to report about Engels‘ hostile reception to this account of the Russian leader‘s views. Engels remarked that Plekhanov seemed to him a


Russian analogue of H. M. Hyndman. Voden footnoted that Plekhanov took this as a compliment, and it is likely that Voden had no idea of what it meant. Hyndman, the leader of the British ―Marxist‖ sect which Marx and Engels used to denounce in the most cutting terms, was furthermore viewed by them as a sect dictator, whose dictatorial patterns had split the movement more than once. It is hard to exaggerate the significance of this little-known episode, as a symbol and as an educational beam of light on the meaning of the question. In just a few years the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party was going to become the first socialist organization in the world to include the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ in its program – though Marx and Engels had always refused to propose such a step. The term was written into the party program by Plekhanov, who by that time was perhaps the most prestigious theoretician of Marxism outside Germany.[64] Thus the new era of the ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ was launched on its way – not by Lenin (as the usual myth has it) but by the future leader and theoretician of Menshevism. Thus the antidemocratic interpretation of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat,‘ repudiated by Engels when it was reported to him, was going to blossom in the Second International and particularly in the Russian movement. Footnotes All references are to Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution, Volume 3, published by Monthly Review Press in 4 volumes, 1976-1990. 1. The Roman dictatura: 14-16. 2. Martial law, etc.: 16-19. 3. In the 20th century: 20-21. Survey of pre-1789 usages: 23-26. 4. The French Revolution: 27-32; Marat: 33-38; Robespierre: 39-40. 5. Babouvist movement: 44-51. Marx and Babouvism: 183-89. 6. Blanquists; the myth of the Blanquist origin of the term: 51-60. 7. Early Utopians, esp. Cabet: 60-64. Dézamy Morrison, etc.: 65-68. Cabet in 1850: 17781. 8. Louis Blanc: 69-73. 9. Weitling: 60-61, 83-85. 10. Bakunin in 1848: 86-89. 11. Cavaignac‘s dictatorship: 74-82. 12. Marx in the 1848 revolution: 92-105. 13. This paragraph: 107. 14. Guizot: 108-09. 15. Donoso Cortés: 109-11. 16. Stein: 112-16. 17. ‗Despotism‘ in Marx: 117-21. 18. This paragraph: 121-25. 19. Military dictatorship: 125-29. 20. A number of such figures, including the ―dictators‖ of the Democracy: 129-41. 21. Bakunin: 142-49; some Bakuninists: 154-56. 22. Lassalle: 150-54; Schweitzer: 156-60. 23. Comte, Hyndman, Jones: 161-65. 24. This paragraph: 169-71. 25. Communist Manifesto: 171-73. 26. Chartists: 173-74. 27. Concept of class rule: 174-77. 28. Periodization: 168-69. 29. Locus 1, first chapter: 271-73. (For the use, in this work, of ‗dictatorship‘ alone: 26671.)


30. Locus 1, second chapter: 273-74. 31. Not summarized here is KMTR‘s extensive discussion of Blanqui and Blanquism with relation to Marx; in KMTR 3, see Chaps. 9-10, 17-18, and Special Note B. 32. Blanqui as bogey: 276-79. 33. Locus 1, third chapter: 274-76. 34. SUCR‘s collapse: 294-304. 35. The full text: 281-82; discussion: 282-86. 36. Willich and SUCR: 319-22. 37. On the Blanquist group involved here: 286-94. 38. Basic thesis: 323-25. 39. Lüning and NDZ: 329-33. 40. Lüning‘s views and critique: 334-41. 41. Marx‘s letter to NDZ.. 341-44. 42. Weydemeyer: 370-73. 43. Weydemeyer‘s article: 373-77. 44. Marx‘s letter: 377-79. 45. The occurrence of ‗dictatorship of the proletariat‘ in Marx‘s Herr Vogt is discussed in 380-84. 46. Marx‘s analysis of the Commune: 412-19. 47. The split in the Commune over ‗dictatorship‘: 422-26. 48. Blanquists and the International: 427-31. The case of Vermersch: 442-26. 49. Blanquist split: 432-35. 50. Banquet speech: 447-51. 51. Locus 6: 451-54. 52. The Blanquist pamphlets: 432-38. 53. Locus 7: 454-57. 54. Locus 8: 462-64. 55. Locus 9: 464-69. 56. Republication of Marx‘s ―Critique‖: 475-76. 57. Locus 10: 474-75. 58. Commotion in the party: 476-82. 59. Locus 11: 483-86. 60. The interpretation: 488-89. 61. Locus 12: 486-88 62. ‗Democratic republic‘: 489-93. 63. Engels‘ proposal: 494. 64. Voden‘s memoirs: 495-97.


Francis Wheen Marx and the Working Class
Source: ―Karl Marx,‖ © Francis Wheen 1999, pp 276-292. Used with permission of the author. According to the legend tirelessly peddled by his critics, Marx was an incorrigible snob who despised working-class socialists, regarding them as dolts and asses who had acquired ideas above their station. The biographer Robert Payne, for example, refers to ‗Marx‘s contempt for humanity and especially for that section of it which he called the proletariat‘. Even a sophisticated Marxologist such as Professor Shlomo Avineri can write that ‗Marx‘s sceptical view of the proletariat‘s ability to conceive its own goals and realise them without outside intellectual help has often been documented. It suits his remark that revolutions never start with the ―masses‖ but originate in élite groups.‘ Where have these views and remarks been documented? You will search the works of Marx – and indeed the footnotes of Avineri – in vain. Avineri mentions the ‗snubbing‘ of Wilhelm Weitling: however, Marx was in fact remarkably generous to Weitling, arguing that one shouldn‘t be too beastly to a poor tailor who had genuinely suffered for his beliefs, and what caused their eventual rift was not lordly disdain for the underclass but terminal exasperation at the political and religious delusions of an insufferable egomaniac. Had Weitling been a middle-class intellectual, Marx would have treated him far more savagely. Which brings us to Avineri‘s second exhibit. ‗Even one of his most loyal followers, George Eccarius, also a tailor by trade, came in for a generous measure of unearned contempt from his master and teacher.‘ Once again no sources are cited: clearly Marx‘s lofty scorn for tailors, cobblers and other pond-life is so universally accepted as to need no verification. This is the exact opposite of the truth. It was Marx who gave Eccarius his first break by publishing his study of ‗Tailoring in London‘ in the short-lived London journal, NRZ Revue. ‗The author of this article,‘ Marx informed readers, ‗is himself a worker in one of London‘s tailoring shops. We ask the German bourgeoisie how many authors it numbers capable of grasping the real movement in a similar manner? ... The reader will note how here, instead of the sentimental, moral and psychological criticism employed against existing conditions by Weitling and other workers who engage in authorship, a purely materialist understanding and a freer one, unspoilt by sentimental whims, confronts bourgeois society and its movement.‘ No sign there of contempt, unearned or otherwise. Throughout the darkest days of the 1850s Marx remained attentive and sympathetic, helping Eccarius place articles in German-language newspapers abroad in the hope of rescuing him from the treadmill of tailoring from five in the morning until eight in the evening. ‗If any money is forthcoming, I would suggest that Eccarius get some first so that he doesn‘t have to spend all day tailoring,‘ he advised a journalistic comrade in Washington. ‗Do try and see that he gets something, if at all possible.‘ However dire his own financial straits might be, he insisted that Eccarius‘s needs should take priority. When Eccarius went down with consumption, in February 1859, Marx described it as ‗the most tragic thing I have yet experienced here in London‘. A few months later he noted sadly that Eccarius ‗is again going to pieces in his sweatshop‘, and asked if Engels could send the poor chap a few bottles of port to sustain him. In 1860, forced by ill health to give up tailoring for a while, Eccarius was installed in lodgings rented at Marx‘s own expense and fixed up with regular work for the American press at $3 an article. When three of Eccarius‘s children died during the scarlet-fever epidemic of 1862, it was the povertystricken Marx who organised an appeal fund to cover the funeral expenses. Finally, when invited to nominate a speaker for the historic public meeting in September 1864, he again


pressed the claims of his old friend. Eccarius put on a ‗splendid performance‘, Marx reported to Engels afterwards, adding that he himself had been happy to remain mute on the platform. And yet, even now, many authors continue to repeat the old nonsense about Marx‘s mean-spirited and snooty disdain for mere tailors. In fact, it was the presence of so many genuine workers – and the refreshing lack of preening middle-class dilettantes – that attracted him to the International‘s inaugural rally, persuading him ‗to waive my usual standing rule to decline any such invitations‘. Although he came to St Martin‘s Hall only as a silent observer, by the end of the evening he had been co-opted on to the General Council. Now there seems to be a slight paradox here. Marx himself was indisputably a bourgeois intellectual. By joining the Council was he not in danger of diluting the proletarian purity which he so admired? To answer the question we need to look more closely at the composition of the International. The General Council consisted of two Germans (Marx and Eccarius), two Italians, three Frenchmen and twenty-seven Englishmen – almost all of them working class. It was a muddled mélange: English trade unionists who cared passionately about the right to free collective bargaining but had no interest in socialist revolution; French Proudhonists who dreamed of utopia but disliked trade unions; plus a few republicans, disciples of Mazzini and campaigners for Polish freedom. They disagreed about almost everything – and particularly about what role, if any, the enlightened middle classes should be allowed to play in the International. In a letter to Engels two years after its foundation, Marx reported an all-too-typical contretemps: By way of demonstration against the French monsieurs – who wanted to exclude everyone except ‗travailleurs manuels‘, in the first instance from membership of the International Association, or at least from eligibility for election as delegate to the congress – the English yesterday proposed me as President of the General Council. I declared that under no circumstances could I accept such a thing, and proposed Odger [the English trade union leader] in my turn, who was then in fact re-elected, although some people voted for me despite my declaration. The minute-book for this meeting records that Marx ‗thought himself incapacitated because he was a head worker and not a hand worker‘, but it is not quite as simple as that. (His desire to get on with writing Capital may have exerted a stronger tug at the sleeve.) A few years later, when a doctor called Sexton was proposed for membership, there were the usual mutterings about ‗whether it was desirable to add professional men to the Council‘; according to the minutes, however, ‗Citizen Marx did not think there was anything to fear from the admission of professional men while the great majority of the Council was composed of workers.‘ In 1872, when there were problems with various crackpot American sects infiltrating the International, it was Marx himself who proposed – successfully – that no new section should be allowed to affiliate unless at least two-thirds of its members were wage labourers. In short, while accepting that most office-holders and members must be working class, Marx was unembarrassed by his own lack of proletarian credentials: men such as himself still had much to offer the association as long as they didn‘t pull rank or hog the limelight. Engels followed this example, though as an affluent capitalist he was understandably more reluctant to impose himself. After selling his stake in the family firm and moving down to London in 1870, he accepted a seat on the General Council almost at once but declined the office of treasurer. ‗Citizen Engels objected that none but working men ought to be appointed to have anything to do [with] the finances,‘ the minutes record. ‗Citizen Marx did not consider the objection tenable: an ex-commercial man was the best for the office.‘ Engels persisted with his refusal – and was probably right to do so. As the Marxian scholar Hal Draper has pointed out, handling money was the touchiest job in a workers‘ association, for charges of financial irregularity were routine ploys whenever


political conflict started; and a Johnny-come-lately businessman from Manchester would have been an obvious target for any ‗French monsieurs‘ who wanted to stir up trouble. Marx may have preferred to work behind the scenes, but he worked exceptionally hard all the same: without his efforts the International would probably have disintegrated within a year. The Council met every Tuesday at its shabby HQ in Greek Street, Soho – on the site which, almost exactly a century later, was to become the Establishment night-club, where satirists such as Lenny Bruce and Peter Cook used rather different techniques to undermine prevailing orthodoxy. The minute-books show that he was happy to take on his share of the donkey-work. (‗Citizens Fox, Marx and Cremer were deputed to attend the Compositors‘ Society ... Citizen Marx proposed, Citizen Cremer seconded, that the Central Council thank Citizen Cottam for his generous gift ... Citizen Marx stated that societies in Basle and Zurich had joined the Association ... Citizen Marx reported that he had received £3 from Germany for members‘ cards, which he paid to the Financial Secretary...‘) His influence was apparent from the outset. The initial item of business at the Council‘s very first meeting, on 5 October 1864, was a proposal by Marx that William Randal Cremer of the London Trades Council should be appointed secretary. (‗Mr Cremer was unanimously elected.‘) Later that evening Marx was elected to a subcommittee whose task was to draw up rules and principles of the new Association. So far so good. But then Marx fell ill, thus missing the next two meetings. He was roused from his sick-bed on 18 October by an urgent letter from Eccarius, who warned that if he didn‘t come to the General Council that evening a hopelessly insipid and confused statement of aims would be adopted in his absence. Marx staggered down to Greek Street and listened aghast as the worthy Le Lubez read out ‗a fearfully cliché-ridden, badly written and totally unpolished preamble pretending to be a declaration of principles, with Mazzini showing through the whole thing from beneath a crust of the most insubstantial scraps of French socialism‘. After long debate, Eccarius proposed that this unappetising menu be sent back to the subcommittee for further editing, cunningly forestalling any suspicion of a coup by promising that its ‗sentiments‘ would remain unchanged. This was the opportunity Marx needed. Putting on his most innocent expression, he suggested that the subcommittee meet two days later at his house, which offered rather more comfort (and a better stocked cellar) than the poky little room in Greek Street. When the team assembled chez Marx, he then spun out a discussion about the rules at such interminable length that by one in the morning they had still not even begun their ‗editing‘ of the preamble. How were they to have it ready in time for the next gathering of the General Council five days later? His weary colleagues, yawning fit to bust, gratefully accepted Marx‘s suggestion that he should try to cobble something together himself. All the draft papers were left in his hands, and they departed to their beds. ‗I could see that it was impossible to make anything out of the stuff,‘ he told Engels. ‗In order to justify the extremely peculiar way in which I intended to edit the sentiments that had already been ―carried,‖ I wrote An Address to the Working Classes (which was not in the original plan: a sort of review of the adventures of the working class since 1845); on the pretext that all the necessary facts were contained in this ―Address‖ and that we ought not to repeat the same things three times over, I altered the whole preamble, threw out the déclaration des principes and finally replaced the forty rules by ten.‘ As a sop to the more pious and less revolutionary members, he threw in a few references to truth, morality, duty and justice, and avoided the belligerent rhetorical flourishes that had so enlivened the Communist Manifesto. As he explained to Engels, ‗It will take time before the revival of the movement allows the old boldness of language to be used. We must be fortiter in re, suaviter in modo.‘ Which, being translated from the Latin, essentially means: speak softly and carry a big stick. Despite the years of seclusion, Marx had lost none of his old procedural guile. At its meeting of 1 November, partly at his suggestion, the General Council co-opted several new members. They included Karl Pfänder, the Communist League veteran who had once


examined Wilhelm Liebknecht‘s skull; Hermann Jung, a Swiss watchmaker; Eugène Dupont, a French musical-instrument maker; and Friedrich Lessner, the tailor who had rushed the manuscript of the Communist Manifesto to the printers in 1848. All were stalwart supporters of Marx – and he needed all the support he could get, since some of the English members were none too happy with his new text. One of the milder suggestions, as the minutes record, was that ‗some explanation should be given (in the form of a footnote) of the terms ―nitrogen‖ and ―carbon"‘. (Marx thought this quite unnecessary. ‗We need hardly remind the reader,‘ he commented wearily in the footnote, ‗that, apart from the elements of water and certain inorganic substances, carbon and nitrogen form the raw materials of human food.‘) A more hostile complaint came from a printer, William Worley, who had made his opinions clear at the previous meeting by objecting to the statement that ‗the capitalist was opposed to the labourer‘. This time, his reformist conscience was outraged by Marx‘s description of capitalists as ‗profitmongers‘. By eleven votes to ten, the council agreed that the inflammatory word be erased. The address was then passed nem. con. The unanimous acceptance of this ‗review of the adventures of the working class‘ is a tribute to Marx‘s skill in judging how far he could go. There were no revolutionary predictions, no spectres or hobgoblins stalking Europe – though he did his best to make the reader‘s flesh creep with a description of British industry as a vampire which could survive only by sucking the blood of children. Mostly, he allowed the facts to speak for themselves, larding the document with official statistics plagiarised from his own work in progress, Capital, to justify his claim that ‗the misery of the working masses has not diminished from 1848 to 1864‘. But, as ever, his attempt to imagine an alternative was as formless if sweet as a bowl of blancmange: ‗Like slave labour, like serf labour, hired labour is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labour plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind and a joyous heart.‘ The address ended with the words ‗Proletarians of all countries, Unite!‘; the equally familiar phrase encouraging them to throw off their chains was tactfully omitted. Even so, one can‘t help wondering how closely his colleagues scrutinised the text before approving it. ‗The lords of land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defence and perpetuation of their economical monopolies,‘ he announced in the final pages. ‗To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes.‘ Such a notion was anathema to many of the English representatives on the General Council, who thought that the great duty of the working classes was to form trade unions which could bargain for better pay and conditions, while leaving politics to Members of Parliament. This was certainly the view of the impeccably moderate general secretary, William Randal Cremer, who later became a Liberal MP and ended his career as a knight of the realm. The fact that even he voted for the address tells us much about Marx‘s powers of persuasion. As old Communist Leaguers such as Pfänder and Lessner knew, Marx‘s intimidating presence – his dark eyes, his slashing wit, his formidable analytical brain – would always dominate any committee. Scarcely a month after sitting silently on the stage at St Martin‘s Hall, he was already taking charge. But mere force of personality was not enough to quell the feuds and animosities that inevitably characterised such an incongruous hybrid as the International. Even the small French contingent on the General Council was itself split into two irreconcilable factions of republicans and Proudhonists. The republicans, represented by Le Lubez, were essentially middle-class radicals – red hot for Liberté, égalité and fraternité but rather less excited by arguments about industry or property. Proudhon‘s earnest disciples, led by the engraver Henri Louis Tolain, regarded republics and governments as centralised tyrannies that were inimical to the interests of the small shopkeepers and artisans whose cause they championed; all they wanted was a network of mutual-credit societies and small-scale cooperatives. Another Proudhonist, who joined the General Council in 1866, was the young medical student Paul Lafargue, later to become the husband of Laura Marx. His first


encounters with his future father-in-law were unpromising. ‗That damned boy Lafargue pesters me with his Proudhonism,‘ Karl complained to Laura, ‗and will not rest, it seems, until I have administered to him a sound cudgelling.‘ After one of Lafargue‘s many speeches declaring nations and nationalities to be the purest moonshine, Marx raised a laugh among his English colleagues by pointing out that ‗our friend Lafargue, and others who had abolished nationalities, had addressed us in ―French,‖ i.e. in a language which nine-tenths of the audience did not understand‘. He added mischievously that by denying the existence of nationalities the young zealot ‗seemed quite unconsciously to imply their absorption by the model French nation‘. If the doughty English trade unionists were incredulously amused by these Gallic squabbles, they were downright astonished to learn that the great Mazzini – a heroic figure in London – was regarded by the Germans and French as a posturing ninny whose passion for national liberation had quite eclipsed any awareness of the central importance of class. ‗The position is difficult now,‘ Marx admitted after another bruising session at Greek Street, ‗because one must oppose the silly Italianism of the English, on the one hand, and the mistaken polemic of the French, on the other.‘ It was a time-consuming business. In a letter to Engels of March 1865 he described a fairly typical week‘s work. Tuesday evening was given over to the General Council, at which Tolain and Le Lubez bickered until midnight, after which he had to adjourn to a nearby pub and sign 200 membership cards. The next day he attended a meeting at St Martin‘s Hall to mark the anniversary of the Polish insurrection. On Saturday and Monday there were subcommittee meetings devoted to ‗the French question‘, both of which raged on until one in the morning. And so to Tuesday, when another stormy session of the General Council ‗left the English in particular with the impression that the Frenchmen stand really in need of a Bonaparte!‘ In between all these meetings, there were ‗people dashing this way and that to see me‘ in connection with a conference on household suffrage which was to be held the following weekend. ‗What a waste of time!‘ he groaned. Engels thought so too. After Marx‘s death he said that ‗Moor‘s life without the International would be a diamond ring with the diamond broken out‘, but at first he simply couldn‘t understand why his friend wished to spend hours suffering in dingy Soho back rooms when he could be at his desk in Hampstead writing Capital. ‗I have always halfexpected that the naïve fraternité in the International Association would not last long,‘ he commented smugly in 1865, after another bout of internecine squabbling among the French. ‗It will pass through a lot more such phases and will take up a great deal of your time.‘ Until he retired to London in 1870 Engels played no part in the association. By 1865 Marx was the de facto leader of the International, though his official title was ‗corresponding secretary for Germany‘. Even this was a misnomer: the death of Lassalle left him with only a couple of friends in the whole of Germany – Wilhelm Liebknecht and the gynaecologist Ludwig Kugelmann – and most of his ‗corresponding‘ took the form of sniggers about the alleged homosexuality of Lassalle‘s successor, Johann Baptist von Schweitzer, plus a few dismissive remarks about the appalling political backwardness of the Teutonic race. ‗There is nothing I can do in Prussia at the moment,‘ he wrote to Dr Kugelmann. ‗I prefer my agitation here through the ―International Association‖ a hundred times. The effect on the English proletariat is direct and of the greatest importance. We are now stirring the General Suffrage Question here, which is, naturally, of quite different significance here than in Prussia.‘ Extending the franchise was the dominant parliamentary issue of the moment – though it should be added that the various proposals for reform put forward by Tories and Whigs in the mid-1860s owed less to high principle than to the jostle for party advantage. There were debates galore, which today seem as remote and incomprehensible as the Schleswig-Holstein question, about the voting rights of ‗copyholders‘, ‗£6 ratepayers‘ and ‗£50 tenants-at-will‘. But amid all the arcane arguments over fancy franchises and plural voting, one point was accepted by all peers and MPs: there must be some sort of property


qualification to prevent the great unwashed from having any say in the nation‘s affairs. ‗What I fear,‘ Walter Bagehot wrote in his English Constitution, ‗is that both our political parties will bid for the support of the working man; that both of them will promise to do as he likes...‘ Even the National Reform Union, a supposedly radical pressure group, desired only the enfranchisement of householders and rate-paying lodgers. In the spring of 1865, after a packed meeting at St Martin‘s Hall, a Reform League was founded to campaign for universal manhood suffrage. (The possibility that women might be either willing or able to vote was, apparently, too far-fetched to merit consideration.) Marx and his colleagues from the International took charge: ‗The whole leadership is in our hands,‘ he revealed triumphantly to Engels. For the next year or so he threw himself into the crusade with gusto while also attending to the International, the manuscript of Capital, the demands of his family and creditors – and, of course, those blossoming boils on his bum, which were more prolific than ever. He hacked away at them with a cut-throat razor, watching with vicious satisfaction as the bad blood spurted over the carpet. Sometimes, having staggered to bed at 4 a.m. several nights running, he felt ‗infernally harassed‘ and wished he had never emerged from hibernation. Was the game worth so many late-night candles? He convinced himself that it was. ‗If we succeed in re-electrifying the political movement of the English working class,‘ he wrote after launching the Reform League, ‗our Association will already have done more for the European working class, without making any fuss, than was possible in any other way. And there is every prospect of success.‘ Not so. Reformist trade union leaders such as Cremer and Odger soon made concessions, deciding that they would be quite content with household suffrage rather than one man one vote. And that, more or less, is what they got. In the summer of 1867, Parliament approved Disraeli‘s Reform Bill, which lowered the property qualification for county voters and extended the franchise to all urban householders – thus doubling the size of the electorate. But the vast majority of the working population remained as voteless as ever. The International, too, never quite lived up to Marx‘s hyperbole. There were some early successes, notably in sabotaging attempts by English employers to recruit foreign workers as strikebreakers, and the ensuing notoriety persuaded several small craft societies to affiliate – among them such exotic bodies as the Amalgamated Cordwainers of Darlington, the Hand-in-Hand Society of Coopers, the West-End Cabinet Makers, the Day-Working Bookbinders, the English journeymen Hairdressers, the Elastic Web Weavers‘ Society and the Cigar Makers. But the big industrial unions stayed aloof. William Allen, general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, refused even to meet a deputation from the International. More galling still was the failure to enrol the London Trades Council, even though its secretary, George Odger, was also president of the International. By the time of the Association‘s first pan-European Congress, held in Geneva during the summer of 1866, the total number of members in affiliated societies was 25,173 – by no means negligible, but hardly proof that the English proletariat had been ‗re-electrified‘. If the International was to expand any further it would have to live up to its name and broaden its horizons far beyond the Cordwainers of Darlington. Marx himself missed the Geneva Congress, yet still managed to dominate the proceedings. When the French Proudhonists issued their well-rehearsed protest against middle-class socialists (‗all men who have the duty of representing working-class groups should be workers‘), William Randal Cremer defended the record of the few non-manual workers on the General Council. ‗Among those members I will mention one only, Citizen Marx, who has devoted his life to the triumph of the working classes.‘ The baton was then taken up by James Carter of the Journeymen Hairdressers: Citizen Marx has just been mentioned; he has perfectly understood the importance of this first congress, where there should be only working-class delegates; therefore he refused the delegateship he was offered in the General Council. But this is not the reason to prevent him or anyone else from coming into our midst; on the contrary, men who


devote themselves completely to the proletarian cause are too rare for us to push them aside. The middle class only triumphed when, rich and powerful as it was in numbers, it allied itself with men of science ... After this barber-shop testimonial even the leader of the Proudhon faction, Henri Tolain, felt obliged to congratulate the absent hero. ‗As a worker, I thank Citizen Marx for not accepting the delegateship offered him. In doing that, Citizen Marx showed that workers‘ congresses should be made up only of manual workers.‘ Citizen Marx had not intended to show anything of the kind, and there is no evidence that he stayed away from Geneva to avoid offending proletarian sensibilities. A more likely explanation is that he didn‘t wish to endure tedious harangues from the French exclusionists when he could have a few days‘ uninterrupted work on Capital. A year earlier he had told Engels that the draft required only a few ‗finishing touches‘, which would be done by September 1865. ‗I am working like a horse at the moment.‘ His friends had heard many such hopeful forecasts over the years, but this time he really did seem to be in the final furlongs – even if the spavined old nag was proceeding at a limping trot rather than full gallop. Through the summer of 1865 he was vomiting every day (‗in consequence of the hot weather and related biliousness‘), and a sudden influx of house guests provided further unwelcome distraction. Jenny‘s buffoonish brother, Edgar von Westphalen, came to stay for six months, drinking the wine cellar dry and ‗pondering the needs of his stomach from morn till night‘; other visitors included Marx‘s brother-in-law from South Africa, a niece from Maastricht and the Freiligrath family. This was the price he paid for moving to a house with spare rooms, but it was a price he could ill afford. ‗For two months I have been living solely on the pawnshop,‘ he fretted. ‗A queue of creditors has been hammering on my door, becoming more and more unendurable every day.‘ And yet, at the still point in the centre of this whirlwind, his masterpiece was nearing completion. By the end of 1865 Capital was a manuscript of 1,200 pages, a baroque mess of ink-blots and crossings-out and squiggles. On New Year‘s Day 1866 he sat down to make a fair copy and polish the style – ‗licking the infant clean after long birth pangs‘. But then the carbuncles returned. On doctor‘s orders he was banished to Margate for a month, where he did little except bathe in the sea, swallow arsenic three times a day and feel thoroughly sorry for himself ‗I can sing with the Miller of the Dee: ―I care for nobody and nobody cares for me.‖‘ At the end of his sea cure the carbuncles had gone – only to be replaced by rheumatism and toothache. Then the old liver trouble returned for an encore. Even on days when he was fit to work some new misfortune usually descended, as when his stationer refused to supply any more paper until the last batch had been paid for. With exquisitely bad timing, Paul Lafargue chose this unpropitious moment to ask for the hand of the twenty-year-old Laura Marx in marriage. The Creole medical student, having met Marx through the International, had transferred his attention to the old man‘s green-eyed daughter and begun wooing her with an enthusiasm which Karl thought most indecorous. Lafargue was suspect anyway, not only for Proudhonist tendencies but also because of his exotic Franco-Spanish-Indian-African ancestry, which to his prospective father-in-law suggested a certain genetic flightiness. As soon as writing paper could be found Marx sent the overzealous suitor a letter of which any Victorian paterfamilias would have been proud. My dear Lafargue, Allow me to make the following observations: 1. If you wish to continue your relations with my daughter, you will have to give up your present manner of ‗courting‘. You know full well that no engagement has been entered into, that as yet everything is undecided. And even if she were formally betrothed to you, you should not forget that this is a matter of long duration. The practice of excessive intimacy is especially inappropriate since the two lovers will be living at the same place for a necessarily prolonged period of severe testing and purgatory ... To my


mind, true love expresses itself in reticence, modesty and even the shyness of the lover towards his object of veneration, and certainly not in giving free rein to one‘s passion and in premature demonstrations of familiarity. If you should urge your Creole temperament in your defence, it is my duty to interpose my sound reason between your temperament and my daughter. If in her presence you are incapable of loving her in a manner in keeping with the London latitude, you will have to resign yourself to loving her from a distance. In fact it was Marx and not Lafargue who attributed this ardour – and almost everything else – to the ‗Creole temperament‘. As late as November 1882 he was still going on about it, telling Engels that ‗Lafargue has the blemish customarily found in the negro tribe – no sense of shame, by which I mean shame about making a fool of oneself.‘ Before consenting to the marriage, Marx required a full account of the young man‘s prospects. ‗You know that I have sacrificed my whole fortune to the revolutionary struggle,‘ he wrote to Lafargue. ‗I do not regret it. Quite the contrary. If I had to live my life over again, I would do the same. I would not marry, however. As far as it lies within my power, I wish to save my daughter from the reefs on which her mother‘s life was wrecked ... You must have achieved something in life before thinking of marriage, and a long period of testing is required of you and Laura.‘ Not that long, as it turned out: Laura Marx‘s engagement to Paul Lafargue was announced in September 1866, only a month after Marx dispatched his letter, and they were married in St Pancras register office on 2 April 1868. Her father, rather unromantically, described the union as ‗a great relief for the entire household, since Lafargue is as good as living with us, which perceptibly increases expenses‘. At the wedding lunch Engels cracked so many jokes about the bride that she burst into tears. Lacking the vivacity of Jennychen and Eleanor, Laura never enjoyed being the centre of attention. (‗As I am in the habit of keeping in the background, I am very apt to be overlooked and forgotten.‘) Of all the Marx girls she was probably the most like Jenny Marx: while her sisters dreamed of careers on the stage, Laura‘s only ambition was to be a good wife. Her first child, Charles Etienne (nicknamed ‗Schnapps‘), was born on 1 January 1869, almost exactly nine months after the wedding, followed over the next two years by a daughter and another son. All died in infancy. There was, it seemed, no escaping those reefs on which her mother‘s life had been wrecked. ‗In all these struggles we women have the harder part to bear,‘ Jenny Marx wrote, mourning the loss of her grandchildren, ‗because it is the lesser one. A man draws strength from his struggle with the world outside, and is invigorated by the sight of the enemy, be their number legion. We remain sitting at home, darning socks.‘


Terrell Carver Marx‟s „Illegitimate Son‟ ... or Gresham‟s Law in the World of Scholarship*
* Gresham‘s Law: ‗Bad money drives out good‘ (Sir Thomas Gresham, 1558, but not denominated a ‗law‘ until 1858). Source: ―Gresham‘s Law in the World of Scholarship‖ was written for ―Marx Myths and Legends‖ by Terrell Carver, University of Bristol in February 2005, and rights remain with the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. Frederick Demuth (1851-1929) has recently become an important character in the (after)lives of Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedrich Engels (1820-95); he was certainly no such thing at the time. Freddy, nearly 40 when his mother Helene Demuth (1820-90) died, was the sole beneficiary of her will. She left everything (£95) to her ‗son Frederick Lewis Demuth‘, born Henry Frederick, according to his birth certificate, which gave no father. Helene, known in Marx family circles as ‗Lenchen‘ or (in various spellings) ‗Nim‘ or ‗Nimmy‘, was the daughter of a Rhineland village baker, and at an early age she had become the young Jenny von Westphalen‘s maid at home. As such she had joined the Marx family in their Brussels days in the mid-1840s in order to help look after the infants. From all accounts she was good-humoured and literate, and in later years she helped the married daughters Jenny (1844-83) and Laura (1845-1911) with their babies. By 1883, the Longuet children – Jenny‘s – were settled with their widower father Charles in France, and the three children of Laura and Paul Lafargue had all died in childhood by the early 1870s. After Marx‘s death, Lenchen needed a ‗situation‘ and Engels needed (yet another) housekeeper, so she settled there with him in the Regent‘s Park Road N.W. until she died at 70 in 1890. Engels spoke at her funeral, and she was buried with the Marx family at Highgate (KM 183; 1 K 278-97; 2 K 429-40; 37 MEW 498). Freddy was evidently well known to the Marx girls as Lenchen‘s son. Jenny wrote to Laura in 1882 about a debt to Freddy and her inability to help ‗Nim‘ make a journey to Germany. Shortly after Freddy‘s mother died, Eleanor (1855-98) wrote to Laura, mentioning past wrongs and a sense of guilt: ‗Freddy has behaved admirably in all respects and Engels‘s irritation against him is as unfair as it is comprehensible. We should none of us like to meet our pasts, I guess, in flesh and blood. I know I always meet Freddy with a sense of guilt and wrong done. The life of that man! To hear him tell of it all is a misery and shame to me.‘ In the next few years Eleanor, Laura and their brother-in-law Charles Longuet helped Freddy out financially, and in 1892 Eleanor wrote to Laura: ‗It may be that I am very ―sentimental‖ – but I can‘t help feeling that Freddy has had great injustice all through his life. Is it not wonderful when you come to look things squarely in the face, how rarely we seem to practise all the fine things we preach – to others?‘ Engels did not mention Freddy in his will of 29 July 1893, in which there were numerous bequests, nor in his codicil of 26 July 1895 (when he knew he was dying). Eleanor and Laura were asked by Engels in a letter to hold one-third (some £3000) of their combined share in trust for Jenny Longuet‘s French children, who could not be named for


legal reasons. The two women, in conjunction with their brother-in-law Charles, managed to channel some of the funds from Engels‘s estate to Freddy. In late 1897 and early 1898 – just before she apparently committed suicide on 31 March – Eleanor was in a terrible state about money, her relationship with the philandering socialist Edward Aveling (1851-98) and his deteriorating health. She wrote a series of moving letters, confiding in Freddy as Lenchen‘s son: ‗I don‘t think you and I have been very wicked people – and yet, dear Freddy, it does seems as if we get all the punishment.‘ ‗I say to you what I would not say to anyone now‘, she continued, ‗I would have told my dear old Nymmy, but as I have not, I have only you‘ (2 K 680-8; 2 H 727-30; DKM 224, 240, 285; 39 MEW 318-19). It is not apparent from the reliable evidence that survives exactly what injustices Eleanor thought Freddy had suffered and at whose hands. None of the Marx girls seemed at all occupied with paternity in their dealings with Freddy, and all three accepted him as Lenchen‘s son. How long they had known of his existence, and his maternity (as it were) are not known. Possibly they were troubled about him and inclined to thoughts of guilt because he had grown up apart from his mother, so far as is known, and had enjoyed few educational advantages. Any feelings that his mother had been disadvantaged did not occur to them or did not surface in the correspondence that survives. Children were commonly put out to nurse in the 1850s, even amongst poor families like the Marxes, whose little Franziska (28 March 1851-14 April 1852) had been boarded out at about the same time as the infant Freddy. Frau Marx related this in her memoirs written in 1865: ‗We gave the poor little thing to a nurse, for we could not rear her with the [three] others in three small rooms.‘ Lenchen, then about six months pregnant, was obviously in much the same position, except that housemaids who became pregnant were lucky to be kept on. Then in her memoirs Frau Marx also refers to an event in the early summer of 1851 – Freddy was born on 23 June – that caused them much distress: ‗It greatly contributed to increase our worries, both personal and others‘. But she said that she did not ‗wish to relate [it] here in detail‘ and gave no specifics. Marx‘s letters of the following August speak of infamies and tales visited on his wife, and he mentions names, but not substance: My wife will go under if things continue like this much longer. The constant worries, the slightest everyday struggle wears her out; and on top of that, there are the infamies of my opponents ... who seek to avenge their impotence by casting suspicions on my civil character and by disseminating the most unspeakable infamies about me. Willich, Schapper, Ruge and countless other democratic rabble make this their business. The context here is probably the break-up of the émigré German communists into rival groups who quarrelled bitterly about money as well as politics. More pertinently Marx had written to Engels on 31 March 1851 about a ‗mystery‘ – ‗in which you also figure‘ – that had given matters a ‗tragi-comic turn‘. But in writing that letter he was interrupted, and in the following letter of 2 April he put off relating the matter until his visit to Manchester at the end of the month. From mid-1850 the Prussian ambassador in London, and the Prussian government itself, had been conducting a campaign to discredit Marx and Engels and other communists, and in March 1851 Ferdinand von Westphalen (1799-1876), stepbrother of Frau Marx and a civil servant in the Ministry of the Interior, was involved in moves to secure the deportation of the chief revolutionaries from Britain. Prussian methods included the use of agents to find compromising material and collect rumours and allegations that might influence the British government to comply with the plan to push the communists further afield, and Marx and Engels were circumspect in their correspondence. But it may also be that the housemaid‘s pregnancy was under discussion. Engels, who was supporting the Marxes on his slender resources, was in a position to pay to have the infant fostered, but there is no record of any arrangements to which he may or may not have agreed. If any of the odd comments in letters and memoirs were really about the pregnant Lenchen, then the affair seems to have been viewed as an inconvenient embarrassment by


Marx and as the source of personal distress by his wife, but there is no sense that Marx was intimately implicated, nor that Frau Marx saw him any differently, nor that Engels himself was going to be seriously put out, because the comments that do survive indicate that everyone involved was on much the same terms as usual. The pregnant housemaid and the problem of her offspring were real – but peripheral to the domestic difficulties with money and political difficulties with spies and communists that the Marxes and Engels had to endure (R 23-4; KM 271-3; 38 CW 324-5, 402-3, 626-7). Freddy would be an altogether minor character in any consideration of Engels‘s life or Marx‘s, were it not for a document, first published in extracts in 1962. According to the story recounted there, Freddy is suddenly a relation of Marx and his family and – in an ambiguous way – of Engels himself. Ostensibly the tale concerns Marx and his alleged affair with the housemaid, but it is Engels who plays the central role in the supposed narrative. This typewritten document appears to be a letter dated 2-4 September 1898, written by Louise Freyberger née Strasser (1860-1950), three years after the Engels household broke up. As Louise Kautsky, the recently divorced wife of the prominent German socialist Karl Kautsky (1854-1938), she had been asked by Engels, within a month of Lenchen‘s death, to keep house for him, and she arrived post haste from Vienna. In 1894 she married Dr. Ludwig Freyberger, another émigré, and he came to live in Engels‘s house, too – much to Eleanor‘s displeasure, as she disliked Louise and her influence over Engels, then in his seventies (2 K 444; 2 H 725-6). The document spins a lurid tale of deathbed revelations by Engels to Eleanor Marx, principally the claim that Marx himself was Freddy‘s father. Fearing gossip imputing paternity, Engels is said to have declared ‗the truth‘, in case he should be accused, after his death, of treating Freddy shabbily. The date on the document is some six months after Eleanor‘s suicide, so if there was a letter, Eleanor was conveniently out of the way, though others mentioned as in on the story to some degree – such as Sam Moore (c. 1830-1911), Marx‘s English translator, and Eleanor‘s sister Laura – clearly were not. The addressee of the supposed letter, the prominent German socialist and trade unionist August Bebel (1840-1913), or anyone else who had been the recipient of such tales from Louise, could have checked with them. Louise‘s ‗letter‘ has put Marx and his works in a bad light, and made Engels‘s deathbed into high Victorian melodrama. After such a gothic story it is extraordinarily difficult to see the situation any other way, but this now well-known version of events must nonetheless be tested stringently against the facts as we have them. In particular Engels‘s actions – attested and alleged – must be carefully scrutinized. At the time of Freddy‘s conception in 1850 and birth in 1851 the four principals in the affair, so far as we know, were Lenchen, Marx, Frau Marx and Engels. The birth of an illegitimate child to the maid was obviously difficult and trying for the household, because the situation precluded any truly humane solution. Frau Marx would not have wanted to lose her long-time maid, and Lenchen no doubt wished to keep her livelihood. Continued residence for Lenchen with the Marxes, together with her illegitimate baby, would have associated the household with ‗free love‘ and moral irresponsibility, whoever the father was in fact or by repute. This was especially problematic with respect to the legitimate children, who would have been confronted – according to the standards of the time – with an example of flagrantly immoral behaviour, and one specially relevant to young girls. These were standards held by both conventional conservatives and responsible communists, albeit for somewhat different reasons. In any event such an establishment would have been poor publicity for communism, and a considerable burden for the children to bear, both legitimate and illegitimate. Lenchen could have been set up outside the family with her baby, but this was probably – with or without genuine regrets – beyond Engels‘s means, and certainly against his wish to spare his own family the possibility of serious embarrassment, as his connection with ‗immorality‘ might well leak out, whether


or not he was presumed to be the father. The Engels family were, in any case, his employers. The obvious solution was to board the child out and leave him there, and that is in fact what happened, so far as we know. Lenchen may not have objected very much, as it was clearly for her own good to keep her situation, for the Marx family to continue unencumbered and for the communist cause to suffer no invidious criticism. The fact that she continued in the household with evident aplomb accords with this hypothesis, and with Eleanor‘s evident blankness on any injustice done to Freddy‘s mother, whose infant had gone to another home. The grievous injustice, from Eleanor‘s point of view, could have been the fact that Freddy had to grow up as a foster-child – no doubt a hard upbringing – away from his mother and the civilized influence of a cultured household. Throughout their lives all four principals lived very happily together, and Lenchen ultimately served in both the Marx and the Engels households without any suggestion of reluctance. Hers is another unheard voice, as she left no written testimony other than her will, but memoirs of the two households attest to her willing service. If there were difficulties amongst the four principals of the 1850s – about finances, maternity, paternity or whatever – they were swiftly settled and never revisited. Frau Marx would hardly have made her remarks in her correspondence about disturbing events if she knew that Karl were the father, as she was most particular about the obligations of family life and could not have wished to spread such a tale any further. Presumably she made her comments because they were about a situation – one that was outside her immediate relationship with her husband – that affected her deeply. If Engels were the father, or had taken the rap for Karl, this story would surely have surfaced at some point in the émigré community, since spiteful gossips abounded. Indeed Engels was quite capable of dishing up that sort of thing himself. Writing to Marx in 1846 about their communist contacts near Paris, Engels indulged himself in ribaldry: ‗The best of it is that in the house ... there are 2 women, 2 men, several children, one of them dubious, and despite all this not a thing happens there. They don‘t even practise pederasty‘ (38 CW 55). A considerable number of highly communicative people – not all of them life-long friends of Marx or Engels by any means – knew of Freddy‘s existence, and it seems to have been no particular secret that Freddy‘s mother was a close associate of both Marx and Engels. Had there ever been a serious possibility that Freddy‘s paternity would pose problems for either of the two – and hence for the ‗Marx party‘ within the communist movement – the principals could easily have passed him off as a Demuth nephew or other relation. Indeed the adult Freddy was known and loved in the family as Lenchen‘s son, who had suffered a great injustice and needed to be helped. Eleanor spoke of him in those terms before Engels‘s death and afterwards, and for that reason she is unlikely to have been the recipient of revelations on the subject of Freddy and unlikely to have sorted the Engels papers to remove any proof of Marx‘s paternity. If she had learned in 1895 of something scandalous she could hardly have gone on with Freddy exactly as before, and made almost exactly the same kind of comments about injustice. The correspondence that survives concerning Freddy reflects a steady, continuing interest in him on the part of the Marx girls – and vice versa – from sometime before 1882 up to his final correspondence with Laura, shortly before her suicide in 1911. Insofar as Lenchen was a second mother to her, Freddy was a kind of half-brother, and because Lenchen was in effect a member of the Marx family, Eleanor‘s efforts to put him on a par with the other Marx legatees of Engels‘s will are understandable in those terms alone. Also the Engels estate was probably her only source of spare cash. Eleanor commented quite correctly in 1892 that Freddy was part of Engels‘s past, but did not mention the other three principals of the original affair, because by the time of her letter they were all dead. Later when she mentioned again the


injustices done to Freddy, she did not mention Engels, because by that time he was dead, too. Engels‘s reported irritation with Freddy suggests that he did not want an old embarrassment exhumed, as there was no way that Freddy‘s circumstances could reflect well on himself and the Marxes as communists, and there were numerous ways that it could be construed to bring discredit on the movement. With Freddy on the scene in London questions might arise about his treatment in early life or just possibly his paternity, and the difficult matter for Engels of proving himself or others innocent of all callous behaviour might arise if such an ill-natured and unedifying inquiry were opened. Engels had already put himself up for criticism in respect of the Burns sisters, Mary (c. 1823-63) and Lydia (‗Lizzie‘) (1827-78) and so he was party already to conventional discretion as a first line of defence. His liaisons were never widely advertised, they were never made to look like ‗free love‘, and they never involved children – though exactly why not, we do not know. Thus they appeared – to those who were determined to inquire – to be responsible domestic relationships that had merely foregone the formalities of marriage. As he was evidently ‗doing right‘ by the Irish girls, not too much could be made of his living arrangements by conservatives bent on gutter politics or communists with scores to settle against Marx. The situation with respect to Freddy might well have been more difficult to explain and less easy to justify. The most curious thing about Louise‘s ‗letter‘ is that it contains allegations about Marx and Engels that are quite sensational, but until the 1960s quite unknown. The ‗letter‘ was addressed to one of the most prominent socialist leaders in Germany. In any case, why did Louise never raise the matter again? She was nothing if not energetic and determined, and as the intention of the ‗letter‘ was plainly to impose a revelation on the world, it seems inconceivable that she put pen to paper once, and then let the sensational story drop for no less than the fifty-two years that elapsed before her death in 1950. Moreover Louise‘s account of the deathbed revelation is as suspect as some of the other ‗facts‘ in the document (such as the Marxes stopped sleeping together in the early 1850s – Eleanor was born in 1855 and there was a further still birth – and Louise‘s very odd claim that Eleanor knew all this!). And even if the tale of Engels‘s death-bed is truly told, the validity of his claim that Marx was Freddy‘s father is open to doubt. Of the two, Engels himself is a better candidate than Karl, and he was indeed living in London at the relevant time, September-October 1850. The younger, unmarried and handsomer man was the one with a taste for girls, working-class ones at that, and Lenchen was his exact contemporary. Writing to Marx from Paris in 1847 Engels let rip about grisettes – ‗easy‘ working-class girls called after their cheap grey attire: ‗it is absolutely essential that you get out of boring Brussels for once and come to Paris, and I for my part have a great desire to go carousing with you ... If I had an income of 5000 francs I would do nothing but work and amuse myself with women until I went to pieces. If there were no Frenchwomen, life wouldn‘t be worth living. But so long as there are grisettes, well and good!‘ (38 CW 115). By contrast Karl was notably struck on Jenny as his long-suffering wife; and from all accounts he was uxorious in the home – even if he did complain a bit in letters – and desperately anxious for a son. He mourned his two dead ones – Edgar or ‗Musch‘ (c. December 1846- 6 April 1855) and Guido or ‗Föxchen‘ (after the incendiary Catholic rebel Guido or ‗Guy‘ Fox) (c. 31 October 1849 – c. late November 1850) – with particular bitterness. The younger boy had only recently died, and on the occasion of his third daughter Franziska‘s birth he commented, ‗My wife, alas, has been delivered of a girl, and not a boy. And what is worse, she‘s very poorly.‘ When his last surviving child, Eleanor, was born in January 1855, he wrote to Engels, ‗my wife was delivered of a bona fide TRAVELLER – unfortunately of THE ―SEX‖ par excellence. If it had been a male child, well and good‘. Lenchen and Frau Marx were very close – Lenchen was a link for Jenny with the von Westphalens and happier days – and Frau Marx was virtually all that Helene Demuth had


in the world. The two no doubt spent more time together than Jenny spent with Karl, who devoted long hours to his work in the British Museum. It seems difficult to imagine Lenchen deceiving her mistress, and if violence were perpetrated on the maid by Karl, it seems difficult to imagine Jenny allowing the household to continue as if nothing had happened. Marx‘s wife Jenny complained on occasion about August Willich (1810-78), one of the expatriate ‘48ers, saying that he was lurking around the household with seduction on his mind. Someone like that seems a better candidate for Freddy‘s father than either Marx or Engels. At registration Freddy was named Henry, possibly after Karl Heinrich Marx, and Frederick, possibly after Friedrich Engels, who had no alternative Christian name but sometimes anglicized his own. The two were very possibly charged by the unhappy mother and her distraught mistress with doing the best they could for the infant – at a distance (38 CW 326; 39 CV 509; 1 K 21; KM 246-7). The story of ‗Marx‘s illegitimate son‘ has been the most obvious reading of Louise‘s ‗letter‘. But the document should be particularly scrutinized for its allegations about Engels, namely his behaviour on his deathbed and before. In the ‗letter‘ Louise says: ‗[Engels] said that he did not wish his name to be besmirched ... He had stood in for Marx in order to save him from a serious domestic quarrel ... I have seen the letter which Marx wrote to General [Engels‘s nickname] in Manchester at the time ... I believe that he had this letter but, like so much of their correspondence, has destroyed it‘ (R 134-8). If Engels were genuinely worried at any stage that Freddy‘s paternity would be laid at his door – and there is no evidence that he was – he would hardly have wanted to destroy the one piece of evidence that would have cleared him, as Louise‘s ‗letter‘ suggests. If, as seems more likely, he cared more for Marx‘s name within the communist cause than for his own respectability, then – if there were a letter incriminating Marx – he might well have burnt it, but many years before Louise arrived in his household in 1890. However, there is little likelihood that on his deathbed Engels would suddenly demonstrate an overpowering concern for his own moral reputation in the shallowest sense, and then seek to salvage it from an entirely hypothetical attack, by imputing Freddy‘s paternity to Marx. Indeed Engels took special care to provide for the Marx children, and if Freddy were one as well, Engels could easily have written another codicil and included him amongst the legatees. He would thus have protected himself from charges of ‗shabby treatment‘ with substantial help rather than with unsubstantiated allegations. Overall Engels was far more concerned for the good name of the communist movement, and for Marx‘s good name first and foremost within it, than he was for his own. By the time he died he had devoted fifty years to this cause, and he is unlikely to have wanted to blacken Marx‘s name for any reason whatsoever. The personal and the political were far too closely intertwined in his life to come apart so catastrophically, indeed they were virtually one and the same. Louise‘s ‗letter‘ is instructive because it illustrates precisely the kind of thing that he was least likely to say. Political action played a large part in his personal relationships – what they were and how they were conducted – and indeed the idea of political action completely filled his personal life. Heinrich Gemkow and Rolf Hecker have published a useful article which surveys and reproduces much of the material cited and excerpted above, together with a number of extracts from documents that are difficult to access and in some cases newly added to the list of materials relevant to the ‗Freddy affair‘ (GH). In particular they focus attention on three letters from August Bebel to Eduard Bernstein (1850-1932), dated 8 and 18 September 1898, and 3 August 1899 (and on Bernstein‘s replies of 11 and 18 September 1898). These are evidently part of the exchange of letters to which Louise‘s (lost) original letter was directed, i.e. Bebel wrote to her (letter lost), she replied to him (apparent copy dated 2-4 September 1898). Gemkow and Hecker further consider a letter from Frederick Demuth to Jean-Laurent-Frederick Longuet (1876-1946) of 10 April 1912; a letter from David Borisovich Ryazanov (1870-1934), the director of the Marx-Engels-Institute and


editor of the first Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, to Clara Zetkin (1857-1933), dated 20 February 1929, and Zetkin‘s reply of 27 February, written from Moscow where she was then living (GH 47). It is rather unclear from their text exactly which of these items was ‗unknown‘ and in exactly what sense. While the authors admit that these materials offer no conclusive proof that Marx was Frederick Demuth‘s father, and while they note Bernstein‘s scepticism on this point (in a previously ‗known‘ letter), and refer to Kautsky‘s (in a published article of 1929), they nonetheless regard this additional material as weighty enough to close the case (GH 45 n. 7, 49, 51). The Bebel-Bernstein exchange of correspondence provides a context for Louise‘s ‗letter‘, namely the activities and thoughts of Bebel and Bernstein in the late summer and early autumn of 1898 when they were dealing with Edward Aveling‘s estate (GH 47-50). Aveling had died on 2 August, having been in bad health for some time, one of the factors assumed to have been behind Eleanor Marx‘s suicide on 31 March of the same year. Their involvement with Freddy and his (rather usual) attempts to gain money, one way or another, from the Marx family, are perhaps explained (at least in part) by some suggestion that one of the points at issue was a loan from Eleanor to Aveling, which could possibly be recovered in Freddy‘s favour (GH 48). Freddy had not figured in Eleanor‘s will, despite her declared affection for him (something which troubled Bernstein, who spoke rather ill of the dead on this matter), and as with the Engels estate, there was something of a pattern of trying to secure him some funds (GH 48). As Helene‘s son, and friend of Eleanor and Laura, he was at least in that way a family-member. This correspondence was also the occasion for an exchange between Bebel and Bernstein about a possible closer (and scandalous) relationship to the Marx family, namely the ‗information‘ (from Louise) that he was Marx‘s son (and therefore Eleanor‘s illegitimate half-brother). However, as the authors state, these documents provide no direct evidence on this point, other than a rehearsal of their varying opinions about this possibility (and their views on Louise‘s reliability as an informant – about anything). The conclusion between them was that Freddy would be getting no money from the Aveling estate, at least through their offices, however needy or deserving he actually was (GH 49). The letter from Frederick Demuth himself, some years later, to ‗Johnny‘ Longuet (Jenny‘s son), does not feature in Gemkow and Hecker‘s arguments, as it merely relays the thoughts of a man in bad health who is, once again, asking for money, and they do not seem to take his own claim to be Marx‘s son with any degree of seriousness (GH 50). In any case, the document relates no new information on the subject, beyond Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim, as recounted in the typewritten document from which the current controversy solely arises. The Ryazanov-Zetkin exchange does actually add a new claim, namely that Zetkin herself, while present at Eleanor Marx‘s house (apparently at the beginning of August 1896), was introduced by Eleanor to Freddy as her (i.e. Eleanor‘s) ‗half-brother‘ and ‗the son of Nymmy and Mohr [i.e. Marx]‘. Zetkin also says that Eleanor said that she (i.e. Zetkin) ‗would know the history‘ (GH 56-7). Curiously the authors do not focus much attention on this, even though it represents the first claim that someone, other than Louise (who merely recounts Engels‘s alleged claim, and her claim that Engels was telling the truth, and that others knew the story), was told about this in direct terms of paternity independently of Louise. However, Zetkin‘s narrative contains another ‗surprise‘. According to her, Louise Kautsky (as she then was) turned up at Engels‘s in 1890 about to become a ‗mother‘ (i.e. pregnant), and her marriage to Dr. Ludwig Freyberger was rushed through on Engels‘s doing in order to maintain respectability (GH 57-8). A fact not noted by Gemkow and Hecker is that Louise and Ludwig were married only in 1894, though the authors do comment on Zetkin‘s speculations concerning the father of Louise‘s baby. According to Zetkin the father was definitely not Ludwig, but could have been Bebel or Adler or Engels himself! (despite his advanced age). Gemkow and Hecker merely note that according to


evidence from their correspondence Bebel and Adler were not in contact with Louise at the relevant time. Unmentioned, but certainly striking, is the fact that Zetkin‘s is the sole account of all this scandal concerning Louise and illegitimacy/fatherhood, for which nothing else survives or fits. This puts Zetkin rather in Louise‘s camp as someone who exaggerates and creates fantasies, as Bernstein put it in 1898 (the first time round on this kind of scenario). Zetkin‘s concern in her letter seems to be political in a number of senses: she considers Marx, Engels, and Kautsky all to be cold and callous (males) in their evident disregard for Freddy, whether as infant, youth or adult, whatever his exact relationship to the Marx family; and she also considers Kautsky and Engels to be too influenced by bourgeois niceties and hypocrisies in these matters (and indeed she seems to see that class/gender fault as part and parcel with revisionism in the case of Kautsky) (GH 58). Zetkin also rather indirectly suggests (by giving us remarks she ascribes to Bebel) that Bernstein destroyed or censored letters from Marx to Engels (which could include the one in which the former apologises for asking the latter to accept paternity and thereby avoid a family row), whereas Louise seemed to think that that letter had already been destroyed by Engels (GH 56). Zetkin mentions Bernstein‘s scepticism, which also surfaces in Kautsky‘s article written about the time the two exchanged letters (and was then published on 20 February 1929), even though Zetkin seems to boast that she got the Marx/paternity story from ‗Kautsky himself‘. However, she says that he got the story from Bernstein, who is supposed to have made the crucial discovery of the letter (and then presumably reversed his earlier scepticism about the Freddy-Marx non-resemblance, though we have no record of any of this) (GH 50, 54). The authors note with some surprise Zetkin‘s word-for-word recollections (at age 71) of social occasions at ‗Tussy‘s‘ (i.e. Eleanor‘s) some 30 years before, but then according to Zetkin‘s account, Eleanor had promised her a ‗surprise‘, so it would have been quite memorable (GH 50). In short, Zetkin seems somewhat flawed and unreliable as a witness (rather like Louise), not least because she was writing 30 years after in overcharged circumstances and with certain battles on her mind. Despite her reference to Eleanor as an independent source for the Freddy/Marx/paternity story (other than Louise), Zetkin‘s account is very much framed by Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim (and so does not count as fully independent corroboration). The Gemkow/Hecker article displays some telling confusions:  Engels‘s presumed role in sorting out adoption is confused with Engels‘s ‗assumption of paternity‘, when the two should be clearly distinguished and separately evaluated.  Engels‘s (alleged) denial of his paternity for Freddy is logically separate from his (alleged) allegation of Marx‘s, as he could certainly have been informed (enough) about the former, but mistaken (or less than fully informed, or indeed fictive) on the latter.  The authors‘ methodology is one of rediscovering or decoding ‗evidence‘ based on reading Louise‘s tale into remarks that, ambiguous as they are, may well refer to other things; whereas the authors should also be discussing ‗the case against‘ the claim that these materials are indeed ‗evidence‘ for the given hypothesis – in other words they are throughout the article given to assuming what needs to be proved.  The validity criterion for establishing the truth, or at least the overwhelming likelihood, of the authors‘ hypothesis (that Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim is accurate) is apparently a cumulative one, i.e. the more reference that can be found to those, particularly amongst respected socialists, who say that they believe it (or are said to say that they believe it), the more certain we can be that the hypothesis is the right one; whereas this ignores the common source for the entire affair, and also the hearsay and unsubstantiated claims that are made about who (else) knows the tale and believes it.


In what I hope is a scholarly manner, I summarise the case for, and the case against, in two paragraphs below, and then offer some further thoughts on the current state of scholarship in this area. Reasons for believing that Marx was Freddy‟s father:  a circumstantial and reinterpretive ‗fit‘ between Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim and various letters that survive;  testimony in their own letters that Bebel and Zetkin believed Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim based on their respective close relationships with Louise and Engels (Bebel) and with Eleanor Marx (Zetkin). Reasons for not believing that Marx was Freddy‟s father:  no direct evidence that bears unambiguously on this matter;  direct evidence from correspondence that those in contact with Freddy were not concerned with his paternity;  direct evidence from correspondence that those concerned with the original ‗scandal‘ were not at odds with each other from 1850 onwards;  direct evidence that the 1895 Engels ‗deathbed‘ revelations made no difference to those involved;  no source for any concern about this issue other than Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim (in the 1890s and after the 1960s), other than the suggestion from Bebel that Louise had told him something about Engels/Marx/Freddy in the early 1890s; the recollection from Zetkin that Eleanor had told her that Marx was Freddy‘s father; and Frederick‘s self-interested and otherwise unsupported claim to be ‗the son of the great Marx‘;  lack of recorded comment on the subject from numerous people who are all said (by Louise or Zetkin) ‗to know‘, e.g. Frau Marx, Moore, Eleanor Marx, the Lafargues, Jenny (Marx) Longuet, Engels, Ludwig Freyberger, Lessner, Pfänder, Parvus [pseud. Alexander Lazarevich Gel‘fand or Helphand], Tanya Helfand [Parvus‘s wife], ‗a friend of Bernstein‘s‘ etc. ... other than the self-declared sceptics Bernstein and Kautsky (in so far as we have their directly recorded comments, which neither Louise nor Zetkin take up directly);  Bernstein (in 1898) and Kautsky (in 1929) say directly that they don‘t believe Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim, or that they are not convinced by what they‘ve heard of it, giving their reasons (e.g. that it was out of character for Marx, and that Louise‘s character lent itself to fantasy);  confusion about the one (supposed) letter that would confirm the ‗Engels accepted paternity to get Marx off the marital hook‘ thesis (of course, Freddy‘s father might really be someone else anyway, even if Marx had had an affair and thought he was the father, and so wanted to ‗transfer‘ this to Engels);  Louise had 52 more years in which to tell the tale, and no obvious reason why not (i.e. unlike Zetkin, she was not a political figure, nor even a party stalwart). In short, all roads in this matter lead back to Louise (save for Zetkin‘s story about Eleanor‘s ‗surprise‘, and even that surfaces in a context influenced by Louise) and to Louise‘s apparent interest in safeguarding Engels‘s ‗good name‘ and presumably his money albeit very retrospectively. Possibly there is also an element here of Louise‘s concern to cause trouble for Eleanor, even after the latter‘s death, in conjunction with the estate of her ‗partner‘ Aveling, by making difficulties there and saddling Eleanor with a bastard brother (whom Engels evidently didn‘t like, on Eleanor‘s testimony). The gossip and scandal, such as we have it, all dates from 1898 (according to surviving materials, which have no anomalies solely soluble in terms of Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim). I suggest the following methodological principles for investigation of the ‗Freddy affair‘:


1. no reading of Louise‘s tale into the evidence without rigorous testing as to whether other circumstances fit equally well or better. 2. rigorous separation of factual and hearsay claims, and testing of these separately, e.g. what does Louise say and should we believe it? what does Engels (supposedly) say and should we believe it? What does anyone else actually say in their own words and from their own experience? 3. source material should be reproduced in full, rather than excerpted, not least to establish the context of remarks, i.e. what questions the writers are asking and answering and with what result in mind, which is seldom the same as a (much later) scholarly enquiry into a (not very simple) fact. (In a short article, of course, this is not always possible; however, I am aiming to collect all the relevant documents for publication in full in English translation.) 4. due attention to the commonplace idea (as it was then before DNA testing, anyway) that ‗maternity is a fact, and paternity is an opinion‘! We have no testimony at all from the one person whose account would command special credence – Helene Demuth – even if there might still be room for doubt about her exact knowledge or veracity. I suspect what concerns contemporary scholars is the answer to a different question: did Marx have an affair with, or perpetrate violence on, the housemaid? Again the one person whose account would command special credence has apparently left us nothing. Conclusion We will never know about this ‗beyond reasonable doubt‘. Why we should care is another question. Marx might appear a model family man, in a qualified sense (given his need to ‗do right‘ by them all in a bourgeois world), but has there been an industry devoted to projecting him in the guise of model heterosexual male? He was notably low key on these issues (though not entirely silent; see P-MMx ch. 9). Moreover, if Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim is accepted as read, Engels emerges as shabby, shallow and pathetic, and there is some implied criticism of him along these lines in the Bebel-Bernstein exchanges as they consider the possibilities and consequences of Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim. Engels may very well have been that way late in life (or indeed somewhat earlier), but it is in some ways more shocking, given his youthful polemics against the ‗bourgeois family‘, an area where Marx had rather less to say (and also, so far as we know, rather less to do in terms of ‗womanizing‘, given his long courtship and ‗childhood sweethearts‘ sexual trajectory; see PMMx ch. 10). At this stage of the investigation I am personally more persuaded by Bernstein‘s view in 1898 (the father was someone unacceptable to the family) and by Kautsky‘s comments in 1929 (Marx‘s paternity of Frederick was ‗wholly improbable‘) than to Louise‘s account/Engels‘s alleged claim. It fits much more plausibly with the correspondence, events, feelings and character of everyone concerned ... except Louise‘s. While it is difficult to see quite why Louise would deliberately construct such a spiteful tale, it is significant that there was scepticism about it amongst the inner circle at the time (as well as credence). There is an undoubted element of gossipy invention and speculation in the document, anyway, which even Louise‘s most ardent supporters (such as Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx‘s biographer) have had to acknowledge. However powerful the tale, and however well it ‗seems to fit‘ into other ambiguities, historians and scholars have a duty to formulate clear hypotheses and to mount clearly constructed tests. In sum, historians and biographers should sharpen up the tools of their trade, and not be seduced by the evident narrative power of gossip and scandal, however much they are vicariously involved with their socialist celebrities. References CW — Marx and Engels, Collected Works (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 19752004).


DKM — The Daughters of Karl Marx, Family Correspondence 1866-1898, trans. Faith Evans (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984). GH — ‗Unbekannte Dokumente über Marx‘ Sohn Frederick Demuth‘ [‗Unknown Documents concerning Marx‘s Son Frederick Demuth‘], Beiträge zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung 4/1994, pp. 43-59. H — W.O. Henderson, The Life of Friedrich Engels, 2 vols (London: Frank Cass, 1976). K — Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx, 2 vols (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1972 and 1976). KM — David McLellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (London: Macmillan, 1973). MEW — Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Werke (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1956-68). P-MMx — Terrell Carver, The Postmodern Marx (Manchester: Manchester University press, 2004). R — Fritz J. Raddatz, Karl Marx, trans. Richard Barry (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1978).


Hal Draper Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype
Source: Hal Draper, Karl Marx‘s Theory of Revolution, Vol.1: State and Bureaucracy, Monthly Review, New York 1977, pp.591-608. © Hal Draper 1977, © Center for Socialist History (Berkeley). Reproduced by Marxists Internet Archive with permission from the REDS – Die Roten Website. This text is a duplicate of the version marked up by Einde O‘Callaghan. There is a bulky output of literature alleging that Marx‘s essay On the Jewish Question is anti-Semitic because it equates Jewry with the spirit of money-making, the merchant-huckster, preoccupation with self-interest and egoism-that is, with the commercialism of the new bourgeois order. The charge has been furthered in various ways, including forgery: one honest critic renamed the essay A World Without Jews as if this were Marx‘s title. [1] Few discussions of the essay explain clearly its political purpose and content in connection with the Jewish emancipation question, or even accurately present the views of its target, Bauer. Mainly, the allegation is supported by reading the attitudes of the second half of the twentieth century back into the language of the 1840s. More than that, it is supported only if the whole course of German and European antiJewish sentiment is whitewashed, so as to make Marx‘s essay stand out as a black spot. This note will take up only the 1843 essay and its background. The general method was memorably illustrated in C.B. Kelland‘s 1936 novel Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which some may know as a Gary Cooper film. In an attempt to have a hearing declare Mr. Deeds of unsound mind, two little old ladies are brought in from his home town to testify. It‘s well known, one explains, that he is pixillated – balmy in the head. The honest woman‘s evidence seems damning. But the case blows up later when she is asked one more question: ―Who else in your town is pixillated?‖ She answers: ―Why, everybody!‖ As soon as the question is raised, it is not difficult or even controversial to show that virtually the entire population of Germany (and the rest of Europe, too) was pixillated-that is, habitually used and accepted the words Jew and Jewry in the manner of Marx‘s essay whether they were favorable to the Jews‘ cause or not, whether they were anti-Semitic or not, whether they were Jews or not. In this they were only following the very old, if now discredited, practice of using national and ethnic names as epithets, usually derogatory, for people showing a trait supposedly characteristic of the nation or ethnic group. This practice, which began to be suppressed in self-consciously polite society only a few decades ago, was as common in English as in any other language, and some of it still hangs on. Consider a few: wild Indian (active child), apache (Paris criminal), Hottentot (as in Hottentot morality), street arab, gypsy, bohemian, Cossack, blackamoor, Turk; or, as an adjective: Dutch courage, Mexican general, French leave. Another of this group, for centuries, has been Jew. 1. The Pattern in Germany Marx‘s essay represents a very attenuated form of the general pattern, for most commonly Jew was a synonym for usurer, whereas by this time mere money-making was eminently respectable. [2] Bauer‘s writing assumed that Jew meant usurer – quite in passing, for he was not interested in the economic Jew but in the ―Sabbath Jew‖. [3] The same economic stereotype of the Jew can be found in Arnold Ruge [4], who remained a liberal and never became a communist, as well as in Max Stirner [5], whose book The Ego and Its Own heralded anarchism. These names already cover the spectrum of the Young Hegelian milieu, whose philosophic mentor Feuerbach provided the immediate example for this language about the role of Jewry. [6]


A special case, near if not in the Young Hegelian tendency, was Moses Hess: conscientiously Jewish himself, Hess had been brought up in an orthodox household and later became the progenitor of Zionism. It is well known that the language of Marx‘s Part II of On the Jewish Question followed the view of the Jews‘ role given in an essay On the Money System just written by none other than Hess, and just read by Marx. [7] Hess‘s thesis was that present-day society was a ―huckster world‖, a ―social animalworld‖, in which people become fully developed ―egoists‖, beasts of prey and bloodsuckers. ―The Jews‖, wrote the father of Zionism, ―who in the natural history of the social animal-world had the world-historic mission of developing the beast of prey out of humanity have now finally completed their mission‘s work.‖ It was in the ―Judeo-Christian huckster world‖ that ―the mystery of the blood of Christ, like the mystery of the ancient Jewish blood-worship, finally appears quite unmasked as the mystery of the beast of prey.‖ There is more verbiage, going back to the ―blood-cult‖ of ancient Judaism as the prototype of modern society, and on to a condemnation of priests as the ―hyenas of the social animalworld‖ who are as bad as the other animal-people by virtue of their ―common quality as beasts of prey, as bloodsuckers, as Jews, as financial wolves‖. [8] Earlier in 1843 Hess had published an important article on The Philosophy of Action, which only incidentally remarked that ―The Christian God is an imitation of the Jewish Moloch-Jehovah, to whom the first-born were sacrificed to ‗propitiate‘ him, and whom the juste-milieu age of Jewry bought off with money ...‖ [9] Hess intended no special anti-Jewish animus in any of this stuff, compared to which Marx‘s approach is complimentary and drily economic. Note that Judaism is criticized as part of the Judeo-Christian complex, and not in order to praise Christianity – this being the same pattern as Voltaire‘s; although Hess saw no contradiction between his own continued Jewish faith and loyalties and his opinion, expounded in his writings, that Christianity was the more advanced, modern and ―pure‖ religion – all in the Feuerbachian groove. [10] It is relevant to add that much of the economic-Jew stereotype had at this time gained general Jewish acceptance, at least as applied to rich Jews: so one can learn from the best German historian of anti-Semitism, Eleonore Sterling. [11] If we move outside Young Hegelian circles, we may note that two other famous Jews of the period are no exception to the rule: Lassalle [12] and Heine. Heine is especially interesting, as always. His article on the Damascus affair of 1840 – one of the famous frameups of Jews on the ―blood‖ accusation – is full of bitter indignation against the French Jews for lack of concern over their victimized brethren abroad. ―Among the French Jews, as with other Frenchmen,‖ wrote Heine (in France), ―gold is the god of the time, and industry is the prevailing religion.‖ Baron Rothschild and the noted Jewish plutocrat Fould are called ―two distinguished rabbis of finance‖. Heine says caustically, ―I do not believe that Israel ever gave money, save when its teeth were drawn by force. . . . There are, of course, now and then examples that vanity can open the obdurate pockets of Jews, but then their liberality is more repulsive than their meanness.‖ [13] (At this point the American translator was moved to apologize for Heine‘s language, for by this time, 1891, the modern racist type of anti-Semitism was over a decade old; in 1840 it had no such significance or motivation.) An excellent study by William Rose gives the context of Heine‘s aphorism that ―The Jews were the Germans of the Orient, and now the Protestants in the Germanic countries ... are nothing else than old-oriental Jews.‖ [14] Rose naturally makes clear Heine‘s polyvalence about Jewry (ambivalence would be too weak). As for other products of the Hegelian school, farther right, D.F. Strauss [15] was more virulently anti-Jewish than those mentioned; and the famous Hegelian scholar Eduard Gans, whose lectures Marx attended at the university, was another Jewish case in point. Indeed, Gans‘s case can be considered a symbol. When Marx came to the University of Berlin in 1836, Gans (in jurisprudence) was the big Hegelian influence on the faculty. Seventeen years before, Gans had helped Leopold Zunz found the first society for Jewish studies in the world, of which he became president. The project bogged down because the


rich Jews whom they had counted on refused to dip into their pockets. Zunz cried that Jewry was beyond reform, ―the prey of barbarians, fools, moneylenders, and parnasim‖ (synogogue money-men), ―slaves of mere self-interest ... a pap of praying, bank notes, and charity.‖ But he plugged on. President Gans reported: ―The only link which unites the Jews is fear; the only interest for which they are willing to part with some of their worldly goods is charity‖ – whereupon he went through the baptism route from the cheder to the Katheder. But even earlier, in the society‘s journal, Gans had had no inhibition against remarking that ―Jewish life‖ reflected a ―double aristocracy whose component parts ... are ... money and rabbis.‖ [16] Hegel himself had written along the same lines mainly in early works, that is, before his Prussian conservatization. [17] This was no paradox. It was the conservative right that usually expressed antipathy to Jewry in religious and racialist terms; it was the left-ofcenter that put the spotlight on the economic role of Jewry, the economic Jews; and both stereotypes flourished among peasants and other poor victims of the system. Fichte, another source of philosophic radicalism, deserved the name of systematic anti-Semite more than any so far mentioned. [18] If we move to anti-Establishment dissent to the right of the Young Hegelians and their circle, we find that the Young Germany movement, through the pens of its leader Karl Gutzkow and prominent literary light Heinrich Laube, wrote no differently about the Jews, and at some length. [19] 2. The Universality of Pixillation In the 1840s both sides, for and against political emancipation, held the economic image of the Jew as common ground. The strong bourgeois-liberal movement pressing for Jewish rights was quite vocal in arguing that civil emancipation was necessary in order to solve the Jewish question by dissolving Jewry as a recognizable entity into the general pool of Germanness and thus eventually eliminating it. Hess himself had presented this viewpoint in his most successful book, in 1841. [20] Says Gustav Mayer of the pro-Jewish liberals: ―Only through full and equal rights, they believed, would it be possible to wean away the Prussian Jews from their un-German customs and from their one-sided preference for petty trade.‖ [21] Glickson, in the course of an indignant harangue against Marx, lets slip the following statement: ―It is a well-known fact that the contemporary masters of philosophy and literature, with the single exception of Lessing, had no sympathy for Jews or Judaism. The greatest of them taught that the Jews were foreign and different, and drew definite political conclusions from these teachings. Goethe, the great world-citizen, strongly opposed the liberation of the Jews; he saw in them heretics who deny ‗the source of our high culture‘.‖ [22] Goethe had worse and stupider things to say about the Jews than this, including of course the commercial stereotype. [23] Lessing, the alleged ―single exception‖, had been dead for sixty-two years and was hardly a contemporary; we will come back to this mythical exception. (Why, everybody‘s pixillated!) Silberner, who writes as a prosecuting attorney, eventually makes the following remark: ―The most various writers could indeed have reinforced Marx‘s prejudice against the Jews. Many representatives of German classical literature and philosophy were not precisely fond of the Jews, and since he read much of them, they could have contributed to his Judeophobia.‖ [24] Silberner does not mention any who were ―fond of the Jews‖, including Jews. All of German history exists, for him, only as an influence on Marx. This bizarre approach is due to the understandable reluctance, shown by him and similar writers, to inform the modern reader that so many great men either disliked the Jews or thought of them in terms of the economic stereotype, for fear of reinforcing contemporary anti-Semitic currents by giving them respectable sanction. It is only Marx who is to be accused of being pixillated. As Roman Rosdolsky said of this modus operandi, ―In this manner one could very easily assign to the camp of anti-Semitism three-quarters of the thinkers, writers, and


politicians of the past.‖ [25] If we consider only left-of-center circles, the proportion would be closer to 100 percent, since it is on the left, rather than on the right, that the economic structure and role of Jewry was the main operative factor. All this was not only true of Germany. In France and England the economic stereotype of the Jew and its expression in leftish circles was similar; we are not dealing with a phenomenon of the German soul. France was worse. An essay by Z. Szajkowski is illuminating on the subject of France. It reports at the end that it is impossible to find any ―sympathetic reference to the Jews in the French socialist literature, from Saint-Simon to the date of Drumont‘s first appearance [1886]‖. For the most part, what this involved was the stereotyped identification of Jews with money values and economic exploitation. More virulent attitudes existed among the Fourierists especially. The tradition of dislike for Jewish economic activities goes back in France not simply to Voltaire but to the history of Jewry in the later Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. [26] In France, indeed, one first finds a new note: here Jew-hatred took a proto-Nazi form in the express desire of Proudhon (father of anarchist ―libertarianism‖) for the physical extermination of all Jews. Bakunin, the other father of anarchism, was almost as virulently anti-Semitic in the modern sense as Proudhon. [27] But in this period, this proto-Nazi antiSemitism is found only among these anarchist liberty-shouters, as far as I know. England was by no means as bad as France. But routine equation of the economic Jew with money-bags, financial overlords, commercial exploitation, and the rest, cropped up in the Chartist press, including the best of the left Chartists [28], in the manner of Marx‘s essay. To take another part of the political spectrum: Macaulay can be viewed as an English example of the liberal supporter of Jewish civil emancipation who expressed as much aversion to Jewish economic activities as many an opponent. [29] The jibes at the economic Jew stereotype are not at all peculiar to socialist writings: they are found wherever there is expression of antagonism to the bourgeois or financial world. The reactionary antibourgeois critic Thomas Carlyle was not only virulently anti-Jewish but also opposed the granting of greater legal rights to the Jews. [30] But it would be a complete misunderstanding of the economic-Jew stereotype if it is identified with an anti-Jewish context only. Leaving aside the advocates of Jewish emancipation who used language similar to Marx‘s essay just as automatically as its opponents, it is instructive to look at the first Jewish socialist movement which began stirring in the latter 1870s. This is three decades later than the period of Marx‘s essay; the whole basis of awareness of the Jewish question has been transformed by the rise of a systematically racist anti-Semitic movement for the first time; we are dealing with Jewish-conscious socialists reacting to a real anti-Semitic threat; and by this time there is something of a Jewish proletariat in existence. Everything is different; but still, consider the terms of the first socialist manifesto issued to Jewry, by Aaron Lieberman, the historic pioneer of this movement. His Call to the Jewish Youth reverberated with the tones of Isaiah (as in Isaiah 2: 7-9, for example). It said: ―Emancipate yourselves from the power-lust that lies at the bottom of your privileges. Stop praying to gold and might.‖ Lieberman blames the Jewish bankers and merchants for the plight of his people: We have had to pay for your sins! The race hatred, the religious hatred, with all their terrors have fallen mostly upon us [the poor Jews]. You kindled the fire that devours us. We have you to thank for it that the name Israel has become a curse. The entire Jewish people, suffering and astray, must suffer more than all other peoples because of your greed. It is your fault that we have been exposed to calumny. International speculators, who have dragged our name through the mud, you do not belong to us! [31] The power of the traditional stereotype is recognized here precisely by the justified fervor of the plea to repudiate it, to emphasize the class struggle within Jewry in order to exorcize it. There is a historical background to this.


3. Roots of the Economic Jew We have assumed up to now that the reader has a general conception of the economic history behind the stereotype – at any rate, how Jews were forced into a lopsided economic structure by Christendom‘s prohibition on their entrance into agriculture, guild occupations, and professions. Three myths about the economic Jew are easy to refute but not germane here; they are: (1) that Jews controlled finance or any part of economic life; (2) that all Jews were rich; and (3) that it was the Jews that created, or invented, capitalism. After these myths are disposed of, however, the real historical basis of the economic Jew can be broached. Something else was involved beyond these exaggerations, and may be summarized as follows: 1. The important role that the (upper stratum of) Jews did play in the development of postfeudal society, especially considering the tiny proportion of the population they constituted. 2. The great tilt in the economic structure of Jewry toward middleman and financial occupations, including the bulk of poor Jews in huckstering occupations, for example, peddlers, petty merchants. 3. The relatively high visibility of the Jews‘ economic role – as, for example, when Junkers employed Jews as loan collectors and mortgage foreclosers, thus gaining the profits while the Jews gained the onus as ―bloodsuckers‖. In 1843 little was known, even to those aware of the question, about the economic or sociohistorical development of the Jewish people. The very concept of a Wissenschaft des Judentums (Jewish studies) had arisen only in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Today there is a considerable literature on the question [32], but it is ahistorical to predate its acquisition. A portion of that history which is important background for our present subject is well summarized in Sterling‘s Judenhass, which deals precisely with Germany in the years 1815-1850: The enlightened officials recognized, already in the middle of the eighteenth century, the useful and progressive function of the Jews in the development of commerce and industry, which tended to transform the still seminatural-economy state into a modern money- and credit-economy state. The princes summoned Jews to their courts in order to carry out the financing of their provinces independently of the Estates, in order to obtain moneys for raising and maintaining their armies, and to make possible the operation of new businesses. In this way was formed a small rich and politically privileged upper stratum within the Jewish population. Jewish court agents, bankers, and army contractors assumed an important position in finance, in commerce and in the industry of the mercantilist-oriented states. When the economic upswing set in after the Napoleonic war, many Christians as well as Jews found themselves in an advantageous position because they had large amounts of liquid capital at their disposal. Still their number must have been slight ... In the course of time arose a new but also not numerous group of Jews who became well-to-do through the new economic development. Unhindered by old traditions and guild regulations, they quickly adopted the methods of the modern English credit system and stock speculation. They understood how to turn out large quantities of goods produced in the new factories for the market, got in position to give state loans, and participated in railroad construction and built factories. In that way the real security of the Jews essentially depended on their usefulness to others and on the good will of the governments; all their enterprises, indeed their very existence, remained always in jeopardy. They therefore attempted with great energy to compensate with economic power for the legal and social security they lacked. In this way the Jewish financiers who had grown rich in the new capitalist order, in which money was all-powerful, achieved a ―privileged‖ position ... In the sections where capitalist commerce and industry had already made important progress even without Jews, the Christian population by no means felt that the success of


the Jewish upper stratum was a handicap for themselves. Thus, already in 1817 the Gewerbepolizei in Aachen said that Jewish business in the Prussian Rhineland could no longer be considered ―usury‖ but a synonym for free trade and the profit system. [33] Such favorable attitudes were not taken, however, by merchants‘ corporative guilds and the patrician order in the smaller German states and backward areas, not to speak of the peasantry and artisanry. It is clear why the spearhead of the Jewish emancipation drive, the petition campaign, came mostly from the big-bourgeois circles of the cities in which industrial development was already far advanced and in which the Jews of the bourgeois upper stratum already played an integrating function in the economy. It was Christian and Jewish great merchants, factory owners, bankers, and insurance directors who drafted the petitions and submitted them with numerous signatures. [34] This was the nature of the emancipation campaign which Marx supported and Bauer attacked. But it would be a mistake to believe that the economic-Jew stereotype among the population was merely a reflection of this upper stratum, of the Rothschilds and Foulds. Many or most of the poor Jews also functioned as middlemen – peddlers, hawkers, handto-mouth traders and merchants, petty money-lenders – in very direct contact with the poor Christian population, caught in the classic pattern of having to squeeze those below as they were squeezed from above. Jews were associated with ―financial exploitation‖ on levels far below Rothschild: ―Recent happenings in the Rhineland and Alsace,‖ relates Solomon Bloom, ―strengthened this popular suspicion; Jewish moneylenders broke up properties of landlords and farmers at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Western radical community was not unaffected by the resulting animosities.‖ Gustav Mayer says, of anyone brought up in the young Marx‘s place and time: ―‘The Jews‘ to him meant mainly the Jewish cattle dealers in the Rhineland, those who bought from, and sold to the small peasants, taking advantage of their own superior business abilities.‖ [35] For our present purposes it is not necessary to settle the controversy over just how important the Jews were in the rise of capitalism. The identification of Jewry with commercialism, which was everybody‘s pixillation in the 1840s, was elaborated in great detail as late as 1911 by Werner Sombart‘s The Jews and Modern Capitalism; and after all the nonsense in that erudite opus is discounted, there is more than enough left to explain the mind of a generation that existed before economic history had even been invented. 4. Ex Post Facto Anti-Semitism After the rise of Hitlerism, it became de rigueur to play down the Jews‘ significance for capitalism, since the Nazis used it for their own purposes. [36] But eminent Jewish historians have proudly lauded their role. In his introduction to Ruppin‘s The Jews in the Modern World, for example, Professor L.B. Namier, writing militantly as a Zionist Jew and a true-blue Englishman, boasted: ―Two races [sic] headed the movement [of progress in the capitalist system] though under vastly different conditions – the British and the Jews; they were the pioneers of capitalism, and its first, and perhaps chief, beneficiaries.‖ For others, that picture was considered to hold only until about the middle of the nineteenth century, which thoroughly covers Marx‘s essay. [37] A. Leon has argued, against Sombart and others, that Jewry played such a role in pre-capitalist society: Judaism was an indispensable factor in precapitalist society. It was a fundamental organism within it. That is what explains the two-thousand year existence of Judaism in the Diaspora. The Jew was as characteristic a personage in feudal society as the lord and the serf. It was no accident that a foreign element played the role of ―capital‖ in feudal society ... The ―capital‖ of precapitalist society existed outside of its economic system. [38]


But, continues Leon‘s thesis, the rise of capitalism to dominance in the social system went hand in hand with the decline of Jewry in this function. Thereupon the Jews were pushed more and more into the interstices of the system, especially in a capacity as distribution middlemen and as usurers dealing more with the poor than with kings, as formerly. ―In the measure that usury became the principal occupation of Jews, they entered increasingly into relations with the popular masses, and these relations worsened all the time.‖ The peasant who lost his land or stock, or the artisan who lost his tools, to the Jewish money-lender, was incapable of seeing the upper-bourgeois Christians behind the usurer; hatreds were let loose on the highly visible intermediaries. [39] Leon‘s term for Jewry, the people-class, is an attempt to give scientific form to the social basis of what we have been calling the economic-Jew stereotype. [1*] Leon aimed at a Marxist analysis; but we can turn to a leading theoretician of Socialist Zionism for confirmation, from an entirely different angle, of the effective universality of the old equation for which Marx‘s essay gets denounced. Hayim Greenberg, writing in 1942, was disturbed about the use made by Nazi anti-Semitism of the facts of the Jews‘ economic role. He denies ―the old charge that Jews are parasites in the world‘s economic order‖ by arguing that the economic role which Jewry was forced into was in fact useful, honorable, and nothing to apologize for. He concludes that ―There is nothing wicked in being a middleman, but it is not sound for a whole people to consist of middlemen.‖ What Greenberg is trying to say is that it is no more wicked to be a Jewish middleman than a Christian one. All of which was true, of course, as Marx had demonstrated in his own way by transforming the issue from the contrast of Jews to Christians into the economic equivalence of Jews and Christians. In the course of this defense, however, Greenberg testifies to the universality of pixillation – in queasy terms which, it must be remembered, are being written by a Zionist champion a hundred years after Marx‘s essay and over a decade after the rise of Nazism: Jews also have been considerably influenced by the notion that they constitute an unproductive, or even a destructive force, in the world‘s economy. We speak of Jews as essentially a people of ... individuals whose occupations are unsubstantial, who are exploiters, speculators and traffickers in the labor of others. Signs of this self-condemnation first appear in the literature of our ―enlightenment‖. Jews who felt spiritually emancipated from the civilization of the ghetto even before they were emancipated from its legal disabilities, developed a great admiration for European culture and were in no small degree affected by its anti-Jewish prejudices. Certainly they shared the European‘s disdain for the Jew as a trader. By 1942 all this had become anti-Semitic by ex post facto determination; but note that Greenberg was not so ignorant or hypocritical as to pretend that he had Marx in mind: The views of many Jewish socialists in regard to the economic role of the Jews have also been tinged by a certain anti-Semitic bias ... Non-Jewish socialists, and not necessarily Marxian socialists, have tended to look down on the Jew in the world‘s economy. He cites the Russian Narodnaya Volya, the peasant-oriented populist-terrorist movement of the late nineteenth century, which was even known to encourage peasant pogroms as one activity in their struggle. The Populists, he explains, held ―the idea that the Jew was essentially a ‗bloodsucker‘,‖ and adds: ―This also explains Tolstoy‘s rather unfriendly attitude towards the Jews, an attitude most eloquently expressed by his repeated failure to speak up on behalf of the persecuted Jews.‖ There goes another pixillated ―libertarian‖. But Greenberg goes further: to the Zionist socialists themselves and their left wing: Nor is Zionism free from its share of responsibility. There was a time when it used to be the fashion for Zionist speakers (including the writer) to declare from the platform that ―to be a good Zionist one must first be somewhat of an anti-Semite‖. [41]


Greenberg states that this attitude can be found in Pinsker, Syrkin, Borochov, A.D. Gordon, and others – all of them the leaders and founders of the Labor Zionist movement. ―To this day,‖ he adds, ―Labor Zionist circles are under the influence of the idea that the Return to Zion involves a process of purification from our economic uncleanness.‖ [42] It should be added that the movement‘s social-democratic theoretician, Ber Borochov, based his whole theory of Socialist Zionism on a class analysis of the Jewish people along the now-interdicted (‖anti-Semitic‖) lines, and that his fundamental ―Marxist‖ argument for Zionism was that it was the only road to changing the class composition of the Jews. The same goes for his successor as the theoretician of Socialist Zionism, Nachman Syrkin. [43] It cannot be overemphasized that all of this, for which Greenberg beats his breast, was a matter of contrasting the economic Jew with the Christian world to the Jews‘ discredit; for this bolstered the Zionist aim of making the Jews ―a people like other people‖. None of this sort of thing was in Marx‘s 1843 essay, which repudiated such a derogatory contrast by already identifying modern (bourgeois) Christendom with the commercial role of what Leon called the people-class. While we have shown that this identification was in no way peculiar to Marx but was the common coin of the time – and it was precisely for this reason that Marx could turn it to account in order to make his political point – we must now go a little further along these lines. This identification was not merely generally accepted, but had been built into the language. McLellan goes so far as to put it this way: Judentum, the German word for Judaism, had the derivative meaning of ―commerce‖, and it is this meaning which is uppermost in Marx‘s mind throughout the article. ―Judaism‖ has very little religious, and still less racial, content for Marx and it would be little exaggeration to say that this latter part of Marx‘s review [Part II of On the Jewish Question] is an extended pun at Bauer‘s expense. [44] This pun was not a jest but a play on words. Such word-play was indeed a favorite literary pattern of the young Marx, as it was of Hegel. In both it was not a humorous but an explicatory device: a means of developing, out of the different aspects of meaning packed into one word, various aspects of the reality which the word reflected. Ruppin states that ―in the Middle Ages the conceptions of Jew and trader became well-nigh synonymous.‖ Gustav Mayer makes a similar statement: ―to the average German, Judaism and capitalism came pretty close to being synonymous.‖ Sterling quotes the economist Friedrich Harkort at the time, on the fact that behind the Jewish moneylenders and mortgage collectors stood the Junkers, who made the profit. These Junkers Harkort called ―the Jews with boots and spurs‖ who constituted the real speculators and grasping creditors. [45] The synonymy of Jew and some form of commercialism was taken for granted not only by those who threw epithets at the Jews but equally by those who defended them. With this background in mind, one can go back to Marx‘s On the Jewish Question to read it as it was written, not as it is refracted through the dark glass of contemporary ignorance and malice. It was a contribution to a hotly fought campaign in favor of Jewish political emancipation – not however on behalf of the ―Christian and Jewish great merchants, factory owners, bankers, and insurance directors who drafted the petitions,‖ but to show how to link this current battle up with the eventual struggle against these very gentlemen. Its aim was to support political emancipation today in order to make possible social emancipation tomorrow. Hence its last words: ―The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.‖ These compact words do in fact sum up the entire burden of the argument: It is wrong to make the political emancipation of the Jew wait on his social emancipation (as Bauer wanted); for we are dealing with the economic Jew, and economic Judaism is now one with bourgeois society as a whole.


5. How to Manufacture Anti-Semites It should be clear now that there were two quite different issues involved in attitude toward the Jews, from the period of the Enlightenment to at least the 1870s (when antiSemitism first became a racialist social and political movement and indeed the term itself was invented – by anti-Semites). One issue involved an opinion about das Judentum [2*] (like or dislike); the other, a position on the status of Jews in the state and society (abolition of civic, legal, political disabilities). As we have seen, a dim view of Jewry was well-nigh universal, in some not-always- clear sense and for varying reasons, but with clear roots in the nature of ―economic Judaism‖. The division in public opinion occurred on the second issue, the question of political emancipation and equal rights. As a result there is a curious system common among historians, not to speak of marxologists. Historical figures are made into ―philo-Semites‖ or ―anti-Semites‖ at will by referring only to one or the other issue, with the same obtuse lack of distinction that was so characteristic of the people of that benighted era itself. A couple of examples will give a proper perspective on the treatment of Marx‘s essay. We saw that Glickson (p.595) had looked for a single exception among the contemporary masters to the general lack of sympathy for Jews, and had gone back to the previous century to turn one up: G.E. Lessing, whose poetic drama Nathan the Wise (1779) was the most renowned ―philo-Semitic‖ production in Germany, perhaps in European history. This reputation is based on the sympathetic portrayal of Nathan as Edeljude, the noble Jew, good and wise. This reputation brought down on Lessing‘s head the vituperation of generations of anti-Semites-for example, Nazi-like ravings by E. Dühring in 1881. [46] Without derogating Lessing‘s contribution for its time, a closer look at the play produces a strange result if it is counterposed to Marx‘s essay. 1. Lessing‘s play does not raise the question of equal rights for Jews; to the contrary, it takes their inferior status for granted. For the setting is Saladin‘s Jerusalem, where both Jews and Christians exist on the sufferance of Saladin, who is portrayed as being just as noble as Nathan. 2. Lessing‘s chosen model, Nathan, is a rich Jewish merchant who has just returned from a debt-collecting trip, bringing back a fabulous wealth of goods. He is so rich that he is capable of playing the part of Rothschild to the sultan. In short, he is the worse of the two stereotypes of the economic Jew, not the poor-huckster model but the financialplutocrat model. Lessing does not challenge the stereotype; he gilds it. He glorifies his rich Jew by painting him in pleasing colors. 3. Nathan is a Jew by birth but not by belief in Judaism, being in fact a Deist, like Lessing himself. He explains in a parable (which is the ideological centerpiece of the play and was its starting point in Lessing‘s mind) that the three religions are as like as identical rings; the only difference is that one happens to inherit one rather than the other. The repugnance the wise Nathan would feel for Jewish orthodoxy is left implicit but is unquestionable. 4. The point is repeatedly made that Nathan is an exceptional Jew. Repeatedly ―Jew‖ is used generically to refer to the usual mean; miserly, money-mad Jew of the popular language. The noble Sittah twice wonders whether Nathan is a Jew like other Jews or whether he is good as reported; the noble Templar wonders whether Nathan has really unlearned ―to be a Jew‖; and the noble Nathan himself, wondering at one point what game the sultan is playing with him, soliloquizes, ―Who here is really the Jew – he or I?‖ (To be sure, Lessing does not refer to ―the dirty Jews‖; instead, he refers just as routinely to ―the dirty Moors‖, the contemporaneous equivalent of ―dirty niggers‖.) [47] In short, the great ―philo-Semitic‖ message of the play is the equivalent of ―Some of my best friends are Jews‖, or even ―You would hardly believe he‘s a Jew, my dear!‖ In fact, Lessing had written it down himself, in an early (1749), ―philo-Semitic‖ comedy called The Jews: ―Truly there are Jews who aren‘t Jews at all.‖ [48] Replying to a critic who urged that the noble-Jew figure was so great an improbability as to invalidate the play,


Lessing vigorously agreed the case was rare, but argued that, since the Jews‘ unfortunate condition was due to their necessity for ―living purely and simply from trade‖, it would cease with the cause, when the Jews no longer ―maintain a wretched existence through base small trade‖. Hence, he explained, he chose a rich man as his figure. [49] Lessing‘s views revolved around the economic-Jew stereotype as completely as anyone‘s. The single exception in a hundred years, Lessing, turns out to have used Jude as the same generic cuss-word as every other pixillated German and European. In contrast, Marx used Judentum as an impersonal historic-economic category, to make the point that Jewry and Christendom had been homogenized in our huckster society. There is a second example, mentioned earlier: the case of ―Voltaire‘s anti-Semitism‖, as reported by Peter Gay. [50] Voltaire‘s derogatory remarks about the Jews, including the inevitable economic stereotype, are exhibited. But we are told in addition that Voltaire‘s transgression is so much the less forgivable because the very same period held a live option for ―philo-Semitism‖ which was taken by other men. John Locke is cited as the philo-Semite, against Voltaire the anti- Semite. The evidence is Locke‘s Letter on Toleration (1689), where he indubitably comes out in favor of religious worship for Jews: ―The Jews are permitted to have dwellings and private houses; why are they denied synogogues?‖ If Locke was also in favor of equal rights for Jews across the board, as Gay seems to imply, Locke neglected to say so in this essay. He goes so far as to state that ―neither Pagan nor Mahometan nor Jew should be excluded from the commonwealth because of his religion.‖ Gay did not mention, however, that in this very same passage Locke makes clear that he considers Judaism to be ―abominable‖. [51] This is said only in passing; but then the other statements are in passing too; for Locke‘s essay is a closely reasoned argumentation, not a discursive article, and the reference to the Jews is a hurried one. We know of no reason to believe that Locke had any greater liking than Voltaire for the practitioners of this ―abominable‖ cult: he was arguing in the spirit of the civil-liberties lawyer who battles for equal rights even for known criminals. But was not Voltaire also for religious toleration in the same sense? Yes, he was; and in fact in 1764 a French translation of Locke‘s essay was joined to Voltaire‘s treatise on toleration to make one book, with a preface (which Professor Klibansky believes was written by Voltaire himself) praising Locke‘s argument. [52] We can now see how to create (or appoint) philo-Semites and anti-Semites at will. Granted that both Locke and Voltaire were for toleration of the Jewish religion, and that both disliked the Jews themselves, you quote Locke on the first and Voltaire on the second – voilà! The system is an infallible recipe. [3*] There is a further complication about the ―anti-Semite‖ Voltaire, which Gay does set forth. It seems, argues Gay, that in these excursions Voltaire was interested in striking not so much at Judaism as at Christianity, for he wanted to reinforce his hostile view of Christianity by also discrediting the source (Judaism) from which this pernicious religion derived. Hence his ―dislike of the Jews ... was a partly unconscious, partly conscious cloak for his anti-Christian sentiments.‖ [54] In fact, Voltaire was interested in attacking all religions from his Deist standpoint – just as, from the same Deist standpoint, Lessing wanted to represent all religions as equally meaningless as far as differences were concerned. Where Lessing portrayed the noble Jew, Moslem, and Christian with equable brush in a paroxysm of reconciliation, Voltaire painted all the devout as fools, knaves, and miscellaneous miscreants – also fairly impartially. In his century there was no reason to let the Jews off the hook; that makes him an ―anti-Semite‖ in this century – for historians who project themselves back into history as undercover agents of the Anti-Defamation League. Lastly: we mentioned earlier that the ―Young Germany‖ movement (Gutzkow, Laube) has been cited for anti-Semitic treatment of Jewish figures – like everybody else. Gutzkow, for example, wrote a novel involving this sort of anti-Semitism. But when the young Engels, not yet nineteen, became enthusiastic about Young Germany‘s liberal and


democratic tendency, the figure he admired most was Ludwig Borne. Indeed his letters of this time to a boyhood friend are filled with encomiums on this German Jewish publicist. [55] In this young man‘s eyes, Young Germany stood not only for political freedom in general but in particular for Jewish emancipation – ―Who can have anything against this?‖ [4*] For him, the ―distress of the Jews‖ is part of the liberal indictment of the status quo. He tells his friend about his literary hero: You call for a faithful Eckart? ―See, there he is already, a small chap with a sharp Jewish profile – his name is Borne ...‖ He mentions the liberal poet Creizenach twice with warm praise, and both times prominently identifies Creizenach as a Jew. He brings up the ―Wandering Jew‖ (in German, the ―Eternal Jew‖) as one of the models for freedom of the spirit about which he dreams of writing a second Faust. He lists ―the emancipation of the Israelites as the first of three positive achievements of Napoleon. [57] Is this young man a philo-Semite like Lessing? Yes, like Lessing: for, in this same correspondence with his friend, one also finds the routine use of the economic-Jew stereotype as a jibe, as also in later life. Quoted by itself, this would make him an antiSemite – like all the other pixillated people. The real issue of the time had nothing to do with the use of language about Judaism based on the universally accepted economic-Jew stereotype. The real Jewish question was: For or against the political emancipation of the Jews? For or against equal rights for Jews? This was the Jewish question that Marx discussed, not the one that dominated the minds of a sick society a century later. Footnotes 1*. Leon‘s term people-class, which marks the conjuncture of an ethnic group with a collective economic role, is similar to Marx‘s repeated references to the ―merchantpeoples‖ (or trading peoples, Handelsvölker) of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Among these he mentioned the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Lombards, and Normans, as well as the Jews, all of them operating in the ―interstices‖ or ―pores‖ of a society not itself based on commerce. [40] 2*. This, in turn, divides into two subquestions: one‘s opinion of the religion (Judaism) or of the people. The first problem was consciousness of the distinction. Marx had distinguished between the two with unusual clarity in his letter of 13 March 1843 (see p.111fn), in which he mentioned his repugnance to the religion as against supporting the demand for Jewish emancipation. It must be recalled that at this point Judaism meant mainly the orthodox faith as it had emerged from the Middle Ages; Reform Judaism had just taken shape but would not have determined the public discussion. The rise of Reform Judaism was itself a symptom of the widespread repugnance felt by those modernized Jews who were not willing to be hypocritically orthodox à la Rothschild. 3*. Gay does the same with Montesquieu, but with an open contradiction. He cites Montesquieu as his second example of philo-Semitism as against Voltaire, since Montesquieu deplored persecution of the Jews. But Gay also mentions, before closing the matter, that Montesquieu was so misguided as to note ―the Jews‘ affinity for commerce and banking‖, and that he even wrote: ―You ask me if there are Jews in France. Know that wherever there is money, there are Jews.‖ [53] Everybody is pixillated. 4*. See page 200 for two citations from Engels‘ letters of 1839 mentioning the Jewish emancipation issue. The emancipation of the Jews, as a political issue, continued to play the same role for Engels in later years. [56] Notes 1. See Dagobert Runes, ed.: A World Without Jews, by Karl Marx, an alleged translation; the reader is not told that the title is Runes‘s invention; there are other distortions in the text.


2. For the usurer definition, see any good German-English dictionary (e.g., Muret-Sanders, 1920, or Wildhagen-Héraucourt, 1970) as well as, say, the 1843 edition of Flügel‘s, under Jude, Judelei, judeln, etc. Cf. Encyclopaedia Judaica (Berlin, 1932-pre-Hitler), v.9, p.530. English was no different: in the Oxford English Dictionary, under Jew and its forms, see the examples cited from writers like Byron, Coleridge, Cobbett, Washington Irving, D.G. Rossetti, going back to Chaucer. (In 1973 this dictionary was sued on the demand that it should suppress this corner of philology.) For the German Jews‘ tendency to abandon Jude as a dirty word by the beginning of the 19th century, see Graupe: Die Entstehung des Modernen Judentums (1969), p.235; also the comment in Waldman: Goethe and the Jews (1934), p.255. 3. Bauer: The Jewish Problem (1958), pp.10, 114, 123; Silberner: Sozialisten zur Judenfrage (1962), p.117; Sterling: Judenhass (1969), p.101. 4. Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., p.117; Sterling: Judenhass, p.101. 5. Stirner: The Ego and His Own (1907), pp.20-21, 48, 135. 6. Massing: Rehearsal for Destruction (1949), p.253, n. 15; Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., p.126; Diamond: Marx‘s First Thesis, Science & Society (Summer 1937), p.544; Mehring: Geschichte der Deutschen Sozial-Demokratie (1960), Vol.1, pp.121-122. 7. Cornu: Karl Mark et Friedrich Engels (1954-70), Vol.2, pp.273, 330 fn.1; Silberner: Moses Hess: Geschichte seines Lebens (1966), pp.191-192; McLellan: The Young Hegelians & Karl Marx (1969), pp.153-154. 8. Hess: Philosophische und Sozialistische Schriften (1961), pp.345-346; Silberner: M. Hess, pp.188-189, also partly quoted in his Soz. z. Jud., pp.184-185, in both without the least comment. Cf. also Cornu: K.M. et F.E., vol.2, pp.273-274, 323-330. 9. Silberner: M. Hess, p.130; and his Soz. z. Jud., p.184. 10. Silberner: M. Hess, pp.26-28, 48, 85. 11. Sterling: Jewish Reac. to Jew-Hatred, Leo Baeck Institute (London) Year Book 3 (1958), pp.110-112. 12. Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., Ch. 10; Footman: Ferdinand Lassalle: Romantic Revolutionary (1947), pp.119-120. 13. Heine: Works (Leland) (1891-1905), vol.8, pp.75, 78; cf. also pp.510-511. 14. Rose: Heinrich Heine: Two Studies of His Thought (1956), p.132; cf. also p.101. 15. Sterling: Judenhass, p.101. 16. Lowenthal: The Jews of Germany (1936), p.239; Reissner: Rebellios Dilemma: The Case Histories of Eduard Gans and Some of His Partisans, Leo Baeck Institute (London) Year Book 2 (1957), p.179; Meyer: The Origins of the Modern Jew (1967), p.181. 17. Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., p.127; cf. 167. Avineri: Hegel‘s Theory of the Modern State, pp.17-19, 55. 18. Krieger: The German Idea of Freedom (1957), p.181; Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., pp.170172. 19. Sterling: Judenhass, pp.100-101. 20. Silberner: M. Hess, p.86. 21. Mayer: Early German Socialism and Jewish Emancipation, Jewish Social Studies 1 (1939), p.410. Cf. also the example of W. Menzel mentioned incidentally in Silberner: M. Hess, p.34. 22. Glickson: The Jewish Complex of Karl Marx (1961), p.29. 23. Waldman: Goethe, pp.246-268, esp. p.249. 24. Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., pp.126-127. 25. Rosdolsky: La Neue Rheinische Zeitung et les Juifs, Etudes de Marxologie, no.7 (Aug. 1963), p.61. 26. Szajkowski: The Jewish St.-Simonians and Socialist Anti-Semites in France, Jewish Social Studies 9 (1947), p.60. For Fourierism, ibid., p.46-50 esp.; Silberner: Charles Fourier on the Jewish Question, Jewish Social Studies 6 (1946), (all); also his The Attitude of the Fourierist School Towards the Jews, Jewish Social Studies 9 (1947), (all), and his


Soz. z. Jud., pp.16-43. On Voltaire, Gay: The Party of Humanity (1964), pp.97-108, esp. p.102. A good account on France is contained in Hertzberg: The French Enlightenment and the Jews (1970). 27. On Proudhon, Schapiro: Liberalism and the Challenge of Fascism (1949), pp.358-3 59; Draper: A Note on the Father of Anarchism, New Politics (Winter 1969), p.80. On Bakunin, Carr: Michael Bakunin (1961), pp.145, 369, 371, 459; Pyziur: The Doctrine of Anarchism of Michael A. Bakunin (1955), p.38n.; Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., Ch.18. For James Guillaume, Bakunin‘s chief lieutenant, see his book Karl Marx Pangermaniste (1915), which throughout carefully identifies as Jews all the possible enemies of humanity; also cf. Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., p.276. 28. See e.g. Harney‘s Democratic Review, editorial, vol.1, p.352; Ernest Jones‘s Notes to the People, article on The Jews in Poland (probably not by Jones himself), Vol.1, 1851, no.11; for Bronterre O‘Brien, see Collins & Abramsky, Karl Marx and the British Labour Movement (1965), p.253 and fn; about an O‘Brienite, see Plummer: Bronterre: A Political Biography of Bronterre O‘Brien 1804-1864 (1971), 268; Silberner: Soz. z. Jud., Ch.15. 29. Avineri: Marx and Jewish Emancipation, Journal of the History of Ideas (July-Sept 1964), p.447. 30. Symons: T. Carlyle: The Life and Ideas of a Prophet (1952), p.232; Wilson: T. Carlyle, vol.3, pp.405, 409; vol.4, 162-163, 373, 379, 451-452. 31. Quoted in Rocker: The London Years, pp.117, 119. 32. Summations of this economic-historical research may be found in: Ruppin: The Jews in the Modern World (1934), Part III, esp. pp.109-115, 122-123, 130-135; Reich: The Econonomic Structure of Modern Jewry, The Jews. Their History, Culture and Religion (1949), vol.2; Hertzler: The Sociology of Anti-Semitism Through History, in Greaber & Britt (eds.), Jews in a Gentile World (1942), pp.86-91; Graupe: Entstehung Mod. Jud., pp.239-241; Cohen: Jewish Life in Modern Times (1914), pp.182-213; Leon: The Jewish Question (1971). 33. Sterling: Judenhass, pp.29-30; re the last sentence, see also Elbogen & Sterling: Die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, pp.196-197, 222. 34. Ibid., p.79. 35. For insight into lower-class anti-Jewish feeling, see Sterling: Anti-Jewish Riots in Germany in 1819, Historica Judaica (Oct. 1950). Bloom: Karl Marx and the Jews, Jewish Social Studies 4 (1942), p.8. Mayer: Early Ger. Soc., p.417. 36. For one silly example of this trend, see Miriam Beard: Anti-Semitism – Product of Economic Myths, in Graeber & Britt: Jews Gent. World, which is anthologized under the rubric The Mirage of the Economic Jew. 37. Namier, in Ruppin: Jews in Mod. World, p.xvi; see also the presentation of the question in Graupe: Entsteh. Mod. Jud., pp.239-241. For ―others‖, Cohen: Jewish Life, pp.188ff; Engelman: The Rise of Jew in the Western World (1944), pp.93ff. 38. Léon: Jewish Qu., p.219. 39. Ibid., pp.129-135. 40. Marx: Grundrisse (1953), pp.134, 165, 167. 41. Greenberg: The Myth of Jewish Parasitism, Jewish Frontier Anthology 1934-1944 (1945), pp.223, 229; 223-234, 224-225. 42. Ibid., p225. 43. Encyclopaedia Judaica (Berlin 1929), v.4, pp.974-975. On Syrkin, see e.g., Syrkin: Essays on Socialist Zionism (n.d. [1935]), p.23; or Labor Zionist Handbook (1939), p.6. 44. McLellan: Marx before Marxism (1970), pp.141-142; also his ed. of Marx: Early Texts, p.112; Tucker: Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (1961), p.111. 45. Ruppin: Jews Mod. World, p.133. Mayer: Early Ger. Soc., p.420; see also his explanation on pp.419-420. Sterling: Judenhass, p.33; cf. use of Schacherjuden by young Engels in his Condition of the Working Classes in England, in MEW, vol.2, p.487 (Marx & Engels: On Britain [1962], p.314). See also Meyer: Orig. Mod. Jew, p.69.


46. Dühring: Die Ueberschätzung Lessing‘s und dessen Anwaltschaft für die Juden (1881), esp. but not only Ch.3. 47. Lessing: Nathan der Weise, Act II, Sc.3; III, 4; IV, 4; III, 6; II, 9. 48. Quoted in Sterling: Der Kampf um die Emanzipation der Juden in Rheinland, in Monumenta Judaica (1960), vol.2, p.285. 49. Lessing: Sämtliche Schriften (1890), vol.6, pp.160-161. 50. Gay: Party of Hum., pp.97ff. ―Voltaire‘s Anti-Semitism‖ is the chapter title. 51. Locke: A Letter on Toleration (1968), p.145 (for all quotations given). 52. Preface by Prof. Raymond Klibansky, in ibid., 53. Gay: Party of Hum., pp.99-100. 54. Ibid., p.103. 55. Engels‘ praise of Borne is so constant that one need simply look up Borne in the name index to MEW, Ergänzungsband. 2; some typical examples are at pp.395, 413, 420-421, 426, 430, 434. Later Engels qualified the relationship of Borne to Young Germany; cf. Engels: Review of Alexander Jung, MEW, vol.1, p.437. 56. E.g. Engels: Hungary, NRZ 19 May 1849, MEW, vol.6, pp.507, 514. 57. Letter, Engels to W. Graeber, 30 July 1839, MEW, Ergänzungsband 2, pp.414-415; the same, 8 Oct. and 15 Nov. 1839, in ibid., pp.419, 432; the same, 15 Nov. 1839, ibid., p.431; cf. Engels: German Chapbooks, MEW, Ergänzungsband 2, p.16; also see his reference to an essay The Jews in Bremen following month, ibid., p.437 (not extant). Engels to E.M. Arndt, MEW, Ergänzungsband 2, p.122.


Humphrey McQueen Reading the “unreadable” Marx
Il n‘y a pas belles pensées sans belles formes. - Flaubert. The first rule, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say. -Schopenhauer. Source: ―Reading the ‗unreadable‘ Marx‖ was written for ―Marx Myths and Legends‖ by Humphrey McQueen in March 2005, and rights remain with the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. From 1850 until his death in 1880, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert compiled a ―Dictionary of Received Ideas‖ as his catalogue of stupidities, inanities and misinformation. In this word association game, ―Malthus‖ summoned up ―infamous,‖ and ―Louis XVI‖ evoked ―unfortunate.‖[1] Were we to update Flaubert by including ―Marx,‖ the gully-trap of clichés would be clogged with ―discredited‖ and ―unreadable.‖ Other contributors to this collection will discount the ―discredited‖ label. This article tackles the accusation that Marx is ―unreadable.‖ The two charges are connected. The more that people fear that Marx is impenetrable, the harder it will be to convince them to recover his relevance.[2] The way to challenge the accusation that Marx is ―unreadable‖ is to read him. From The Communist Manifesto, here is the paean to the bourgeoisie that Marx and Frederick Engels penned in 1848: Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned ... [3] To keep pace with this torrent of transformations, Marx and Engels abbreviated their phrasing. To sketch how this turmoil had come about, they continued to use parataxis: The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.[4] The second sentence is as breathtaking as the tumult it captures in its run of snapshots. Even as we read the passage, it seems impossible that anyone could have condensed the expanse of capitalism across 500 years into a statement as exhilarating as it is exact. Marx‘s admiration for the historic achievement of the bourgeoisie as a class did not extend to their apologists. How he would have revelled in Flaubert‘s ―Dictionary"! Marx stretched language so far that, in 1860, he was probably the first person to use ―Da-Da!‖ to voice his own detestation of what he called ―twaddle.‖[5] Challenged as to its propriety, Marx came back: ―Da Da puzzles the Philistine and is comical ... It pleases me, and it fits my system of mockery and contempt.‖[6] Just as the assault on Feudalism had broken through the Scholastic mode of communication to allow Martin Luther to render the bible in vigorous, direct and metrical German, so did the bourgeois revolution propel the prose of Marx and Engels. To convey the eruption of economy into society, they had to fashion a syntax, a vocabulary and a repertoire of devices in tune with the acceleration of life. Marshall Berman reads The Manifesto as a prose poem, as ―the first great modernist work of art,‖ anteceding Baudelaire‘s Spleen.[7]


Engels had got there four years earlier when composing The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. In the 1970s, that work attracted the literary critic Steven Marcus who knew of no contemporary summary of the industrial revolution ―that is as succinct, as wide-ranging and as coherent.‖ Apart from Engels‘s use of ―vortex,‖ he made scant use of hyperbole because ―the unprecedented magnitude of the event is its own intensifier.‖ Marcus placed Engels alongside Carlyle and Dickens as writers who ―were performing one of their quintessential functions: they were taking dead writing and transforming it back into living writing. Or we can say that they were transforming information into a present history whose structure they were simultaneously inventing.‖ [8] Eighteenth Brumaire Bourgeois ideologues proved less keen to entertain the prospect of perpetual upheaval, once the proletariat began to challenge the rule of capital from the 1820s. History, therefore, had to come to an end, as Marx observed in 1847. [9] By contrast, his welcoming of the organised working class allowed him to treat the present as history. [10] He delivered a notable example of this perspicacity in his account of the rise to power between 1848 and 1852 of the French emperor, Napoleon III. Marx‘s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, is extraordinary for making so elaborate and so penetrating an analysis on the run. The parts, like a Dickens novel, were planned as installments to a weekly paper. The result is much more than a model of political journalism. By keeping the struggles between and within classes front and central to his unravelling of events, Marx could ―demonstrate how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relations that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero‘s part.‖ [11] The opening lines of The Eighteenth Brumaire grace the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: Hegel remarks somewhere that all events and personages of great importance in world history occur so to speak twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the other time as farce. A few lines further on, Marx observes: People 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 brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.[12] Marx rounds off the first section of The Eighteenth Brumaire by dismissing Napoleon III as the farcically bad copy of his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte: Finally, the scum of bourgeois society forms the holy phalanx of order and the hero Crapulinski installs himself in the Tuilleries as the ―saviour of society.‖[13] Here, Marx has turned to his favourite contemporary poet, Heinrich Heine, for the figure of Crapulinski. These three extracts indicate something of the range in Marx‘s style. The opening is aphoristic, memorable for its puncturing of grand narrative with humour. The insertion of ―somewhere‖ is no lapse of memory, but a considered affront to his erstwhile colleagues among the Young Hegelians. The middle passage is as suggestive in imagery as it is rich in concepts, bringing to life the vital processes on which Marx is commenting. He strengthens his representation of history‘s slide into farce by associating its actors with a the travesty of cross-dressing. Hegel saw in parody the means by which one age returned to its past in order to criticise it. Marx saw parody, according to Margaret Rose, as ―accompanying discontinuity in history.‖[14] Just as revolutions are ruptures in practice, so revolutionary writers need tropes that allow for disjunctures in thought. In the third extract,


Marx turns to earthy language to put the pretender in his place; [15] the see-sawing between scum and holiness, between crap and saviour, recalls the tumble from tragedy into farce. Despite the care that Marx devoted to his prose, he never pursued style for style‘s sake. For him, the form of his writing had to confirm its content and structure. The Eighteenth Brumaire is a fabulous read because he made it an exemplar of historical materialism. And it is exemplary because Marx‘s tone of voice is as dialectical as his assembling of evidence and his pattern of analysis. The German social philosopher Theodor Adorno might have had The Eighteenth Brumaire in mind in 1946 when he charged that ... the dialectic advances by way of extremes, driving thoughts with the utmost consequentiality to the point where they turn back on themselves, instead of qualifying them... ... limitation and reservation are no way to represent the dialectic... If a dialectician, for example, marked the turning-point of his advancing ideas by starting with a ―But‖ at each caesura, the literary scheme would give the lie to the unschematic intention of his thought.[16] For Marx, the dialectic had to be fleet-footed, or it ceased to be dialectical. Bertell Ollman writes of the ―dance of the dialectic.‖[17] For the dialectician, there are no fixed categories, no external essences, no Ideal Forms. Everything, always and everywhere, is in a condition of becoming and passing away. The difficulties that this mobility presents to readers can be limited if an author makes our static medium convey the transitory. The excitement in Marx‘s manner of expression grows from his fulfilling of Schopenhauer‘s contention that the ―sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say.‖[18] Hence, the deepest pleasure from reading Marx flows from the substance and structure of his thinking. The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss recalled that he ―rarely broached a new sociological problem without first stimulating my thought by rereading a few pages of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte or the Critique of Political Economy.‖[19] Two of the cerebral stimuli from The Eighteenth Brumaire are the ground rules that Marx offered for intellectual history and for tracing the political formation of a class. He summarised his explorations of these issues in two key passages. The first establishes the starting place for the history of ideas: Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic supporters of shop keepers. In their education and individual position they may be as far part from them as heaven from earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits that the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter in practice. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.[20] This explication of how ideas connect with social practices confirms the materialist credentials of the opening passages of The Eighteenth Brumaire where metaphors haunt present actors.[21] As a materialist, Marx recognised that existence conditioned consciousness. Hence, class consciousness could not fall from the sky as a disembodied idea. As a dialectician, he knew also that existence was insufficient to generate self-consciousness. Marx drew on the experiences of the French peasantry to illustrate why class consciousness had to be the outcome of social practices through organisation: Each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient; it itself directly produces the major part of its consumption and thus acquires its means of life more through exchange with nature than in intercourse with society. A smallholding, a peasant and his family; alongside them another smallholding, another peasant and another family. A few score of these make up a village, and a few score of villages make up a department. In this way, the


great mass of the French nation is formed by simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes. The structure of this passage reproduces Marx‘s case: phrases are accumulated into a statement that lacks a doing word, just as the ―vast mass‖ of small-holders do not engage in ―manifold relations with one another.‖ The next step takes in a larger social group and therefore requires an unbroken sentence. Finally, the commentary arrives at a metaphor apposite to farm life: the potato sack. As the class forms politically, Marx makes the units of his prose cohere: In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests and their culture from those of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class. In so far as there is merely a local interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of their interests begets no community, no national bond and no political organisation among them, they do not form a class. Each sentence loops around alternative criteria for the forming of a class. Their juxtaposition gives way to a synthesis: They are consequently incapable of enforcing their class interest in their own name, whether through a parliament or through a convention. Marx can now distill the components of his case into eight words which continue the see-sawing: ―They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented.‖ From this position, Marx strikes out to link the movement of class into class consciousness with the structure of the state: Their representative must at the same time appear as their master, as an authority over them, as an unlimited governmental power which protects them against the other classes and sends them rain and sunshine from above. The political influence of the smallholding peasants, therefore, finds its final expression in the executive power subordinating society to itself.[22] The assertiveness of ―therefore‖ underlines Marx‘s introduction of authoritarianism. Nonetheless, he has just mocked the capacity of any government to control nature, and hence, presumably, its ability to stem the tide of class conflict. While acknowledging that the life circumstances among the small peasants have allowed ―Crapulinski‖ to ascend to the throne, Marx hints that their unsatisfied needs will unseat him. Aphorisms Another way to entice readers towards Marx has been to dangle some of the aphorisms at which he was a dazzler, as when he observes: ―Hence money may be dirt, although dirt is not money.‖[23] Of Proudhon, he quipped: ―He wants to be the synthesis – he is a composite error.‖[24] Marx also used aphorisms as exclamation marks at the end of an analysis, a kind of ―Eureka!‖ The impact of ―Circulation sweats money from every pore‖[25] is convincing only if encountered as the outcome of his investigations into the metamorphosis of commodities. Torn from the page, it is mere assertion. ―One capitalist always kills many‖[26] sounds more than a tocsin after Marx has explained the thrust of monopolising through the logic of competition. The risk in parading Marx‘s maxims is that his meaning is rendered obvious, that is to say, is misrepresented. Wrenched from its context, the bait can catch the opposite response to the one after which Marx had been angling. That outcome is true of a remark favoured by militants: ―Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.‖[27] Marx never supposed that we could change the world without interpreting it, any more than he believed that we can interpret the world correctly without changing it. Perhaps no quip from Marx is better known than his line that ―Religion is the opium of the people.‖ Few assertions are more misunderstood. Placing that remark back in his 1844 Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right will reveal its significance, and display far finer turns of phrase than is apparent from the fragment:


Religious distress is at the same time an expression of real distress and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people... To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions.[28] Marx‘s meaning, along with the rhythms in which he expressed it, is evident once the epigram is returned to its textual origin. That relocation refutes any supposition that he was spurning all varieties of religious experience. Rather, he anchored his empathy with those enduring immiseration in his materialist appreciation that incorrect ideas are more than the product of wrong thinking. Marx‘s choice and arrangement of words strengthened the persuasiveness of this perception. His first sentence pivots on a conflicted concept of religion. The next carries that dichotomy through three variations, threaded with sibilance. After their rising inflection, the notorious remark falls as a lamentation, not a rhetorical slap. The second paragraph repeats this pattern, its recapitulated ―illusions‖ again leading to a consolation. The compassion in Marx‘s comment is assured by the felicities in his prose. Figures of speech As we have seen, wordplay is as much a part of Marx‘s prose as the class struggle is pivotal to his picture of the world. The social philosopher Vilfredo Pareto worried that Marx‘s words were like bats since one can see in them both birds and mice. [29] One danger with this ambiguity is that his meaning can never be pinned down, and so his epigones can escape criticism by alleging that their prophet has been misunderstood – a variant of the irrefutability that upset Popper. This possibility is unavoidable in coping with contraries, and thus is a small price to pay for the depth of understanding that Marx was able to provide by his appreciation of the fluidity of nature and social relationships. Alertness to three of Marx‘s favourite literary devices, to wit, puns, paradoxes and irony, will help with a reading the first volume of Capital by showing how wove his dialectical method into the texture of his writing. One should always read Marx with an ear tuned for words, phrases and whole passages ―enclosed by intonational quotation marks,‖ or trailing implied question marks.[30] Puns: To associate puns with the lowest form of wit is another possible entry in Flaubert‘s dictionary. Marx used puns to bind concepts together, as in his specifying the feature of alienation under the rule of capital. He shows that alienation under capitalism is different from other kinds of estrangement because the wage-slave has sold his capacity to labour. In English, ―alienate‖ means to sell and to make strange. In German, Marx makes play on the German ―äusser‖ to convey that connection. [―Aus-‖ in German is the prefix for ―out,‖ so that ein Auslander is a foreigner.] One can sympathise with anyone translating passages such as: Was früher Sichäußerlichsein, reale Entäußerung des Menschen ist nur [nun], zur Tat der Entäußerung, zur Veräußerung geworden. The Soviet edition rendered this rolling pun: What was previously being external to oneself – man‘s actual externalization – has merely become the act of externalizing – the process of alienating.[31] The three different German words rooted on ―äußer‖ have been given as cognates of ―external.‖ Veräußern can mean ―to sell one‘s honour.‖ That medieval concept invokes capitalist alienation where the labourer is separated from the honour that the craftsman once put into a product, and from the honour that he drew from its quality. In addition, the wage labourer has sold his human capacities, his honour. To complain about this aspect of Marx‘s style is like objecting to Shakespeare‘s punning on ―will‖ in Sonnets 135 and 136. As Fowler has it: ―Puns are good, bad and indifferent, & only those who lack the wit to make them are unaware of the fact.‖[32]


Paradox: Marx combined punning with paradox: ―Das seine Lebensäußerung seine Lebensentäußerung ist,‖ that is, ―The manifestation of his life is the alienation of his life.‖[33] The paradox is a pauper‘s straining after dialectics. Paradoxes abounded in the young Marx as one mark of his legacy from Idealism where words stood in for reality. For example, he concluded The Introduction to the Contribution to Critique of Hegel‘s Philosophy of Law: ―Philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without philosophy being made a reality.‖[34] This phrase-mongering contrasts with a comparable point which Marx made four years later at the close of the Manifesto: ―The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.‖ The bi-polar form of the paradox remains, but Marx is no longer conjuring with categories. Instead, he is calling for the ―forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.‖ Irony: Francis Wheen has discovered in Marx the Dean Swift of industrial capitalism. Marx and Swift share brilliance in irony, but they differ in tone because of opposed social outlooks. Irony in Swift is chilling. Marx‘s can be red hot. Swift‘s ―A Modest Proposal for preventing the Children of the Poor People in Ireland, from being a Burden to their Parents or Country; and for making them beneficial to the Publick‖ (1729) reasoned that those infants should be reared as food for the English landlords whose expropriation of field and farm was devouring the parents. ―A Modest Proposal‖ was Swift‘s attempt to persuade his own class to alter their ways. By contrast, Marx aimed his ironies at energising a revolution of the masses. Irony helped Marx to reproduce his dialectical method, as it had for Hegel who saw irony as dialectical because it allowed for two meanings simultaneously. [35] An ironic comment has a kernel of subversive intent inside the shell of innocent observation. Like Hegel, Marx saw that irony operates outside the logic that something must be either ―A‖ or ―non-A.‖ Marx‘s analysis of capital could not be contained in such mutual exclusivities. Capital is capital only when it is expanding. To expand, it has to be in motion, passing from its money form, through a stage of production, into a commodity form, and then back to the money form so that the process can start over on an enlarged scale. Money is a shape-shifter and a form-changer.[36] Marx found an analogue in irony, which not every commentator gets.[37] Marx‘s ironic voice might not have been innate, but he had made it his own before he composed The German Ideology of 1845, as this prefatory note demonstrates: Once upon a time a valiant fellow had the idea that men were drowned in water only because they were possessed with the idea of gravity. If they were to get this notion out of their heads, say by avowing it to be a superstitious, a religious concept, they would be sublimely proof against any danger from water. His whole life long he fought against the illusion of gravity, of whose harmful consequences all statistics brought him new and manifold evidence.[38] Marx has emphasised the fallacy of Idealist philosophy by understatement, never stepping outside the voice of an objective observer to display his own point of view by inserting ―foolish‖ in front of ―fellow.‖ The reader is left to add that judgement. [39] Capital Quoting from the most popular of Marx‘s writings to show how far they are from being unreadable was easy. Does Capital promise equal delights? Barriers exist between Capital and a mass readership. First, there is its length, 800 pages in volume one alone, and another 2000 pages in the three volumes that he left partly completed. Above all, the difficulty with Capital is in the issues that Marx tackled. The dynamics of capital expansion will never be glimpsed by a Murdoch columnist fixated on Foxtel, or, for that matter, by a research assistant clipping the Financial Times each morning. Marx wrote books. He did not spray bullets from a Microsoft power point. To approach his writings, you have to be a prose person, not a dot.point person.


Most sympathetic guides to Capital warn the beginner away from beginning at the beginning.[40] In those pages, Marx presented the results of twenty years research. He might have kept that material until the end, so that by the time we reached its intricacies we would have been drawn towards his conclusions and become familiar with his terms and cast of mind. Instead, he gave us the results first. They also set forth his method of analysis. Marx acknowledged that ―the method of analysis which I have employed ... makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous.‖[41] Their 100 pages cannot be recommended as in-flight entertainment. A clear head, a pen in hand, and the preparedness to read the material at least three times over several years are required to absorb all the secrets that Marx uncovers. As Marx knew from experience: ―There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.‖[42] At the trial of the Knave of Hearts in Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland, the King of Hearts admonishes the White Rabbit: ―Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.‖ In the case of Capital, it is perhaps more judicious to start at the end of volume one with the nine-page chapter on ―The Modern Theory of Colonisation.‖ Australians are not the only people surprised that Marx wound up with the settlement of our continent. He tells a story about Edward Gibbon Wakefield who proposed a plan for Systematic Colonisation to compel workers to sell their labour power instead of setting up as farmers or tradespeople for themselves: Wakefield discovered that in the Colonies, property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative – the wage-worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will. He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things. A Mr Peel, he moans, took with him from England to Swan River, West Australia, means of subsistence and of production to the amount of 50,000. This Mr Peel even had the foresight to bring besides 3,000 persons of the working-class, men, women, and children. Once he arrived at his destination, ―Mr Peel was left without a servant to make his bed or fetch him water from the river.‖ Unhappy Mr Peel who provided for everything except the export of English relations of production to Swan River![43] Seven pages further, the final sentence establishes the true north of Marx‘s life project. He is not concerned with Mr Wakefield, his schemes, or the emotional quotient of Mr Peel: The only thing that interests us is the secret discovered in the New World by the Political Economy of the Old World, and proclaimed on the house-tops: that the capitalist mode of production and accumulation, and therefore capitalist private property, have for their fundamental condition the annihilation of self-earned private property: in other words, the expropriation of the labourer.[44] The germ of Capital‘s 800 pages is in these sixty words. Almost every word that Marx wrote after 1842 was his contribution to the struggle to check exploitation and to end expropriation. Before reading any part of Capital, whether for the first or the umpteenth time, it is worth returning to these lines for orientation. Should you feel lost in the detail of factory laws, perplexed by the delineation of use, exchange and surplus values, or trip on the poetic allusions, remember that ―class struggle‖ is an anchor against being blown off course. Three hurdles Although the advice to postpone an encounter with the opening segment of Capital is sensible, that engagement cannot be put off for ever by any serious students of capitalism. After passing so many warning signs, readers are in for a surprise at how smoothly those early pages seem. Marx‘s prose is neither convoluted nor arcane. The sentences are not


very long. The vocabulary is well within the range of the average reader. There is no algebra. A year-eight student could manage the sums. Before attending to how Marx draws us towards his discoveries, three difficulties in reading Capital should be mentioned. They are mathematics; Hegelian methods and language; and references to other literary works. Mathematics: Many of the formulae in Capital are not algebra. Instead, they abbreviate Marx‘s description of the circuits of capital. The simplest of these notations is M-C-M+, where M is money capital, C is Commodities, and M+ is the expanded volume of money capital that results from the making and sale of commodities. Marx could have kept writing these terms out in words, but hoped that a shorthand version would be easier on his readers. One does not need to understand any kind of mathematics to follow his notation. It involves no calculation. The formulae are closer to equations in chemistry than in mathematics.[45] Hegel: In an 1873 re-issue of Capital, Marx acknowledged that, in 1867, he had ―openly avowed‖ himself ―the pupil‖ of Hegel at a time when professors in Germany were contemptuous of ―that mighty thinker.‖ Flaubert‘s ―Dictionary of Received Opinion‖ would now place ―impenetrable‖ after Hegel‘s name, not without justification, though he could be witty, clear and pungent.[46] Ponderousness is one element in Hegel‘s worst writing that Marx did not inherit. Indeed, when Marx admitted that he had, ―here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the modes of expression peculiar‖ to Hegel, the crucial word is ―coquetted.‖ Even at his most Hegelian, Marx never lost his cutting edge, peppering his denunciations with raillery, lightening his expositions with caricature. Literary allusions: The learning that Marx brought to his subject can be another tollgate to entry. At the close of a discussion of commodities, he asked: ―Who fails here to call to mind our good friend, Dogberry, who informs neighbour Seacoal, that, ‗To be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune; but reading and writing comes by Nature‘.‖ [47] The question today is who will be familiar with Dogberry as a comic character from Shakespeare‘s Much Ado About Nothing. Volume One of Capital includes quotations from Balzac, Cervantes, Dante, Goethe, Homer and Sophocles, whom Marx gave in their original tongues. Shy references to a host of other poets, dramatists and novelists embellish his critique of political economy.[48] Marx studded his writings with a comparable density of allusions to the ideas and terminologies of philosophers, historians and political economists. For example, when he likened life under communism where everyone would be able ―to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening and criticize after dinner.‖ [49] In the first three activities, Marx was mocking Adam Smith and almost every vulgar economist for their ―unimaginative fantasies.‖[50] The post-prandial critical criticising was another dig at the Holy Family of Young Hegelians. Cultural semi-literates who fail to recognise these sources do not hesitate to berate Marx for putting forward an insipid picture of comforts suiting a country gent, or Tolstoy.[51] Another joy in reading Capital comes from discovering the treasures lurking in its footnotes which, as in Edward Gibbon‘s Decline and Fall of Roman Empire, contain several of the work‘s more memorable insights and striking formulations: This much however, is clear, that the Middle Ages could not live on Catholicism, nor the ancient world on politics. On the contrary, it is the mode in which they gained a livelihood that explains why here politics, and there Catholicism, played the chief part. For the rest, it requires but a slight acquaintance with the history of the Roman republic, for example, to be aware that its secret history is the history of its landed property. And there is Don Quixote, who long ago paid the penalty for wrongly imagining that knight errantry was compatible with all economic forms of society.[52]


This blast at the ludicrousness of idealist historiography is a marvel of concentrated thought, delivering more perception in its 80 words than 80 professors chorusing ―discredited‖ at the mention of Marx‘s name could come up with in a lifetime. The greatest amazement from Capital is how Marx could keep so many levels of investigation going at once. Symphonists can rarely develop more than two principal themes, no matter how many variations they then introduce. Charles Dickens in Bleak House (1852) depicted the Court of Chancery‘s generating multitudes of cases and devouring the lives of all who approach. Critics who disparage the novel‘s spontaneous combustion scene fail to see that the energy of Dickens‘s composition is of a piece with spontaneous combustion. How was it possible for him to keep all the themes, plots and sub-plots running without his brain catching fire? Marx‘s portrayal of the expansion of capital matches Bleak House in its encompassing of energies marshalled and of forces unleashed. Marx and Dickens also shared a fury at the grinding down of human capacities, especially in children. Marx summarised official reports on the effects of 72-hour week on the culture of children, anyone of whom could have been the model for Smike from Nicholas Nickleby, or Jo in Bleak House. Questioned by the Employment Commissioners, the twelve-year old Jeremiah Haynes responded: We have a king (told it is a Queen), they call her the Princess Alexandra, Told that she married the Queen‘s son. The Queen‘s son is the Princess Alexandra. A princess is a man.[53] Marx fills page after page with such evidence until he takes another swipe at hypocrisy: Meanwhile, late by night perhaps, self-denying Mr Glass-Capital, primed with portwine, reels out of his club homeward droning out idiotically, ―Britons never, never shall be slaves!‖[54] Marx will have none of Dickens‘s paternalism. Repentance no more than abstinence will redeem Mr Glass-Capital. The ghost that is haunting his kind is not Christmas Past but the spectre of a communist future. The secret novelty of Capital To propose that Capital can be read as a novel is not to imply that it is fictional, still less a faction. The Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) proposed that ―the plurality of styles and levels‖ is ―characteristic of the novel as a genre.‖ As a social investigator, Marx called on all manner of literary devices to convey the complexities that he traced through the social relationships of capitalism. By Bakhtin‘s criterion, Capital Volume One lives within the genre of novel.[55] Balzac hinted at a secret history of ―a scandalous kind.‖[56] For Marx, the secret history of the Roman Republic was in ―landed property.‖ In capitalism, the secret rests in how the commodity form conceals ―the expropriation of the labourers,‖ which is the condition for their ceaseless exploitation.[57] The plotline of Capital confronts us with this secret history, and then conducts us through the evidence. The secret about the commodity form proves to be another multiplicity of secrets about money as another commodity; about money as the universal equivalent for every commodity; about human capacity as a commodity. Having established these premises, Marx can lead us to an indictment of a system of exploitation which presents itself as one of a fair exchange of equal values. Marx wrote in the tradition of Realism, not of Naturalism. He compiled details about factory conditions to uncover the logic of the expansion of capital. Thus, although he accumulated evidence with the assiduousness of a miser hoarding brass farthings, he used those mites, as would a capitalist, to expand his intellectual store ―by constantly throwing it afresh into circulation.‖[58] The protagonist for Marx is neither a Romantic champion such as Julian Sorel, a carpenter‘s son, in Stendahl‘s Le Rouge et le Noir (1830), nor the master criminal Vautrin


in Balzac. In Capital, the central figure is the aggregation of capital, a figure which is most truly itself when its individual personifications behave as the accumulation of dead labour. Here is Marx making those bones speak: Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. There I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has power over the clever not more clever than the clever?[59] Marx has brought us close to the grotesqueries of Rabelais as capital reproduces Gargantua‘s appetites. Capital is also like that giant when he pours salt into the mouths of sleepers to stimulate their thirst; the managers of capital have to inculcate desire for commodities of every kind: He puts himself at the service of the other‘s most depraved fancies, plays the pimp between him and his need, excites in him morbid appetites, lies in wait for each of his weaknesses – all so that he can then demand the cash for this service of love. [60] Gargantua and Pantagruel are flesh-and-blood creatures of a society dependent on the soil and hand labour. Capital must be depicted as a machine because the operations of its social world has become like the machines that accelerate its expansion. Leviathans become the apt image for the power of capital in Dickens‘s Chancery Court or Circumlocution Office, Melville‘s factory ship, Zola‘s coal mine, Sinclair‘s slaughterhouse and Ireland‘s oil refinery. The anti-heroes, and thus the true heroes of Marx‘s Capital are ―the new fangled men‖ who are needed to master ―the new-fangled forces of society.‖ They too have become machine-like. They are new-fangled because of their place in the productive order.[61] If ordinary people enter European fiction as degraded,[62] Marx represents their misery as a pre-condition for their remaking themselves into a collective presence to take the place of Hegel‘s world historical figures. Marx did everything a writer could to clarify the complexities of capitalism without over-simplifying. He used homely examples of how linen becomes a coat, or of how linen is exchanged for a bible before the cash from that transaction is spent on brandy.[63] His materialist approach to history as the activity of living people encouraged his dramatic flair. Although he presented capitalists as the personifications of capital, he knew that he had to treat these ―actors ... as individuals.‖[64] Hence, he told tales about ―Mr Moneybags‖ or ―Mr Glass-Capital.‖ Marx‘s core task was to explain the expansion of capital in the aggregate, what he called ―social capital,‖ as distinct from individual capitals. The fun that he had with fables about Mr Moneybags ran second to the delight he took in mocking writers who represented capitalism from the standpoint of ―our friend Robinson‖ Crusoe. Capitalists got workers to produce exchange values. Crusoe, the complete homo faber, made nothing but use values for himself. He has provided for himself before Friday arrives. That approach equated the operations of the capitalists‘ system with its ideological mask as individualism.[65] Capital, for Marx, was a social relationship before it was anything else. Marx created fables to convey actual relationships: the Robinsonards treated Defoe‘s fiction as the model for reality. The real-life captains of industry were imprisoned in the iron cage of capital‘s expansion, not marooned on an island. No more than the meanest child labourer could escape from her travails by wishing herself into a Dickensian plot is the capitalist able to choose the circuits of capital around which he must chase a fortune:


If social capital experiences a revolution in value, it may happen that the capital of the individual capitalist succumbs to it and fails, because it cannot adapt itself to the conditions of this movement of values. The more acute and frequent such revolutions in value become, the more does the automatic movement of the now independent value operate with the elemental force of a natural process, against the foresight and calculation of the individual capitalist.[66] The excitement that Marx brings to his account of the accumulation of capital is possible because of the space he accepts between tendential laws and entrepreneurship, fate and risk-taking, or what he calls ―a Faustian conflict between the passion for accumulation, and the desire for enjoyment.‖[67] Marx used story-telling to illuminate this reality. Polyvocalism: Bakhtin found ―laughter‖ and ―polyglossia‖ to be of ―decisive importance‖ in making ―possible the genre of the novel.‖ [68] Capital is heir to both qualities, contributing to their enrichment. The tonal range in the laughter has been indicated. Now it is time to illustrate how Marx creates dialogue to convince his audience that the story he is relating represents their actual conditions. In a chapter examining the labour-process, Marx grappled with the puzzle at the center of the expansion of capital, and therefore the most difficult concept to explain. He had to get across how capitalists paid their workers the full value of their capacity to add value, while at same time paying those labourers less than the total value of the commodities they produced. Marx restated his case in the negative by falling into conversation with a capitalist ―friend‖ who has failed to turn a profit. This unhappy fellow has been offered no more for the cotton that his operatives have spun than the fifteen shillings it cost him to have them produce it. Unlike Mr Peel, this capitalist cannot lay the blame for his unhappiness on the absence of the capitalist relations of production. What has gone wrong? His failure to profit leaves him staring ―in astonishment‖ before he gathers his knowledge of ―vulgar economy‖ to exclaim: ―Oh, but I advanced my money for the express purpose of making more money.‖ After the capitalist has entered his first plea, Marx has assumed the voice of a judge from on-high: The way to Hell is paved with good intentions, and he might just as easily have intended to make money, without producing at all. The loser now threatens all sorts of things. He won‘t be caught napping again. In future he will buy the commodities in the market, instead of manufacturing them himself. We have heard from the capitalist again, but in the third person. Marx reappears to ask and state the obvious, also in the third person: But if all his brother capitalists were to do the same, where would he find his commodities in the market? And his money he cannot eat. Next, the capitalist ―tries persuasion‖: ―Consider my abstinence; I might have played ducks and drakes with the 15 shillings; but instead of that I consumed it productively, and made yarn with it.‖ The capitalist has returned in his own colloquial voice. This time Marx addresses his remarks to some unseen third party: Very well. And by way of reward he is now in possession of good yarn instead of a bad conscience; ... Let him therefore console himself with the reflection that virtue is its own reward. This verdict is no comfort to the appellant, who ―becomes importunate‖: He says: ―The yarn is no use to me; I produced it for sale.‖ Marx gives more unwelcome advice from the stance of a disinterested commentator: In that case let him sell it, or still better, let him for the future produce only things for satisfying his personal wants ...


This interchange continues the switch between direct speech and commentary. The capitalist gets no more satisfaction from Dr Marx than he has from the market. Small wonder the capitalist ―friend‖ now ―gets obstinate,‖ flinging forth rhetorical questions: ―Can the labourer, merely with his arms and his legs, produce commodities out of nothing? Did I not supply him with the materials, by means of which, and in which alone, his labour could be embodied? And as the greater part of society consists of such ne‘er dowells, have I not rendered society incalculable service by my instruments of production, my cotton and my spindles, and not only society but the labourer also, whom in addition I have provided with the necessities of life? And am I to be allowed nothing in return for all this service?‖ Where will this eloquence get him? Marx no longer speaks either to his ―friend‖ or as a remote adjudicator, but to the reader of Capital: Well, but has not the labourer rendered him the equivalent service of changing his cotton and spindle into yarn? ... The capitalist paid to the labourer a value of 3 shillings, and the labourer gave him back an exact equivalent in the value of 3 shillings, added by him to the cotton: he gave him value for value. Marx has spoken as the author of Capital rather than as the author of this fable within Capital. Our friend, up to this time so purse-proud, suddenly assumed the modest demeanour of his own workman and exclaims: ―Have I myself not worked? Have I not performed the labour of superintendence and of overlooking the spinner? And does this labour, too, create value?‖ His overlooker and his manager try to hide their smiles. Marx assumes that readers who have reached this point in his analysis will realise that the tasks that the capitalist claims to have performed himself were done by his smirking employees. The smiles that Marx hopes that his fable will provoke in his readers are here brought to the surface by this silent chorus of overseers. Even without having read a line of Capital, those foremen know that their disciplining of labour time differs qualitatively from its application by labourers in the creation of additional values. By this stage, not even the capitalist can keep a straight face: Meanwhile, after a hearty laugh, he re-assumed his usual mien. Though he chanted to us the whole creed of the economists, in reality, he says, he would not give a brass farthing for it. He leaves this and all such like subterfuges and juggling tricks to the professors of Political Economy, who are paid for it. Throughout, Marx has been using his ―friend‖ to express his own scorn for those professors. Marx had reached that valuation from his critiquing of their ―subterfuges and juggling tricks.‖ The capitalist, on the other hand, is sprouting what passes for common sense among his kind: He himself is a practical man; and though he does not always consider what he says outside his business, yet in his business he knows what he is about.[69] Marx leaves us with the capitalist at his own assessment. Marx knows otherwise. The anecdote would never have been possible had the capitalist known what he was about ―in his business.‖ After all, he has failed to realise a profit. The sole author of all these words has been Dr Marx. Yet, not all the views expressed are his.[70] The capitalist speaks in his own defence only to convict himself. His offence is not that he has exploited his workers, but that he has failed to do so. Marx has subverted the Socratic dialogue by having his ―friend‖ arrive at the truth about surplus value through rehearsing the conditions of his existence as a personification of capital. Instead of Marx‘s presenting himself as a Socratic interlocutor, he confronts the capitalist with the steps that have led to his failure to profit. The humour that Marx has built throughout the passage depends on the instability in the speaking positions of both Marx and his friend. Marx is, by turns, reporter, judge, and critic of political economy. The capitalist appears astonished, threatening, persuasive, importunate, obstinate, modest, laughing. Despite his dodges and masks, his performance


has had but one theme. Unlike Shylock, he demands only ―My ducats,‖ caring not for his daughter, justice, religion or the law. Marx has reproduced in his analysis of capital, the Babel of voices in a stratified society. He has orchestrated the voices of his ―friend,‖ but also interpreted them by putting his pleas for profit into their context of capitalist exploitation. Marx has not only put them into his friend‘s mouth, but has made his version of the logic of capital accumulation speak through his creature. The ventriloquism is from off-stage, with both Marx and the capitalist taking turns as its mouthpieces. Abstinence: One strand in the capitalist‘s claim for a profit was ―his abstinence.‖ This justification provided Marx with life-long opportunities for mocking the professorial subterfuge that profit is the reward that the capitalist earns for his not having spent his money on consumer goods: It has never occurred to the vulgar economist to make the simple reflection, that every human action may be viewed, as ―abstinence‖ from its opposite. Eating is abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &c.[71] The unhappiness that the capitalist must undergo for the sake of ―abstinence‖ becomes too much for Marx to bear: The simple dictates of humanity therefore plainly enjoin the release of the capitalist from this martyrdom and temptation, in the same as that the Georgian slave-owner was lately delivered, by the abolition of slavery, from the painful dilemma, whether to squander the surplus-product, lashed out of his niggers, entirely in champagne, or whether to reconvert a part of it into more niggers and more land. [72] The more honest supporters of abstinence as a claim on profit had to admit that the children of these self-deniers had no right to inherit their fathers‘ fortunes because the offspring had foregone none of the pleasures.[73] The Mirror Image: Because Marx recognised that capital is a social relationship, he sought images to convey that multi-sidedness. The mirror and reflection were two obvious tropes, yet too obvious to satisfy: It is a sign of crudity and lack of comprehension that organically coherent factors are brought into haphazard relation with one another, i.e., into a simple reflex connection. [74] As we have seen, Marx extended his rejection of reflection to history. In The Eighteenth Brumaire, revolutionaries recognise themselves only after they have donned the ―drag‖ to appear as some historical other. Similarly, he argued that petty-bourgeois thinkers do not reflect the thinking of shop-keepers. Their relationship is the active one of the intellectuals‘ not proceeding in their theoretical practices further than the shopkeepers do in business. Yet the mirror could be a more acceptable figure of speech if used as a simile rather than a metaphor: Money ... reads all prices backwards, and thus as it were mirrors itself in the bodies of all other commodities (Emphasis added.)[75] The distancing that Marx has achieved here by the use of the conditional will not serve in all cases. A looking glass cannot convey human behaviour as the ―real, sensuous activity‖ that Marx took as the root of his materialist dialectics: The chief defect of all previous materialism ... is that things, reality, sensuousness are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively.[76] Marx needed an active processing agent for his imagery. Here, the Soviet translation came closer: ―Money ... depicts itself,‖ rather than ―mirrors itself.‖ Better still, the eye let Marx represent the active aspect of the relationships between people and objects. The eye was available as the apposite figure of speech only because of what had happened with the actual eye in history:


The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object – an object made by man for man.[77] Under capitalism, the use value of the eye undergoes a transformation parallel to that experienced by all the objects created by humankind. While use values are becoming exchange values, the eye is being re-made into the sense mechanism that most stimulates desire for them. The crucial case, and the hardest to represent, is that of the commodity form, the workings of which the untutored eye cannot discern: From the mere look of a piece of money, we cannot tell what breed of commodity has been transformed into it. In their money-form all commodities look alike.[78] Marx infuses this conceptual connection between commodities and money into an evocation of urban energy of which Balzac or Dickens would have been proud: The busiest streets of London are crowded with shops whose show cases display all the riches of the world, Indian shawls, American revolvers, Chinese porcelain, Parisian corsets, furs from Russia and species from the tropics, but all of these worldly things bear odious, white paper labels with Arabic numerals and then laconic symbols £. s. d. This is how commodities are presented in circulation.[79] From this description, Marx moves to a sensuous image in which ―the prices‖ become the ―wooing glances cast at money by commodities.‖ [80] Commodities create a mirror-effect when their differences, real or apparent, are perceived by potential consumers. The contrast between a castle and the adjoining cottage becomes a source of desire for a bigger house: A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But let a palace arise beside the little house, and it shrinks from a little house to a hut. The little house shows now that its owner has only very slight or no demands to make; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighbouring palace grows to an equal or even greater extend, the occupant of the relatively small house will feel more an more uncomfortable, dissatisfied and cramped within its four walls.[81] The contrasts are reflected through the eye, that is to say, received into the brain. By exciting consumption, the eye holds a mirror to the production-consumption of commodities. To learn to expand one‘s needs through the perception of contrasts in the use values we already possess did not come into the world with capitalism. Rather, the proliferation of use values into ever more exchange values was able to build on a process at the heart of hominisation: In a certain sense, a man is in the same situation as a commodity. As he neither enters into the world in possession of a mirror ... a man first sees and recognises himself in another man. Peter only relates to himself as a man through his relation to another man, Paul, in whom he recognises his likeness. With this, however, Paul also becomes from head to toe, in his physical form as Paul, the form of appearance of the species man for Peter.[82] The mirror-phase is limited neither to infancy nor to the origins of our species, but acquired a vast domain with the spread of capitalist relations. Neither money nor commodities is alive. Yet, it is integral to Marx‘s picture of the capitalist world that they appear to be so. A carpenter fashions wood into a table. As soon as he offers this everyday thing for sale, ―it steps forth as a commodity, [and] is changed into something transcendent.‖ Marx has to explain how a physical object acquires the imperceptible qualities of the social relationship between capital and wage-labour. He again turns to the experience of sight: ... light from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself. But, in the act of seeing, there is at all events, an actual passage of light from one thing to another, from the


external object to the eye. There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things qua commodities, and the value-relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connexion with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. [83] The fetishism of commodities is the knot that must be untied to unravel the secret of the expansion of capital, and hence to follow its exposition through the plot of Capital. Conclusion Most socialists have not been Marxists, or aspired to be. It is lunacy of a high order to insist that the only people who will be allowed to participate in the overthrow of capitalism are those who subscribe to this or that version of the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. It is no less true that no one can remain a Marxist without being a socialist. Before Marxism is anything, it is a critique of capitalism. There can be no Marx for the master class. No one who has made peace with that regime of exploitation can use the methods, insights or rhetoric developed by Marx and Engels, not even to explain the longevity of the system that they spent their lives interpreting, in various ways, in order to hasten its end. As a materialist, Marx had no time for those who approached his writings as sacred texts. As a revolutionary, he would never have judged our understanding of him by our ability to retrieve what he had intended, like some Medieval Schoolman From the standpoints of revolutionary politics and materialist historiography, his test would be whether what he had written conforms to the realities of capitalist development, or to the experiences that socialists had acquired about how to overthrow the state. Only by grappling with those practical ideas can we begin the even more taxing effort needed to create a socialist society. Further References Gabriel Egan, Shakespeare and Marx, OUP, Oxford, 2004. Stanley Edgar Hyman, The Tangled Bank, Darwin, Marx, Frazer and Freud as Imaginative Writers, New York, 1962. Pamela Hansford Johnson, ―The Literary Achievement of Marx,‖ The Modern Quarterly, New Series, 2, Summer 1947, pp. 239-44. Giosue Ghisalberti, ―Tragedy and Repetition in Marx‘s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,‖ Clio, 26 (4), Summer 1997, pp. 411-26. Thomas M. Kemple, Reading Marx Writing, Melodrama, the Market and the ―Grundrisse,‖ Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1995. Franz Mehring, ―Karl Marx and Metaphor,‖ D. Ryazanoff (ed.), Karl Marx: Man, Thinker and Revolutionist, London, 1927, pp. 95-101. Michael Paul Rogin, ―Herman Melville‘s Eighteenth Brumaire,‖ Subversive Genealogy, The Politics and Art and Herman Melville, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1979, pp. 155-86. Allen Speight, Hegel, Literature and the Problem of Agency, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001. Dirk J. Struik (ed.), The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, New World, New York, 1964. Dirk J. Struik (ed.), Birth of the Communist Manifesto, New World, New York, 1971. Footnotes 1. Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard and Pecuchet, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976, pp. 289ff. 2. A recent biographer, Francis Wheen, deplored ―the mad circular argument one hears from people who haven‘t ventured even as far as page two. ‗Capital is all hooey‘. ‗And


how do you know it‘s hooey?‘ ‗Because it‘s not worth reading‘.‖ Francis Wheen, Karl Marx, Fourth Estate, London, 1999, p. 299. 3. Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works (MECW), volume 6, Lawrence & Wishart, London, MECW, 1976, p. 487. The propulsion through the opening section of the Manifesto is so convincing that it can sweep the reader past the warning that Marx had placed above the portal: class struggle can end with ―the common ruin of the contending classes.‖ Marx drew on his knowledge of the Ancient world to deny inevitable progress from any purpose-driven view of history. Karl Popper‘s obsession with his version of historicism blinded him to this contrateleological strand in Marx, whom he otherwise admired for his humanity and his contributions to social and historical knowledge, The Open Society and Its Enemies, RKP, London, 1966; for Popper‘s praise of Marx‘s ―lasting merit,‖ see p. 88. 4. MECW, 6, p. 485. 5. Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Foreign Languages Publishing House (FLPH), Moscow, pp. 89 and 94. 6. Letter from Helmut Hirsch to Encounter, November 1980, p. 92. 7. Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts Into Air, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982, pp. 102 and 121. 8. Steven Marcus, Engels, Manchester and the Working Class, Norton, New York, 1974, pp. 139, 137 and 108. 9. MECW, 6, p. 174. 10. Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, Merlin, London, 1971, p. 224. 11. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1954, p. 6. 12. Karl Marx, ―The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,‖ MECW, 11, 1979, pp. 103-4. 13. MECW, 11, p. 112. 14. Margaret Rose, Reading the young Marx and Engels, Croom Helm, London, 1978, pp. 84 & 131. 15. In their correspondence, Engels wrote to Marx of the ―Goldshit‖ in the Australian colonies, 23 September 1851, Henry Mayer (ed.), Marx, Engels and Australia, Sydney Studies in Politics 5, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1964, p. 104. 16. Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia, NLB, London, 1974, pp. 85-86. 17. Bertell Ollman, Dance of the Dialectic, Steps in Marx‘s Method, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 2003. 18. Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1970, p. 203. 19. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976, p. 70. 20. MECW, 6, pp, 130-1. 21. This interplay of thinking with doing explains how those children of the bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels, could become proletarian intellectuals. Their case was less remarkable than that of Honore de Balzac (1799-1850), whose sequence of novels, The Human Comedy, Engels described as ―a constant elegy to the irretrievable decay of good society; his sympathies are all with the class doomed to extinction.‖ Yet, as Engels went on to explain, he and Marx admired Balzac above all other contemporary novelists: his satire is never keener, his irony never more bitter, than when he sets in motion the very men and women with whom he sympathises most deeply – the nobles ... That Balzac thus was compelled to go against his own class sympathies and political prejudices, that he saw the necessity of the downfall of his favourite nobles, and described them as people deserving no better fate ... that I consider one of the greatest triumphs of Realism. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Selected Correspondence, FLPH, Moscow, 1953, pp. 479-80. 22. MECW, 11. 1979, pp. 187-88. 23. Karl Marx, Capital, I, FLPH, Moscow, 1958, p. 109; Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976, p. 204.


In 1867, Marx alleged that ―The English Established Church, e.g., will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income.‖ Capital, I, p. 10; Penguin, p. 92. The stand-alone witticisms in Marx and Engels have a Shavian ring, which leaves one wondering how much George Bernard Shaw learned from them about punch lines. 24. MECW, 6, 1976, p. 178. 25. Capital, I, p. 113; Penguin, p. 208. 26. Capital, I, p. 763; Penguin, p. 929. 27. MECW, 5, 1976, p. 5. 28. MECW, 3, 1975, pp. 175-76. Our appreciation of the complexity of Marx‘s comment on religion will be deepened by adding knowledge of medical practices from around 1840 when opiates were not taken merely to put their users to sleep, but to deaden the pain, physical and psychological. Opiates allowed workers to continue their battles for existence, offering comfort, not oblivion, sustenance not slumber. It was in this ambivalent sense that Marx referred to religion as an opiate. An appreciation of the history of pharmacy is but one example of the care that must be exercised when interpreting any text. A similar point can be made about Nietzsche‘s ―God is Dead.‖ The messenger is a madman who at once adds that he has arrived too soon. Anyway, the shocking aspect of his annunciation is not that God is dead, because the death and rebirth of gods are integral to religious thinking, including Christianity. The horror was the subsequent claim that ―God remains dead,‖ leaving humanity without the promise of resurrection, see The Gay Science, New York, Vintage, 1974, p. 181. 29. Bertell Ollman, Alienation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1976, p. 3. 30. M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, Four Essays, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1981, p. 75. 31. MECW, 3, 1975, p. 291; Karl Marx, Frühe Schriften, I, Cotta-Verlag, Stuggart, 1960, p. 586. 32. H. W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Omega, Ware, Herts., 1984, p. 474. 33. MECW, 3, p. 299; Frühe Schriften, I, p. 598. 34. MECW, 3, p. 187. 35. Rose, Reading the young Marx and Engels, p. 141. 36. Capital, II, pp. 105-6; Penguin, II, p. 185. 37. Anitra Nelson, Marx‘s concept of money: the God of commodities, Routledge, New York, 1999. Because Nelson is deaf to dialectics, she complains that Marx does not have a concept of money but rather a ―theory of the money commodity.‖ She divides her time between nit-picking and thinking up Marx‘s motives. (pp. 92-93). The intentionalist fallacy encouraged her to suppose that she can see into Marx‘s thinking, which is the more risible given that she neither gets his jokes, nor is aware that he is being ironical. Her literalism is of a piece with her insensitivity to process. For an astute reading of Marx on money see Suzanne de Brunhoff, Urizen Books, New York, 1976. 38. MECW, 5, p. 24. 39. Notwithstanding this restraint, Marx was not afraid to be robust, as in this sardonic onslaught: Switzerland is the center of attraction for hysterical virgins over thirty, for the pale buds of the finishing school who are keen on the chaste by so effective love-making of the fleet hunters of the Chamois. In the original agricultural cantons the people live like animals, and are as bovine as their oxen. It is necessary, very necessary, that this last refuge of brutal primitive Germanism, of barbarians of bigotry, of patriarchal naiveté and purity of morals, of agricultural stability and of loyalty to death – available to the highest bidder – should at last be destroyed.


This ―birthplace of freedom‖ is nothing else but the center of barbarism, of brutality, bigotry, hypocritical ―purity‖ ... Internal affairs are exhausted in making cheese, chastity, and yodeling ... abroad, the only claim of the Swiss is that of being hired mercenaries. Here, the rolling thunder comes with its flashes of ridicule. To strike at his target of hypocrisy, Marx reaches for the directness and rhythms of Luther‘s bible. This barrage could be Luther‘s excoriating the Papacy. 40. The French Marxist Louis Althusser was but one in a line of commentators to warn those opening Capital to skip those 100 pages, that is, Part I on ―Commodities and Money,‖ until after they had read the next 600. He further advised them to delay reading the 30 pages of Part V, see Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, NLB, London, 1971, pp. 79-86. Engels had offered parallel advice on how to approach volumes II and III, Selected Correspondence, pp. 566-68. 41. Capital, I, p. 21; Penguin, p. 104. 42. Capital, I, p. 21; Penguin, p. 104. 43. Capital, I, p. 766; Penguin, p. 933. 44. Capital, I, p. 774; Penguin, p. 940. 45. Karl Marx, Capital, II, FLPH, Moscow, 1957, pp. 284-5; Penguin, II, pp. 359-60. Many of us have been comforted to learn from Engels that Marx, although adept at algebra, including differential calculus ―did not get the knack of handling figures, particularly commercial arithmetic.‖ Marx kept notebooks on differential calculus. The notion of approaching a result by ever smaller increments without ever reaching that end, that is, asymptotically, appealed to Marx as a means to express the dialectic, the process of change, see Mathematics Manuscripts of Karl Marx, New Park, London, 1983. 46. To dispel the lopsidedness of that judgement, let Hegel also speak in his own defence. Just before the end of his life in 1831, he responded to the debates leading up to the First Reform Bill in the British parliament: ―Nowhere more than in England is the prejudice so fixed and so naïve that if birth and wealth give a man office they also give him brains.‖ ―The English Reform Bill,‖ T. M. Knox and Z. A. Pelczynski, Hegel‘s Political Writings, OUP, Oxford, 1964, p. 311. 47. Capital, I, p. 83, Penguin, p. 177. 48. S. S. Prawer, Karl Marx and World Literature, OUP, Oxford, 1978. The Soviet editions did not provide translations, though the Penguin series does. Working one‘s way through the explanatory footnotes is a short course in cultural literacy. Marx advised one militant to learn Spanish, as he had done, by reading Don Quixote. The Moscow editions provided much of the necessary detail, culminating in the Marx-Engels Collected Works from 1975. Dirk Struik‘s editing of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and The Communist Manifesto was exemplary for his commentaries and scholarly apparatuses. The Penguin-New Left Editions from the 1970s also deserve to be consulted, both for their translations and their explanatory notes, which supply translations for Marx‘s quotations. The Penguin editor, Ben Fowkes, missed this jibe at Richard Wagner‘s 1849 manifesto, ―The Art-Work of the Future‖: ―Nobody – not even a practitioner of Zukunftsmusik* – can live on the products of the future ....‖ The asterisked footnote misinterprets Zukunftsmusik as ―castles in the air, or dreams which may or may not be realized,‖ p. 272; The Moscow edition, Capital, p. 169, made no attempt to explain this rare reference to music in Marx, which he repeated in Volume II, Moscow, p. 493. 49. MECW, 5, p. 47. 50. Marx. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 188. 51. James Buchan, Frozen Desire, Picador, London, 1997, p. 202. 52. Capital, I, p. 83n; Penguin, p. 176n. 53. Capital, I, p. 259n; Penguin, p. 370n. 54. Capital, I, p. 264n; Penguin, p. 375n.


55. Bakhtin, p. 41n. 56. Honore Balzac, Lost Illusions, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1971, p. 641. 57. Capital, I, p. 774; Penguin, p. 940. 58. Capital, I, p. 153; Penguin, p. 254. 59. MECW, 3, p. 324. 60. MECW, 3, p. 307. 61. MECW, 6, 1976, pp. 176, 186-8. 62. Erich Auerbach, Mimesis The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1953, p. 481. 63. Capital, I, pp. 105, 112-13; Penguin, pp. 200 and 205-8. 64. Capital, I, p. 162, Penguin, p. 265; Capital, II, pp. 105-6; Penguin, II, p. 185; Capital, III, pp. 289-91; Penguin, pp. 403-5. 65. Capital, I, p. 76-77; Penguin, pp. 169-71. 66. Karl Marx, Capital, II, FLPH, Moscow, 1957, pp. 105-6; Penguin, II, pp. 185-86. 67. Capital, I, p. 594; Penguin, p. 741. 68. Bakhtin, p, 50. 69. Capital, I, pp. 191-93; Penguin, pp. 298-300. 70. Bakhtin, pp. 48-49. A disciple of Auerbach‘s Mimesis could explicate the structure and texture of Capital to reveal Need to make a comparison with the tropes of Adam Smith‘s The Wealth of Nations (1770). The inclusion of Capital would disturb Auerbach‘s categories. In The House of All Nations (1938), Christina Stead gave a fictional representation of money capital. 71. Capital, I, pp. 596-7n; Penguin, p. 744n. 72. Capital, I, pp. 597-98; Penguin, p. 745. 73. Maurice Dobb, Political Economy and Capitalism, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1944, pp. 137-47 74. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1970, p. 193. 75. Capital, I, p. 110; Penguin, p. 205. 76. MECW, 5, p. 3. 77. MECW, 3, p. 300. 78. Capital, I, p. 110; Penguin, p. 204. 79. Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 87; Capital, II, p. 103; Penguin, p. 183. 80. Capital, I, p. 110; Penguin, p. 205. 81. MECW, 9, 1977, p. 216. 82. Capital, I, p. 52n; Penguin, p. 144n. 83. Capital, I, pp. 72-73; Penguin, pp. 163-64.


John Holloway The Tradition of Scientific Marxism
Source: ―Change The World Without Taking Power. The Meaning of Revolution Today,‖ © John Holloway 2002, Chapter 7. Published by Pluto Press. This chapter used with permission of the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialNoDerivatives Licence 2.0. I The concept of fetishism implies a negative concept of science. If relations between people exist as relations between things, then the attempt to understand social relations can proceed only negatively, by going against and beyond the form in which social relations appear (and really exist). Science is critical. The concept of fetishism implies, therefore, that there is a radical distinction between ‗bourgeois‘ science and critical or revolutionary science. The former assumes the permanence of capitalist social relations and takes identity for granted, treating contradiction as a mark of logical inconsistency. Science, in this view, is the attempt to understand reality. In the latter case, science can only be negative, a critique of the untruth of existing reality. The aim is not to understand reality, but to understand (and, by understanding, to intensify) its contradictions as part of the struggle to change the world. The more all-pervasive we understand reification to be, the more absolutely negative science becomes. If everything is permeated by reification, then absolutely everything is a site of struggle between the imposition of the rupture of doing and the critical-practical struggle for the recuperation of doing. No category is neutral. For Marx, science is negative. The truth of science is the negation of the untruth of false appearances. In the post-Marx Marxist tradition, however, the concept of science is turned from a negative into a positive concept. The category of fetishism, so central for Marx, is almost entirely forgotten by the mainstream Marxist tradition. From being the struggle against the untruth of fetishism, science comes to be understood as knowledge of reality. With the positivisation of science, power-over penetrates into revolutionary theory and undermines it far more effectively than any government undercover agents infiltrating a revolutionary organisation. II It is convenient to see the positivisation of science as being Engels‘ contribution to the Marxist tradition, although there are certainly dangers in over-emphasising the difference between Marx and Engels: the attempt to put all the blame on to Engels diverts attention from the contradictions that were undoubtedly present in Marx‘s own work. [1] The classic claim for the scientific character of Marxism in the mainstream tradition is Engels‘ pamphlet, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, which probably did more than any other work to define ‗Marxism‘. Criticism of scientificism in the Marxist tradition often takes the form of a critique of Engels, but, in fact, the ‗scientific‘ tradition is far more deep-rooted than that would suggest. It certainly finds expression in some of Marx‘s own writings (most famously in the ‗1859 Preface‘ to his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy), and is developed in the ‗classical‘ era of Marxism by writers as diverse as Kautsky, Lenin, Luxemburg and Pannekoek. Although Engels‘ writings possibly have relatively few explicit defenders today, the tradition which Engels represents continues to provide the unspoken and unquestioned assumptions upon which a great deal of Marxist discussion is based. In what follows, our principal concern is not who said what, but to draw out the main constituents of the scientific tradition. In speaking of Marxism as ‗scientific‘, Engels means that it is based on an understanding of social development that is just as exact as the scientific understanding of natural development. The course of both natural and human development is characterised


by the same constant movement: ‗When we consider and reflect upon Nature at large or the history of mankind or our own intellectual activity, at first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions, permutations and combinations, in which nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes away.... This primitive, naïve but intrinsically correct conception of the world is that of ancient Greek philosophy, and was first clearly formulated by Heraclitus: everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away.‘ (1968, p. 43) Dialectics is the conceptualisation of nature and society as being in constant movement: it ‗comprehends things and their representations, ideas, in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin, and ending... Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern science that it has furnished this proof with very rich materials increasing daily, and thus has shown that, in the last resort, Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically.‘ (1968, p. 45) Through dialectics we can reach an exact understanding of natural and social development: ‗An exact representation of the universe, of its evolution, of the development of mankind, and of the reflection of this evolution in the minds of men, can therefore only be obtained by the methods of dialectics with its constant regard to the innumerable actions and reactions of life and death, of progressive and retrogressive changes.‘ (1968, p. 46) For Engels, dialectics comprehends the objective movement of nature and society, a movement independent of the subject. The task of science, then, is to understand the laws of motion of both nature and society. Modern materialism, unlike the mechanical materialism of the eighteenth century, is dialectical: ‗modern materialism sees in [history] the process of evolution of humanity and aims at discovering the laws thereof... Modern materialism embraces the more recent discoveries of natural science, according to which Nature also has its history in time, the celestial bodies, like the organic species that, under favourable conditions, people them, being born and perishing... In both aspects, modern materialism is essentially dialectic...‘ (1968, pp. 47-48) It need hardly be underlined that Engels‘ understanding of the dialectic method is an extremely diluted one. Lukács brought upon himself the wrath of the Party by pointing this out in History and Class Consciousness: ‗Dialectics, he [Engels] argues, is a continuous process of transition from one definition into the other. In consequence a one-sided and rigid causality must be replaced by interaction. But he does not even mention the most vital interaction, namely the dialectical relation between subject and object in the historical process, let alone give it the prominence it deserves. Yet without this factor dialectics ceases to be revolutionary, despite attempts (illusory in the last analysis) to retain ‗fluid‘ concepts. For it implies a failure to recognise that in all metaphysics the object remains untouched and unaltered so that thought remains contemplative and fails to become practical; while for the dialectical method the central problem is to change reality.'(Lukács 1971, 3) Dialectics, for Engels, becomes a natural law, not the reason of revolt, not the ‗consistent sense of non-identity‘, the sense of the explosive force of the denied. It is no doubt for this reason that some authors, in their criticism of the orthodox Marxist tradition, have been concerned to criticise the whole idea of a dialectical method.[2] For Engels, the claim that Marxism is scientific is a claim that it has understood the laws of motion of society. This understanding is based on two key elements: ‗These two great discoveries, the materialistic conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these two discoveries Socialism becomes a science. The next thing was to work out all its details and relations.‘ (1968, p. 50) Science, in the Engelsian tradition which became known as ‗Marxism‘, is understood as the exclusion of subjectivity: ‗scientific‘ is identified with ‗objective‘. The claim that Marxism is scientific is taken to mean that subjective struggle (the struggle of socialists


today) finds support in the objective movement of history. The analogy with natural science is important not because of the conception of nature that underlies it but because of what it says about the movement of human history. Both nature and history are seen as being governed by forces ‗independent of men‘s will‘, forces that can therefore be studied objectively. The notion of Marxism as scientific socialism has two aspects. In Engels‘ account there is a double objectivity. Marxism is objective, certain, ‗scientific‘ knowledge of an objective, inevitable process. Marxism is understood as scientific in the sense that it has understood correctly the laws of motion of a historical process taking place independently of men‘s will. All that is left for Marxists to do is to fill in the details, to apply the scientific understanding of history. The attraction of the conception of Marxism as a scientifically objective theory of revolution for those who were dedicating their lives to struggle against capitalism is obvious. It provided not just a coherent conception of historical movement, but also enormous moral support: whatever reverses might be suffered, history was on our side. The enormous force of the Engelsian conception and the importance of its role in the struggles of that time should not be overlooked. At the same time, however, both aspects of the concept of scientific socialism (objective knowledge, objective process) pose enormous problems for the development of Marxism as a theory of struggle. If Marxism is understood as the correct, objective, scientific knowledge of history, then this begs the question, ‗who says so?‘ Who holds the correct knowledge and how did they gain that knowledge? Who is the subject of the knowledge? The notion of Marxism as ‗science‘ implies a distinction between those who know and those who do not know, a distinction between those who have true consciousness and those who have false consciousness. This distinction immediately poses both epistemological and organisational problems. Political debate becomes focussed on the question of ‗correctness‘ and the ‗correct line‘. But how do we know (and how do they know) that the knowledge of ‗those who know‘ is correct? How can the knowers (party, intellectuals or whatever) be said to have transcended the conditions of their social time and place in such a way as to have gained a privileged knowledge of historical movement? Perhaps even more important politically: if a distinction is to be made between those who know and those who do not, and if understanding or knowledge is seen as important in guiding the political struggle, then what is to be the organisational relation between the knowers and the others (the masses)? Are those in the know to lead and educate the masses (as in the concept of the vanguard party) or is a communist revolution necessarily the work of the masses themselves (as ‗left communists‘ such as Pannekoek maintained)? . The other wing of the concept of scientific Marxism, the notion that society develops according to objective laws, also poses obvious problems for a theory of struggle. If there is an objective movement of history which is independent of human volition, then what is the role of struggle? Are those who struggle simply carrying out a human destiny which they do not control? Or is struggle important simply in the interstices of the objective movements, filling in the smaller or larger gaps left open by the clash of forces and relations of production? The notion of objective laws opens up a separation between structure and struggle. Whereas the notion of fetishism suggests that everything is struggle, that nothing exists separately from the antagonism of social relations, the notion of ‗objective laws‘ suggests a duality between an objective structural movement of history independent of people‘s will, on the one hand, and the subjective struggles for a better world, on the other. Engels‘ conception tells us that the two movements coincide, that the former gives support to the latter, but they do not cease to be separate. This duality is the source of endless theoretical and political problems in the Marxist tradition. Engels‘ notion of the objective movement of history towards an end gives a secondary role to struggle. Whether struggle is simply seen as supporting the movement of


history or whether it is attributed a more active role, its significance in any case derives from its relation to the working out of the objective laws. Whatever the differences in emphasis, struggle in this perspective cannot be seen as self-emancipatory: it acquires significance only in relation to the realisation of the goal. The whole concept of struggle is then instrumental: it is a struggle to achieve an end, to arrive somewhere. The positivisation of the concept of science implies a positivisation of the concept of struggle. Struggle, from being struggle-against, is metamorphosed into being struggle-for. Strugglefor is struggle to create a communist society, but in the instrumentalist perspective which the positive-scientific approach implies, struggle comes to be conceived in a step-by-step manner, with the ‗conquest of power‘ being seen as the decisive step, the fulcrum of revolution. The notion of the ‗conquest of power‘, then, far from being a particular aim that stands on its own, is at the centre of a whole approach to theory and struggle. III The implication of Engels‘ analysis, namely that the transition to communism would come about inevitably as a result of the conflict between the development of the forces of production and the relations of production, did not satisfy the revolutionary theoristsactivists of the early part of the century. They insisted on the importance of active struggle for communism, yet they retained much of the dualism of Engels‘ presentation of ‗Marxism‘.[3] The problems posed by the dualistic separation of subject and object came to the fore in the revolutionary turbulence of the beginning of this century. Virtually all the debates of the ‗classical‘ period of Marxism (roughly the first quarter of the twentieth century) took place on the assumed foundation of the ‗scientific‘ interpretation of Marxism. Despite their very important political and theoretical differences, all the major theorists of the period shared certain common assumptions about the meaning of Marxism — assumptions associated with key words such as ‗historical materialism‘, ‗scientific socialism‘, ‗objective laws‘, ‗Marxist economics‘. This is not to say that there was no theoretical development. Perhaps most important, attention in this period of upheaval came to focus on the importance of subjective action. Against the quietistic, wait-and-see interpretations of historic necessity favoured by the main body of the Second International, all the revolutionary theorists of the period (Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, Pannekoek and so on) stressed the need for active revolutionary intervention. But this emphasis on the subjective was seen in all cases as complementary to (if not subordinate to) the objective movement of capitalism. Now that the theoretical criticism of Engels as the ‗distorter‘ of Marx has gained such wide diffusion, it should be emphasised that the assumptions of scientific Marxism were accepted not only by the reformists of the Second International but by most if not all the major revolutionary theorists. The dualist concept of Marxism as science has, it was seen, two axes: the notion of an objective historical process and the notion of objective knowledge. The theoreticalpolitical problems connected with both of these axes provided the stuff of theoretical debate in this period. The first of these axes, the concept of history as an objective process independent of human will was the main issue in Rosa Luxemburg‘s classic defence of Marxism against the revisionism of Bernstein, in her pamphlet, Reform or Revolution, first published in 1900. Luxemburg‘s pamphlet is above all a defence of scientific socialism. For her, the understanding of socialism as objective historic necessity was of central importance to the revolutionary movement: ‗The greatest conquest of the developing proletarian movement has been the discovery of grounds of support for the realisation of socialism in the economic condition of capitalist society. As a result of this discovery, socialism was changed from an ‗ideal‘ dream by humanity for thousands of years to a thing of historic necessity‘ (1973, p. 35).


Echoing the distinction made by Engels between scientific and utopian socialism, Luxemburg sees the notion of economic or historic necessity as essential if the emptiness of endless calls for justice is to be avoided. Criticising Bernstein, she writes: ‗"Why represent socialism as the consequence of economic compulsion?‖ he complains. ―Why degrade man‘s understanding, his feeling for justice, his will?‖ (Vorwärts, March 26th, 1899) Bernstein‘s superlatively just distribution is to be attained thanks to man‘s free will, man‘s will acting not because of economic necessity, since this will itself is only an instrument, but because of man‘s comprehension of justice, because of man‘s idea of justice. We thus quite happily return to the principle of justice, to the old war horse on which the reformers of the earth have rocked for ages, for the lack of surer means of historic transportation. We return to that lamentable Rosinante on which the Don Quixotes of history have galloped towards the great reform of the earth, always to come home with their eyes blackened.‘ (1973, pp. 44-45) The scientific character of Marxism is thus seen as its defining feature. The scientific basis of socialism is said to rest ‗on three principal results of capitalist development. First, on the growing anarchy of capitalist economy, leading inevitably to its ruin. Second, on the progressive socialisation of the process of production, which creates the germs of the future social order. And third, on the increased organisation and consciousness of the proletarian class, which constitutes the active factor in the coming revolution‘ (1973, p. 11). The third element, the ‗active factor‘, is important for Luxemburg: ‗It is not true that socialism will arise automatically from the daily struggle of the working class. Socialism will be the consequence of (1) the growing contradictions of capitalist economy and (2) the comprehension by the working class of the unavoidability of the suppression of these contradictions through a social transformation‘ (1973, p. 31). Thus, although Luxemburg, in common with all the revolutionary theorists, rejects the quietistic interpretation of the inevitability of socialism favoured by many in the German Social Democratic party, the emphasis on the importance of subjective action is located against the background of the objective, historic necessity of socialism. Socialism will be the consequence of (1) objective trends, and (2) subjective comprehension and practice. The focus on the subjective is added to the understanding of Marxism as a theory of the historic necessity of socialism; or, perhaps more precisely, Marxism, as a theory of objective necessity complements and fortifies subjective class struggle. Whichever way around it is put, there is the same dualist separation between the objective and the subjective — ‗the classic dualism of economic law and subjective factor‘. (Marramao 1978, p. 29) The central issue arising from this dualism was the question of the relation between the two poles of the dualism — between historic necessity and the ‗active factor‘. The terms of the question posed by scientific socialism already suggest an endless debate between determinism and voluntarism, between those who attribute little importance to subjective intervention and those who see it as crucial. The argument, however, is about the space to be granted to the subject within an objectively determined framework. The space is essentially intersticial, the argument being over the nature of the interstices. Whatever the weight attached to the ‗active factor‘, the argument is about how to reach the objectively determined ‗final goal‘. Luxemburg opens her argument against Bernstein in Reform or Revolution by accusing him of abandoning the ‗final goal‘ of the socialist movement. She quotes him as saying ‗The final goal, no matter what it is, is nothing; the movement is everything.‘ (1973, p. 8) To this Luxemburg objects: ‗the final goal of socialism constitutes the only decisive factor distinguishing the social democratic movement from bourgeois democracy and from bourgeois radicalism, the only factor transforming the entire labour movement from a vain effort to repair the capitalist order into a class struggle against this order, for the suppression of this order...‘ (1973, p. 8) And what is this final goal, according to Luxemburg? ‗The conquest of political power and the suppression of wage labour‘. (1973, p. 8)


The goal, then, according to Luxemburg, is to bring about social revolution through the conquest of political power. ‗From the first appearance of class societies having the class struggle as the essential content of their history, the conquest of political power has been the aim of all rising classes.‘ (1973, p. 49) ‗It is necessary to extract the kernel of socialist society from its capitalist shell. Exactly for this reason must the proletariat seize political power and suppress completely the capitalist system.‘ (1973, p. 52) Class struggle is instrumental, the aim being ‗to extract the kernel of socialist society from its capitalist shell‘. Struggle is not a process of self-emancipation which would create a socialist society (whatever that might turn out to be) but just the opposite: struggle is an instrument to achieve a preconceived end which would then provide freedom for all. In the classical debates of Marxism, the issue of the relation between the ‗active factor‘ and ‗historic necessity‘ was focused most clearly in the discussions surrounding the collapse of capitalism. These discussions had important political implications since they centred on the transition from capitalism to socialism, and therefore on revolution and revolutionary organisation (although the different positions did not follow any simple leftright split (cf Marramao 1978)). At one extreme was the position usually identified with the Second International, and formulated most clearly by Cunow at the end of the 1890s (Cunow 1898-99): since the collapse of capitalism was the inevitable result of the working out of its own contradictions, there was no need for revolutionary organisation. Those who argued that the collapse of capitalism was inevitable did not all draw the same conclusions, however. For Luxemburg, as we have seen, the inevitable collapse of capitalism (which she attributed to the exhaustion of the possibilities of capitalist expansion into a non-capitalist world) was seen as giving support to anti-capitalist struggle rather than detracting from the need for revolutionary organisation. The opposite view, the view that collapse was not inevitable, also led to diverse political conclusions. For some (Bernstein, for example) it led to the abandonment of a revolutionary perspective and the acceptance of capitalism as a framework within which social improvements could be sought. For others, such as Pannekoek, the rejection of the idea of the inevitability of capitalist collapse was part of an emphasis on the importance of revolutionary organisation: he argued that the objective movement of capitalist contradictions would lead not to collapse, but to ever more intense crises, which must be understood as opportunities for subjective action to overthrow capitalism (1977). It is interesting that Pannekoek, the leading theorist of left or council communism, denounced by Lenin in his Left-Wing Communism — An Infantile Disorder, accepted, in spite of all his emphasis on the importance of developing the ‗active side‘, the framework of Marx‘s ‗economic materialism‘ as the analysis of the objective movement of capitalism. His emphasis on activism did not take the form of challenging the objectivist interpretation of Marx, but of arguing that it was necessary to complement the objective development by subjective action. The second axis of scientific Marxism, the question of scientific knowledge and its organisational implications, formed the core of the discussion between Lenin and his critics. In Lenin‘s theory of the vanguard party, the organisational implications of the positive notion of scientific knowledge are developed to the point of creating a sharp organisational distinction between the knowers (those who have true consciousness) and the non-knowers (the masses who have false consciousness). In the pamphlet which spelt out the theory of the vanguard party, What is to be Done?, Lenin argues the point very explicitly. After discussing the limitations of the strike movement of the 1890s, he makes his central point about class consciousness and socialism: ―We said that there could not yet be Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. This consciousness could only be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., it may


itself realise the necessity for combining in unions, for fighting against the employers and for striving to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals. According to their social status, the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. Similarly, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose quite independently of the spontaneous growth of the labour movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of ideas among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia.‘ (1966, pp. 74-75) It has been suggested (by del Barco 1980) that the clear separation of theory (developed by bourgeois intellectuals) and experience (that of the workers) was a reflection of the particular history of the Russian revolutionary movement. Lenin‘s own references, however, suggest that his ideas have a wider basis within the Marxist tradition. He quotes both Engels and Kautsky at length. Particularly significant is the passage quoted with evident approval from an article by Kautsky, in which Kautsky writes: ‗Of course, socialism, as a theory, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has, and just as the latter emerges from the struggle against the capitalist-created poverty and misery of the masses. But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicles of science are not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K.K.‘s italics]: it was in the minds of some members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduced it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without (von aussen Hineingetragenes), and not something that arose within it spontaneously (urwüchsig). Accordingly, the old Hainfeld programme quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its tasks. There would be no need for this if consciousness emerged itself from the class struggle.‘ (1966, pp. 81-82) The quotation from Kautsky makes clear that the central issue is not the peculiarities of the Russian revolutionary tradition: however important those peculiarities might have been, ascribing the problems of Leninism to them lets mainstream Marxism off the hook. The central issue is rather the concept of science or theory which was accepted by the main stream of the Marxist movement. If science is understood as an objectively ‗correct‘ understanding of society, then it follows that those most likely to attain such an understanding will be those with greatest access to education (understood, presumably, as being at least potentially scientific). Given the organisation of education in capitalist society, these will be members of the bourgeoisie. Science, consequently, can come to the proletariat only from outside. If the movement to socialism is based on the scientific understanding of society, then it must be led by bourgeois intellectuals and those ‗proletarians distinguished by their intellectual development‘ to whom they have transmitted their scientific understanding. Scientific socialism, understood in this way, is the theory of the emancipation of the proletariat, but certainly not of its self-emancipation. Class struggle is understood instrumentally, not as a process of self-emancipation but as the struggle to create a society in which the proletariat would be emancipated: hence the pivotal role of ‗conquering power‘. The whole point of conquering power is that it is a means of liberating others. It is the means by which class-conscious revolutionaries, organised in the party, can liberate the proletariat. In a theory in which the working class is


a ‗they‘, distinguished from a ‗we‘ who are conscious of the need for revolution, the notion of ‗taking power‘ is simply the articulation that joins the ‗they‘ and the ‗we‘. The genius of Lenin‘s theory of the vanguard party, then, was that it developed to their logical conclusion the organisational consequences of Engels‘ notion of scientific socialism. From being a negative concept in Marx (science as the negation of fetishised appearances), science in Engels becomes something positive (objective knowledge of an objective process), so that ‗unscientific‘ then denotes the absence of something: absence of knowledge, absence of class consciousness. The question that Marx leaves us with (how can we, who live against and in fetishised social relations, negate this fetishism?) becomes turned around to become ‗how can the workers acquire class consciousness?‘ ‗Simple‘, replies Lenin, ‗since their consciousness is limited to trade union consciousness, true consciousness can only come from outside, from (us) bourgeois intellectuals.‘ The inconvenient question of the material source of the bourgeois intellectual consciousness is lost, since it is seen as just the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Marxist practice then becomes a practice of bringing consciousness to the workers, of explaining to them, of telling them where their interests lie, of enlightening and educating them. This practice, so widely established in revolutionary movements in all the world, has its roots not just in the authoritarian tradition of Leninism but in the positive concept of science which Engels established. Knowledge-about is power-over. If science is understood as knowledge-about, then there is inevitably a hierarchical relation between those who have this knowledge (and hence access to the ‗correct line‘) and those (the masses) who do not. It is the task of those-in-the-know to lead and educate the masses.[4] It is not that scientific Marxism simply reproduces bourgeois theory: clearly the perspective is revolutionary change, the point of reference is a communist society. It introduces new categories of thought, but those categories are understood positively. The revolutionary character of the theory is understood in terms of content, not in terms of method, in terms of the what, not the how. Thus, for example, ‗working class‘ is a central category, but it is taken to refer, in the manner of bourgeois sociology, to a definable group of people, rather than to the pole of an antagonistic relation. Similarly, the state is seen as the instrument of the ruling class rather than as one moment in the general fetishisation of social relations, and categories such as ‗Russia‘, ‗Britain‘ and so on go entirely unquestioned. The concept of revolutionary theory is much too timid. Revolutionary science is understood as a prolongation of bourgeois science rather than a radical break with it. The Engelsian concept of science implies a monological political practice. The movement of thought is a monologue, the unidirectional transmission of consciousness from the party to the masses. A concept that understands science as the critique of fetishism, on the other hand, leads (or should lead) to a more dialogical concept of politics, simply because we are all subject to fetishism and because science is just part of the struggle against the rupture of doing and done, a struggle in which we are all involved in different ways. Understanding science as critique leads more easily to a politics of dialogue, a politics of talking-listening, rather than just of talking.[5] The great attraction of Leninism is of course that he cut through what we have called the tragic dilemma of revolution. He solved the problem of how those who lacked class consciousness could make a revolution: through the leadership of the Party. The only problem is that it was not the revolution that we (or they) wanted. The second part of the sentence ‗we shall take power and liberate the proletariat‘ was not, and could not be, realised. IV The concept of scientific socialism has left an imprint that stretches far beyond those who identify with Engels, Kautsky or Lenin. The separation of subject and object implied by the idea of scientific socialism continues to shape the way that capitalism is understood in much modern Marxist debate. In its modern form, scientific socialism is sometimes


referred to as ‗structuralism‘, but the impact of the ‗scientific‘ position is not limited to those who would recognise themselves as structuralists. Rather, the ‗scientific‘ separation of subject and object is expressed in a whole series of categories and specialised fields of study developed by people who do not feel themselves addressed in any sense by criticisms of Engels or of modern structuralism. It is important, therefore, to get some sense of just how much modern Marxism has been marked by the assumptions of scientific socialism. The basic feature of scientific socialism is its assumption that science can be identified with objectivity, with the exclusion of subjectivity. This scientific objectivity, it was seen, has two axes or points of reference. Objectivity is understood to refer to the course of social development: there is a historical movement which is independent of people‘s will. It is also taken to refer to the knowledge which we (Marxists) have of this historical movement: Marxism is the correct ‗discovery‘ of the objective laws of motion that govern social development. In each of these two axes, the objectivity shapes the understanding of both object and subject. Although the notion of scientific Marxism has implications for the understanding of both subject and object, in so far as science is identified with objectivity, it is the object which is privileged. Marxism, in this conception, becomes the study of the objective laws of motion of history in general, and of capitalism in particular. Marxism‘s role in relation to working class struggle is to provide an understanding of the framework within which struggle takes place. Marxists typically take as the point of departure, certainly not a denial of the importance of class struggle, but an assumption of it which amounts to virtually the same thing: class struggle becomes an ‗of course‘,[6] an element so obvious that it can simply be taken for granted and attention turned towards the analysis of capitalism. A special role falls to ‗Marxist economics‘ in the analysis of history and especially of capitalism. Since the driving force of historical development is seen as lying in the economic structure of society, since (as Engels puts it) the key to social change is to be found in economics and not in philosophy, the Marxist study of economics is central to the understanding of capitalism and its development. Marx‘s Capital is the key text of Marxist economics, in this view. It is understood as the analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism, based on the development of the central categories of value, surplus value, capital, profit, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, and so on. Thus, recent discussions in Marxist economics have focused on the validity of the category of value, the ‗transformation problem‘ (concerning Marx‘s transformation of value into price), the validity of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall and the various theories of economic crisis. As in mainstream economic discussion, much attention is devoted to defining the terms, to establishing precise definitions for ‗constant capital‘, ‗variable capital‘, and so on. The understanding of Capital as a book on economics is certainly supported by some of Marx‘s own comments, but it owes much to the influence of Engels. Engels, who was responsible for the editing and publication of Volumes II and III of Capital after Marx‘s death, fostered through his editing and his comments a certain interpretation of Marx‘s work as economics. In the ten years which separated the publication of Volume II (1884) and Volume III (1894), for example, he promoted the so-called ‗prize essay competition‘ to see if other authors could anticipate Marx‘s solution to the ‗transformation problem‘, the problem of the quantitative relation between value and price, thus focussing attention on the quantitative understanding of value (cf. Howard and King (1989) pp. 21ff; Engels‘ Preface to Vol. III of Capital). In a supplement which he wrote to Volume III on the ―Law of Value and Rate of Profit,‖ he presents value not as a form of social relations specific to capitalist society but as an economic law valid ―for the whole period of simple commodity-production ... a period of from five to seven thousand years‖ (Marx 1972a, pp. 899-900). It was through Engels‘ interpretation that the later volumes of Capital were presented to the world. As Howard and King put it: ‗he conditioned the way in which


successive generations of socialists viewed Marx‘s economics, both in his editions of Marx‘s writings and in what he left unpublished‘. (1989, p. 17) For the Marxists of the early part of this century, Marxist economics was the keystone of the whole structure of scientific Marxism, that which provided the certainty which was the crucial moral support for their struggles. In more recent times, Marxist economics has continued to play a central role in Marxist debate, but it has acquired the newly important dimension of also dovetailing with the structure of university disciplines: for many academics Marxist economics has come to be seen as a particular (albeit deviant) school within the broader discipline of economics. The defining feature of Marxist economics is the idea that capitalism can be understood in terms of certain regularities (the so-called laws of motion of capitalist development). These regularities refer to the regular (but contradictory) pattern of the reproduction of capital, and Marxist economics focuses on the study of capital and its contradictory reproduction. The contradictory nature of this reproduction (understood variously in terms of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, underconsumption or disproportionality between the different departments of production) is expressed in periodic crisis and in a long-term tendency towards the intensification of these crises (or towards the collapse of capitalism). Class struggle does not play any direct part in this analysis of capitalism. It is generally assumed that the role of Marxist economics is to explain the framework within which struggle takes place. Class struggle is intersticial: it fills in the gaps left by economic analysis, does not determine the reproduction or crisis of capitalism, but affects the conditions under which the reproduction and crisis take place. [7] Thus, for example, the left Marxists of the early part of the century, it was seen, argued that class struggle was essential to convert the crisis of capitalism into revolution: class struggle was seen as an ingredient to be added to the understanding of the objective movement of capital. The understanding of Marxist economics as an alternative approach to a particular discipline (economics) suggests the possibility of complementing it with other disciplinary branches of Marxism, such as Marxist sociology and Marxist political science [8]. Marxist sociology focuses principally on the question of class and the analysis of class structures, while Marxist political science has the state as its principal focus. Neither of these disciplinary approaches is as well developed as Marxist economics, but they start from the same basic understanding of Marx‘s work and of the Marxist tradition, according to which Capital is a study of economics, which needs now to be complemented (since Marx did not live to do it) by similar studies of politics, society, etc. What all these modern disciplinary strands of Marxism have in common, and what unites them with the underlying concept of scientific Marxism, is the assumption that Marxism is a theory of society. In a theory of society, the theorist seeks to looks at society objectively and to understand its functioning. The idea of a ‗theory of'‘ suggests a distance between the theorist and the object of the theory. The notion of a theory of society is based on the suppression of the subject, or (and this amounts to the same thing) based on the idea that the knowing subject can stand outside the object of study, can look at human society from a vantage point on the moon, as it were (Gunn 1992). It is only on the basis of this positing of the knowing subject as external to the society being studied that the understanding of science as objectivity can be posed. Once it is understood as a theory of society, Marxism can be ranged alongside other theories of society, compared with other theoretical approaches which seek to understand society. Through this comparison, emphasis falls on the continuity rather than the discontinuity between Marxism and the mainstream theories of social science. Thus, Marx the economist is seen as a critical disciple of Ricardo, Marx the philosopher as a critical disciple of Hegel and Feuerbach; in Marxist sociology, there has been discussion of enriching Marxism with the insights of Weber; in Marxist political science, especially in


the writings of many who claim to derive their inspiration from Gramsci, it is assumed that the purpose of a theory of the state is to understand the reproduction of capitalist society. The understanding of Marxism in disciplinary terms, or as a theory of society, leads almost inevitably to the adoption of the questions posed by the mainstream disciplines or by other theories of society. The central question posed by mainstream social science is: how do we understand the functioning of society and the way in which social structures reproduce themselves? Marxism, in so far as it is understood as a theory of society, seeks to provide alternative answers to these questions. Those authors who look to Gramsci to provide a way of providing a way of moving away from the cruder orthodoxies of the Leninist tradition, have been particularly active in trying to develop Marxism as a theory of capitalist reproduction, with their emphasis on the category of ‗hegemony‘ as an explanation of how capitalist order is maintained. The attempts to use Marx‘s own categories to develop a theory of capitalist reproduction are, however, always problematic, in so far as the categories of Marxism derive from a quite different question, based not on the reproduction but on the destruction of capitalism, not on positivity but on negativity. The use of Marxist categories to answer the questions of social science inevitably involves a reinterpretation of those categories — for example a reinterpretation of value as an economic category, or class as a sociological category. The attempt to use Marxist categories to construct an alternative economics or an alternative sociology is always problematic, not because it involves a deviation from the ‗true meaning‘ of ‗true Marxism‘, but because the categories do not always stand up to such reinterpretation. Thus, these reinterpretations have often given rise to considerable debate and to a questioning of the validity of the categories themselves. For example, once value is reinterpreted as the basis for a theory of price, then doubts can be (and have been) raised about its relevance; once ‗working class‘ is understood as a sociological category describing an identifiable group of people, then doubts can fairly be raised about the significance of ‗class struggle‘ for understanding the dynamic of contemporary social development. The integration of Marxism into social science, far from giving it a secure home, actually undermines the basis of the categories which Marxists use.[9] The understanding of Marxism as a theory of society gives rise to a particular type of social theory which can be described as functionalist. In so far as Marxism emphasises the regularities of social development, and the interconnections between phenomena as part of a social totality, it lends itself very easily to a view of capitalism as a relatively smoothly self-reproducing society, in which whatever is necessary for capitalist reproduction automatically happens. By a strange twist, Marxism, from being a theory of the destruction of capitalist society, becomes a theory of its reproduction. [10] The separation of class struggle from the laws of motion of capitalism leads to a separation between revolution and the reproduction of capitalist society. This does not necessarily mean that the idea of revolution is abandoned: it may indeed be given up (in the name of realism), but often it is simply taken for granted (in the way that class struggle is taken for granted in so much Marxist analysis), or relegated to the future. Thus, in the future there will be revolution, but in the meantime, the laws of capitalist reproduction operate. In the future, there will be a radical break, but in the meantime we can treat capitalism as a self-reproducing society. In the future, the working class will be the subject of social development, but in the meantime capital rules. In the future, things will be different, but in the meantime we can treat Marxism as a functionalist theory, in which the ‗requirements of capital‘, a phrase which recurs frequently in Marxist discussions, can be taken as an adequate explanation of what does or does not happen. The emphasis on reproduction, combined with an analysis of reproduction as class domination, leads to a view of society in which capital rules and capital‘s will (or requirements) prevails. Rupture, then, if the idea is maintained at all, can only be seen as something external, something that is brought in from outside. Functionalism, or the assumption that society should be understood in terms of its reproduction, inevitably imposes a closure upon thought. It imposes bounds upon the


horizons within which society can be conceptualised. In Marxist functionalism, the possibility of a different type of society is not excluded, but it is relegated to a different sphere, to a future. Capitalism is a closed system until, until the great moment of revolutionary change comes. Consequently, social activity is interpreted within the bounds imposed by this closure. The relegation of revolution to a distinct sphere shapes the way in which all aspects of social existence are understood. Categories are understood as closed categories rather than as categories bursting with the explosive force of their own contradictions, as categories containing the uncontainable. That which might be (the subjunctive, the denied) is subordinated to that which is (the indicative, the positive which denies) ... at least until. Twist and turn the issue as one may, the notion of scientific Marxism, based on the idea of an objective understanding of an objective course of history, comes up against insuperable theoretical and political objections. Theoretically, the exclusion of the subjectivity of the theorist is an impossibility: the theorist, whether Marx, Engels, Lenin or Mao, cannot look at society from outside, cannot stand on the moon. Even more damaging, the theoretical subordination of subjectivity leads to the political subordination of the subject to the objective course of history and to those who claim to have a privileged understanding of that course. V The tradition of ‗scientific Marxism‘ is blind to the issue of fetishism. If fetishism is taken as a starting point, then the concept of science can only be negative, critical and selfcritical. If social relations exist in the form of relations between things, it is impossible to say ‗I have knowledge of reality‘, simply because the categories through which one apprehends reality are historically specific categories which are part of that reality. We can proceed only by criticising, by criticising the reality and the categories through which we apprehend that reality. Criticism inevitably means self-criticism. In the tradition of scientific Marxism, criticism does not play a central role. Certainly there is criticism in the sense of denunciation of the evils of capitalism; but there is no criticism in the sense of the genetic criticism of identity. To be blind to fetishism is to take fetishised categories at face value, to take fetishised categories without question into one‘s own thought. Nowhere has this been more disastrous in the tradition of orthodox Marxism than in the assumption that the state could be seen as the centre point of social power. A Marxism that is blind to the question of fetishism is inevitably a fetishised Marxism. [11] The core of orthodox Marxism is the attempt to enlist certainty on our side. This attempt is fundamentally misconceived: certainty can only be on the other side, the side of domination. Our struggle is inherently and profoundly uncertain. This is so because certainty is conceivable only on the basis of the reification of social relations. It is possible to speak of the ‗laws of motion‘ of society only to the extent that social relations take the form of relations between things.[12] Non-fetishised, self-determining social relations would not be law-bound. The understanding of capitalist society as being bound by laws is valid to the extent, but only to the extent, that relations between people really are thingified. If we argue that capitalism can be understood completely through the analysis of its laws of motion, then we say at the same time that social relations are completely fetishised. But if social relations are completely fetishised, how can we conceive of revolution? Revolutionary change cannot possibly be conceived as following a path of certainty, because certainty is the very negation of revolutionary change. Our struggle is a struggle against reification and therefore against certainty. The great attraction of orthodox Marxism remains its simplicity. It provided an answer to the revolutionary dilemma: a wrong answer, but at least it was an answer. It guided the revolutionary movement to great conquests that, in the end of the day, were not conquests at all, but dreadful defeats. If, however, we abandon the comforting certainties of orthodoxy, what are we left with? Is our scream not then reduced to the childishly naïve and self-deceptive appeal to the idea of justice, do we not return, as Luxemburg mockingly


warned, ‗to that lamentable Rosinante on which the Don Quixotes of history have galloped towards the great reform of the earth, always to come home with their eyes blackened'? No, we do not. We return, rather, to the concept of revolution as a question, not as an answer. Footnotes 1. See Gunn‘s critique of ‗historical materialism‘: Gunn (1992) 2. This crude understanding of dialectics is surely at the basis of Negri‘s rejection of dialectics, for example. 3. For a helpful discussion of this period, see chapter 2 of Smith (1996). 4. The oft cited idea of the ‗organic intellectual‘ introduced by Gramsci makes little difference in this respect: the organic intellectual is simply one of ‗the more intellectually developed proletarians‘ who have the task of introducing the correct line into the proletarian class struggle. See Gramsci (1971), pp. 3-23. 5. Subcomandante Marcos claims that the main lesson which the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) learnt from the indigenous inhabitants of the Lacandon Jungle was to listen: ‗That is the great lesson that the indigenous communities teach to the original EZLN. The original EZLN, the one that is formed in 1983, is a political organisation in the sense that it speaks and what it says has to be done. The indigenous communities teach it to listen, and that is what we learn. The principal lesson that we learn from the indigenous people is that we have to learn to hear, to listen.‘ (Unpublished interview with Cristián Calónico Lucio, 11 November 1995, quoted by Holloway (1998) p. 163. 6. On the treatment of class struggle as an ‗of course‘, see Bonefeld (1991). 7. For a critique of the work of Hirsch in this sense, see Bonefeld (1991) and Holloway (1991c). 8. Poulantzas, in particular, devoted considerable effort to providing a foundation for a Marxist political science in the structuralist idea of the ‗relative autonomy of the political‘. See particularly Poulantzas (1973). 9. Repeatedly, discussions which begin as a defence of Marxist categories within a disciplinary perspective lead to a questioning of the disciplinary perspective itself. The defence of the Marxist concept of value, for example, leads back to an insistence on the difference between the study of economics and the Marxist critique of economics, and on the lack of continuity between Ricardo and Marx. 10. An important and influential example of this is regulation theory, which seeks to understand capitalism in terms of a series of ‗modes of regulation‘. For a critique, see Bonefeld and Holloway (1991). 11. For a helpful discussion of the fetishisation of Marxism, in relation to recent Marxist debates, see Martínez (2000). 12. To reduce freedom to the insight into necessity, to knowledge of the laws of motion of society, as Engels does, is thus to treat people as objects. This, as Adorno points out, has had ‗incalculably vast political consequences‘: see Adorno (1990), p. 249.


Cyril Smith Karl Marx and Religion
Source: ―Karl Marx and Religion‖ was written for ―Marx Myths and Legends‖ by Cyril Smith in March 2005, and rights remain with the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. It is vital to understand the meaning of Marx to grasp his ideas in relation to his development. In this connection, his conception of religion is one of the most important aspects of his notions. As early as 1842, he wrote: I desired there to be less trifling with the label ‗atheism‘ (which reminds one of children, assuring everyone who is ready to listen to them that they are not afraid of the bogy man), and that instead the content of philosophy should be brought to the people. (Letter to Ruge, November 24, 1842.) It was quite easy to deal with religion by just being against it, but that was not good enough. ‗Everybody knows‘ that Marx wrote about religion being the opium of the people, so we shall look at the entire passage from which this comes. The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d‘honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. (Critique of Hegel‘s Philosophy of Right. Introduction.) ‗Everybody‘ thinks that Marx was saying that religion was dope manufactured by the ruling class to keep the masses happy. The real Marx, however, was concerned with much more weighty problems. Among other things, he was thinking about how an abstract human being could exist. He concludes that one could not. ‗Man is the world of man, state, society‘, and the conception of God was a necessary conception in an ‗inverted world‘. Once the world was right side up, the idea would not be needed. Meanwhile we should pay attention to it. The Critique of Hegel‘s Philosophy of Right: Introduction contains Marx‘s first mention of the proletariat. His views now took on more critical political-economic ideas, following Engels‘ brilliant essay, Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, which Marx was pleased to publish in the Deutsch-Franzosiche Jahrbuecher. (The trouble with Engels‘ views on political economy was that this was the limit of his work. See Friedrich Engels and Marx‘s Critique of Political Economy, Capital and Class, 62.) Reading a French translation of James Mill‘s Elements of Political Economy, Marx takes up Mill‘s banal definition of money as the medium of exchange. Man becomes the poorer as man, i.e., separated from this mediator, the richer this mediator becomes. Christ represents originally: 1) men before God; 2) God for men; 3) men to men. Similarly, money represents originally, in accordance the idea of money: 1) private property for private property; 2) society for private property; 3) private property for


society. But Christ is alienated God and alienated man. God has value only insofar as he represents Christ, and man has value only insofar as he represents Christ. Marx is certain that his view of money as the mediator is necessary to comprehend the situation of the proletariat. Any easy rejection of this view would be as useless as atheism. The Paris Manuscripts, penned in 1844, returns to this theme. Since the real existence of man and nature has become evident in practice, through sense experience, because man has thus become evident for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man, the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man -- a question which implies admission of the unreality of nature and of man -- has become impossible in practice. Atheism, as a negation of God, has no longer any meaning, and postulates the existence of man through this negation; but socialism as socialism no longer stands in any need of such a mediation. (MECW, Vol. 3, p. 306.) At this time, in 1843-4, Marx thought of himself as a follower of Feuerbach. But even this thinker, beloved of atheists, was not one of them. His target was not so much religion but theology, the formal study of God, ‗the worst enemy of the awakened spirit‘. But, as Marx was to realise, Feuerbach was concerned to awaken man, but as an isolated individual. Some time in 1845, Marx scribbled eleven Theses on Feuerbach, and Theses 3, 4 and 6 particularly turn on the questions of religion. Thesis 4. Feuerbach starts off from the fact of religious estrangement [Selbstentfremdung], of the duplication of the world into a religious, imaginary world, and a secular [wetliche] one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. He overlooks the fact that after completing this work, the chief thing still remains to be done. For the fact that the secular basis lifts off from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be explained by the inner strife and intrinsic contradictoriness of this secular basis. The latter must itself be understood in its contradiction and then, by the removal of the contradiction, revolutionised. Thus, for instance, once the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, former must itself be annihilated [vernichtet] theoretically and practically. Thesis 6. Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man [menschliche Wesen = ―human nature‖]. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence is hence obliged: 1. To abstract from the historical process and to define the religious sentiment regarded by itself, and to presuppose an abstract -- isolated -- human individual. 2. The essence therefore can by him only be regarded as ―species,‖ as an inner ―dumb‖ generality which unites many individuals only in a natural way. Thesis 7. Feuerbach consequently does not see that the ―religious sentiment‖ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual that he analyses belongs in reality to a particular social form. Marx, in these brief summaries, has thus cleared out of the way Feuerbach‘s treatment of the human individual. His ‗awakening‘ of man is seen to be as a social atom, and not what Marx is striving for. Let us jump now to Marx‘s chief work, which took much more than his lifetime to complete. (Its completion, by the proletarian revolution, is not yet achieved!) We begin with a quote from the Grundrisse, the first attempt at a critique of political economy as a whole. "An example in the religious sphere is Christ the mediator between God and man mere instrument of circulation between them - becomes their unity, God-man, and as such


becomes more important than God; the saints more important than Christ; the priests more important than the saints. (Grundrisse, MECW, Vol. 29, p. 257.) This return to our familiar theme, is part of the exposition of Marx‘s of his explanation of the central importance of money. But his treatment of this notion in Capital is not the same as that we have seen in the other extracts. The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and rational form. The veil is not removed from the countenance of the social life-process, i.e. the process of material production, until it becomes production by freely associated men, and stands under their conscious and planned control. This, however, requires that society possess a material foundation, or a series of material conditions of existence, which in their turn are the natural and spontaneous product of a long and tormented historical development. (Capital, p. 173.) Here, Marx brings together his views on religion and his historical view of the communist revolution and the growth of production generally. He relates religion to the effort to unite human beings without really understanding the sweeping historical forces which have separated them. One more quotation, from a piece of Capital, the so-called ‗Sixth Chapter‘, omitted from Volume 1, maintains this historical outlook. This antagonistic stage cannot be avoided, any more than it is possible for man to avoid the stage in which his spiritual energies are given a religious definition as powers independent of himself. What we are confronted by here is the alienation [Entfremdung] of man from his own labour. (Capital, p. 990.) Here, Marx has set out his conception of religion in the light of his notion of the stages of history as a whole. First, humans see themselves as a local community, with their local gods. Then, in the era of money and exploitation, God Almighty rules over all. Finally, there is no use for Him, as humans freely govern their own lives.


Z. A. Jordan The Origins of Dialectical Materialism
Source: From Z.A. Jordan‘s book ―The Evolution of Dialectical Materialism,‖ published by Macmillan, 1967. This chapter of the book is reproduced for noncommercial, educational purposes only, and no permission is granted to reproduce the text. In the history of Marxian thought the publication of Anti-Dühring (Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwalzung der Wissenschaft) turned out to be an epoch-making event. Originally planned as a polemical tract with a narrowly defined objective of no more than transitory importance, [1] Anti-Dühring gained the distinction of being the canonical statement of the doctrine which came to be known as dialectical materialism and acquired great renown all over the world. Engels is the founder of dialectical materialism but he never used its now familiar name, calling it simply ‗modern materialism‘. While he saw its modernity in being dialectical, [2] that is, in the application of dialectics to the phenomenon of nature, he left it to Plekhanov and Lenin to coin the new term ‗dialectical materialism‘.

Although the term ‗dialectical materialism‘ is of later origin, there is no doubt that the oldest and most authoritative exposition of the doctrine itself is to be found in AntiDühring. Dialectics of Nature, published posthumously only in 1925, is another important source of our knowledge about dialectical materialism. But while Anti-Dühring gives a text fully approved and twice revised by Engels himself, Dialectics of Nature is only a collection of fragments, notes, and other materials for private use, accumulated by Engels in the years 1873-83 in preparation for a book which he never managed to complete. [4] Therefore, it is Anti-Dühring rather than Dialectics of Nature that should be regarded as Engels‘s fully considered formulation of dialectical materialism. The commonly accepted view that Engels wrote Anti-Dühring in close collaboration with Marx has considerably enhanced its authority and reputation. I. The Significance of Anti-Dühring In the spring of 1876, in response to the pressing demands of his political friends in Germany, [5] Engels finally decided to settle accounts with Eugen Dühring (1833-1921), Marx‘s detractor and short-lived rival for the intellectual leadership within the German Social Democratic Party. While feeling duty-bound to face Dühring‘s challenge, Engels was also disgruntled and in private complaining to Marx of having to ‗go after the scalp of the boring Eugen Dühring‘. [6] In the Preface to the first edition of Anti-Dühring Engels emphasized that his book was by no means the fruit of any ‗inner urge‘. He undertook the task of refuting Dühring‘s ‗new socialist theory‘ only because it was imperative to prevent sectarian quarrels and splits from developing within the Party. The popularity of Dühring was symptomatic of the revival of utopian socialism which replaced the ‗materialistic basis‘ of socialism ‗by modern mythology with its goddesses of Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity‘. [7] Since Marx and he had tried to emancipate the German workers from sentimentality and socialistic day-dreams for decades, they could not allow some ‗muddleheads‘ to influence the leaders of German socialism with their ‗silly, stale, and reactionary‘ utopianism. However, he undertook the polemical task reluctantly, for Dühring was not a serious opponent and on his account he was forced to neglect more important work. Although Engels thought that his exposure of Herr Dühring‘s ‗banalities‘ and ‗sublime nonsense‘, necessary as it appeared at that time, would soon become useless and fall into oblivion, two more editions of Anti-Dühring were published before Engels died in 1895 and many more after that date. [8]


Engels clearly had no inkling that his polemical examination of Dühring‘s views would make history. The opponents of Engels in his dispute with Dühring were no more perspicacious. When Anti-Dühring first began appearing in the Vorwarts by instalments, some of its readers described it as ‗completely without interest‘ and the annual congress of the German Social Democratic Party, held in Gotha in May 1877, nearly decided to suppress it altogether. Anti-Dühring was saved from being withdrawn from further publication by the transfer from the main columns to a theoretical supplement of Vorwarts.

From its first publication Anti-Dühring gained the reputation of being, next to The Communist Manifesto, the most successful work that came- as it has been believed- from the pen of Marx and Engels. Moreover, it is widely accepted that no book except Capital has done as much as Anti-Dühring for the dissemination of Marxian thought. Antonio Labriola called it ‗the most accomplished‘ and ‗the un-excelled book in the literature of socialism‘. [10] According to Lenin, Anti-Dühring ‗is a wonderfully rich and instructive book‘. [11] For Plekhanov the first part of Anti-Dühring was the main and the most authoritative source from which the philosophical views of Marx and Engels could be learnt. [12] Karl Kautsky conceded that Capital was an altogether more powerful book but added that ‗only owing to Anti-Dühring did we learn to read and understand Capital the right way‘. [13] As Engels himself observed, Anti-Dühring provided the most detailed account of historical materialism; [14] it has remained, ever since, one of the most authoritative. Few people, if any, who are interested in the views of Marx and Engels would disagree with Bertrand Russell‘s opinion that the clearest statements of the materialist conception of history are to be found in Anti-Dühring. The passage of time has confirmed these impressions and views about Anti-Dühring. As his biographer Gustav Mayer observed, what Engels considered as a thankless task turned out to be ‗the decisive blow for the conversion of Continental social democracy to Marxism‘. In Anti-Dühring the original views of Marx and Engels were revealed for the first time in simple and lucid language to a whole generation of social democratic leaders, writers and thinkers, to men like Bebel, Bernstein, and Kautsky in Germany, Plekhanov and P. B. Axelrod in Russia, Victor Adler in Austria, Labriola and Turati in Italy. Only upon the publication of Anti-Dühring ‗were a real Marxian school and a real Marxian tradition created on the Continent of Europe‘. [15] Furthermore, at the suggestion of Paul Lafargue, Marx‘s son-in-law, Engels extracted three chapters, the most relevant and free from polemics, from Anti-Dühring, which Lafargue translated into French and published in La Revue Socialiste and under separate cover in 1880. This pamphlet, known in its English version under the title Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, caused, to Engels‘s delight, a ‗real revolution in the heads of the French‘. [16] It was translated in its author‘s lifetime into ten languages and became as famous and widely read as The Communist Manifesto. While the circumstances to which Anti-Dühring owes its existence have long been forgotten, the book has not lost its significance many years after its publication, but continues to be read and, rightly or wrongly, is a recognized source of knowledge of Marxian theories. 2. The Prevailing View of the Intellectual Partnership of Marx and Engels Dialectical materialism as formulated in Anti-Dühring has been traditionally regarded as the common product of Marx and Engels. [17] Some contemporary writers go even further and attribute dialectical materialism to Marx exclusively. According to G. A. Wetter, Marx may ‗be considered as the founder of dialectical materialism‘. [18] In the opinion of Henri Levebvre, the extension of la dialectique concrete a la nature was accomplished by Marx and only followed by Engels under Marx‘s close supervision and approval. [19] While eschewing this extreme point of view, others firmly dismissed as groundless the idea that Marx and Engels could differ in their views concerning the problems of the philosophy of nature. [20]


The only justification of the traditional belief that Anti-Dühring represents not only Engels‘s but also Marx‘s Naturphilosophie comes from Engels himself. I must note in passing that inasmuch as the mode of outlook expounded in this book was founded and developed in far greater measure by Marx, and only in an insignificant degree by myself, it was understood between us that this exposition of mine should not be issued without his knowledge. I read the whole manuscript to him before it was printed and the tenth chapter of the part of economics (From the Critical History) was written by Marx. ... As a matter of fact, we had always been accustomed to helping each other out in special subjects. [21] It is easy to understand why Engels‘s account has been accepted uncritically by practically everybody. Engels‘s statement in Anti-Dühring merely brought out with specific reference to a particular issue what people had always felt to have been the case in general, namely, that the views of Marx and Engels were without exception absolutely the same. Franz Mehring emphasized the identity of thought and intellectual development of Marx and Engels and Gustav Mayer followed in his footsteps. [22] Heinrich Cunow was confident that Engels wrote nothing without the approval of Marx, who was even in the habit of seeing the proof sheets of what Engels was about to publish. [23] M. M. Bober, an American scholar, wrote that ‗the two friends thought and worked together and it would be impossible to dissever the thoughts of one from those of the other. Even if the task were possible, it is doubtful whether it would yield fruitful results.‘ [24] Both friends and foes, and among the former, persons as different as Karl Kautsky, Plekhanov, Lenin, Karl Vorlander, or Sir Isaiah Berlin are in full agreement that, as Kautsky put it, ‗ the totality of Marx‘s and Engels‘s literary production constitutes a spiritual union (eine geistige Einheit)‘. [25] According to Vorlander, from 1845 [26] Engels‘s philosophical development was interlinked in every respect with that of Marx and they could no longer be differentiated. Marx‘s philosophical views may be inferred from those of Engels and what Engels said about his friend‘s contribution and assistance behind the scene is inherently reliable. [27] This must also have been the belief of Lenin, who in his essay Karl Marx drew almost exclusively upon the works of Engels to outline Marx‘s conception of materialism and dialectics. R. N. Carew Hunt described Anti-Dühring in Lenin‘s manner as ‗the best general exposition‘ of Marx‘s philosophical views, [28] and Sir Isaiah Berlin went even further, for he claimed that Engels ‗understood his friend‘s new, only half articulated ideas sometimes better than he understood them himself‘. [29] It is clear from this wide range of opinions that according to the common implicitly or explicitly accepted assumptions one cannot and should not differentiate the views of Marx from those of Engels, for those views were perfectly identical. The two friends were intellectually twin brothers whose achievements constitute a living unity. There is no reason to dispute the fact that during Marx‘s lifetime Engels, with his knack of writing quickly and clearly and with his talent for popular exposition, often interpreted Marx‘s main doctrines. It is right to emphasize that frequently it was owing to Engels that others first came to understand how Marx viewed the course of history and what inferences he drew from his interpretations. After Marx‘s death the authority of Engels, Marx‘s lifelong friend and editor of his manuscripts, increased enormously. Engels‘s likeable character, his admirable honesty and humanity, his unswerving loyalty to Marx, his intellectual honesty and common sense, implicitly induced trust and confidence in his testimony. He considered himself and was recognised by others as the faithful and rightful guardian of Marx‘s original thought. This does not necessarily provide the guarantee that Marx‘s thought is to be found authentically in Engel‘s writings. The fact that Engels was the recognized interpreter of Marx‘s system and that he was also a writer in his own right prompts the re-examination of the whole question concerning Engels‘s intellectual relationship to Marx.


3. Engels‟s Tradition in the Interpretation of Marx It was Sidney Hook who in the early thirties challenged the accepted opinion that from the beginning of their personal, intellectual, and literary friendship the views of Marx and Engels were identical. Considering the indisputable fact that they were minds of a different order, the alleged identity of views is highly implausible. In a letter to J. P. Becker, Engels frankly confessed that ‗in Marx‘s lifetime I played second fiddle‘. [30] He wrote to Franz Mehring with his unfailing and self-revealing modesty that Marx was a man with a ‗more rapid coup d‘oeil and wider vision‘ than himself. If after Marx‘s death he was given more credit than he deserved, ‗history will set this right in the end‘. Engels felt sure that: What Marx accomplished, I would not have achieved. Marx stood higher, saw further, and took a wider and quicker view than all the rest of us. Marx was a genius, we others were at best talented. [31] Engels never tired of emphasizing that it was owing to Marx alone that ‗socialism became a science‘. Marx made the two great discoveries, namely, he revealed the secrets of capitalist production in his theory of surplus-value and formulated the materialist conception of history. Although the second of these discoveries was attributed to both Marx and Engels, Engels claimed for himself ‗only a very insignificant share‘ and publicly and consistently discounted any suggestions to the contrary. The greater part of its leading basic principles in the realm of economics and history and their final trenchant formulations belonged to Marx; he limited his own share to their elaboration and application. Similarly, The Condition of the Working Class in England represented only one phase of the embryonic evolution of modern socialism which was ‗since [then] fully developed as a science, chiefly and almost exclusively through the efforts of Marx‘. Notwithstanding Marx‘s appreciative references to The Condition of the Working Class in England and Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy Engels held unflinchingly to the position that ‗what I contributed... Marx could very well have done without me‘. [32] Engels‘s self-effacement may have been exaggerated and was actually excessive. That Engels was Marx‘s intellectual inferior is a fact, however, of which not only Engels himself was aware but which was also recognized by others, including some of the greatest admirers of Engels. [33] On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that because Engels had neither the inventive genius nor the deep historical and social insight of Marx, they were divided by a gulf of more important differences of opinion. On the whole, it is enough to assume, as Hook did, that Engels gave a characteristic twist to the doctrine of Marx. [34] The emphasis given by Engels to Marxian thought consists in viewing it as a monistic system concerned with the ultimate constituents and laws of the universe rather than as an application of a unified method. Thus, for instance, Engels gave final currency to the belief that Capital was an exposition of a system of political economy, and not a critical, sociological, and historical analysis of a particular socio-economic formation, undertaken from the standpoint of the class-conscious proletariat of Western Europe and, above all, eine Streitschrift, as Eduard Bernstein put it. In philosophy, a similar shift was accomplished, for Marx, who, after his break with Hegel, was uninterested in academic metaphysics and the theory of knowledge , was presented by Engels as a supporter of dialectical materialism and naive realism. But Marx did not embrace Engels‘s modern materialism; neither did he accept Engels‘s theory about sensations being images or copies of the objects of the external world. These doctrines are incompatible with the views to be found in Marx‘s works, with his ‗naturalistic activism‘ and the conception of sensations as ‗forms of practical, sensory activity‘. [35] If Engels had never published Anti-Dühring, and this might easily have happen considering the circumstances of its publication, nobody would have regarded Marx as a dialectical materialist in Engels‘s sense. Marx‘s own works do not contain the basic assumptions of dialectical materialism and do not justify the application of this label to


their author. As has been mentioned earlier, apart from Engels‘s account in the Preface to the second edition of Anti-Dühring, which was written and published after Marx‘s death, there is no other evidence that Marx dissociated ‗history‘ from ‗nature‘ or differentiated between ‗dialectical‘ and ‗historical‘ materialism and regarded the former as logically prior to the latter. Marx did not disavow the responsibility for the views expounded by Engels, but he need not have seen any necessity for doing so; he might have felt that there was no danger of a work of Engels being construed as an exposition of his own philosophical beliefs. In the Preface to the first edition of Anti-Dühring, published in Marx‘s lifetime, Engels said that the criticism of Dühring‘s philosophy gave him the opportunity to set forth ‗my views on controversial issues which are today of quite general scientific and practical interest‘. [36] He suggested nowhere that what he wrote committed Marx in any way. Quite a different problem is the question as to what was Marx‘s opinion about Engels‘s peculiar combination of science and speculative philosophy, and the most plausible answer is that Marx did not trouble to make up his mind about it. At that time Marx was entirely engrossed in his own work, above all in the completion of the remaining volumes of Capital, which increasingly prevented him from becoming interested in matters unrelated to his main task. In 1873 Marx‘s health began deteriorating seriously and there was constant fear that he might suffer a stroke. Although Marx temporarily rallied his ebbing strength, thanks to an extended medical treatment, annual visits to the seaside and Karlsbad, a complete recovery was never achieved. Having completed the second edition of the first volume of Capital (1872) and the editing of its French translation (1875), he kept up his vast correspondence but wrote practically nothing apart from short articles. In 1878, that is, the year of the first publication of Anti-Dühring, Marx suffered a relapse of bad health and was able to do no more work, even on Capital (the last revisions and editions incorporated in the second volume of Capital date from 1878). About the same time the anxiety concerning his wife, who was suffering from cancer, began in earnest. Frau Marx died in December 1881 and, as Engels said, on the day of her death ‗the Moor also died‘. [37] One year later (January 1883) Marx suffered the second painful blow, the sudden death of his eldest daughter Jenny Longuet. There were, therefore, ample reasons why Marx should have showed little interest in what Engels was doing, especially since at first they both regarded a reply to Dühring as a task too unimportant to be bothered about. There is really no need to explain why Marx allegedly acquiesced in the attribution of Engels‘s doctrine to him, for no such attribution was actually made during his lifetime. Marx was probably entirely unaware, and he had every right to be so, of the implications which were to be drawn from Anti-Dühring with respect to his own philosophical beliefs. The fully developed division of the ‗theory of Marxism‘ into dialectical materialism (providing the most general assumptions and procedures) and historical materialism (based on dialectical materialism and applying its laws to the study of society and history) can be found only in Marxism-Leninism, that is, in Lenin‘s interpretation of the doctrine attributed to him by Marx and Engels. But many basic Leninist ideas are contained in their rudimentary form in Anti-Dühring or are based upon the views of Engels expounded in this work. In particular, contrary to the views of some exponents, Engels tried to deduce dialectics of society from dialectics of nature and to provide the communist world outlook with a Naturphilosophie. [38] In the Preface to the second edition of Anti-Dühring Engels confessed that his work contained more than he originally intended to say. He realized post factum that in his examination and refutation of Dühring‘s doctrine his ‗negative criticism became positive‘ and that ‗the polemic was transformed into a more or less connected exposition ofÉ the communist world outlook‘. This comprehensive system which, in his opinion, was the common property of Marx and himself, comprised the views presented to the world in The Poverty of Philosophy, The Communist Manifesto, and Capital as well as


some ‗positive conceptions‘ developed alongside the polemic against the philosophy of Dühring. [39] The latter ranged over a vast area of subjects, both practical and scientific, and dealt, to use Engels‘s own words, ‗with everything under the sun and with some others as well‘. As he frankly conceded, he followed Dühring into realms where at best he could only ‗claim to be a dilettante‘ and had ‗to exercise great caution‘. [40] Engels was aware that he went further than he originally planned. He knew that he overreached himself and was uneasy about it, although later his self-criticism gave way to the pleasure which the success of Anti-Dühring aroused in the author‘s breast. Notwithstanding Engels‘s original uneasiness, Anti-Dühring became the main source of knowledge about ‗the philosophy of Marx and Engels‘. Unintentionally and somewhat unknowingly Engels established the tradition which ascribed to Marx a coherent monistic system of materialistic metaphysics in the accepted sense of this term, comprising a philosophy of nature, a theory of society, and a view of history, all three derived from a common set of first principles and logically supporting each other. Anti-Dühring is the original and most important source of this tradition and, in particular, of the false belief that the materialist conception of history is closely connected with or deducible from philosophic materialism. It was in this way that at the turn of the century Anti-Dühring was read by the first generation of students and followers of Marx. ‗As its name already shows,‘ wrote Bernstein, ‗the materialistic conception of history closely hangs together with a materialist world outlook.‘ [41] The same view was voiced by Ludwig Woltmann, who claimed that ‗historical materialism is only a special application of dialectical materialism to the history of mankind, for history itself should be conceived as a segment of the universal natural process (Naturprozess)‘. [42] Plekhanov conceded that the ‗general public‘ often used the term ‗Marxism‘ to refer to historical materialism, but he asserted that this was not correct and that historical materialism cannot be separated from ‗philosophical materialism‘ to be found ‗fairly fully set forth, although in a polemical form, in the first part of Engels‘s book Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwalzung der Wissenschaft‘. [43] It has rightly been said that the doctrine of Marxism, as understood by Plekhanov, came into being in the period separating the death of Marx from that of Engels. [44] Engels‘s philosophy was taken to be a faithful presentation of Marx‘s original views and acquired the status of Marxian orthodoxy. Engels‘s interpretation of Marx, later codified by Lenin and Stalin into the canonical doctrine of so-called Marxism or Marxism-Leninism, was, however, subject to some important revisions. In the early twenties Georg Lukacs maintained that when Engels extended Marxian dialectics outside the realm of history and society, he misunderstood Marx entirely. [45] About the same time Karl Korsch argued that Marx‘s historical materialism did not need the support of philosophical materialism or even of the materialism expounded by Engels in Anti-Dühring. [46] Similarly, a few years later Sidney Hook claimed that Marx did not conceive of dialectical materialism as a doctrine of nature, distinct from a theory of society and history, for the attempt to apply the dialectics to nature was incompatible with his basic position. [47] Sidney Hook was supported by Bertrand Russell and, more recently, by a number of other scholars and historians. [48] If the view of these writers is essentially correct and Anti-Dühring does not provide a substantially true account of Marx‘s philosophy, the question arises as to how Marx‘s philosophic position should still be described. 4. The Naturalism of Marx and the Dialectical Materialism of Engels Marx believed that man is an object of nature; that his mind or soul is not a supernatural entity; that there is an essential unity of mind and body; and that human behaviour can be explained by means of empirical hypotheses to be tested by the procedure accepted in natural science. But these beliefs do not make of Marx a dialectical materialist, nor even a materialist in the usual sense of the word unless naturalism and materialism are considered identical.


Naturalism is usually defined as the view which regards mind as part of nature and demands that it should be investigated by the same method as that applied to other parts of nature. This brief statement is not incorrect but it does not do justice to all essential beliefs of naturalism and might lead to the confusion of materialism and naturalism. Naturalism comprises a cosmological and methodological component. [49] As a cosmological doctrine, naturalism claims the self-sufficiency of nature, rejects the primacy of mind, accepts ontological pluralism, and emphasises the basic significance of the categories of time, space, and causality for the knowledge of the world. As a methodological conception, naturalism asserts that we can have reliable knowledge only of such objects as can be investigated by scientific method. Scientific method is not identified with the procedures applied in physics or biology, but with certain accredited ways or standard procedures of acquiring knowledge, such as observation, experiment, and inference, of which different sciences make use in different ways, determined by the subject-matter and the technical means available. As a rule the naturalist combines the methodological conception of naturalism with some naturalistic cosmological principles which expose him to the objection of being a concealed materialist. Marx has constantly been described as a materialist, a name which he himself did not renounce and did not wish to disclaim, and contemporary naturalism is often criticized for disguising its true nature by using a misleading name. [50] The methodological premises of naturalism imply that human behaviour can be adequately explained in terms of causal laws of the same sort as those which govern the conjunction and sequence of natural phenomena, without resorting to the teleological order of events, to ideals, values, spirit, or normative standards. To accept the existence of only such objects as can be studied by scientific method does not necessarily imply metaphysical materialism. It is important to realize this distinction although it was not clearly made and applied in the times of Marx; Marx himself used ‗materialism‘ and ‗naturalism‘ synonymously, perhaps because he defined materialism as the opposite of Hegelian spiritualism, that is, as the view which denies the independent existence of mind without matter. While materialism, in some sense of the term, may be a true doctrine, it can never be known to be true. On the other hand, while materialism may be false, it can never be disproved. Since naturalism is compatible with both the truth and falsehood of materialism, naturalism cannot imply materialism and still less be identical with it, as some philosophers seem to believe. Naturalism is not a metaphysical but rather an epistemological and methodological doctrine. It is a systematic reflection upon the procedures applied in the acquisition of knowledge about the world and not a system of beliefs concerning the ultimate constituents of the world. If the naturalism of Marx should be differentiated from the dialectical materialism of Engels, the problem arises as to how the latter emerged from the former. To answer this question, the problem has first to be extended. Naturalism is closely related to positivism and clearly opposed to metaphysics or speculative philosophy. To regard Marx as a naturalist philosopher seems to militate, therefore against the accepted view of Marx being deeply affected by Hegel and sharply critical of Comte and positivism. On the other hand, dialectical materialism is hostile to positivism and favourably disposed to speculative philosophy. This particular combination of intellectual attitudes appears in turn to be incompatible with the view that Engels is the founder of dialectical materialism, for he is, or is widely considered to be, a positivist rather than a Hegelian. In order to disentangle this intricate cluster of conflicting influences and intellectual loyalties, the impact of Hegelianism and French positivism upon Marx and Engels has to be re-examined. There is much evidence that in their formative years both Marx and Engels were affected by these two schools of thought, which at the time were the major centres of philosophical attraction. While the examination of the relation of Marx and Engels to Hegelianism and positivism has an inherent interest of its own, it also affords an


occasion for defining and explaining the important differences in their respective philosophical positions. It may also help towards an understanding of how dialectical materialism, a conception essentially alien to the philosophy of Marx, emerged from and replaced the naturalism of Marx. Historically, the incompatibility of naturalism and positivism on the one hand and Hegelianism on the other is not as unquestionable as it might appear. F. A. Hayek introduced the term ‗Hegelian positivism‘ to denote a trend among those thinkers- Ernest Renan and Hippolyte Taine in France, Marx and Engels in Germany, Benedetto Croce in Italy, John Dewey in the United States- who succeeded in combining the ideas derived from Hegel and Comte. [51] ‗Hegelian positivism‘ is an apt expression to designate Engels‘s dialectical materialism. As presented in Anti-Dühring, dialectical materialism combines the elements of three different trends of thought, namely, the naturalism of Marx, Hegelian philosophy, and French positivism. The contribution of each of these trends to the final outcome has to be examined before the historical development and logical analysis of dialectical materialism are undertaken. Notes 1. Engels exclaimed, ‗I have him on the hip now‘, when at the planning stage he outlined the content of Anti-Dühring and disclosed the tactics which he intended to follow in rewarding Dühring ‗according to his just deserts‘. See Engels‘ letter to Marx of 28 May 1876. 2. Engels, AD, p. 39. 3. Plekhanov, Zu Hegel‘s sechzigsten Todestag (SAHD), originally published in Neue Zeit in 1891, and Foreword to the Russian translation of Engels‘s Ludwig Feuerbach (FNLF), published in 1892. For the first time, Lenin used the expression ‗dialectical materialism‘ in What the ‗Friends of the People‘ Are, published in 1894. 4. As Engels himself imformed us, since Marx‘s death his time was required for more urgent duties, that is, the publication and republication of the works and manuscripts left by Marx, above all, of the remaining volumes of Capital, and Engels was thus compelled to lay aside his own studies. Although he hoped that he would return to them one day, the opportunity never materialised. See Engels, AD, p. 19. 5. In the Special Introduction to the English edition of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels explained the political reasons why it ‗became necessary to take up the gauntlet thrown down to us [i.e. By Dühring], and to fight out the struggle whether we liked it or not‘. 6. Engels‘s letter to Marx of 28 May 1876. 7. Marx‘s letter to F.A.Sorge of 19 October 1877. 8. Originally Anti-Dühring appeared in Vorwärts, the central organ of the united German Social Democratic Party. The first instalment was published in January 1877, and the last in July 1878, one and a half years later. As a separate book the first edition of AntiDühring appeared in 1878, the second in 1885, and the third in 1894. 9. F. Mehring, Karl Marx, p. 512. The scandal caused by Anti-Dühring within the German Social Democratic Party was not restricted to Dühring‘s supporters. Many people were shocked by the violence of Engels‘s language and the content of his attack upon the blind Privatdozent at Berlin University who publicly defended socialism and was persecuted by the authorities for this heinous crime. It was widely believed at that time that Dühring suffered persecution only because of his political convictions and Engels himself rose to his defence in the Preface to the second edition of AD. According to K. Vorlander, Karl Marx, pp. 251-2, this was not, however, the case. The ostensible reason why the University Senate deprived Dühring of veniam legendi was because of his offensive attacks on Helmholtz and other Berlin scientists. Apparently there was not other path for the Senate to take, since at that time Dühring‘s alleged conceit rose to the height of a megalomaniac delusion. Whatever the true reasons responsible for Dühring‘s loss of his Privatdozentur at


Berlin University were, his scholastic reputation was considerable - no lesser man than Ernst Mach spoke highly of him in Science of Mechanics (Preface to the first German edition) - and Engels‘s malice was both out of place and unjustifiable. When it came to defending Marx against his opponents, the kind, gentle, and modest Engels was quite capable of outdoing his friend in sarcasm, irony, invective, and ridicule. 10. A. Labriola, Socialism and Philosophy, pp. 24 and 53. 11. Lenin, ‗Frederick Engels‘, CW 2, p.25. 12. Plekhanov, FPM, p.3. Lenin repeated this evaluation in ‗Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Dietzgen‘, CW 19, p. 79. 13. K. Kautsky, Aus der Fr&uum;l;hzeit des Marxismus, p. 15. 14. Engels‘s letter to J. Bloch of 21 September 1890. 15. G. Mayer, Friedrich Engels, Bd. 2, p. 285. Cf. D. Riazanov, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, p. 210. 16. Engels‘s letter to E. Bernstein of 8 August 1882. See E. Bernstein, Die Briefe von Friedrich Engels an Eduard Bernstein, p. 75. The German version had the title Die Entwicklung des Socializmus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft and was first published in 1883 with the year 1882 on the cover page. It was preceded by a Polish translation which appeared in Geneva the same year as the French. The English translation was first published in 1892. 17. See, e.g., Lenin, MEC, pp. 19, 246; Sombart, Der proletarische Socializmus, Bd. I, pp. 122-6, 212. 18. G. A. Wetter. DM, p. 40. Wetter changed his view entirely in Die Umkehrung Hegels, pp. 28-38. 19. H. Lefebvre, Le Materialisme dialectique, p. 90. 20. See, e.g., D. Joravsky, Soviet Marxism and Natural Science, p. 6. 21. Engels, AD, p. 14. 22. F. Mehring, Karl Marx, p. 231; G. Mayer, Friedrich Engels, Bd. I, pp. 172-3, 226-7. Cf L. Woltmann, Der historische Materialismus, pp. 212, 293. 23. H. Cunow, Die Marxsche Geschichts-, Gesellschafts- und Staatstheorie, Bd. I, Vorwart. 24. M. M. Bober, Karl Marx‘s Interpretation of History, Preface. 25. K. Kautsky, Aus der Frühzeit des Marxismus, p. 395. 26. This qualification is important for such of Engels‘s publications as Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy (1844) and The Conditions of the Working Class in England (1845) make it clear that Engels was at first ahead of Marx. It was Engels, says Gustav Mayer, who opened Marx‘s eyes to the facts of economic life. 27. K. Vorlander, Kant und Marx, pp. 66-67. 28. R. N. C. Hunt, The Theory and Practice of Communism, p. 37. 29. I. Berlin, Karl Marx, p. 101. 30. Engels‘s letter to J. P. Becker of 15 October 1884. 31. Engels‘s letter to F. Mehring of 14 July 1893; LF, p. 349 n. See also Engels‘s letter to E. Bernstein of 14 March 1883, and to F. A. Sorge of 15 March 1883. 32. Engels, HCL, pp. 311-122; LF, pp. 324, 349 n.; Preface to the English edition of CWC, p. 22; Marx, CPE, pp. 13-14; Werke, Bd. 19, p. 181. 33. See, e.g., Lenin, Frederick Engels, CW 2, p. 26; M. Eastman, Marx and Lenin, p. 27; G. Mayer, Friedrich Engels, Bd. 2, pp. 351-2. 34. S. Hook, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx, pp. 29. Cf. Bocheriski, SDM, p. 22, first published in 1950, where a similar view is expressed. 35. S. Hook, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx, pp. 29-33. Cf. M. Adler, Marx als Denker, p. 129. 36. Engels, AD, p. 10. 37. F. Mehring, Karl Marx, pp. 501, 526-8; D. Riazanov, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, pp. 205-6.


38. See, e.g., G. Mayer, Friedrich Engels, Bd. 2, p.323. Mayer argued that Communism had a cosmic and metaphysical meaning for Fourier but not for Engels, who, accepting the possibility of a thermal death of the universe, was a cosmic pessimist. On this account Engels was allegedly unwilling to speculate about the constitution of the universe and to establish his historical and social theories on the foundations of a philosophy of nature. 39. Engels, AD, p. 10. 40. Ibid., p. 12; Engels‘s letter to Marx of 28 May 1876. 41. E. Bernstein, Zur Geschichte und Theorie des Sozialismus, p. 323. 42. L. Woltmann, Der historische Materialismus, p. 264. 43. Plekhanov, FPM, pp. 1-2. 44. G. Lichtheim, Marxism, p. 235. 45. G. Lukacs, Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein, p. 17. 46. K. Korsch, Karl Marx, pp. 167-71, where the main conclusions of his Marxismus und Philosophie, first published in 1922, are summarized. 47. S. Hook, From Hegel to Marx, pp. 75-76. 48. B. Russell, Freedom versus Organisation, ch. xviii; H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, p. 314; J.-Y. Calvez, La Pensée de Karl Marx, pp. 374-82, 408, 416; L. Kolakowski, Karol Marks I klasyczna definicja prawdy, pp. 46-54; L. Landgrebe, Das Problem der Dialektik, pp. 50-51; I. Fetscher, ‗Das Verhältnis des Marxismus zu Hegel‘, p. 94; J.-P. Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, tome I, p. 129; R. C. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, p. 183; G. Lichtheim, Marxism, pp. 245-6. 49. For a more detailed discussion of the distinctive characteristics of naturalism see R. W. Sellars, Realism, Naturalism, and Humanism, in particular p. 274, and E. Nagel, Logic without Metaphysics, pp. 7-9. 50. See, e.g., C. J. Ducasse, Nature, Mind and Death, pp. 219-22; M. Farber, Naturalism and Subjectivism, p. 3. 51. F. A. Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science, pp. 194, 204.


Maximilien Rubel The Legend of Marx, or “Engels the founder”
Source: Rubel originally prepared his ―Gesichtspunkte zum thema ‗Engels als Begründer‘‖ as a paper in German for the ―Internationale wissenschaftliche EngelsKonferenz‖ of May 1970 in Wuppertal, but first published it in French in 1972 as ―La Légende de Marx ou Engels fondateur‖ in Études de Marxology, Série S, No. 5. Socialisme : Science et Ethique. This version is translated from the French by Rob Lucas for ―Marx Myths and Legends‖ and is covered by the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. Note from the author In May 1970, upon the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Engels, the town of Wuppertal had organised an international scientific conference. This occasion brought together around 50 specialists from more than 10 European countries, as well as Israel and the United States whose task was to take stock of modern research on the thought of he who is universally taken to be, alongside his friend Karl Marx, one of the founders of ―Marxism‖. Invited to participate in this conference, I intended to submit as a text for the discussion a series of critical theses centred on the theme of Engels‘s responsibility for the genesis of the dominant ideology of the 20th century: ‗Marxism‘. It had seemed to me normal and urgent to share my critical reservations, in the context of a more ‗scientific‘ than commemorative event, to an audience informed of the problems in the evolution of ideas in relation to the events and upheavals that have marked the 20th Century. I had therefore presented the organisers a document in 8 points, written in German, which I had titled ―Gesichtspunkte zum thema ‗Engels als Begründer‘‖. To my surprise, upon arrival in Wuppertal, I was received by the conference officials who informed me of a certain predicament: my Soviet and East German colleagues, being personally offended when reading my ―Viewpoints‖, were threatening to leave the conference if my contribution was not retracted from the debate! After laborious negotiation we came to an agreement on a formula which seemed likely to calm the irritation of these ‗scientific‘ representatives from ‗socialist‘ countries: the texts would no longer be read from the platform, but merely commented upon and discussed. It would be tempting to recount the details of the debate if the objections had merited the term ‗scientific‘, and if the behaviour of certain participants hadn‘t translated as a complete refusal to engage in a discussion that risked putting in question the range of ideological positions of ‗marxism-leninism‘. At the same time, this obstinate if not insulting refusal, was enough to confirm to the eyes of an impartial observer the fundamental criticism that can be directed at the use of this concept of ‗Marxism‘, the erroneous use of which was precisely what my ―Viewpoints‖ denounced[1]. The epilogue to this conference was to further underline the solid grounding of a critique which, in the form of a simple semantic reflection, in fact represented a defence of Marx‘s social theory in opposition to Marxist mythology. As it turned out, the organisers were not afraid of avoiding the elementary rules of editorial policy generally respected in ‗bourgeois‘ democracies: the text (submitted at the request of the officials) was not included in the volume of collected contributions that were submitted prior to the conference[2]. Habent sua fata libelli...[3] We here present a translation of the text refused by the conference at Wuppertal, with some supporting commentary. Viewpoints on the Theme of “Engels the Founder” ―For the ultimate final triumph of the ideas set forth in the Manifesto, Marx relied solely upon the intellectual development of the working class, as it necessarily has to ensue from united action and discussion.‖


-F. Engels, Preface to the 1890 German edition of the Communist Manifesto I Marxism did not enter the world as an authentic product of Karl Marx‘s way of thinking, but was conceived in Friedrich Engels‘ mind. Insofar as the term ‗marxism‘ conceals a rational concept, it is not Marx but Engels who carries the responsibility; and if today Marx‘s argument retains a priority, it is principally related to problems for which Engels did not find more than a partial solution, or with which he did not concern himself. Therefore, if these problems can be resolved at all, this can only be with the help of Marx himself. By no means does this mean that Engels must be excluded from discussion, but it is legitimate to question the extent to which he should be taken into account in any dealings with the writings of Marx which escaped his attention. In more general terms the question can be thus formulated: what are the limits of Engels‘ competence in his role as uncontested executor of Marx‘s intellectual legacy, to which we still appeal to elucidate the material and ethical problems of our time? II This interrogation must examine a central problem – that of the intellectual relationship between Marx and Engels, ‗founders‘ of a collection of ideological and political concepts artificially grouped under the name ‗marxism‘. The fact that this question must be posed itself reveals a very characteristic phenomenon of our epoch, which one might now call the ‗myth of the 20th Century‘. We should recall that the ‗founders‘ sometimes themselves evoked mythological interpretation to underline the peculiar character of their friendship and intellectual collaboration: Marx was not being ironic in invoking the example of antique ―Dioscures‖ or that of Orestes and Pylade, whilst Engels mocked the rumour according to which ―Ahriman-Marx‖ had led ―OrmuzdEngels‖ astray[4]. There is equally an opposite tendency, with increasingly frequent efforts to oppose Marx to Engels: the first would be the ‗true‘ founder, the second reduced to the rank of mere ‗pseudo-dialectician‘[5]. III Any investigation into the relationship between Marx and Engels is in advance destined to fail if it does not clear away the legend of the ‗foundation‘ and does not take for a methodological point of departure the aporia of the concept of Marxism. It was the merit of Karl Korsch, when twenty years ago at the threshold of a radical revision of his intellectual positions, to have attempted a critique of Marxism which amounted to a declaration of war. However, Korsch simply did not dare commit the act of sweeping away the concept of Marxism and it‘s mythological residues. Instead, he tried to remove this difficulty through the usage of linguistic artifices destined to conserve and to save the ―important elements of the Marxist doctrine‖ with a view to the ―reconstruction of a revolutionary theory and practice‖. In his ―Ten Theses on Marxism Today‖ Korsch moves indiscriminately between speaking of the ―teaching of Marx and of Engels‖, ―Marxist doctrine‖, the ―doctrine of Marx‖, ―Marxism‖ and so on[6]. In the fifth thesis, concerning the question of the precursors, founders and continuators of the socialist movement, Korsch goes so far as to omit the name of Engels, the alter ego of Marx! Yet he was not far from the truth when he wrote: ―Today, all attempts to re-establish the Marxist doctrine as a whole in its original function as a theory of the working classes social revolution are reactionary utopias.‖ Korsch could as well, and more accurately, have spoken of ―absurd mythologies‖ in place of ―reactionary utopias‖. IV In view of the impossibility of rationally defining the meaning of the concept of Marxism, it seems logical to abandon the word itself, yet it is so commonly and so universally employed. This term, degraded to the point of merely being a mystificatory slogan, carried from its birth the stigma of obscurantism. Marx struggled hard to undo this when, in the last years of his life, his reputation had broken the wall of silence which


surrounded his work, and he made this categorical declaration: ―ce qu‘il y a de certain c‘est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste‖[7]. However revealing, the fact that Engels bequeathed this warning to posterity does not relieve him of the responsibility of having given in to the temptation of lending the stamp of his authority to this unjustifiable term. Charged with being the guardian and the perpetuator of a theory, the elaboration of which he admitted to not having contributed more than a modest part [8], and glorifying Marx‘s name in an attempt to repair the damage, Engels inadvertently promoted the genesis of a superstition, the negative consequences of which he could not have known. Today, sixty years after his death, his efforts are perfectly clear. When Engels decided to appropriate the terms ‗marxist‘ and ‗marxism‘ from his adversaries in order to change a hostile name into a name of honour, he could hardly have expected that, through this gesture of defiance (or was it resignation?), he would become the godfather of a mythology destined to dominate the twentieth century. V The genesis of Marxist myth can be traced to the conflicts within the International. The need to hurl abuse at the opponent and their partisans made the ‗anti-authoritarians‘, with Bakunin at their head, inventive enough to create such terms as ‗marxites‘, ‗marxists‘, and ‗marxism‘. Gradually Marx‘s disciples in France developed the habit of accepting these denominations which they had not created and which destined them to be distinguished from other socialist factions, so that finally these terms became political and ideological labels. From then on only the authority of Engels was necessary to sanction the usage of these terms, the ambiguity of which may not have been evident to those who used them. Engels was from the outset energetically hostile to their usage; he knew better than anyone that it risked corrupting the profound significance of a teaching that should have been considered the theoretical expression of a social movement and by no means as a doctrine invented by an individual for the benefit of an intellectual elite. His resistance did not weaken until when, in 1889, the dissent between, on one hand the ‗possibilists‘, ‗blanquistes‘ and ‗broussistes‘, and on the other hand the ‗collectivists‘ and ‗guesdistes‘, threatened to cause a rupture in the movement in France, each faction having decided to organize its own international Workers‘ Congress. Engels‘ predicament is obvious; he attempted to avert danger of confusion and of verbal and ideological corruption by using inverted commas to speak of ―Marxists‖ and of ―Marxism‖, and by speaking of ―so-called Marxists‖. When Paul Lafargue expressed his apprehension in seeing his group pass for a ―faction‖ amongst others in the Workers Movement, Engels replied ―we have never called you anything other than the ‗so-called Marxists‘ and I cannot know what to call you otherwise. If you have another name as short, tell us and we will duly call you that with pleasure.‖[9] VI If Nietzsche published Ecce Homo for fear of one day being canonized by disciples for which he did not at all wish, the same precaution did not seem necessary in the case of Marx, even though he had not written and published more than a fragment of his projected oeuvre. Nevertheless, the printed and unpublished material which he had bequeathed to posterity amounted to a rigorous formal prohibition against linking his name to the cause for which he had fought, and to a teaching for which he believed himself mandated by the anonymous mass of the modern proletariat. If Engels had respected this prohibition as Marx‘s executor, and had applied his veto to the abusive term, the universal scandal of ‗marxism‘ would never have seen the light of day; but Engels committed the unpardonable error of supporting this abuse, and thus acquired the dubious honour of being the first ‗Marxist‘. It is tempting to see it as the punishment of destiny that, believing himself heir, he was in truth the founder – albeit involuntarily – of ‗Marxism‘. The ―irony of history‖ which Engels loved to invoke had played a cruel trick on him. He thus became a prophet in spite of himself when on his 70th birthday he pronounced the regretful words: ―my destiny willed that I harvest the honour and the glory sowed by a greater man than I; Karl


Marx‖[10]. For his 150th anniversary, we must acknowledge in Engels the contestable merit and the more dubious title of ‗founder of Marxism‘. VII In the history of Marxism and the cult of Marx, Engels is at the forefront. We are familiar enough with the human and quasi-religious aspect of this friendship, which does not require particular analysis. On the other hand, what necessitates a thorough examination is the effect of the friendship as much upon Marx himself as on his epigones and his distant disciples. Always ready to act as pioneer of Marx‘s theories, Engels expressed many ideas which Marx could not, of course, accept without critique; the silence of Marx can be explained by his desire to scrupulously respect the solidarity which he held with his friend. We cannot confirm the extent to which he should be identified with everything that Engels had said or written, but this problem is minor, considering his acknowledged admiration for the intellectual gifts of his friend: after all, he considered himself Engels‘ disciple[11]. That which Marx did not allow himself has today become a strict duty: we must break the bewitching charm of this legend, and determine the place of Engels‘ oeuvre in the development of the intellectual inheritance of socialism, in relation to the destiny of the workers‘ movement. VIII It is only if one understands that Engels had the makings of a founder that one will grasp the reasons for which he went about the duties of editor and perpetuator of the manuscripts of Marx in a manner which, today more than ever, demands some critique [12]. The writings of Marx neglected by Engels (amongst others the preparatory works for the doctoral thesis, the Kreuznach anti-Hegelian manuscript, the economico-philosophical sketches of Paris and of Brussels, the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1858 (The Grundrisse), the numerous workbooks and the correspondence with third parties) did not only place the researcher and specialist before entirely new interpretive problems; they erected new categories and created new generations of readers who could not and would not content themselves with the stereotyped phraseology of professional Marxists. The real imperative is to understand a world and to live and act in a time when ideology, mechanization and manipulation of consciousness are allied with pure violence, to change the world into a vale of tears. § The theses sketched here above constitute the introduction to a debate whose essential theme must be the problem of Marxism as the mythology of our era. The question of the extent to which Engels can be held responsible for the genesis of this universal superstition is secondary to the extent that we can affirm, if we recognize the teaching of Marx the ‗materialist‘, that ideologies- amongst which Marxism in all its variants should be placed – do not fall from the sky; they are essentially bound to the class interests which are at the same time the interests of power. It is enough to recognize in Engels the legitimate inheritor of Marx‘s thought to denounce in his name and to his honour, the established ‗Marxism‘ as a school of confusion and misguided ways for our age of iron. M. Rubel, 1972. Footnotes 1. For a general survey of the debates at Wuppertal, cf. Henryk Skrypczak, ―International wissenschaftliche Engels-Konferenz in Wupperta‖ in International Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der Deutschten Arbeitebewegung (I.W.K.), no. 10, Berlin, June 1970, p. 62 ff. A summary of my viewpoints can be found ibid. p. 81 ff. 2. Friedrich Engels 1820-1970. Referate-Diskussionen-Dokumente. Internationale wissenschaftliche Konferenz in Wuppertal vom 25-29 Mai 1970, Hannover, Verlag für Literatur und Zeitgeschehen, 1970. My ―position‖ is commented upon in the following terms:


―In order to fulfill the program of the final day, the council of the conference had decided to give up the discussion after the 6th session, and to begin after the 7th with the general debate. Firstly, Maximilien Rubel was supposed to have continued (?) to expound his conception. He submitted a text to the conference which was a polemical formulation against Engels, but did not then present this text before the assembly (with good reason!). These 8 theses which were, in accordance with the author‘s intention, to provoke a debate on the actual significance of Marxism, may be summarised as follows: after Marx‘s death, Engels made great efforts to elevate the term ‗Marxism‘ formed by Marx‘s adversaries, to the rank of an intelligible and definable concept. In doing this, Engels became the founder of a hybrid system of thought which was alien to the intentions of Marx himself. After the death of Engels, the ideological germs of this system were transformed into a conceptual methodology necessarily dependent upon certain class conditions.‖ [p. 255 ff.] The report then mentions a polemic in opposition to mine, from a preceding session, from an East-German Marxist, about the concept of a ―historic mission‖, a controversy, ―in which Engels did not play more than an indirect role‖ [ibid.] Much could be said about the ―abridged report‖ which summarises my theses and the ―polemic‖ which they had provoked. I would simply affirm, however, that my text ―against Engels‖ was simply the critique of a historically negative act by the closest and most active collaborator of Marx, and against a certain school of Marxist thought, the existence of which constitutes the negation of all that Marx and Engels themselves did for socialist thought and the workers movement. I continue to believe that my contribution responded, more than any other, to the true ‗scientific‘ spirit of that conference, in the memory of he who invented the notion of ‗scientific socialism‘, and who equally identified this notion with ‗critical socialism‘. The conference could not offer a real homage to the man whom it intended to celebrate if it did not take as a guiding thread in its debates these words of Engels‘: ―The workers movement rests on the most rigorous critique of existing society. The critique is the vital element. How could it absent itself from critique, or prohibit debate?‖ (Engels to Gerson Trier, 18th December, 1889). 3. [editorial note:―books have their fate‖] 4. Cf. Marx to Engels, 20th January, 1864; 24th April, 1867. Engels to E. Bernstein, 23rd April, 1883. There are even instances in which the two friends are spoken of as if they acted as a single person: for example ―Marx and Engels says‖ (see Marx to Engels August 1st, 1856.) 5. See, for example, the opposition that Iring Fetscher established between Marx‘s ―philosophy of the proletariat‖, and that of Engels. Fetscher explores their different ways of envisaging the ―negation of philosophy‖ and the relation of human history to nature in the conception – which was unacceptable for Marx – of an objective dialectics of nature, and of thought as a reflection of reality. See I. Fetscher, Karl Marx und der Marxismus. Von der Philosophie des Proletariats zur proletarischen Weltanschauung, Munchen, 1987, p. 182 ff. See also Donald C. Hodges, ―Engels‘s Contribution to Marxism‖, The Socialist Register, 1965, p. 297-810, and Vladimir Hosky, ―Der neue Mensch in theologischer und marxisticher Anthropologie‖ Marxismusstudien, VII, 1972, p. 58-86. 6. See Karl Korsch, ―Dix thèses sur le marxisme aujourd‘hui‖, Arguments III, no. 16, 1959, p. 26 ff. The mimeograph of this text supports the date Zurich, 4th September, 1950. [editorial note – a translation of this text is available: Ten Theses on Marxism Today] 7. Engels specifies that this declaration was made by Marx with regards to the ―Marxism‖ which was rampant between 1879-1880 ―amongst certain of the French‖, but the blame also applies to a group of intellectuals and students within the German party; they, together with the opposition press, exhibited a distorted and disfigured ―Marxism‖ (see Engels‘s letter to the editors of Socialdemokrat, 7th September 1890, published in the journal, 18th September 1890). This quip of Marx‘s, so full of foreboding, was reported by Engels every time the occasion arose; see his letters to Bernstein, 3rd November, 1882, to Carl Schmidt, 5th August, 1890, and to Paul Lafargue, 27th August, 1890. G. A. Lopatine, the Russian revolutionary, met Engels to discuss the perspectives for Russian revolution in September 1883. He recounted


some details of their talks in a letter to a member of the Norodnaiia Voliia containing the passage: ―You should remember what I told you once – that Marx himself was never a Marxist. Engels reported that at the time of the struggle of Brousse, Malon, and Cie against the others, Marx said with laughter one day that ‗I can say just one thing; that I am not a Marxist!‘‖ See the extract from Lopatine‘s letter to M. N. Oshanina of 20th September, 1888, translated from Russian, in Marx-Engels-Werke 21, p. 489. However, there is no humorous tone to Marx‘s letters to his friend when, on a trip to France, he communicated his impressions of the arguments of the socialists in the competing congresses of the Possibilists in Saint-Etienne, and the Guesdists in Roanne in Autumn 1882. ―The Marxists and the anti-Marxists‖, he wrote, ―both types have done their best to ruin my trip to France‖ (Marx to Engels, September 30th, 1882). On his disagreement with the Russian ‗Marxists‘, see Marx to Vera Zasulich, 1881, on the possibilities of the Russian peasant commune. On the relations between Marx and Engels and their Russian disciples, see Die russische Kommune. Kritik eines Mythos, Herausgegeben von M. Rubel, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, 1972. 8. The formal declarations of Engels in this respect are too numerous to be recounted here. Let us say simply that there is not the slightest doubt regarding the paternity of the great scientific discoveries, which are all, without exception, attributable only to Marx. Of all his declarations, the most significant is perhaps the note inserted by Engels in a writing which was to demonstrate the continuity of German philosophy in elevating its most dignified inheritor, Karl Marx, to the rank of founder of a system. See Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1888. It is in this work that Engels made the official gesture of baptising the theory with Marx‘s name: ―Out of the dissolution of the Hegelian school, however, there developed still another tendency, the only one which has borne real fruit. And this tendency is essentially connected with the name of Marx.‖ Engels repeated this act in the note where he remarks that ―What Marx accomplished I would not have achieved. [...] Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It therefore rightly bears his name.‖ We should not then be surprised at the conclusion to this critique, which consecrates Marx as both inheritor and founder of a philosophical school: ―The German working-class movement is the inheritor of German classical philosophy.‖ Engels had thus cast the die. 9. Engels to Lafargue, 11th May, 1889. Once engaged in this verbal concession, Engels could no longer back out, and he had to go all the way. His mind was made up the moment he felt assured of the triumph of the collectivists led by Guesde and Lafargue: ―But the advantage gained over the anarchists after 1873 was put into question by their successors, and I did not therefore have a choice. Now that we are victorious, we have proved to the world that almost all of the socialists in Europe are ‗Marxists‘. It will drive them crazy that they gave us that name and they will be left with Hyndman to console them‖ (Engels to Laura Lafargue. 11 June, 1889). Ironically it is precisely the same Hyndman whom Marx had advised against referring to his name in the program of the new English party. ―In the party programs we should avoid everything which leads to the appearance of a direct dependence on a particular author or a particular book‖ (Marx to Henry Mayers Hyndman, 2 July, 1881). 10. Letter to the editors of the Berliner Volksblat, 5th December, 1890. 11. ―You know, primo, that I am always slower in getting onto things and, secundo, that I follow in your footsteps.‖ (Marx to Engels, 4th July, 1864). 12. See M. Rubel, Introduction to Karl Marx, Oeuvres: Economie II, Gallimard, Paris, 1968. See ibid. p. CXXVII ff., for the list of the discoveries which Marx regarded as being his own. Marx attributed to himself neither the founding of historical materialism, nor the discovery of surplus value. However, this attribution – an act of Engels‘s – was tacitly approved by Marx. See, for example, the account given by Engels in Das Volk, 1859, and the biographical article on Marx in Volkskalendar 1877.


Harry Cleaver Karl Marx: Economist or Revolutionary?
Source: Originally written for the Centennial Symposium on Marx, Schumpeter and Keynes held at the University of Colorado at Denver, August 20-22, 1983. Published in Suzanne W. Helburn and David F. Bramhall, eds., Marx, Schumpeter and Keynes: A Centenary Celebration of Dissent, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1986, pp. 121-146. Used with permission of the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialNoDerivatives Licence 2.0. During the last ten years Marxism has come to occupy a substantial position within American academia.[1] This is especially true in economics where, until recently, discussion of Marx and the Marxist tradition was largely confined to courses in the history of economic thought and in the economic history of the Soviet Union. [2] The rise of an academic Marxism has been due, I would argue, to two forces. First, the struggles of students within the context of the social upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s carved out time and space within which politically active students could study Marxism as apart of radical economics, insurgent sociology, and so on. [3] Second, university administrators and the business interests they generally represent have been surprisingly tolerant of the expansion of Marxist studies. [4] This reaction to student demands is not simply a case of the ―repressive tolerance‖ Marcuse described so vividly. [5] The current tolerance is due, more importantly, to the need of business for new ideas during the present period of economic and social crisis. [6] There is a long history of the capitalist appropriation of Marxist ideas which should lend credence to this suggestion. [7] Moreover, the numerous attempts in recent years in the business press and in professional economic journals to give space to radical ideas and to evaluate current Marxist economic research demonstrates the on-going interest of business and its ideologues in the possibility of appropriating something new from Marx. Nowhere has this tolerance been more obvious than in the area of Marxist research on the theory of economic crisis." [8] This willingness on the part of business to appropriate Marxist ideas and to use them for its own purposes has been largely ignored by Marxists working on the theory of crisis. They have, time and again, formulated their theories in ways that facilitate such appropriation.[9] Yet this is not necessary. There is a way to read Marx and to develop Marxist theory that does not lend itself to this kind of appropriation. In this essay I do two things. First, through a series of examples, I illustrate how, in the history of Marxist work on the theory of crisis, many have forgotten the revolutionary content of Marx‘s own work and thus left themselves open to the dangers of capitalist appropriation. Second, I suggest an alternative approach to the study and elaboration of Marx‘s analysis of crisis that makes its political and revolutionary content explicit and thus more immune to appropriation. Some Problems with Marxist Crisis Theory Recognizing the obvious interest of mainstream economists and of the business press in Marxian economics, and understanding the possibilities of the capitalist appropriation of our ideas, we should recognize real shortcomings to some of the theoretical work within Marxist economics. In the process of building an alternative economic paradigm acceptable within the academic community, too many Marxist students and Marxist economists have overemphasized ―economics‖ and lost Marx in the process (1974). The theory of crisis has always been a central issue in Marxist theory and indeed in Marx‘s own work. He was interested in both cyclical crisis, what is often called the business cycle, and fundamental secular trends undermining the long-term viability of the system. It is certainly because we are in the midst of a major crisis of the system that this aspect of Marxist research has been the one most closely followed by the business press. It


is because some Marxists have formulated crisis theory in ways comparable with bourgeois theories that business can hope to gain insight and use-value from their work. In Marx‘s own research, theory and empirical studies developed together. Probably the most important single leap forward in his thinking on this subject occurred during the crisis of 1857 when, during long nights of work, he sought integrate his empirical observations through the development of a new theoretical framework. The products of that period include both his newspaper articles and the notebooks known collectively as the Grundrisse. In those articles and notebooks are found a rich variety of historical and theoretical observations on various aspects of capitalist crisis. Some of those observations Marx later integrated into Capital and Theories of Surplus Value. It is in this wealth of material that we find Marx struggling to elaborate a political analysis of crisis from which he could draw strategic lessons for the working class movement. In the history of Marxism since Marx, however, including the present, the development of crisis theory has been disappointing. We can identify at least two striking shortcomings in this work. The first has been the tendency to focus on some narrow selection from Marx‘s work. This tendency, which Peter Bell (1977) has shown to produce one-sided, monocausal theories, involved a failure to digest the full range of Marx‘s work on crisis and has led to endless Marxological debates. For example, the debate between those Marxists who base themselves on Marx‘s comments on underconsumption and those who base themselves on his discussion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall has been going around in circles for over forty years and is nowhere near resolution. The second shortcoming of Marxist work on crisis, and the one I would like to explore here, concerns the tendency to think about crisis as a subject of ―economics‖ and to apply methods of analysis that closely parallel those of mainstream economics. This tendency not only leads Marxists to forget the political content of their categories and theories but also makes it easy for capitalist ideologues to examine and appropriate the theory for their own purposes. To illustrate this tendency I will examine a few examples from the history of Marxist crisis theory. Case Study 1: Rosa Luxemburg‟s The Accumulation of Capital (1968) Luxemburg was one of the most brilliant Marxists of the early twentieth century. Her revolutionary understanding of Marx made her the arch-foe of the social democrats of the Second International, and her closeness to the working class made her a severe critic of Lenin‘s elitism. Yet, when she turned to the project of developing a theory of accumulation and crisis she did what so many Marxists tend to do --she left her political acumen behind and got lost in an economic reading of Capital. As is well known, Luxemburg based her theory of crisis on Marx‘s analysis of reproduction in the second volume of Capital. She focused on Marx‘s schemes of expanded reproduction and, by studying their evolution through time, came to the conclusion that given realistic assumptions it was impossible for the necessary equilibrium between the two departments to be maintained because the production of commodities would outstrip the ability of the market to absorb them. Thus, she deduced both the necessity for crisis and for some ―outside‖ sector (e.g., imperial colonies) into which the excess products could be dumped. Her analysis constituted one moment of along debate among Marxists on the tendencies to crisis in capitalism that took as its basic analytical framework Marx‘s reproduction schemes. That debate had started with Tugan-Baranowsky‘s attack on underconsumptionism and his substitution of a theory of limited disproportionality between departments.[10] Luxemburg‘ s work was partially an attack on TuganBaranowsky and partly an attempt to find a basis for both a theory of crisis and a theory of imperialism. Luxemburg‘s book was followed by arguments by Nikolai Bukharin, Otto Bauer, Henryk Grossman, and others.[11] All of these authors approached the reproduction


schemes in the same manner as Luxemburg: as a basis for their reasoning about crisis, and as economists studying conditions of equilibrium. In modern terms they were reading Marx‘s reproduction schemes as a two- or sometimes a three-sector growth model.[12] Luxemburg, like the others, was studying stability conditions. Many years later, after Leontief‘s adaptation of those schemes had been incorporated into macroeconomic modeling, we would find capitalist planners doing something similar with multisectoral growth models. But where Luxemburg and these other Marxists were content with the observation that the model would (or would not) automatically generate contradictions and therefore that crisis was (or was not) inevitable under capitalism, the planners would use the model to help them figure out what adjustments could be made so that accumulation could proceed smoothly. At first glance one might say it was a stroke of genius to figure out this way of using Marx‘s schemes for the analysis of crisis. Were not these Marxists extending Marx? Marx had developed the reproduction schemes during his work on the Grundrisse. He did so within the context of examining some of the factors that could lead to the breakdown of accumulation. He was led to them through his examination of capital‘s problems of reproducing its social totality. As Mario Tronti has shown in his book Operai e Capitale (1966), the reproduction schemes constitute one approach to the examination of ―social‖ capital, where social capital includes not merely the sum of the individual capitals but also the production and reproduction of the working class and therefore the struggles of that reproduction.[13] This view of the schemes sees them not as schemata of purely interindustrial flows but as one approach to a political totality. This is absent in an economic reading of part 3 of volume 2. Luxemburg and the others deal with ―reproduction‖ the way contemporary growth theorists do --in a very narrow and fetishistic ―economic‖ way that leaves social and political relations out of account and reduces Marx‘ s problem to one of abstract quantitative proportionality. The result? I submit that this part of her analysis of crisis provides little of use to the working class other than a formal argument about the inevitability of imperialism. Case Study 2: Paul Sweezy‟s Theory of Capitalist Development (1942) and Monopoly Capital (1946) For almost thirty years, from the 1940s to the early 1960s, Paul Sweezy was, with Paul Baran, the best known Marxist in the United States. His books and his magazine Monthly Review educated the generation of Marxist economists who grew up in the 1960s and are today teaching in universities, schools, and shop-floors across the United States. Unlike Rosa Luxemburg, who was first and foremost a political activist and dug into Marx in the course of her political practice, Sweezy was first of all a scholar and an economist. Educated at Harvard under Alvin Hansen, one of the foremost interpreters of Keynes, Sweezy developed a theory of crisis that bears the clear marks of his profession and his background. If Marxist crisis theory today is above all a theory of economic crisis, it is partly due to Sweezy‘s pervasive influence. I want to discuss here only three parts of Sweezy‘s treatment of crisis theory in his books. The first is the treatment in his Theory of Luxemburg and of the other Marxists who based their work on Marx‘s schemes of reproduction. The second is his treatment and dismissal of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The third is his embrace of Marx‘s comments on the limits to working-class consumption as the valid core of crisis theory. In his Theory, when Sweezy turns to Luxemburg and the others I have mentioned, he evaluates their theory and criticizes it in its own terms. He presents the mathematics of the reproduction schemes and in good economic form sets out mathematically precise equilibrium conditions. In the case of Otto Bauer‘s work, Sweezy explicitly translates it into the form of a mathematical growth model. His evaluation of their work only involves questioning either their assumptions or details of their reasoning, never the general framework of a purely economic approach. As with most economists, accumulation for Sweezy is the accumulation of capital narrowly defined in terms of growing amounts of


money, means of production, mobilized labor, and commodities. It is for this reason he can work with the language and forms acceptable to Leontief or Harrod-Domar. When Sweezy turns to Marx‘s ―law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall,‖ he interprets it in a very typical economic fashion. By this I mean he assumes that the theory concerns forces acting on the actual monetary rate of profit. Secondly, when he uses the ―value‖ categories of variable capital (v), constant capital (c), surplus value (s), the rate of exploitation (s/v), and the organic composition of capital (c/v), he treats them exactly the way an economist would treat any variables: as mathematical quantities to be manipulated formalistically. Thus he notes that if the numerator and denominator of the rate of profit s/(c+v) are both divided by v, we obtain (s/v)/[c/v)+ 1]. This he likes because the rate of profit is now expressed in terms of the two categories that Marx is concerned with: the rate of exploitation and the organic composition of capital. On the basis of this expression he argues that the ―law,‖ is indeterminant because although c/v might rise faster than s/v, as c is substituted for v, we cannot be sure a priori because the rising productivity that accompanies the investment in constant capital lowers the value of c as well as that of v, and there is no way to predict which will fall most. Voila! So much for the ―law‖ Marx called the most fundamental and important law of capitalist development. As a result of Sweezy‘s argument there has been an almost endless flow of articles attacking or defending him on this subject. Among those Marxists most prominent in the attack have been Paul Mattick (1969b), Mario Cogoy (1973), and David Yaffe (1972), who have all defended the centrality and validity of the law. Most of these critiques have included an attempt to restate the law in a different mathematical form in order to recuperate it. Defenses of Sweezy‘s rejection have also been forthcoming from the man himself --repeatedly in the postwar period-- and from others on either theoretical (Roemer, 1978; 1979; 1981) or empirical (Weiskopf, 1979) grounds. And what are the essential points of the debate among all these Marxists? Are they political points? Hardly, they are not even political economic points. They are mainly mathematical and formalistic. In his summary of the debate Herb Gintis, writing in OIlman and Vernoff‘s (1982) book, says ―in general American Marxists have carefully scrutinized the mathematical theory on which the falling-rate-of-profit prediction is based, and have concluded that there is no such tendency.‖ What are we to say about this kind of Marxism? Certainly the similarity of the debate to the mainstream discussion on the same subject is striking. [14] If this is Marxian economics, then clearly the emphasis is on economics, not Marx. What we have here is a sanitized, seminar-room Marxism that has been stripped of its political content and class anger. This is a Marxism mainstream economists can understand and evaluate in their own terms. If more economists of this Marxian I. stripe are not getting tenure it can only be because either the mainstream judges f their work to be unproductive or because, like Rosa Luxemburg, their political actions in other areas are more militant than their theory. The last aspect of Sweezy‘s work that I want to examine, and one which has also generated a whole wing of contemporary Marxist crisis theory, is his interpretation of Marx‘s comments on the limits to working-class consumption. Sweezy‘s positive view of Marx‘s comments fit easily with a Hansenian interpretation of Keynes on inadequate aggregate demand and the views of both Hansen (1938; 1941) and Steindl (1952) on capitalism‘s tendencies toward stagnation. This interpretation of Marx as an underconsumptionist is again very much within the tradition of economics. From Malthus, whom Marx studied, through Hobson in the underground, to Keynes at the center of mainstream thought, the issue of the adequacy of demand to sustain and induce growth in output has been a central subject of debate. But, where Marx studied capitalist attempts to limit working-class income and working-class demands for ever higher income (as well as less work) as one important class contradiction in the system, Sweezy finds a justification for embracing a pessimistic Keynesianism in which it is the weakness of the working class that leads to crisis. So preoccupied is Sweezy


with studying the similarities and differences between Marx and Keynes that he included as an appendix to his book an essay by Tsuru that explicitly maps Marxian and Keynesian aggregate macro categories onto each other. Twenty years later, when Sweezy published Monopoly Capital, the book he had written with Paul Baran, he still embraced essentially the same position. But by this time Marxism provided little more than a rhetorical gloss on what might otherwise have been taken as the work of a liberal mainstream economist in the tradition of the neoclassical synthesis. In Monopoly Capital the analytical core of Sweezy and Baran‘s reasoning was a mixture of neoclassical firm theory and Keynesian macro theory. The title pointed to their central concern with defining the current stage of capitalism in terms of the structure of capitalist markets --monopoly as opposed to an earlier competitive state. Their discussion of the ―absorption of the surplus‖ amounted to a twist on the Keynesian problem of adequate aggregate demand. Gone almost completely from their analysis were Marx‘s theoretical categories based on the labor theory of value. In the place of surplus value, we found surplus; in the place of the problem of extracting surplus value, we found the problem of disposing of it. Whereas The Theory of Capitalist Development had at least the form of Marxian theory, Monopoly Capital adopted both the form and content (albeit with the authors‘ own critical approach) of mainstream economics. Only in the concluding chapters when they set aside economics and draw on Critical Theory‘s concepts of historical reason and capitalist irrationality did they retain much of the Marxian tradition -and the aspects they did retain derive more from Hegel than from Marx. When other Marxists began to attack Sweezy, his abandonment of Marx and his embrace of a Keynesian crisis theory of inadequate demand was one of their first points of departure. (See Mattick, 1969b; Cogoy, 1973; Yaffe, 1972.) In his responses to these attacks Sweezy (1974) back-pedalled and recast his underconsumptionism once more in Marxian theoretical terms. But it is not the details of that debate that interest me here. It is rather the way in which Sweezy‘s views, and a whole subsequent literature, formulated Marx‘s thoughts in the language and framework of economics. How can we be surprised when, in the late 1960s, many radical economists considered their real problem to be the discovery of how to adapt mainstream economics to the analysis of the subjects that concerned them? Many considered the legacy of Marx (whom most had not yet studied) to lie more in the identification of problems that were ignored by the mainstream than as a source of different theoretical tools. And when they did return to Marx, after having been raised on Baran and Sweezy and having followed Marxist debates on crisis that resembled in form, and even to some degree content, the debates of mainstream economics, should we be too shocked that they read Marx as an economist? I think not. Nor do I think we should be shocked that much of the contemporary Marxist crisis theory continues in the same vein. Case Study 3: The “Relative Shares” Literature The ―relative shares‖ literature includes most prominently the work of Glyn and Sutcliffe (1972) and followers in England, and that of Boddy and Crotty (1975) and followers in the United States (Crotty and Rapping, 1975). Briefly put, this is a brand of Marxist crisis theory that draws explicitly or implicitly on Marx‘s work on the role of the wage in crisis. This work includes the discussion in volume 1, chapter 25, of Capital, and Marx‘s analysis in Wages, Prices and Profit. At its core is the idea that workers, through their struggles, can and have pushed up income to the point where it undermines capitalist profits or the capitalist share of national output. Sometimes this argument is formulated in terms of wages, sometimes more broadly in terms of all income (wages plus benefits, plus government services, etc.). In most cases the theory is backed up by empirical studies that show that this has in fact occurred during the current crisis. Unlike the theories mentioned earlier, this one has an explicit political moment of class struggle. Underconsumptionism has an implicit moment of class struggle --the capitalist attempt to hold down wages-- although it is rather one-sided in its usual


interpretation. But in the relative shares literature, for almost the first time in the history of academic Marxism, the class struggle has been recognized and has found a place among economic models and mathematical formalisms. This clearly constitutes a refreshing departure from the kinds of economic crisis theories we have discussed so far. And yet, there are two problems that persist within this literature. The first is the tendency to confine the analysis of crisis to the sphere of circulation without recognizing how the demand for higher wages and income has complemented a simultaneous attack on the structuring of life around work. In short, the relative shares theorists have mostly failed to analyze the revolt against work and the crisis in production. Where the revolt against work has been recognized it has been interpreted as a rebellion against the degrading conditions of work within capitalism, but there has been no grasp of the way people‘s growing refusal to be reduced to mere workers has constituted a fundamental undermining of the capitalist order. Second, by confining the analysis of crisis to the struggle over the division of output, the relative shares theorists formulate the problematic of crisis in a way very similar to mainstream economic discussions of income distribution. This is a very old reformist terrain of discourse in which one debates the division of output but eschews discussion of overthrowing the wage system itself. Within this discourse conservative, pro-capitalist economists and commentators (such as those associated with the Reagan administration) respond to the decline in capitalist shares by calling for a redressing of shares --an attack on wages and social services. Liberal, pro-capitalist economists (such as neoliberals like Thurow) call for an incomes policy to stabilize shares in a proportion favorable to capital, yet not totally destructive of working-class standards of living. The radical critics are willing to grant the necessity of a social surplus for investment and growth but want a larger role for workers in determining the course of such investment. They want greater ―economic democracy"--a slogan and a policy which has become the clarion cry of today‘s social democrats. Thus, this relative shares version of Marxian crisis theory also falls within the scope of mainstream debates, albeit at the socialist fringe. Is this the best Marxism has to offer? Are these theories of crisis, formulated in the language and style of economics, all that can be gotten from Marx? Is Marxism, after all, just a subdivision of economics? Fortunately, the answer is no, this is not all there is --not even in the area of crisis theory, let alone other aspects of Marxism. There is an alternative way of reading Marx and Marx‘s theories of crisis that leads to quite different results. Marx the Revolutionary The alternative to the economic interpretation of Marx that I find the most useful is the reading of his concepts and theories as moments of his political analysis of capitalism as class struggle. This is what I call a political reading of Marx. The roots and development of this kind of political reading I have sketched in the introduction to my book Reading Capital Politically (1979). Among the best-known writers associated with this approach are C. L. R. James, Raya Duneyevskaya, Martin Glaberman, Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lafort (in the 1950s), Ranerio Panzieri, Mario Tronti (in the 1960s), Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Selma James, and Antonio Negri. [15] This approach explicitly rejects any ―economic‖ or ―political economic‖ analysis that sees Marx‘s work as focused on the economy, where economy is conceived in the usual sense of the spheres of production, circulation, and distribution. This approach insists that what is usually called the economic sphere is made up of moments of a political whole: the class struggle. Basic to this approach is the position that the object of Marx‘s study, and the only proper object for any revolutionary, is the class struggle. Let us be clear, this position denies the autonomy of the political --there is no economic sphere here and political sphere over there. The position argues that from the point of view of workers who want to overthrow capitalism there can be one and only one subject of study: the structures of their


power relations with capital. Everything must be interpreted in terms of its relation to this central political issue. It is not that the class struggle is being elevated to a new centrality in theory, or, in the case of, ―crisis theory,‖ , that class struggle is seen to be the ―cause‖ of crisis. Class struggle is neither a cause nor an effect. It is the whole, and Marx‘s analysis is seen to be concerned with the exploration of the forces at work within that whole. Therefore Marx‘s theory of crisis, like the theory of accumulation more generally, is a theory of the dynamics of the class struggle. When Marx says in Capital that accumulation is first and foremost the accumulation of the classes, we must recognize that this necessarily means the accumulation of the class relations of conflict and struggle. Accumulation certainly includes the expanded reproduction of money capital, commodity capital, productive capital, and so on, but these are understood to be, not things, but moments of the basic class relationship . This political reading of Marx is an interpretation that takes seriously his repeated admonition that capital is above all a social relation. It also takes seriously the Ilth Thesis on Feuerbach: that the point is to transform the world, and therefore any theory worth the title Marxist must not only embody the class relations but also playa self-conscious and explicit role in the struggle for transformation.[16] Part of what differentiates this approach from most other versions of Marxism is its way of looking at capital. For most Marxists, orthodox or revisionist, ―capital‖ is the totality of the capitalists and their capital. Its dynamic is derived from what they like to call its ―internal logic.‖ The driving force of this ―capitalogic,‖ according to them, is competition among capitalists. Within this framework, workers appear as outside factors capable of resisting the logic of capital, and even, in principle, of overthrowing it, but their struggles are reactive and only have the effect of throwing up barriers to capital‘s selfpropelled development. By reviewing the examples of crisis theory I have examined, one can see that the above characterization applies universally. Luxemburg, Sweezy, their supporters and detractors, and even the relative shares theorists see capitalism developing through its own ―internal laws of motion.‖ Whether we look at the dynamics of underconsumption, the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, or the profit squeeze, we see working-class struggle as external to capital‘s own logic. Underconsumption assumes at its core a limit to workers‘ ability to raise wages. In the case of the falling rate of profit, the drive to raise the organic composition of capital is usually taken to flow from competition. And in the case of the relative shares argument, the working-class struggle that undercuts accumulation appears as an exogenous threat to capitalist development. Within the alternative framework that I present here, to speak of crisis is to speak of a crisis of the class relation. In general, a capitalist crisis is therefore a crisis of capitalist control over the working class. Therefore, the so-called internal laws of motion of capital must be understood to be the general characteristics of the class struggle. Similarly, the categories of Marx‘s labor theory of value are concepts designed to lay bare the patterns and logic of that struggle. Within this framework, Marx is seen to be, above all, a militant theoretician of the subject, or more precisely, of two political and historical class subjects: the capitalist and working class. The ―laws of motion‖ Marx describes are the regularities capital is able to impose in the face of the struggles of an antagonistic opponent. The two historical subjects are fundamentally different in character, and that difference forms the core of their antagonism. Capital is a particular way of organizing the lives of human beings. Within capitalist society most people are members of the working class. They are under an endless and artificial compulsion to work, producing a surplus which capitalists either consume or, more importantly, reinvest to create ever more work. The capitalists, whether of the coupon-clipping leisure class or the modern corporate managerial hierarchy, are essentially


what Marx called ―functionaries‖ of capital as a way of organizing society. That is to say, their work, to the degree that they work, is the work of organizing the process of the accumulation of capital, whether in the sphere of production, circulation, or reproduction. Capital is self-reproducing, as orthodox Marxists often say, but only in the sense that it recreates the social conditions within which most people are forced to sell their labor power in order to survive. This is why the work ethic is central to capitalist ideologybecause it justifies the life sentences of hard labor that capital would like to impose on all of us. But the working class, those upon whom work is imposed, repeatedly breaks free of capitalist ideological and social controls and struggles against that imposition. As an historical subject workers form a true class for itself, in Marx‘s terms, only when they engage in such battles. Yet, there is something else even more fundamental that differentiates the workingclass subject and explains the antagonism that permeates every moment of capital and every category in Marx. It is the fundamental quality of creativity and change that workers have as human beings and that they struggle to liberate. This is what might be called the positive side of workers‘ struggle. Not only do they oppose the subordination of their lives to capitalist-imposed work, but they fight for their own autonomous development, or selfvalorization, as Toni Negri (1984) calls it. And because that development is autonomous and refuses all outside coercion, it tends to escape capital‘s efforts to bind it within its own forms. It is in this sense that capital, as one particular way of life, is frozen or dead, as Marx said. It only knows its own circuits. It only knows how to repeat the same forms and impose the same content, over and over again. Vampire-like, it can only draw its energy and life from others. It seeks to harness the spontaneous energy and creativity of human beings by limiting their autonomy and by turning them into workers in its factories and offices and into functionaries of its own existence. Critical Theorists grasped this truth. Their failure lay in not seeing how Marx‘s work contained elements of something they were unable to either conceive or construct on their own: a theory of working-class autonomy against capital and for its own selfdevelopment.[17] Most Marxists working on the theory of crisis see neither the autonomy of the working class nor the capitalist need to harness it. They read Marx‘s categories as they read the variables of mainstream economics, and they play the same games with them. But we do not have to do this. We can, instead, take those categories, slowly, one by one, and then in combination, and discover how they constitute categories of the class relations of struggle. We can give them a ―political reading‖ to discover their meaning for each class. And by doing this we can recuperate Marx‘s work on crisis, and maybe even some of the work done by our Marxist economists. This is a project that is already underway. Its historical and political origins I have sketched in the introduction to my book Reading Capital Politically. There I undertook a reinterpretation of the basic categories of Marx‘s labor theory of value to show how they could be read as categories of the class struggle over the organization of society around work. A more recent effort contains a first, systematic interpretation of Marx‘s writings on crisis as observations and theories of how working-class struggles rupture the processes of accumulation (Cleaver and Bell, 1982). Other recent materials and references to work on crisis carried out within this framework can be found in the journals Zerowork and Midnight Notes as well as in Red Notes (1980), Semiotext(e) (1980), and Negri (1984).[18] For the purposes of this essay I will restrict myself to the discussion of two aspects of this approach to Marxian crisis theory. The first concerns its ability to offer an alternative interpretation of those concepts of Marx which have been given an economic interpretation and used as the basis of theories of economic crisis. The second concerns the reduced susceptibility of this kind of interpretation of Marx to the kind of capitalist instrumentalization warned against above.


The Schemes of Reproduction and Class Struggle As mentioned previously, Tronti has provided the basis for an alternative reading of Marx‘s reproduction schemes. His rethinking of the material in volume 2 of Capital led him to see that the schemes provided one approach to the analysis of the total ―social capital‖ where social capital must be understood to involve not only the sphere of production but also that of reproduction. Tronti recognized that Department II of the schemes, which produces the means of subsistence, is providing not only for the reproduction of the workers in the industries of departments I and II but also for all others, including those in the reserve army whether active or latent. The concept of ―department‖ therefore must be conceived more broadly than a mere aggregation of factories. Department II refers to the sphere of working-class self-reproduction which includes the industries producing the means of subsistence but is not limited to them. In this vein, we can see that the very division of the economy into two departments producing means of production and means of subsistence corresponds to the class division in capitalist society. The means of production, after , all, constitute that part of production that is of most direct interest to capitalists. When they fight to maximize surplus value and investment they are, in effect, fighting to shift the distribution of workers‘ labor away from the products that directly interest workers (the means of subsistence) and toward the production of means of production. Conversely, Department II, which includes the production of means of subsistence, is of most direct concern to workers, and their struggles to raise wages and benefits at least partly tend to maximize the role of this department. Furthermore, the attempt by workers to reduce the amount of work they must give up to acquire the means of subsistence amounts to an attempt to subordinate the role of production in reproduction to the expansion of the time available for reproduction and self-valorization. From a working-class political point of view, these must be counted among the most essential characteristics of this part of Marx‘s analysis. This class perspective on the basic categories of the schemes of reproduction gives us away of looking at them in which they appear as determinations of the class relations of struggle. From a capitalist point of view, the relations between the departments are ones that must be managed, either by the price mechanism or by direct planning or by some combination of the two. The capitalists must expand output in Department I if they are to expand their investment in fixed capital and expand the imposition of work to new generations of workers-especially since part of that investment is labor displacing. At the same time, they must try to manage workers‘ demands for wages and the means of subsistence so that the working class can reproduce itself, but also limit Department II production so that it does not cut into Department I‘s share of inputs and share of output. Once we see that the distribution of resources across departments is something capital must fight for and try to manage in order to guarantee its own expanded reproduction, then the interest of capitalist economists in elaborating the schemes into input-output tables and multisectoral growth models is obvious. Whether the schemes be studied as a two-sector growth model or be elaborated into Leontief‘s giant one-hundredplus-sector models of contemporary economies, the object is clear enough. But why should Marxists do this? Marx certainly did not do it. Was it just because he didn‘t have time? Or was it because there is no need? We have seen what the capitalists gain: it helps them clarify the dimension of a problem they face. They want to see what is required to achieve accumulation. Since we are not seeking to spur accumulation but to rupture it, there is no reason to think that we need the same kind of information. Sometimes, it does help to understand what capital is trying to do in order to be able to anticipate and undermine it. But it is not clear that growth models provide that kind of information. And to the degree that they do, we can get the information from the models


that are being used to plan. That is certainly one reason why we need to study mainstream economics --to spy on capitalist planning. But what, if any thing, do we gain from the elaboration of Marx‘s reproduction schemes? If the work of Marxist economists to date is any indication, we don‘t gain much. Their debates on the inevitability of crisis have gone round in circles, with the conclusions derived depending on the assumptions made at the outset --as in any model. So far, after some eighty years of debate, it seems to me very little has been accomplished. For the future the burden is on those who would seek to use Marxian reproduction schemes beyond the use to which Marx put them --one way of clarifying some aspects of the class relation. The Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall and Class Struggle If the debate over crisis that has turned around the reproduction schemes must be judged rather fruitless, then so too has been the debate over the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Within this second debate many valid criticisms have been leveled against one or another argument. But, from the perspective of an interpretation of Marx that insists that his theories be read politically, the most basic criticism of the whole debate is that all of its participants think that the subject under discussion is the monetary rate of profit. Whether the position taken leads to the demand for empirical verification of the theory by examining the actual evolution of some average rate of profit, or whether it leads to an insistence on the theory‘s status as a statement of tendency that cannot be falsified because the actual rate of profit may be under the influence of other forces, there is never any doubt that it is the monetary rate of profit whose behavior is under study. [19] It is partly for this reason that the so-called transformation problem has been so important to these Marxists. Since they want to analyze the tendency of the rate of profit to fall at the level of money profits, they must be preoccupied with whether or not the monetary form of aggregate surplus value accurately expresses the behavior of the value category.[20] This is the universal position, despite the fact that Marx carries on his whole analysis in value terms. His expression for the rate of profit is the ratio of surplus value extracted to value invested, that is, the ratio of surplus labor time extracted to the sum of the labor time embodied in the means of production and the labor time that is embodied in the final product but returned to the workers for their subsistence. In short, what s/(c+v) represents is one measure of the degree of ease or difficulty of extracting surplus labor. Marx (1981, chap. 9), however, is at pains to point out that his analysis is at the level of the entire social capital. As we have seen with reference to the reproduction schemes, social capital is more than the sum of the individual capitals. Therefore, his analysis of the rate of profit is at the level of class relations, not at the level of the firm or even of the industrial sector of the economy. This becomes even clearer when we focus on the two determinants of the rate of profit that he uses to analyze its evolutionary tendencies: the rate of exploitation (s/v) and the organic composition of capital (c/v). We have seen how Sweezy (and many others) have treated these categories pretty much the same way mainstream economists treat the rate of return on investment and the capital-labor ratio: as quantitative mathematical variables that can be manipulated formalistically. We have also seen how many Marxists view their determination: as by-products of competition. Leaving aside the question of the direction of change of the organic composition of capital, we know that the substitution of capital for labor within technological change is generally thought to be the result of competition among firms who seek to undercut each other‘s prices by lowering costs. Similarly, the rise of c/v is seen by most economists working in this area as a by-product of just this same relative surplus value strategy component of competition. The evolution of s/v and of c/v thus appear as by-products of what Negri (1984) has aptly called the ―sordid family quarrels of capital.‖ This is why the debate over the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as a result of the tendency of the organic composition to rise has been


confined, on the whole, to the realm of ―capitalogic‖ and has been devoid of any political class content. Once again, this is by no means necessary. A political reading of volume 1 of Capital reveals that both the rate of exploitation and the organic composition of capital are imminently political categories. Right from the start in Marx‘s discussion of absolute surplus value, the determination of length of the working day, and hence of s/v, is the result of class struggle which Marx sketches in chapter 10. Next, in his discussion of relative surplus value Marx states quite plainly that it becomes capital‘s central strategy because of the success of the working class in forcing down the length of the working day (1977: chap. 15). Thereafter, with respect to the continued rapid development of machinery and modern industry, he argues that ―It would be possible to write a whole history of the inventions made since 1830 for the sole purpose of providing capital with weapons against working class revolt‖ (1977: 563). And why does capital need such technological weapons that are embodied in arising c/v? Obviously because of the constant spur of such revolt. More generally we can show, as Raniero Panzieri (1976) has done at length, that the tendency of the organic composition of capital to rise occurs as one part of capital‘s ever renewed efforts to plan its control over labor power. We can also learn to read this concept of Marx‘s from a worker‘s viewpoint and see that not only is the organic composition of capital based on the technical composition, that is, the particular combination of labor power and means of production in use, but it also implies a certain structure of power relations between the working class and capital.[21] It is the working-class recomposition of those power relations that forces capital to substitute constant for all-too-variable capital. From this perspective we can see how to reinterpret Marxist economists‘ central concept of competition. We can agree that competition is a phenomenon ―internal‖ to capital, but capital conceived as the class relation. We can recognize it as one mechanism through which capital rewards its best managers --those who can get the most work and creativity from their workers-- and gets rid of those who are least capable of controlling the working class. Having now seen how the basic determinants of the rate of profit, and the changes in them, are themselves moments of the class struggle, we can see that the law of the tendency is itself a characteristic of the evolution of the class war. But what does the law tell us if not that the class struggle tends to result in a fall in the monetary rate of profit? Let us look at the rate of profit once again. I have already said that it is a ratio of the surplus labor extracted to the labor invested. It is therefore one measure of the difficulty of imposing surplus labor. If, therefore, there is a tendency for this rate to fall, then there is a tendency for it to become more and more difficult for capital to impose surplus labor. And if it is increasingly difficult to impose surplus labor, then it becomes equally difficult to impose labor at all. Here at last is an explanation of why Marx considered the law of the tendency to be the most important law of capitalist development, an explanation that links it to the most fundamental defining character of capitalism. It reveals that working class struggle and the capitalist response of substituting machinery for workers tends to undermine the foundation of the capitalist order: its universal imposition of work. [22] We can conclude this recasting of the falling rate of profit theory by pointing out some implications of our reasoning. First, if workers‘ struggles for more income and less work drive capital to expand the use of labor-displacing machinery, then evidence that the workings of this law are undermining capitalist accumulation is not to be found in time series of monetary profit rates, a la Feldstein and Nordhaus, but rather in secular declines in the proportion of the labor force employed in the profitable production of goods and services. While a decline in the secular growth of productivity might indicate a crisis in the relative surplus value strategy of raising c/v, it is only at the level of capital‘s ability to impose work that the law of the tendency applies.


Second, what Marx‘s reasoning shows is the absolute centrality of workers‘ struggle against work in the effort to undermine and overthrow capital. This can be arrived at directly by observing the way capital builds its civilization on the imposition of work, but Marx‘s law tells us something more. It shows how ―progressive,‖ that is, productivityraising, capitalist responses to workers‘ demands ultimately reinforce the direction of workers‘ struggles. His analysis also implies that not only should we refuse both the Luddite attack on productivity-increasing new technology and the recourse to ―appropriate‖ (labor-intensive) technology, but we must focus rather on how to appropriate the time set free. Marx not only understood this, he saw beyond the crisis of capitalist control to the possibility of a postcapitalist world in which not labor but ―disposable time‖ becomes the measure of value (1973: 708). Underconsumptionism and Class Struggle There can be no doubt that Marx saw the limits to working-class income as constituting a limit to the ability of Department II to expand, and thus indirectly a limit to the expansion of Department I as well. But the effort to elevate this contradiction to the status of the core of crisis theory comes up sorely lacking. It can be said that Keynes has done as much with the idea as anyone by generalizing it to the problem of inadequate aggregate demand. But that is a capitalist appropriation of a concept if ever there was one. Baran and Sweezy‘s analysis in Monopoly Capital is limited mainly to commentaries on the effectiveness with which capital is able to generate sufficient demand, either through the state or through private markets.[23] This is a subject of an almost endless mainstream macroeconomic literature. What of the class content of this theory? At its core, in Marx, is the contradiction between capitalist needs to expand productivity and production under the prod of workingclass struggle and the limits on the ability of Department II producers to dispose of that increased production. Capital has tried to cope with this problem, first privately in the high wage strategy of Henry Ford and then through the state in the Keynesian attempt to harness rising wages to induce capitalist growth. Marxist understanding of the working-class use of these strategies has been sadly disappointing. As we have seen, Baran and Sweezy, like many of their generation of Marxists, considered those workers who succeeded in forcing capital to have recourse to a productivity deal, to be bought off, even participants in the imperial order. [24] In the case of Critical Theories of consumerist society, this increased consumption appears only as a means of domination. We, on the other hand, can recognize that while rising wages do not necessarily rupture capitalist accumulation, they do raise the absolute level of working-class consumption and strengthen it in its struggles. And there are neither theoretical nor historical reasons to think that those struggles, in the aggregate, ever cease or can always be harnessed. As a political category, from the standpoint of capital, the wage (or income more generally) does not define exploitation, it hides it. From the standpoint of workers the wage is first and foremost a weapon and a measure of working-class power. In these terms Marx‘s comments on the limits to workers‘ wages is a commentary on the limits to their power. In these terms, relative surplus value strategies and the Keynesian productivity deals are reflections of the ability of workers to expand that power. The saddest part of Marxist underconsumptionist theory is its insistence on focusing on the limits to workers‘ power rather than on its absolute and relative extent. This is a criticism to which Marx was partially, but only partially, open. His theory of relative surplus value and its recognition of the way workers can successfully expand their wage and their power balances his remarks on the limits to consumption and helps us to keep them in perspective. In the wake of Ford and Keynes, Marx would have no problem recognizing the institutionalization of relative surplus value and analyzing its implications. The failure of contemporary underconsumptionist Marxists to do this is a striking limitation to their work. The analysis of the absolute rise in working class income leads to


an understanding of how the struggle for wages, while perhaps bound for a while within capitalist accumulation, can create, and indeed has created, a sufficient base to break free of those constraints and rupture both relative surplus value and accumulation in such a manner as to precipitate crisis. Because they recognize this, the relative shares theorists constitute a decided advance over the class myopia of the under-consumptionists. Relative Shares and Class Struggle Underconsumptionism‘s dismal view of workers‘ ability to raise their share of value derives, at least in part, from Marx himself. Although his theory of relative surplus value allowed for increases in the standard of living of the working class, his discussion in chapter 25 of Capital and in Wages, Prices and Profit was explicit in arguing that any time workers were able to raise wages enough to undermine profits, capitalists could successfully use crisis and expanded unemployment to force wages down again. While pessimistic, this argument was clearly based on Marx‘s observations of nineteenth-century business cycles and the downward flexibility of wages. There is nothing in Marx‘s theory that precludes workers achieving enough power to impose downward inflexibility of wages as they did after the Great Depression. As was noted in the last section, Marx‘s theory of relative surplus value certainly allows for the possibility of state management of a link between wage growth and productivity growth-a characteristic of the Keynesian solution to the rise of militant industrial unionism and the social conflicts of the 1930s. One can also imagine that Marx would not have been surprised to observe that workers, by the late 1960s, after two decades of rising wages, were able through their political recomposition both within and without the factory to mobilize enough power to rupture the Keynesian productivity deal and throw capital into crisis. Although he did not foresee such developments, there is, again, nothing in his theory that precludes them, and there is much that helps us analyze these developments politically. In the first place, what is called a ―profits squeeze‖ in the relative shares literature takes the form, in Marxian terms, of a fall in the rate of relative surplus value-a clear sign, as the relative shares theorists recognize, of an increase in working-class power in the class struggle. But two criticisms could be addressed to the profits squeeze theorists. First, although they focused on the factory labor force, their emphasis on accelerating wage growth was not accompanied by an analysis of the other side of the break-down of the productivity deal: the crisis in productivity. This neglect perhaps flowed from their emphasis on the sphere of circulation and their failure to explore the crisis in the sphere of production. Second, their focus on the factory meant that they failed to develop an analysis of working-class recomposition at the level of social capital, that is, an analysis that took account of struggles in the sphere of reproduction and their impact on struggles in the sphere of production. Both of these aspects of crisis were analyzed by Marxists working within the alternative framework proposed here. Analyses of the way in which class struggle had ruptured accumulation in both production and reproduction was developed by Italian Marxists of the ―autonomy‖ school in the late 1960s and by American Marxists associated with Zerowork in the early 1970s. The first issue of Zerowork containing detailed arguments along these lines appeared in December 1975. The arguments contained in the articles of that issue were historically grounded in case studies of private (auto, coal mining) and public (post office, welfare programs) sectors, of production and reproduction (education, community). In case after case the articles showed how workers‘ struggles had grown, circulated, and ruptured accumulation, forcing crisis on capital. Finally, they showed how these struggles created crisis for capital not only at the national but also at the international level. Comparable recognition of the importance of the interrelationship between struggles in production and reproduction later found its way into the writing of


the American wing of the relative shares school (Gintis and Bowles, 1982; Piven and Cloward, 1982). Today, considerable work has been done within the framework of this approach that has undoubtedly contributed to our understanding of the present crisis. To date, however, only the work of the Marxists in the alternative interpretation I have been exploring have rooted their work on the present crisis in a reinterpretation of the theoretical categories of Marx. Whether the relative shares authors will follow their lead remains to be seen. Conclusion To end this essay let us return now to the problem of appropriation raised in the beginning and ask whether, or to what degree, the alternative interpretation of Marxian crisis theory represented here is subject to the same criticism I have leveled at the theories of Marxist economists. In the formulation and discussion of a political reading of Marx, I have sought a transparent language to discuss the various aspects of class struggles. By adopting a transparent language that makes the political class content of every concept and theory explicit, this kind of exposition would seem to make the material as accessible to capitalist ideologues as to the working class. Does not the form of this interpretation leave it even more open to capitalist appropriation than the jargon of Marxist economists? As far as the choice of language and style is concerned, I think the answer must be positive. The content of this interpretation, however, is not likely to be of any use to capital. Capitalist ideologues and planners know there is a class struggle. They don‘t talk about it because they try to hide its existence. Indeed they have developed their own obfuscating languages to keep it hidden. The working class become ―labor‖ or ―human capital.‖ Class relations are replaced by those between individuals and decision makers. In macro theory the class struggle is reduced to the union bargaining of labor economics. And so on. Therefore, even if they agree with the basic thrust of this analysis, and I think that in their own way some do, they are not going to adopt any of these formulations precisely because they are too transparent! Capitalist economists know that there are problems in orchestrating the distribution of resources among spheres of production. They have, as we have seen, developed planning models to help them intervene where their micro theory or their experience indicates that market forces are inadequate. Nothing has been said, or is likely to be said, in this approach to Marx that would facilitate that process. They also know that workers‘ struggles push capitalists into the development of new technologies and the reorganization of production. The economists among them may only discuss this in terms of relative prices and marginal rates of technical substitution, but that is just their jargon for analyzing the issue. Industrial engineers, industrial sociologists, and labor-relations experts are all hard at work grappling with the problem and trying to help business manage such change. I do not believe that my formulation of the tendency of the organic composition of capital to rise can teach them anything useful about how to deal with the problem. Similarly, mainstream economists concerned with macro policies of employment, micro policies of manpower planning, or corporate-level negotiations over job displacement and retraining are all too aware of the problem of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, even though they don‘t call it that. As early as 1930 Keynes (1931) had realized the importance of this phenomenon. He spoke of the ―new disease‖ of technological unemployment, of ―unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses of labor.‖ He even saw, as Marx had before him, the possibility of postcapitalist freedom from work. Unlike Marx, of course, he spent the rest of his life trying to preserve capitalism rather than trying to overthrow it. Later, the acceleration of automation in the late 1950s produced another moment of capitalist, and worker, awareness of this tendency. The solution that emerged was the rise


of a more labor-intensive service sector which has absorbed a rising percentage of the labor force and has provided most of the jobs for new entrants during the last twenty years. More recently, spurred by the rapid advances in automation and robotization, economists and a variety of futurologists have become terribly worried about not being able to find jobs for either the present or the emerging labor force. Although not all of the problems of un- and underemployment can be attributed to labor-displacing technological change, enough are to warrant growing alarm among capitalist planners. These worries, and our opportunities, are particularly great because the new forms of automation are being extended to the service sector as well as to manufacturing. [25] In short, this reinterpretation of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as a tendency of class struggle to undermine capital‘s ability to impose work offers no help to capital because they are already aware of the problem. It does clarify for us about the importance and implications of the struggle against work, and it identifies the misdirections and obfuscations of some Marxist crisis theories. As to the theory of underconsumption, when we interpret it as one aspect of the contradictions of capitalist accumulation and of the limits to workers‘ power, it provides us with a useful argument for justifying wage and benefit increases to provide a spur to ―economic‖ growth. At the same time, it provides nothing new to capital, which long ago absorbed the concept and, through Keynes, discovered how to put it to good use. As to the considerations of the meaning of rising absolute wages to which the theory of underconsumption can lead, we can draw conclusions quite different from those of either Marxist economists or Critical Theorists. While rising income provides markets for capitalist realization and possible cultural mechanisms of domination, it also leads, even in the case of productivity deals, to changes in the content of workers‘ desires for wealth and leisure and to changes in their ability to fight for what they want. Rising wealth leads to increased desire for the time to put it to use. Simultaneously, this improvement of material condition helps workers undercut the relative surplus value strategies of capital. This is a problem capital is again aware of, but one to which too many Marxists have been blind. Once again it points to the centrality of the struggle against work as a Daslc element or worKlng-class strategy. In the case of the relative shares theory of crisis, I have already pointed out some of its merits as well as some of its limitations. Probably the most important of the latter concerns the failure to ground the theory in the kind of reinterpretation of Marxian theoretical categories I have outlined here. Especially serious is the failure to recognize that the social struggles that have ruptured the productivity deal and brought on the current crisis have had as a central concern the struggle against work and for self-development. Among the social democratic wing of the relative shares theorists this is probably inevitable because there is no evidence that they understand the central function of work in structuring capitalist society, and therefore they do not conceive of the transition to socialism as involving the liberation of human beings from imposed work. They are more inclined to embrace the traditional perspective that socialism is defined in terms of workers controlling work rather than abolishing it. This naturally leads to their preoccupation with ―workers‘ control‖ and ―economic democracy‖ (Carnoy and Shearer, 1980; Espinoza and Zimbalist, 1978). This is one reason their politics are social democratic rather than revolutionary. It also illustrates one way capital can use a Marxist crisis theory based on class struggle. If that theory fails to identify and clarify some fundamentally antagonistic quality of the struggle, such as the struggle against work, then it will not escape instrumentalization. In conclusion, I have tried to demonstrate that while the bulk of Marxist crisis theory has been cast more in the language of economics than in the political language of class struggle, it is still possible to develop an interpretation of Marx wherein his work retains its revolutionary content. It is this approach that holds the only hope of escaping the easily


appropriated confines of ―economics‖ and gives us at least a chance to develop Marxist theory as a working-class weapon within the crisis. Footnotes 1. So pervasive has the rise of Marxism been in American universities that OIlman and Vernoff have called it a ―cultural revolution.‘ and documented it in their book The Left Academy (1982). In terms of Thomas Kuhn‘s analysis of emerging paradigms, the last few years have seen Marxism achieve all the trappings of recognized academic legitimacy: specialized journals, professional organizations, tenured professors, and credited courses of study. 2. Economists long ago abandoned serious discussion of Marx‘s labor theory of value --the theoretical core of most of his work in ―economics.‖ At the threshold of the Marxist ―cultural revolution, in the early 1960s, there was only one well-known, tenured Marxist professor of economics in the United States: Paul Baran at Stanford, who died in 1964. As a result, the present generation of Marxists is largely self-taught. 3. When Ollman and Vernoff say, in their introduction to The Left Academy (p. 2), that ―a space opened up within the university for critical thinking‖ we need to remember that we were the ones who carved out that space through our struggles. When the struggle is abandoned the space often closes down dramatically. What has not yet been written in the history of Marxist studies is a serious evaluation of both the strategies that were successful in opening up space and those that were not. 4. The influence of business on the structure and content of American education has been one of the phenomena most thoroughly studied by the new radical Marxist students and professors. See Bowles and Gintis (1975), Spring (1972), and Carnoy (1974). It is the omnipresence of that influence that should make us ask why business would tolerate overtly anti-capitalist Marxist teaching in the university. 5. Marcuse‘s analysis of ―repressive tolerance‖ involves the idea that the establishment tolerates difference in order to domesticate and neutralize it, to keep it off the streets and safely tucked away in the cloister of academia (Wolf, Moore, and Marcuse, 1965). 6. The need for new ideas has stemmed from the crisis of theory that has been part of the current economic and social crisis of the system. In economics this has mainly concerned the crisis of the Keynesian paradigm which dominated policy making and academic textbooks for almost thirty years. 7. One important attempt to use Marx to help plan capitalist accumulation was during the 1920s when Soviet economists drew on Marx‘s schemes of expanded reproduction to develop models to guide Soviet policy makers. One such attempt by Feldman was interesting enough to draw the attention of Evsey Domar (1957), the well-known Western growth theorist. In the West there has been a parallel history of building on Marx. The seminal moment of this history was the development of input/output analysis by Wassily Leontief, who based himself partly on Marx‘ s work. For some assessment of the history and import of this appropriation of Marx see Leontief (1938), the essays in Horowitz (1968), and Kuhne (1979). 8. From about 1970 on the American Economic Association made space in its annual meetings for papers by radical economists or for discussions of the development of Marxist economics. The curious reader has only to peruse the annual May issue of the American Economic Review, which contains the proceedings of the annual meetings, to verify this radical presence. Also see Bronfenbrenner (1970) and the debate around Gurley (1971). Two surveys of Marxist work in the business press are BusinessWeek (1975) and Wall Street Journal (1975). 9. There are two aspects of a theory that influence the facility of its appropriation by capital: its content and its form. If the content of a theory is focused on the same problems as bourgeois theories, if the theory defines its subject the same way bourgeois writers do, comparison and evaluation come easily. If the focus and problematic are different,


however, the relevance is not so apparent. Similarly, if the form of analysis is the same, if the language and methods are the same, then even if some core theoretical concepts are different (say, the concept of value), it is easy for mainstream observers to follow the arguments and to look for new insights that might inform their own work. 10. See Sweezy‘s summary of Tugan‘s position in Sweezy (1942). 11. See Sweezy‘s outline of the debate in Sweezy (1942). 12. Fe1dman‘s model is reformulated and examined by Evsey Domar (1957: chap. 9). This article, also referred to in note 7 above, is paradigmatic for seeing how bourgeois economists sometimes try to learn from Marxists. ―It seems to me,‖ Domar writes, ―worth while to explore a growth model constructed on a Marxist foundation, even if modified, and to show its relation to a corresponding Keynesian one. may be o fuse in unraveling a few puzzles in Soviet economic development and in achieving abetter understanding of Soviet economic thinking. It also raises some questions regarding economic development in general‖ (p. 228). 13. The key part of Tronti ( 1966) that concerns the interpretation of the schemes of reproduction was translated and published in English (Tronti, 1973). 14. See, for example, Okun and Perry (1970) and Nordhaus (1974). 15. For further references to the writers and works associated with this approach to Marxism see the footnotes to the introduction of Cleaver (1979). 16. The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach reads: ―The philosophers have only interpreted the world ― differently, the point is, to change it.‖ 17. This critique of Critical Theory is elaborated at greater length in Cleaver (1979). 18. Red Notes (1980) and Semiotext(e) (1980) are both collections of translated articles from the ―autonomist‖ wing of Italian Marxism. Negri (1984) is a translation of Negri‘s book Marx Oltre Marx, which consists of a series of lectures on the Grundrisse. 19. See in addition to previous references Sweezy (1942; 1974), Alberro and Persky (1979), and Hunt (1983). 20. The whole enormous literature of the ―transformation problem"--the problem of transforming Marx‘s value quantities into prices-- stems from two sources. The first is the one here: the perception that the theory of the tendency refers to monetary rates of profit. The second is the perception that Marxian ―economics‖ should be able to do all that mainstream economics does, especially explain relative prices. The long debate on this issue is rendered irrelevant if we recognize that Marx‘s theory has a totally different object from that of mainstream economics. While mainstream economics is designed to provide necessary information to the capitalist and policy maker about the operation of the system, e.g., market prices, Marxian theory was designed to help overthrow the system as a whole. For such different objectives one needs quite different theories. The one should not be judged by the criteria of the other. 21. Much debate has taken place concerning the meaning of the ―organic composition of capital and it has had considerable influence on the debate over the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. In Capital, however, in both volumes 1 and 3, Marx is explicit that the organic composition is the value composition insofar as it reflects the technical composition-that is, insofar as changes in the organic composition reflect changes in the concrete relations of labor and machinery. See, for example, Marx (1977: chap. 25). Therefore the organic composition rises always and only when capital introduces new machinery to raise productivity. For a discussion of the impact of this on the composition of power relations among workers and between workers and capital see Cleaver (1979: 112-14). 22. Marx‘s most vivid and clear statement of this process can be found in the Grundrisse (Marx, 1973: 699-715). 23. In the jargon of macroeconomics, which they sometimes use, they are discussing the limits to raising the consumption function, the investment function, and the government


expenditure function in order to increase aggregate demand. See Baran and Sweezy : ; (1964). 24. Among the most vivid of their condemnations can be found in Baran (1957). 25. The literature on the current wave of automation is enormous, but for an overview see the special issue of Scientific American (1982) on ―the mechanization of work.‖ References Alberro, Jose, and Joseph Persky (1979) ―The Simple Analytics of Falling Profit Rates,‖ Review of Radical Political Economics 11, 3 (Fall). Baran, Paul (1957) The Political Economy of Growth. New York: Monthly Review Press. Baran, Paul, and Paul Sweezy (1966) Monopoly Capital. New York: Monthly Review Press. Bell, Peter (1977) ―Marxist Theory, Class Struggle and the Crisis of Capitalism,‖ in The Subtle Anatomy of Capitalism, ed. Jesse Schwartz. Santa Monica, Calif. : Goodyear Publishing. Boddy, Ray, and James Crotty (1975) ―Class Conflict and Macro Policy: The Political Business Cycle,‖ Review of Radical Political Economics 7. Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis (1975) Schooling in Capitalist America. New York: Basic Books. Bronfenbrenner, Martin (1970) ―Radical Economics in America: A 1970 Survey,‖ Journal of Economic Literature 8, 3 (September). Businessweek (1975) ―What the Marxists See in the Recession,‖ June 23. Carnoy, Martin (1974) Education as Cultural Imperialism. New York: David McKay. Carnoy, Martin, and Derek Shearer (1980) Economic Democracy: The Challenge of the 1980s. Armonk, N. Y.: M.E. Sharpe. Cleaver, Harry (1979) Reading Capital Politically. Austin: University of Texas Press. Cleaver, Harry, and Peter Bell (1982) ―Marx‘s Crisis Theory as a Theory of Class Struggle,‖ in Research in Political Economy, vol. 5. Greenwich, Conn. : JAI Press. Cogoy, Mario (1973) ―The Fall in the Rate of Profit and the Theory of Accumulation,‖ Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists 7 (Winter). Crotty, James, and Leonard Rapping (1975) ―Class Struggle and Macropolicy, ― American Economic Review (December). Domar, Evsey D. (1957) Essays in the Theory of Economic Growth. New York: Oxford University Press. Espinoza, Juan, and Andrew Zimbalist (1978) Economic Democracy: Workers‘ Participation in Chilean Industry, 1970-1973. New York: Academic Press. Gintis, Herbert, and Samuel Bowles (1982) ―The Welfare State and Long-Term Growth: Marxian, Neoclassical and Keynesian Approaches,‖ American Economic Review (May). Glyn, Andrew, and Bob Sutcliffe (1972) British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Gorden, David (1975) ―Crisis as Capitalism as Usual,‖ New York Times, April 27. Gurley, John G. (1971) ―The State of Political Economics,‖ American Economic Review (May). Hansen, Alvin (1941) Fiscal Policy and Business Cycles. New York: Norton. Hansen, Alvin.(1938) Full Recovery or Stagnation. New York: Norton. Horowitz, David, ed. (1968) Marx and Modern Economics. New York: Monthly Review Press. Hunt, Ian. (1983) ―An Obituary or a New Life for the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to I Fall?‖ Review of Radical Political Economics 15, 1 (Spring). Keynes, John Maynard (1931) ―Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,‖ in Essays in Persuasion. New York: Macmillan. Kuhne, Karl (1979) Economics and Marxism. New York: St. Martin‘s Press.


Leontief, Wassily (1938) ―The Significance of Marxian Economics for Present Day Economic Theory,‖ American Economic Review (March). Luxemburg, Rosa (1968) The Accumulation of Capital. New York: Monthly Review Press. Marx, Karl (1981) Capital, vol. 3. New York: Vintage Books. . Marx, Karl (1977) Capital, vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books. . Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse. London: Pelican Books. Mattick, Paul (1969a) Marx and Keynes. Boston: Sargent. Mattick, Paul (1969b) ―Marxism and Monopoly Capital,‖ Progressive Labor 7 and 8. Negri, Antonio (1984) Marx Beyond Marx. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin and Garvey. Nordhaus, William (1974) ―The Falling Share of Profits,‖ Brookings Papers 1. Okun, Arthur, and George L. Perry (1970) ―Notes and Numbers on the Profits Squeeze,‖ Brookings Papers 3. Ollman, Bertell, and Edward Vernoff, eds. (1982) The Left Academy. New York: McGraw- Hill. Panzieri, Raniero (1976) ―Surplus Value and Planing: Notes on the Reading of Capital,‖ The Labor Process and Class Strategies, Conference of Socialist Economists, London. Piven, Francis Fox, and Richard Cloward (1982) The New Class War. New York: Pantheon. Roemer, John E. (1981) Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Roemer, John E. (1979) ―Continuing Controversy on the Falling Rate of Profit: Fixed Capital and Other Issues,‖ Cambridge Journal of Economics 3. Roemer, John E. (1978) ―The Effect of Technical Change on the Real Wage and Marx‘s Falling Rate of Profit,‖ Australian Economic Papers 17. Roemer, John E. (1977) ―Technical Change and the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall,‖ Journal of Economic Theory 16. Schwartz, Jesse, ed. (1977) The Subtle Anatomy of Capitalism. Santa Monica, Calif.: Goodyear Publishing Co. Spring, Joel H. (1982) Education and the Rise of the Corporate State. Boston: Beacon. Steindl, J. (1952) Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitalism. Oxford: Blackwell. Sweezy, Paul (1974) ―Monopoly Capital and the Theory of Value,‖ Monthly Review (January). Sweezy, Paul (1942) The Theory of Capitalist Development. New York: Monthly Review Press. Tronti, Mario (1973) ―Social Capital,‖ Telos 17 (Fall). Tronti, Mario (1966) Operai e Capitale. Torino: Einaudi. Van Parijs, Phillippe (1980) ―The Falling Rate of Profit Theory of Crisis: A Rational Reconstruction by Way of Obituary,‖ Review of Radical Political Economics 12, I. Wall Street Journal (1975) ―The Marx Men,‖ February 5. Weiskopf, Thomas (1979) ―Marxian Crisis Theory and the Rate of Profit in the Post-War U.S. Economy,‖ Cambridge Journal of Economics (December). Wolf, R. P., B. Moore, and H. Marcuse (1972) A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston: Beacon. Yaffe, David (1972) ―Marxian Theory of Crisis, Capital and the State,‖ Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists (Winter).


Peter G. Stillman The Myth of Marx‟s Economic Determinism
Source: ―The Myth of Marx‘s Economic Determinism‖ was written for Marx Myths and Legends by Peter G. Stillman, in April 2005, and rights remain with the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. Marx has frequently been characterized as holding to economic determinism. During his lifetime, in Lenin‘s writings, in Stalin‘s diamat and the mirroring Western caricature, and in some scholarly books in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Marx and Marxism have been portrayed as presenting a theory in which economic factors determine non-economic spheres of life such as politics, religion, and ideology. Although some texts may appear to support the argument that Marx is an economic determinist (sec. I, below), the economic determinist interpretations of those texts is weak (sec. II) and the interpreter‘s use of ―economic‖ is misleading (sec. III). Moreover, when the reader moves from the questions and perspectives of the economic determinist to examine Marx‘s project, he does not base his ideas on economic determinism (sec. IV). I. The Case for Marx‟s Economic Determinism. Characterizing Marx as an economic determinist is based on some textual evidences. Perhaps the clearest and strongest statement of what is taken as economic determinism occurs in Marx‘s ―Preface‖ to his 1859 Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or -- what is but a legal expression for the same thing -- with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic -- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. .... This consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. (MER, 5) This extensive passage contains some key elements for the economic determinist argument. As he rarely does elsewhere, Marx talks of the ―economic structure‖ and the ideological ―superstructure‖ that rises on it, and how change in the ―economic foundation‖ leads to a transformation of ―the entire immense superstructure.‖ He describes social change as a conflict between ―material productive forces‖ and ―existing relations of production.‖ He insists that the analyst should distinguish between the ―economic conditions of production‖ and the ―ideological forms‖ that men use to describe their positions. Economic determinists can argue four possible forms of ―determinism‖ from passages in the ―Preface.‖ One determinism refers to the level of the individual: the human


will is determined -- i.e., its contents and actions are causally formed by the circumstances in which the person lives. A second operates at the level of human interactions: in some ways the economic causes the political and the ideological. A third ―determinism‖ can be independent or can sum and expand the first two: the course of history itself is inevitable. The fourth ―determinism‖ derives from Marx‘s claims that his critique of political economy is a science. So an economic determinist‘s interpretation of individuals in Marx‘s system would assert that Marx‘s is a deterministic system because it deprives human beings of agency or free will: ―men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will.‖ Marx‘s economic laws also seem to leave little scope for freedom, as is suggested in the ―Preface,‖ above, where ―economic conditions of production ... can be determined with the precision of natural science‖ or in Marx‘s ―Preface‖ to Capital, where he writes of ―the natural laws of capitalist production‖ (MER, 296). The economic determinist argument about society argues that either the (technological) ―forces‖ of production or the (more broadly economic) ―relations‖ of production (or ―forces and relations‖ of production -- determinists differ here) serve as the causal variable in worldly life, with political and legal structures and ideological formations as the dependent variable, changing in lockstep with technology or economy. The forces, or forces and relations, of production are the locus, then, of all effective change and the cause of all that occurs in human life beyond the realm of production. Lastly, some determinists argue determinism in history or through science. Some emphasize the inevitability of predictable or predicted historical change, as suggested in the Manifesto: ―What the bourgeois ... produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable‖ (CM, I; MER, 483). In private letters Marx could be even more deterministic: on 5 March 1852 Marx wrote that he proved ―that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, ... [and] that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society‖ (MER, 220). Here Marx seems to be making a straightforward prediction of what will ―necessarily‖ happen. Others note that Marx frequently parallels his interpretations to modern natural science, both in the 1859 ―Preface‖ and throughout his works. It should be noted that determinist arguments can advocate ―hard‖ or ―strong‖ determinism: that, e.g., a specific set of productive forces ―uniquely and directly cause‖ a specific set of political, legal, and ideological arrangements. Or there is a ―softer‖ determinism, perhaps arguing that the specific set of productive forces causes ―in the last instance‖ the superstructural elements. The text of the 1859 ―Preface,‖ as well as other texts, has been used to support a range of determinisms from soft to hard. 2. The Myth of Economic Determinism. But economic determinism in Marx‘s thought is a myth. I argue against the economic determinist argument in three ways in this and next sections. One way of arguing, which I shall try to avoid most (but not all!) of the time, is to hurl quotations at your opponents hoping they have the power of Zeus‘s lightening-bolts. Battles between opposing quotations rarely solve any disputes (or, rather, any disputes they solve have been long settled), if only because a quotation (like any fact or piece of evidence) requires an interpretive context if it is to understood and placed with other quotations (and their interpretations) into a larger theory. I do want to suggest, therefore, some interpretive issues related to the economic determinist interpretation of the 1859 ―Preface.‖ The determinist‘s claim that Marx‘s system undermines free will seems argued only in a limited manner. Two arguments stand out, but on examination neither seems able to bear the weight of determinism. One suggests that human beings live in circumstances that exist independent of (and prior to) their will. But this seems to me to be a sociological truth for social theorists of all ideological stripes: we live in a world whose institutions, practices, and languages are pre-


constituted by those who have lived before us, a constitution that is independent of our wills and that shapes our wills. Marx stated as much (but with a different emphasis from the ―Preface‖): ―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 found, given and transmitted from the past‖ (18thB, I; MER, 595). Marx seems to be suggesting that the already-constituted social world provides a context that limits the ways in which we can make our own history; he does not seem to be saying that the already-constituted social world so causally determines each one of us that, instead of making history, we are merely reacting to external causes that drive us. The second argument for determinism, which builds on Marx‘s statement about life determining consciousness, overlooks that statement‘s peculiar twist. Marx engages frequently in a kind of contrapuntal statement, where he denies a left-wing Hegelian slogan and then presents his view as the reverse. But Marx‘s aphorism -- ―It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness‖ -- presents its assertion asymmetrically. Having denied the left-wing Hegelian stance that consciousness determines being, Marx reverses the terms but adds ―social‖ -- and ―social being‖ is not defined but seems to be more extensive than merely forces (or forces and relations) of production and indeed as ―social‖ likely includes consciousness Marx‘s starker statement in The German Ideology -- ―life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life‖ (MER, 155) -- does not add ―social‖ but does present its own asymmetry. The left-wing Hegelians, pace Marx, think that consciousness determines life, as though consciousness were something independent of life, standing apart from it (like an individualized Geist-like spirit) and shaping it. But Marx in this section rejects the view of consciousness as independent of life (so that he goes on to reject that philosophy can be ―an independent branch of knowledge‖). Rather, he is trying to make consciousness a part of human life. So, when ―life determines consciousness,‖ Marx is tautologically asserting, as part of his on-going argument, that life (a totality including consciousness) determines consciousness (because it is a part of life). As he himself writes, when we see that ―life determines consciousness,‖ ―the starting point ... is real living individuals themselves, and consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness‖ (MER, 155). So these statements do not deny free will so much as they put human consciousness into an intimate relation with other aspects of human life. Some determinist interpreters insist that in Marx the economic -- the forces, or forces and relations, of production -- determines political, legal, and ideological institutions and structures. Indeed, it is important to Marx to emphasize (against philosophers and others who would ignore) the importance of the economic; and so it should be expected that Marx will mention frequently and give weight to economic factors. But giving weight to economic factors is far from determinism as causality, especially far from strong causality. And some of his mirrored statements also suggest how far from unidimensional causality Marx is: ―circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances‖ (MER, 165). The words that Marx uses should indicate how far from causality he is. The English translation conveys the feel of the German, and in a set of places where Marx could use ―cause‖ (were he giving a monocausal, strongly causal, or even partially causal explanation of how economics causes non-economic factors), he uses instead ―rises,‖ ―correspond,‖ ―conditions,‖ and ―is ... transformed.‖ When the legal and political superstructure ―rises,‖ ―definite forms [note the plural] of social consciousness‖ ―correspond‖ to it. Despite the frequent treatment of this paragraph of the 1859 ―Preface‖ as deterministic, its language does not prima facie demand the theory of economic determinism. Marx does suggest, I think, that forms of consciousness such as ideology are limited in what can be thought -- perhaps in parallel to the way that the circumstances into which


we are born limit how we make history. Marx wishes to ―explain‖ consciousness ―from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production‖ (MER, 5). What human consciousness does is to try to understand the world. When social life is calm, so are ideologies; when class conflicts come into existence, so too do competing ideologies and conscious statements (CM, I; MER, 481); and only when a revolutionary class arises can revolutionary ideas come into being (MER, 173). To suggest limitations, however, seems very different from asserting causal connections. Marx gives a fascinating specific example of limitation when he discusses the equality of value in commodities. He praises Aristotle for having clearly enunciated a number of basic principles about the money-form, value, and the requirement that exchange take place with equality and commensurability. Aristotle has attained many insights necessary for Marx‘s economics. There was, however, an important fact which prevented Aristotle from seeing that, to attribute value to commodities, is merely a mode of expressing all labour as equal human labour, and consequently as labour of equal quality. Greek society was founded upon slavery, and had, therefore, for its natural basis, the inequality of men and of their labourpowers (CI, 59-60). So Aristotle could not see the equivalence of human labour -- and that equivalence cannot be discovered ―until the notion of human equality has already acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice‖ (CI, 60). Aristotle‘s range of thinking is limited by the practices of his society. But to me such limitation is far from determinism. Economic determinism suggests historical determinism: inevitability and predictability. But most of Marx‘s statements about the historical inevitably are in especially rhetorical works, like the Manifesto, or in minor documents (like his 1852 letter). When Marx is not trying directly to foment revolution, inevitability yields to judicious assessment; and in minor documents Marx‘s opinions vary according to circumstances and audiences. In both minor and major works it is striking how little and how rarely Marx claims an inevitable course for the future or predicts it. Those who seek to find a blueprint of the future society in Marx search in vain for a document that Marx did not produce. Enticing comments he did write. In The German Ideology, he stated that in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming a hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic (MER, 160). He echoes that thought at various places in Capital (C3, 820; MER, 441) but nowhere does he articulate an institutional context or psychological dynamics for that vision. The closest, perhaps, that Marx comes to a blueprint of the future is in the Manifesto‘s ―ten points‖ that ―in the most advanced countries ... will be pretty generally applicable‖ (CM, II; MER, 490). But that list of 1848 Marx and Engels explicitly evaluated in their ―Preface‖ to the 1872 English edition: The practical application of the principles will depend ... everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be worded differently today (MER, 470). Rather than be a blueprint or a prediction, then, the ten points -- like so much else of what Marx wrote about the future -- depends on the specific historical conditions of the present out of which that future shall grow. Moreover, when Marx analyses the present, he seems to do so in a way that emphasizes particularity and detail. It is difficult, I think, to read The Eighteenth Brumaire


of Louis Napoleon or his Herald-Tribune articles without appreciating Marx‘s attention to the specifics of history and his attempt to recognize the novelty, contingency, and variety of current events. In The Communist Manifesto, the ―executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie‖ (CM, I; MER, 475); four years later Marx writes about a very different kind of state in The Eighteenth Brumaire, one in which the individual President panders to almost all classes to support himself in power. (There are in all cases economic laws of motion which undergird the state, but, as Marx quotes a reviewer at one point, with all laws we look for the variations of the law as well as its uniformity [CI, Afterward to the Second German Edition; MER, 300]. The state executive varies from one country to another according to its economic formation, historical factors, and particularities.) Despite the parallels that Marx draws between his critique of political economy and natural science, a careful examination of how Marx also contrasts them shows basic differences between Marxism and natural science. For instance, Marx refers to both chemistry and physics in the ―Preface‖ to Capital‘s first edition. Marx states that physics uses observation and experiment; but observation is of only limited usefulness for Marx‘s economic analysis. To observe a commodity -- Marx‘s example is a coat -- does not help in seeing the (exchange) value of a commodity; examine a commodity as much as you like, wear it until it is threadbare, and you still cannot see its value: ―the coat is a depository of value, but though worn to a thread, it does not let this fact show through‖ (MER, 316). While chemistry uses ―microscopes and chemical reagents,‖ Marx must use the ―force of abstraction,‖ and, for instance, in his examination of the coat abstract from its physical properties to its status as an exchange value whose value determined by human labor time; ―so far no chemist has ever discovered exchange-value either in a pearl or a diamond‖ (MER, 328). In brief, ―a commodity appears, a first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties‖ (MER, 319). Marx‘s attempt to attain systematic knowledge of the commodity in all its relations and meanings is far removed from the methods and goals of modern natural science. 3. The Myth of Economic Determinism, cont. Because the interpretation is labeled ―economic determinism,‖ it might also be useful to think about the terminology. ―Economic‖ is in some ways an odd term for economic determinists to use, because it tends to shift the emphasis from ―forces and relations of production‖ to a reified sphere of human activity that, though changeable in its specific contents, scope, and power, gains an unchanging stability in the term ―economic.‖ Much better to think in terms of ―forces of production‖ and ―relations of production.‖ These terms are not so susceptible to reification because of their specificity: they cover a less wide range than ―economic‖ and refer to specific aspects of the full economic process. Consequently, using ―forces‖ and ―relations‖ of ―production‖ makes it easier to think that they might change. They also lack a clear and distinct meaning that sharply delineates them from other factors. Indeed, are the forces of production just tools and machinery? or are they the work force whose productivity varies depending on how it is organized? do the forces of production include the imaginative undertakings that modernize the forces? Relations of production is if anything more ambiguous: are they merely the relations of social labor? as social interactions, do relations have to include communication and consciousness, ideas and ideologies? what about political and legal relations that regulate social interactions? Marx‘s terminology, when delved into, suggests that any single dimension of production is intimately related to other dimensions. So too ―economic‖ tends to ignore ―labor‖ and ―needs,‖ and in doing so occludes central human characteristics. For Marx human labor is a central category of economic analysis and a central dimension of our humanity:


Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature‘s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering power and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. (MER, 344) ―Economic‖ is too bloodless and abstract to emphasize such labor, activity, development, and transformation of individual and society. Finally, ―economic‖ makes it difficult to imagine a future society, which will not have an ―economic‖ sphere -- especially not one governed by the natural laws of capitalism -- even though there will of course be a realm of necessity, whose scope and specific requirements will vary and ―beyond it begins the development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom‖ (C3, 820; MER, 441). So ―economic‖ seems to be a reified, unitary, and static concept, that prevents us from seeing clearly the many relations and dimensions it includes and implies. 4. An Alternative View of Marxism Even on their own grounds and using their own terms, the arguments of the economic determinists about Marx do not seem cogent, powerful, or convincing. The strongest arguments against Marx‘s purported economic determinism, however, do not meet the determinists on their own grounds and their own interpretations of Marx‘s texts. Economic determinist presentations require their authors to slight or ignore important dimensions that constitute Marx‘s theoretical achievements and practical importance. In other words, even as they pick out good quotations from Marx‘s corpus, the economic determinists ask the wrong questions and consequently look for the wrong answers. Imposing their questions on Marx, they ignore Marx‘s questions. Marx does not focus on - indeed, he does not even address -- the issue of whether human beings have free will. He is not attempting to create a causal (or monocausal) theory of human life, similar to theories in chemistry and physics, which allow for causal statements and scientific prediction. He is not concerned with causality or inevitability in history. Marx, rather, thinks of human beings as active creators and shapers of their natural and social worlds who find their scope for free action drastically constrained by systems of private property and especially capitalism. He is concerned with the relations among forces of production, relations of production, and consciousness, but he is concerned to see those relations as an interrelated coherent totality in which human beings live and to present that totality in a systematic manner. Throughout his writings Marx is dialectical, looking at how practices (and the concepts that represent them) develop and change over time and in interaction with other practices. Marx‘s dialectic does not involve any kind of ―thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis‖ triad: he nowhere uses that language. Nor does he use the language of cause-and-effect. Rather, what Marx‘s dialectic involves is a careful analysis of the categories of bourgeois and human society. Just as Hegel begins his Science of Logic with the simplest logical (or mental) category he can imagine, being, and then analyses it to pull from it all the meanings inherent in it, so too Marx begins Capital with the commodity, the basic category of capitalist society, and analyses it. The progress of Capital cannot be seen as ―thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis,‖ if only because there is no anti-thesis to the commodity that produces a clear synthesis; but the progress is rather the detailed articulation of the meaning and implications of the commodity. When Marx discusses money in the opening chapter, he does so in the terms that he has been using for commodities, to show how money is a logical outgrowth of commodities (and not, for instance, a conventional invention by human beings nor merely a historical development in economic history). Given Marx‘s method of progressive articulation, it cannot be said that the ―commodity‖ causes capitalism, or money, or the fetishism of commodities, or exchange: all of these


categories are bound up with the commodity, and their meanings are explored as Marx explores the meaning of commodities; but the relation is not one of cause-and-effect but rather of inter-connected categories. (One cannot have capitalism without commodities, for instance, but it would be strange to say that extensive production and circulation of commodities causes capitalism; rather, both phrases are synonymous, emphasizing different aspects of the same economic formation.) Dialectical reasoning does allow for fluidity and development: it allows for them in part because in any articulation of a concept the dialectician needs to follow wherever the logic demands, and so what appears as an early conclusion may be modified at later stages, dead ends can appear to require a change in focus, and the articulation of a social product can lead to conflict or contradiction. For instance, as Marx works out the implications of labor time and the length of the working day in capitalism, he notes that, in the exchange that is wage labor, ―the capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible‖ and ―the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working-day.‖ In the heart of capitalism ―There is ... therefore, an antinomy, right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides‖ (MER, 364). Dialectic can both portray capitalism as a system and a conflict within capitalism that might destroy it. Portraying capitalism as a totality -- by which Marx means a self-forming, structured, and evolving whole, that can have within itself contradictions and conflicts, forces of stability and openings for change -- is another important part of Marx‘s social theory. In his discussion of method in the Grundrisse, Marx talks about how he is studying ―a rich totality of many determinations and relations‖ (MER, 237). Capital volume I presents such a totality. Even though it presents only the first of a promised four-book work, in Capital Marx presents the self-forming of capitalism on its own terms in ―So-called Primitive Accumulation.‖ Most of the book is devoted to discerning and portraying capitalism as a structured, interconnected social formation in which the major elements are related to each other. In that presentation, Marx omits much. He leaves until later the circulation of capital (MER, 298). He discusses national differences briefly. He talks some of the ideological life of capitalism: he notes that ―for a society based upon the production of commodities ... Christianity with its cultus of abstract man ... is the most fitting form of religion‖ (MER, 326) and in a paragraph of imaginative rhetoric suggests that the ideology of ―Freedom, Equality, Property, and Bentham‖ descriptively replicates the sphere or simple circulation (MER, 343). Of the psycho-social implications of capitalism, he says at one point: It is not the place, here, to go on to show how the division of labor seizes upon, not only the economic, but every other sphere of society, and everywhere lays the foundation of that all engrossing system of specialising and sorting men, that development in a man of one single faculty at the expense of all other faculties, which cause A. Ferguson, the master of Adam Smith, to exclaim: ‗We make a nation of Helots, and have no free citizens‘ (MER, 394). Not ―here‖ but elsewhere in Marx‘s writings the social -- and political and legal -aspects of capitalism are discussed; what Smith includes in his political economy, Marx includes in his, and more. Finally, capitalism as a totality is evolving. Capitalism includes contradictions and conflicts, as is indicated by the conflict between capitalist and worker about the length of the working day, a conflict of ―right versus right‖ redolent of the conflicts in ancient Greece between Creon and Antigone and within the Oresteiea, conflicts which for Hegel signals the decay of Greek ethical life. Even in the more simple analysis of The German Ideology, the potential for conflict and change is inherent in any economic formation: ―these three moments, the forces of production, the relations of production, and consciousness, can and must come into contradiction with one another‖ as long as the division of labor exists (MER, 159).


Capitalism also displays intimations of the future. From Marx‘s tantalizing passages, two may be worth examining briefly. Modern Industry ... compels society, under penalty of death, to replace the detailworker of to-day, crippled by life-long repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus reduced to a mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers (MER, 413-14). However terrible and disgusting the dissolution , under the capitalist system, of the old family ties [through child labor, e.g.] may appear, nevertheless modern industry, by assigning as it does an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes, creates a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and of relations between the sexes (MER, 415). (One comment about technical or economic determinism: note that ―modern industry‖ is doing the compelling and creating a new foundation, not some future technology; and in that future, built on modern industry, relations of production and social relations will be very different. In other words, while the forces of production remain recognizably similar to contemporary modern industry, the social relations of the future are significantly different from those of the present.) What Marx is indicating, I think, is that in current productive processes and practices can be seen the possibility of drastically transformed productive, social, developmental, and other relations: capitalism is a totality, and part of a totality usually includes possibilities for change. What Marx analyses are not isolated pieces of capitalism, but capitalism as an inter-related ―ensemble of social relations‖ (TF, 6; MER, 145), in which the detailed analysis of any component requires that at some point it be re-placed in the totality. When Marx presents capitalism as a totality using dialectics, his ―science‖ is an interpretive science whose elements are systematically connected -- ―science‖ in the sense of Hegel‘s Wissenschaft, not modern natural science. Appearances deceive, and analysis must burrow through them: the final pattern of economic relations as seen on the surface, in their real existence and consequently in the conceptions by which the bearers and agents of these relations seek to understand them, is very much different from, and indeed quite the reverse of, their inner but concealed essential pattern and the conception corresponding to it (C3, 209). ―All science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided‖ (C3, 817), and Marx‘s goal is to discern that historically created and changing essence and to present it in a systematic, scientific manner. For Marx human activity is central. When Marx in The German Ideology goes back to the ―first premise of human existence‖ to ask what human beings are like, he sees that ―the first historical act is ... the production of the means to satisfy ... needs, the production of material life itself‖; from that follows the ―second point,‖ ―that the satisfaction of the first need ... leads to new needs.‖ Human beings then begin to interact with each other, form families and other social relations, and develop consciousness (MER, 155-60). Marx distinguishes his materialism from all previous materialism, in which ―the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively‖; so a materialism like Feuerbach does ―not grasp the significance of ‗revolutionary,‘ of practical-critical activity‖ (TF, 1; MER, 143). Objects that he sees -- like cheery-trees in France, are an ―historical product, the result of the activity of a whole succession of generations‖ (MER, 170). In the Manifesto, Marx praises the bourgeoisie because ―it has been the first to show what man‘s activity can bring about‖ (CM, I; MER, 476). And the long quotation above from Capital about labor is yet another presentation of human beings as active beings who transform nature and themselves by their activity.


Of course human activity always has occurred under constraints; in a society with a division of labor, Man‘s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him .... This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now. (MER, 160). Marx spends three-quarters of a page in Capital (I, 645) summarizing just some of the constraints, limitations, and convolutions imposed by capitalism. Human beings are and always have been active beings, but they have always had to act under severe constraints. Marx wishes to abolish, as much as possible, those constraints. Active human beings, able to unify with others in the class, formed by the Communist Party and become gradually more conscious of their goals, can revolt against capitalism, overthrow it, and remove these alien limits in order to liberate human activity and unfetter human development. In the place of the myth of economic determinism, Marx‘s theory presents the interpretation of a complex, dynamic totality by a careful dialectic, an interpretation that shows that active human beings can by revolution transform the world, tear down alien structures and powers, and build on the potentials of modern industry. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Megan Gallagher and Matt Rand for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. They helped save me from a number of infelicities and they are of course not responsible for those that remain. Bibliographical Note For the most powerful and cogent arguments that Marx in some senses is an economic determinist, see the following three books, whose common date of publication constitutes an interesting coincidence: Cohen, G. A., Karl Marx‘s theory of history : a defence (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1978); McMurtry, John, The structure of Marx‘s world-view (Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1978); Shaw, William H., Marx‘s theory of history (Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1978). The classical arguments against the Second International, Leninist, and (German) SPD views of Marx as an economic determinist can be found, most famously, in: Lukács, György, History and class consciousness; studies in Marxist dialectics trans. by Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press,1971). Other important Eastern European interpreters of Marx after the Russian Revolution who were open to seeing him not as an economic determinist include: Karl Korsch, Marxism and philosophy, trans. and introd. by Fred Halliday (New York, Monthly Review Press, 1971); Rozdolski, Roman, The Making of Marx‘s ‗Capital‘, trans. by Pete Burgess (London : Pluto Press, 1977); and I. I. Rubin, Essays on Marx‘s Theory of Value (Detroit: Black and Red, 1972). More recent works include: Avineri, Shlomo, The social and political thought of Karl Marx (Cambridge : University Press, 1968), and Ollman, Bertell, Alienation: Marx‘s conception of man in capitalist society (Cambridge, University Press, 1971). For a further development of some of my arguments, see: ―Marx‘s Enterprise of Critique,‖ in J. Roland Pennock, ed., Marxism (NOMOS Series; New York: New York University Press, 1983), pp. 252-76.


In addition, just about any interpretation of Marx finds itself tending to one side or the other in the debate about economic determinism. As many have suggested, it may well be that those who come to Marx via economics or Engels tend to see him as an economic determinist, whereas those who come to Marx through Hegel (or come to see the importance of Hegel in his thought) see him not as an economic determinist. Works Cited All references to quotations are in parentheses in the text, and are to works by Marx. Because the Marx-Engels Reader is a common text, I have tried to cite all quotations to that work whenever possible; in addition, in many cases I have also cited the specific book in question. MER, Tucker, Robert C., ed. The Marx-Engels Reader (Second edition; New York: W. W. Norton, 1978) CI Marx, Karl. Capital, volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1967) C3 Marx, Karl. Capital, volume 3 (New York: International Publishers, 1967) CM Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party (cited to section number) 18thB Marx, Karl. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (cited to section number) TF Marx, Karl. ―Theses on Feuerbach‖ (cited to Thesis number)


Cyril Smith Marx and Materialism
Source: ―Marx and Materialism‖ was written for ―Marx Myths and Legends‖ by Cyril Smith in September 2004, and rights remain with the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. Today, increasing numbers of people are struck by the suspicion that Marx was not the man we all thought, but very few are aware how far the ‗Marxist‘ picture was from the reality. Many think that Marx may be judged by the comprehensiveness of his ‗complete‘ works. Not many are conscious that his difficulty of finishing any one of his projects was a sign of his essential incompleteness of his overall task: the construction of communism. Unlike his devoted followers, he was not prepared to let revolutionary impatience stand in the way of clarity. Let us begin with Lenin, with the early work, ‗What the Friends of the People are‘. Lenin writes: ―We do not say to the world,‖ Marx wrote as far back as 1843, and he fulfilled this programme to the letter, ―we do not say to the world: ‗cease struggling, your whole struggle is senseless‘. All we do is to provide it with a true slogan of struggle.‖ That is what Lenin wrote in 1893, and meant it all his life. But this is what Marx wrote in 1843: We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to. Lenin did not intend to distort the words of Marx, but was incapable of imagining such a humanist thought possible for the founder of ‗Marxism‘. So here we have two programmes, the programmes of Marx and Lenin : on the one side, ‗Marxism‘, on the other, the figure of Karl Marx. The former holds that ‗Marxism‘ is a certainty, an unlimited collection of truth, or as Lenin, echoing Plekhanov, put it, ‗a complete, integral world outlook‘, ‗cast from a single sheet of steel‘. To the latter, on the contrary, it is an organic growth. In 1843, Marx was just beginning. As he told Karl Kautsky a lifetime later, he couldn‘t publish his collected works, because they had not been written. (That was in 1882.) In 1843 he had not yet developed his notions yet of class struggle, of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of value. But already the notion was present of a truly human world. At this stage he thought of himself as a Feuerbachian. But Feuerbach was some kind of materialist. For such thinkers, the world existed, and we had to make our thoughts conform to it, and by ‗thought‘, the materialists mean no more than activity of a single, isolated human head. But Marx, while — partially — agreeing with Feuerbach in his criticism of Hegel, has nothing to do with him in his conception of society. His discoveries of the proletariat and of communism are unaffected by Feuerbach. When he writes his Comments on James Mill (1844), he is quite clearly not a ‗materialist‘: If then our mutual thraldom to the object at the beginning of the process is now seen to be in reality the relationship between master and slave, that is merely the crude and frank expression of our essential relationship. Our mutual value is for us the value of our mutual relationships. Hence for us man himself is mutually of no value. The object cannot be seen as merely an ‗object‘, but only as a social product. As such it is not merely something which affects the ‗thought‘ in my head or yours, but which is a link between us and everybody else. But this is in contradiction with our human being. Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. ... I would have been for you the mediator between you and the species, and the other person. ... and


therefore would become recognised and felt by you yourself as a completion of your own essential nature and as a necessary part of yourself, and consequently would know myself to be confirmed both in your thought and your love. When he came in 1845 to write his Theses on Feuerbach, he could launch an attack on materialism: The very first Thesis begins: The chief defect of all previous materialism (that of Feuerbach included) is that things [Gegenstaende], reality, sensuousness are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism the active side was set forth abstractly by idealism — which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such — Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from conceptual objects, but he does conceive objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. In Das Wesen des Christentums he therefore regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and defined only in its dirty-Jewish form of appearance. Hence he does not grasp the significance of ‗revolutionary‘, of ‗practicalcritical‘ activity. And Thesis 3 returns to the subject: The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that the educator must himself be educated. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveraenderung] can be conceived and rationally understood as revolutionary practice. The point is that Marx is not a philosopher. He is a critic of philosophy. That does not mean that he disagrees with this or that philosophy, but that he takes the questions that philosophy asks and shows that the answers are to be found by relating the questions to the contradictions of society. Marx had learned from Hegel one lesson which he never forgot: putting in front of society a ‗slogan‘, a formula, a set of ‗sectarian principles‘ with which to make the world correspond is not the point. The social formation Marx strove for all his life was a human society, which he fought to release. While he respected the work of Fourier and Owen, he saw it as foreshadowing the Communism that arose from the sufferings of the proletariat itself. In 1859, Marx published Critique of Political Economy, Part 1. (There was no Part 2. Capital, Volume 1 was published eight years later.) The Preface to the Critique, which Marx used to summarise his views, is noteworthy, among other reasons, for its complete failure to mention the topics we have been talking about. Instead, he refers to the ‗the social production of the being‘, and contains the celebrated — and much misunderstood — account of relations of production relations and productive forces. I would only like to point out that the whole of this passage ends with the statement that ‗the pre-history of human society accordingly closes with this social formation‘. The distinction between human productive forces and social relations of production, the key point in Marx‘s whole outlook, is ignored by the ‗Marxists‘. They simply cannot see what all the fuss is about. Communism, which turns on the re-unification of these two, is beyond them. Let us jump a few decades, to 1873. In the Afterword [Nachwort] which he wrote to the Second Edition of Capital, Marx felt it necessary to reply to a reviewer of the First Edition on the question of the method of the book and its relationship to that of Hegel: My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but the direct opposite to it. For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of ‗the Idea‘, is the creator of the actual, and the actual is only the external appearance of the idea. With me, the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material reflected and translated in the mind of man.


And he goes on to contrast the dialectical method and its role in history in Hegel‘s case and in his own. ‗Marxist‘ translators have gone to great lengths to make this look like ‗materialism‘. The best to date is Penguin translation, due to Ben Fowkes: With me, the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought. The Untermann translation is much more direct: With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought. Eden and Cedar Paul give the following: In my view, on the other hand, the ideal is nothing other than the material since it has been transposed and translated inside the human head. Marx‘s original is as follows: Bei mir ist umgekehrt das Idealle nichts andres als das in Menschenkopf ungesetzte und ubersetzte Materialle. What these people miss, is the meaning of Hegel, and without that, there was no possibility of recognising the message of Marx. In everybody up to and including Kant, the pair ‗form‘ and ‗matter‘ confront of each other, and there is no way of proceeding from one to the other. Hegel was the first person to break away from this, and Marx does not go back on it. For the translators of Capital, being ‗materialists‘, the Kantian standpoint is the most advanced they can reach. (Kant himself, was able to see, dimly, the contradictions in this. From then on, the attitude of most thinkers was pre-Kantian.) Marx is inverting Hegel without returning to the earlier point of view. Hegel‘s ‗Mind‘ (or ‗Spirit‘ [Geist]) is far from the ‗Marxist‘s‘. His meaning comprises at least as much as his understanding of ‗world‘, and Marx‘s use of this word never ignores that of Hegel. What eludes Hegel‘s grasp is that with the victory of the proletariat the revelation of the meaning of the history places the true significance of Mind in the heads of the individuals of the whole of society. This appears to be strange time to rediscover the true heritage of Marx. Bush and Blair, along with their counterparts Bin Laden and Putin, seem to have things their own way. How can anyone can imagine that human life could be so different? Well, the works of Karl Marx, if we decide to read them as they were written, can indicate a direction we might take.


Christopher J. Arthur The Myth of „Simple Commodity Production‟
Source: Written in 2005 for ―Marx Myths & Legends‖. Covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics of 1987 represented the distilled wisdom of the economics profession. The article on ‗Karl Marx‘ was written by the leading Marxist theorist of the day, Ernest Mandel. This multi-volume work included enough articles on Marxism to enable a separate volume on it to be extracted and published, The New Palgrave: Marxian Economics, 1990, in which Mandel‘s overview had pride of place. He referred to ‗what Marx calls ―simple commodity production‖ – ―einfache Waren-produktion‖.‘[1] In this, quasi-official expression was given to the most enduring myth of Marxology. For Mandel was following a very long tradition. Paul Sweezy in his much-used classic textbook The Theory of Capitalist Development stated ‗Marx begins by analysing ―simple commodity production‖...‘[2] (Notice the quotation marks, but, as with Mandel, unsupported by any actual reference.) Earlier, in the thirties, Oskar Lange, in explaining Marx‘s theory of value, said Marx starts with such a notion: ‗Marx calls it ―einfache Warenproduktion‖.‘[3] A later authority, R. L. Meek, in his 1967 essay on ‗Karl Marx‘s Economic Method‘ alleged Marx had a model ‗he called ―simple‖ commodity production‘[4]. But the simple truth is that Marx never called anything ‗einfache Warenproduktion‘; the term cannot be found in his writings.[5] Who, then, introduced it? The term occurs in Engels‘s Preface and Supplement to his edition of Capital Volume III, and it was interpolated by him into the text itself (as keeneyed readers can deduce from the editorial brackets surrounding the passage containing it). In his Preface Engels claimed that at the beginning of Volume I of Capital ‗Marx takes simple commodity production as his historical presupposition, only later, proceeding on this basis, to come on to capital‘: the advantage of this was that he could proceed ‗from the simple commodity and not from a conceptually and historically secondary form, the commodity as already modified by capitalism‘.[6] This is in fact a misreading: Marx never used the expression ‗simple commodity production‘ in Capital. Likewise, it is certain he never referred to the capitalistically produced commodity as a secondary derivative form.[7] Marx certainly does not develop the idea of ‗simple commodity production‘ at the point where it was supposed to be under discussion, namely the first few chapters. Rather, as the first sentence of Volume I makes clear, the simple circulation discussed in the first few chapters is that of the capitalist economy. The only occurrence of the term ‗simple commodity production‘ in the whole three volumes of Capital occurs in Volume III, but this is in a passage given to us subsequent to Engels‘s editorial work, as he himself warns us in a note. [8] It is now possible to check this against the manuscript itself, which has been published in the new Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA). It is clear that the entire paragraph was inserted by Engels (as, indeed, was the one on the next page about capital‘s ‗historical mission‘). [9] Later in the text Engels also inserted the phrase ‗and commodity production in general‘. [10] It is not very usual for an editor to impose his own reading on the text. Why, then, did Engels do it? The reason can be established with some precision. However, first let us note that Engels‘s cast of mind was primarily historical. In his review of Marx‘s 1859 Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy he put forward what came to be known as the ‗logical-historical‘ method (another term Marx never used, by the way). When he responded to the first proofs of Capital, he reacted to the proposal to add a special appendix on the value-form by urging that this take the shape of a proof from history. [11]


(Marx ignored this advice.) However, when Engels came to write Prefaces to Capital I in 1883, 1886, and 1890 he did not suggest that the first part was historical. Nor did he refer to ‗simple commodity production‘ in his Preface to Volume II. It was only in 1894 in the Preface to Volume III that he came up with the idea in the context of judging what has been called ‗the prize-essay competition‘ (in which people had been challenged by Engels, in his Preface to Volume II, to solve the problem of generating a uniform rate of profit on the basis of the law of value). This gives us the requisite context for understanding Engels‘s intervention. Engels became involved in the discussion of ‗simple commodity production‘ because it seemed that in the third volume of Capital Marx abandoned the law of value in favour of another principle of price determination. Of course, in Marx‘s procedure values are a stage in the process of generating the Volume III ‗prices of production‘. But, if such values are not empirically present because they are superseded by these prices of production, are they not merely fictitious? Engels reacted to this possibility by interpreting the stages of Marx‘s presentation historically in order to ensure that the values were indeed empirically visible, but, of course, in the past, before capitalism ‗modified‘ the relationships involved. Thus, when in response to Capital Volume III Conrad Schmidt put forward the thesis that the ‗value‘ discussed in Volume I is a ‗necessary fiction‘, Engels wrote to him arguing that value is real enough for practical purposes at the stage of ‗simple commodity production‘.[12] The day before writing to Schmidt, Engels had written to Werner Sombart in much the same vein, arguing that ‗value had a direct and real existence‘ at the time ‗when commodity exchange began‘, but ‗this direct realisation of value ... no longer happens‘, for ‗the value of the capitalist mode of production ... is so thoroughly hidden‘. [13] So strongly did Engels feel about this that he wrote a special paper on the subject, which was placed as a Supplement to the second edition of Capital Volume III. He was there concerned to dispel any doubt that ‗what is involved is not just a logical process but a historical one‘. After developing the point at length, he concluded that ‗Marx‘s law of value applies universally, as much as any economic laws do apply, for the entire period of simple commodity production, i.e. up to the time at which this undergoes a modification by the onset of the capitalist form of production.‘[14] It is true that Engels was able to cite a passage from the manuscript of the third volume in which something like the content of the idea of a stage of simple commodity production was mentioned by Marx. Seizing enthusiastically on this, Engels claimed that ‗if Marx had been able to go through the third volume again, he would undoubtedly have elaborated this passage significantly‘[15]: however, it is just as possible he would have decided it was a false trail and eliminated it! Certainly, odd references in Capital to precapitalist production are not used with any systematic intent. Engels, Sweezy, and Meek, all (wrongly) believed Capital starts with ‗simple commodity production‘, however they characterised its status. For Sweezy the virtue of ‗simple commodity production‘ was its theoretical clarity as the starting point for a logical derivation, not its supposed empirical reality as part of a ‗corrected history‘ as it was for Engels. Meek went for an ambiguous middle position: ‗simple commodity production‘ was not a myth he argued but mythodology.[16] But the belief Marx began with something ‗he called simple commodity production‘ is the real myth! Generations of students have been taught Marxist economics on the basis of a distinction between capitalist production and ‗simple commodity production‘. Yet this approach descends from Engels, not Marx. To turn to the present, let us look at the most widely read popularisation of Marx‘s economics: Ben Fine‘s Marx‘s ‗Capital‘. This has been through four editions since 1975 and has been reprinted many times. As late as the third edition of 1989 there still occurs the flat statement ‗Marx called such a situation simple commodity production.‘[17] Only in the fourth edition of 2003 is this modified to ‗often termed simple commodity production‘.[18] The most commonly used English edition of Capital today has an Introduction by Mandel which says that Marx could not start with


capitalist production, i.e. ‗generalised commodity production‘, because this springs, logically and historically, from ‗simple commodity production‘.[19] How did it happen no one ever actually looked to see if Marx said Part 1 was about simple commodity production? On the face of it there seems no ready explanation for such an extraordinary failure of scholarship. The explanation is that behind this myth lies another: that Marx and Engels were the same person! (the greatest testimony to which is the absurdity of the Collected Works of 50 volumes devoted to two authors who hardly ever published joint works). Meek, in all his work, was absolutely unselfconscious about treating Marx and Engels as one person. Throughout, he quoted freely from Engels when purporting to give Marx‘s views. For example: ‗I still think I was right in laying special emphasis on Marx‘s ―logical-historical method‖: indeed, if anything I think I underestimated the extent to which Marx‘s economic work was guided by it.... Marx‘s logical transition in Capital (from the commodity relation as such to the ―capitalistically modified‖ form of this relation) is presented by him as the ―mirror-image‖ of a historical transition (from ―simple‖ to ―capitalist‖ commodity production)...‘.[20] The ‗by him‘ in this remark is simply false, because all the quoted material in this passage is not from Marx but from Engels. However, if Engels in his Preface took it for granted everyone knew Marx started with simple commodity production this may have been because of Karl Kautsky‘s little book Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx.[21] This appeared in 1887, and was an immediate success selling 5000 copies straightaway.[22] In this, ―simple commodity production‖ is mentioned in the first chapter.[23] There are also references to it throughout the last chapter. Undoubtedly Kautsky‘s interpretation had a continuing influence; for the book was reissued many times. But it would be hasty to assume that Kautsky invented the term. Engels drew Kautsky‘s attention to the importance of ‗simple commodity production‘ as early as a letter of June 26th 1884.[24] So priority lies with Engels. It is evidence of the enormous authority of Engels, as interpreter of Marx‘s meaning, that the standard textbooks for so long repeated his view of the matter. Now, pity the situation of the ‗orthodox‘ indexer. Since Engels said so, it must be true that Part 1 of Capital I deals with simple commodity production: but there is no mention of it! This did not prevent Dona Torr, for example, indexing no less than twenty pages of Volume I under the head ‗Commodity Production, Simple‘ —if there are no references invent fictitious ones! This was in a 1938 edition of Capital based on a reissue of Engels‘s edition. Anyone today who attempts to follow up my remarks about ‗simple commodity production‘ themselves will discover a very strange fact. In the Marx-Engels Collected Works the three volumes of Capital are indexed together at the end of volume 37. When consulting this index one finds that there is one reference to ‗simple commodity production‘ directly and another in relation to capitalist production. Both of these are to pages of Volume I, but nothing of the kind appears there. By contrast, the three occurrences of the term in Volume III, mentioned above, are not listed. (How can anyone conduct research on this basis!) The solution to this mystery is that this index has been compiled simply by zipping together the existing indexes of the separate volumes previously put out by Moscow; a few false entries have been deleted, but no attempt has been made to achieve concordance. The indexes to Volumes II and III were compiled in the fifties for the Foreign Languages Publishing House. The person who compiled the index for Volume III evidently thought the term ‗simple commodity production‘ not worthy of mention (an interesting fact in itself). Volume I, published in 1954, did not have a subject index at all; but when the three volumes were brought out again by Progress Publishers Volume I was supplied with an index later; this time the person responsible put in a couple of fictitious entries. It is to be regretted that the indexes of the new MEGA editions of Volume One also make concessions to the myth of ‗simple commodity production‘. For the first edition


(1867), MEGA lists ‗Warenproduktion – einfache‘ and gives three page references. But on none of these pages does the term ‗einfache Warenproduktion‘ appear, and in my opinion nothing corresponding to its meaning appears either. However when MEGA gives the original manuscript of Volume Three it does not list the term in its index – very rightly. Here I have dealt with a strictly philological issue. Behind that lie interpretative issues, and substantive ones. I believe in both Engels is seriously misguided. However, it is open to anyone to support Engels‘s reading in one or both respects. But in future I hope such people will not refer to ‗what Marx called simple commodity production‘, but to ‗what Engels called simple commodity production‘. I have argued elsewhere that Engels‘s reading of Capital is wrong-headed.[25] But, if so, how did it happen that the myth went unchallenged? While the authority of Engels was important in this, there must have been a predisposition present in readers of Capital to find the concept of ‗simple commodity production‘ congenial. There are three considerations I offer to explain this. a) The first generation of Marxists, such as Engels and Kautsky (who were also enthusiastic about Darwin), believed that Marx made a uniquely powerful contribution to the critique of political economy insofar as he systematically differentiated between modes of production on a historical basis. Capitalism was a historically specific social formation. They confused this genuine insight of Marx‘s with a methodological imperative to explain things in terms of historical origins and development, albeit suitably dialecticised. What this missed was the possibility that Marx intended a rigorously logical ordering of concepts, employing not a historical dialectic but a systematic dialectic of the kind found in Hegel‘s logic, wherewith an abstract beginning is sequentially concretised. b) The following generations of Marxists included those educated in ‗Economics‘ departments, who absorbed a different methodology, namely modelling. They naturally ‗found‘ in Capital a number of such ‗models‘, beginning with ‗simple commodity production‘. They read the book as a sequence of more and more complex models, approximating more and more to the real object. c) By the time Capital appeared Hegel was a ‗dead dog‘ to such an extent that nobody was in a position to understand and assess Marx‘s somewhat nuanced acknowledgement of his influence. Dialectical thought of the kind found in Capital was no longer familiar, even to scholars. Even if Marx had provided more guidance in a suitably didactic methodological introduction, readers would have found it difficult to fathom. Without it, they were lost. The Afterword Marx put in the second edition of Volume I certainly raises more problems than it solves. This suggests to me that Marx was not himself clear about the issues. The ‗hiddenness‘ of the systematic dialectical method in the argument itself may not merely be in the interest of popularisation; to some extent it must have been hidden from Marx himself. Any attempt to recover it may well require some reconstruction of the argument. But that takes us well beyond the simple point I am making in this article. Endnotes 1. Mandel ―Karl Marx‖, p.4. 2. Sweezy Theory of Capitalist Development p. 23. 3. Lange ―Marxian Economics and Modern Economic Theory‖ in Review of Economic Studies Vol. II 1934-35, p. 195, p. 198. He continually uses the same expression in the rest of the article. But there is something strange about it: a) he never translates the phrase; so the words ―simple commodity production‖ do not appear; b) this is the only German expression in the article; as if it were a peculiarly untranslatable technical term of Marx‘s; but it isn‘t untranslatable, and it isn‘t Marx‘s. 4. Meek, Studies in the Labour Theory of Value, (2nd ed. 1973) Appendix p. 303. 5. In English we find one reference to it in Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, p.501, MarxEngels Collected Works (MECW) Vol. 32 p.132. But in the German original it is ―blose


Waarenproduction‖, ie. pure commodity production: Marx ―Zur Kritik...‖ Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) Abt. II Band. 3.3 p 1123. 6. Marx Capital Volume III, Preface by Engels p. 103. 7. There is a passage in which Marx presupposes the worker owned his own product (Marx Capital Volume I, pp. 729-30). But that passage is written in hypothetical mode. I argue it is counter-factual in character in Arthur The New Dialectic and Marx‘s ―Capital‖ Chapter 6. 8. Marx Capital Volume III, p. 370 and p. 371n. 9. Compare the version of Volume III in Marx-Engels Werke, Band 25, pp. 271-73, with the 1863-65 manuscript of it in MEGA Abt.II Band 4.2 pp. 334-36. 10. Marx Capital Volume III, p. 965. 11. Engels letter to Marx of June 16th 1867 in Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, p.186. 12. Letter to Schmidt of March 12th 1895; in Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, p.481-85. 13. Letter of March 11th 1895; in Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, p.481. 14. Marx Capital III, Supplement by Engels pp.1033 & 1037. 15. Marx Capital III, Supplement by Engels p. 1034; the full passage from Marx is on pp. 277-78. 16. Meek Studies 2nd ed 1973 Appendix p.304. 17. Fine Marx‘s ―Capital‖, third edition, p. 11. 18. Fine Marx‘s ―Capital‖ (fourth edition with A. Saad-Filho) p. 22. This was a result of publications of mine exposing the myth, starting first with ―Engels as Interpreter of Marx‘s Economics‖, 1996; and then again with ―Against the Logical-Historical Method: Dialectical Derivation versus Linear Logic‖, 1997. 19. Marx Capital I, Introduction by Mandel pp. 13-14. Possibly Mandel originated the complementary expression ―generalised commodity production‖. 20. Meek Studies in the Labour Theory of Value, Introduction to the Second Edition, (1973) p. xv. 21. Paul Hampton drew my attention to Kautsky‘s work. 22. According to Engels in a letter to Sorge of September 16th 1887 in Engels 1887-90, MECW Vol. 48 p. 104. 23. Kautsky Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx, p. 19-20. 24. Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, p. 377. 25. Arthur The New Dialectic and Marx‘s ―Capital‖ chapter 2. References Arthur, Christopher J. ‗Engels as Interpreter of Marx‘s Economics‘ in Engels Today: A Centenary Appreciation edited by C. J. Arthur (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press) 1996. Arthur, Christopher J. ‗Against the Logical-Historical Method: Dialectical Derivation versus Linear Logic‘ in New Investigations of Marx‘s Method edited by F. Moseley and M. Campbell (New Jersey: Humanities Press) 1997. Arthur, Christopher J. The New Dialectic and Marx‘s ‗Capital‘ ( Leiden: Brill) 2002. Engels, Frederick Letters 1887-90, Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels Collected Works Volume 48, (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 2001. Fine, Ben Marx‘s ‗Capital‘, third edition, (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education) 1989. Fine, Ben (with A. Saad-Filho) Marx‘s ‗Capital‘, fourth edition, (London: Pluto Press) 2003. Kautsky, Karl Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx, English trans. H. J. Stenning, (London: A. & C. Black Ltd) 1936. Lange, Oskar ‗Marxian Economics and Modern Economic Theory‘ in Review of Economic Studies Vol. II 1934-35.


Mandel, Ernest ‗Karl Marx‘ in The New Palgrave: Marxian Economics, edited by J. Eatwell et al, (Basingstoke: Macmillan) 1990. Marx, Karl Capital Volume I, trans. B. Fowkes, (Harmondsworth: Penguin) 1976. Marx, Karl Capital Volume III, trans. D. Fernbach, (Harmondsworth: Penguin) 1981. Marx, Karl Capital Volume I in Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels Collected Works Volume 35, (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 1996. Marx, Karl Capital Volume III in Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels Collected Works Volume 37, (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 1998. Marx, Karl Das Kapital: Dritter Band, Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels Werke, Band 25, (Berlin: Dietz Verlag) 1964. Marx, Karl Das Kapital. Drittes Buch. Die Gestaltungen des Gesamtprozesses, in Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) Abteilung II, Band 4.2 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag) 1992. Marx, Karl Das Kapital Erster Band 1867: Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), Abteilung II Band 5, (Berlin: Dietz-Verlag) 1983 . Marx, Karl ‗Economic Manuscript of 1861-63‘: Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels Collected Works Volume 32, (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 1989. Marx, Karl Theories of Surplus Value Part II (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 1969. Marx, Karl Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Ms. 1861-63), Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), Abteilung II Band 3.3, (Berlin: Dietz-Verlag) 1978. Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels Selected Correspondence, (Moscow: Progress) 1965. Meek, Ronald L. Studies in the Labour Theory of Value, 2nd ed. (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 1973. Sweezy, Paul M. The Theory of Capitalist Development, [1942] (New York: Monthly Review Press) 1970.


Chris Arthur Hegel‟s Master-Slave Dialectic and a Myth of Marxology
Source: Originally published in the New Left Review, November-December 1983, pp. 67–75. Revised by the author for Marx Myths & Legends. Used with permission of New Left Review for non-commercial, educational purposes only, and no permission is granted to reproduce the text. There is a widely held view that Marx was profoundly influenced by the Master– Servant (‗Herrschaft und Knechtschaft‘) dialectic in Hegel‘s Phenomenology of Spirit. This view was first popularized by Jean-Paul Sartre, who refers in his Being and Nothingness (1943) to ‗the famous Master-Slave relation which so profoundly influenced Marx‘.[1] Sartre does not explain how he knows this.[2] Probably this remark reflects the influence of Alexandre Kojève‘s lectures on Hegel in the nineteen-thirties. Kojève presents a reading of the Phenomenology which centralizes the place of the Master–Servant dialectic in it, in a quasi-Marxist interpretation.[3] (Kojève may have assumed that Marx himself read it in the same way. However, it is one thing to read Marxism back into Hegel, it is another to generate it out of Hegel.) Three years after Sartre we find Jean Hyppolite again saying that the dialectic of domination and servitude is the best-known section of the Phenomenology because of ‗the influence it has had on the political and social philosophy of Hegel‘s successors, especially Marx‘.[4] As a matter of fact, despite the assertions of numerous commentators to the contrary, Sartre and Hyppolite did not attend Kojève‘s lectures. The myth that they sat at the feet of the ‗unknown superior‘ is now wellestablished, but the secondary literature concerned does not give any evidence for it. [5] Let us turn then to first-hand accounts. Kojève‘s disciple Raymond Queneau, who was responsible for collecting and publishing Kojève‘s lectures in 1947, has given a list of participants which does not include Sartre or Hyppolite. [6] As far as Hyppolite is concerned we have the additional testimony of Mme. Hyppolite[7] that he did not attend ‗for fear of being influenced‘.[8] However that may be, by the time Sartre and Hyppolite made their equations between Hegel and Marx a crucial document of Kojève‘s was already in the public domain. In the 14 January 1939 issue of Mesures Kojève published a free translation, with interpolated glosses, of the section of the Phenomenology entitled ‗Autonomy and Dependence of Self-consciousness: Mastery and Servitude‘. Still more interesting for our purposes is that Kojève includes as an epigraph the following words of Marx: ‗Hegel ... erfasst die Arbeit als das Wesen, als das sich bewährende Wesen des Menschen‘.[9] (‗Hegel ... grasps labour as the essence, as the self-confirming essence of man‘.) No reference is given, but in fact this is quoted from Marx‘s 1844 Paris Manuscripts, which remained unpublished until the nineteen-thirties. Kojève is the first person, therefore, to make a direct connection between this famous judgement of Marx‘s on Hegel and the Master–Servant dialectic in the Phenomenology. Today it is dogmatically asserted in numerous books that Marx was inspired by Hegel‘s analysis of the labour of servitude.[10] This view is completely false. The present note attempts to show that this is so and to explain the real significance of Marx‘s critical appropriation of the Phenomenology. If we are to consider the influence of Hegel‘s Phenomenology on Marx, the crucial text to examine has to be Marx‘s manuscripts of 1844, in which he introduces his theory of alienation, and then devotes considerable space to a penetrating critique of the Phenomenology. In this latter section Marx praises Hegel for having grasped man as the result of his own labour. Nearly all commentators, innocently assuming that material labour is meant here, turn to the Phenomenology and find that there is indeed a fascinating discussion in the ‗Master–Servant‘ section of the significance of material labour; in and


through this the servant ‗finds himself‘. Furthermore, the fact that this labour is seen by Hegel as actualized in the context of servitude, leads some commentators to make the more extravagant claim that in his theory of alienation Marx draws on this same section. Herbert Marcuse was probably the first to do so; he says in his Reason and Revolution (1941): ‗In 1844, Marx sharpened the basic concepts of his own theory through a critical analysis of Hegel‘s Phenomenology of Mind. He described the alienation of labour in the terms of Hegel‘s discussion of master and servant.‘[11] The only difficulty with these presuppositions of the secondary literature is that Marx never refers to this section of the Phenomenology—never mind giving it any importance!—when, in his 1844 manuscripts, he embarks on a ‗critique of Hegel‘s dialectic‘. He discusses the Phenomenology as a whole and draws attention to its last chapter especially; he singles out three other sections for praise; but not one of them is on the master–servant dialectic.[12] This should make us suspicious, therefore, of the claims made for the ‗master–slave‘. Before considering Marx‘s assessment of the Phenomenology let us rehearse the dialectic of Herrschaft und Knechtschaft. (Incidentally, although it is popularly nominated the ‗Master–Slave‘, the correct translation of Knecht is ‗servant‘.[13]) This section occurs early in the Phenomenology at the point where consciousness is to turn into selfconsciousness. Hegel believes that the self can become conscious of itself only in and through the mediation of another self-consciousness. The first stable relationship that emerges in Hegel‘s dialectical development of this topic is that of Lordship and Bondage. The master is acknowledged as such by his servant, and he achieves immediate satisfaction of his desires through goods and services provided by the servant‘s labour. The dialectic moves forward precisely through the servant, however, because ‗through work ... the bondsman becomes conscious of what he truly is‘. Work forms and shapes the thing, and through this formative activity the consciousness of the servant now, in the work outside it, acquires ‗an element of permanence‘; for it comes to see in the independent being of the object ‗its own independence‘. ‗The shape does not become something other than himself through being made external to him,‘ says Hegel, ‗for it is precisely this shape that is his pure being-for-self.‘ He concludes: ‗Through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the bondsman realizes that it is precisely in his work wherein he seemed to live only the life of a stranger [fremder Sinn] that he acquires a sense of himself [eigner Sinn].‘[14] These terms are superficially comparable to Marx‘s in that both Hegel and Marx see work not merely in its utilitarian aspect but as a vehicle of self-realization; thus they see the servant rather than the master as the locus of a more developed human existence. However, fundamental differences between Marx and Hegel become obvious when we notice that, whereas Marx holds that only a change in the mode of production recovers for the worker his sense of self and its fulfilment, Hegel thinks that the educative effect of work, even within an exploitative relation of production, is sufficient for the worker to manifest to himself his own ‗meaning‘ in his product. Furthermore, at this stage in the phenomenological dialectic, the condition of ‗fear and service‘ is stipulated as necessary to this end: that is, to the servant‘s becoming objective to himself. [15] Hegel defines work as ‗desire held in check‘: it involves putting a distance between the immediate impulses of self-will and formative activity grounded in objective principles. If you like, it is really the master who is a slave because his object is the ‗unalloyed feeling of self-satisfaction‘: that is to say, he is a slave to his appetites, but his satisfactions are ‗only fleeting‘, lacking the permanence of objectivity. [16] The servant on the other hand, in the work he creates, achieves mastery of his craft; it is he who rises to the level of universal human reason. However, Hegel introduces the notion that ‗fear and service‘ are necessary to induce the check to desire and to ensure that consciousness rises above self-centred goals to the freedom that comes from a consciousness of the ‗universal power‘ of human creative activity.[17] Quite arbitrarily, apparently, Hegel assumes


everyone must undergo breaking of self-will through subjection to an alien power before being capable of rational freedom.[18] Let us now examine the crucial passage in Marx‘s complex discussion of the Phenomenology, in which Marx praises Hegel for grasping the importance of labour. ‗The great thing in Hegel‘s Phenomenology and its final result—the dialectic of negativity as the moving and producing principle—is that Hegel conceives the self-creation of man as a process, objectification [Vergegenständlichung] as loss of object [Entgegenständlichung], as alienation [Entäusserung] and as sublation [Aufhebung] of this alienation; that he therefore grasps the nature of labour and conceives objective man ... as the result of his own labour ... The realization of himself ... is only possible if man ... employs all his species-powers ... and treats them as objects, which is at first only possible in the form of estrangement [Entfremdung].‘[19] Does such a judgement—as Kojève insinuates and so many later writers boldly assert—rest on Hegel‘s discussion of the labour of servitude? The first thing that should give us pause is that immediately after this praise Marx qualifies it by complaining that ‗the only labour Hegel knows and recognizes is abstract mental labour‘.[20] The servant‘s labour is clearly material, so this remark shows that not only has Marx not drawn on that analysis, but he has actually forgotten all about it and done Hegel a minor injustice![21] What Marx does refer us to is ‗the closing chapter of the Phenomenology ... (―Absolute Knowledge‖)‘, which ‗contains the concentrated essence of the Phenomenology‘ and its dialectic.[22] It contains the upshot of its whole movement. The ‗abstract mental labour‘ to which Marx refers is the labour of spirit. The Phenomenology is a spiritual odyssey, or, perhaps, a Bildungsroman of spirit, in which spirit discovers that the objective shapes given to it in consciousness and self-consciousness are nothing but its own self-determination. Spirit comes to know itself through producing itself, in the first instance as something which stands over against itself. In the final chapter, Marx notes, the world of estrangement thus brought to life is overcome, or negated, in a peculiar way in that—as Hegel puts it—‗self-consciousness has sublated this alienation [Entäusserung] and objectivity ... so that it is at home with itself in its otherness as such‘.[23] Within this framework spheres of estrangement such as religion, the state, civil society, and so forth, are grasped as spirit‘s own work. Hegel emphasizes that spirit can come to itself only through setting up opposition and then negating it. This is ‗the labour of the negative‘ as he calls it.[24] When Marx refers to ‗the final result‘ of the Phenomenology being ‗the dialectic of negativity as the moving and producing principle‘, it is to this entire labour of spirit in the Phenomenology that he refers. Of course, in Marx‘s view man produces himself through material labour. It would be a mistake, however, to assume therefrom that he praises Hegel for what he says about material labour such as that of the servant. When Marx says Hegel grasps labour as the essence, he is talking not about what Hegel actually says about material labour (hence the lack of reference to ‗Lordship and Bondage‘) but about the esoteric significance of the dialectic of negativity in spirit‘s entire self-positing movement (hence Marx‘s claim that the only labour Hegel knows is abstract mental labour). Marx sees in Hegel‘s dialectic of negativity the hypostatization of the abstract reflection in philosophy of the material process whereby man produces himself through his own labour, a process which (Marx concurs with Hegel) must pass through a stage of estrangement. It is necessary to locate the ‗Master–Slave‘ within this perspective of spirit‘s development of its self-awareness. As we have already noted, and now stress, it is an early moment in the story of spirit‘s recovery of itself. It is much less ‗concrete‘ (in Hegel‘s terminology) than cultural achievements such as law, art, religion and philosophy. [25] Nonetheless, it is located at a turning point of some importance, for the problem Hegel faces is how to develop dialectically self-consciousness out of the mere consciousness of external objects. Consciousness cannot grasp itself in things. It must distinguish itself


absolutely from them through their radical negation. The consumption of objects of desire accomplishes this in an evanescent way. To risk one‘s life in forcing another consciousness to grant one recognition represents a more promising mediation. But the master finds himself frustrated in reducing the vanquished to his servant, his thing. Selfconsciousness can only gain proper recognition through mutual respect such as that accorded to individuals constituted in the legal and ethical relations Hegel develops later in the story.[26] At this stage the dialectic advances through the despised servant. As we have seen, he ‗finds himself‘ through the negating action of work on things. However, it must be stressed that the point of this is that it brings about an advance in self-consciousness. This does not have much in common with Marx‘s interest in the realization of an objective being in forming the material world; but it is of a piece with the project of the Phenomenology as a whole. It is worth noting that in Hegel‘s Encyclopaedia ‗Phenomenology‘ no mention is made of the worker finding himself in his product; the emphasis in the outcome of the ‗Master–Slave‘ there is on ‗community of need‘ and ‗fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom‘.[27] As far as the Phenomenology of Spirit is concerned, as it is a spiritual odyssey it is quite wrong to place special stress on this moment of material labour (as is the case with the overly ‗Marxist‘ readings of Marcuse and of Kojève), for its importance lies not in the material result but in the spiritual one. The next stage in the dialectic is that, since self-consciousness lacks unity here in being split between different ‗selves‘, it attempts to find its ‗freedom‘ in ‗thinking‘; objectivity is ‗negated‘ in the pure universality of thought in the attitudes Hegel identifies with Stoicism and Scepticism.[28] This ‗freedom‘ of inner life is compatible with any social position—as Hegel says.[29] Does Marx, as Marcuse claims (above), follow in his theory of alienation the terms of Hegel‘s Master–Servant relationship? We have already said enough to cast doubt on this. Furthermore, not only does Marx himself not refer us to this section, but Hegel‘s own discussion in it does not mention alienation. It is obvious that immediately material labour is not as such a problem for Hegel just because it is material, as might be supposed. [30] Contrary to this, Hegel gives it an affirmative significance in the development of spirit. It is perfectly true, however, that Marx finds in Hegel the theme of alienation (Entäusserung) and estrangement (Entfremdung)—but he does not find it in the labour of servitude. Even those commentators who light on Hegel‘s chapter ‗Spirit in Self-Estrangement‘ (‗Der sich entfremdete Geist‘) are only partially correct. It is true that Marx makes favourable reference to some of this material; he says: ‗these separate sections contain the critical elements—but still in estranged form—of entire spheres, such as religion, the state, civil life and so forth‘.[31] However, in these sections we are dealing with a realm of finite spirit, referred historically to the period from feudalism, through the Enlightenment, to the French Revolution. Marx mainly concerns himself, not with this so much, but with spirit‘s movement of ‗absolute negativity‘, and especially with the final chapter ‗Absolute Knowledge‘ (and when he mentions the Encyclopaedia, it is the Absolute Idea and its alienation of itself in nature that he discusses). A complicating feature in discussing these issues is that translations of texts by Hegel, and by Marx, may give either or both of ‗Entäusserung‘ and ‗Entfremdung‘ as ‗alienation‘. However, in Hegel these terms are widely separated in the text and have different functions. We have just mentioned the chapter on Entfremdung. ‗Entäusserung‘, as Lukács point out,[32] is the key concept in the upshot of the Phenomenology: spirit grasps the sphere of estrangement as the product of its own self-alienation. Entfremdung stands to Entäusserung as phenomenological result—a state of being—to the active process of spirit‘s positing of itself in otherness.[33] While Marx was impressed by Hegel‘s phenomenological description of estrangement, what really excited him was the ‗metaphysical‘ aspect of the Phenomenology—spirit mediating itself with itself in alienation (Entäusserung). This is the process of ‗absolute negativity‘ and it is to this Marx refers when he says that, albeit in


mystified form, Hegel grasps man as the product of his own labour, through alienation and the overcoming of alienation. Nevertheless, Marx holds that Hegel‘s discussion of the problematics of alienation is embedded in speculative illusions, and because of this it is a ‗merely apparent criticism‘, shading over into ‗uncritical positivism‘. In this connection one must draw attention to the sophisticated use of quotation by Kojève in the above-mentioned epigraph to the effect that Hegel grasps labour as the essence. The passage from which Kojève quotes is as follows (with Kojève‘s ‗quote‘ stressed): ‗Hegel adopts the standpoint of modern political economy. He grasps labour as the essence, the self-confirming essence of man; he sees only the positive and not the negative side of labour. Labour is man‘s coming to be for himself within alienation [Entäusserung] or as alienated man.‘[34] Why does Marx qualify his praise of Hegel in this way? Firstly, despite the wealth of content in the Phenomenology, everything is treated under the form of consciousness or self-consciousness. This means that a change in consciousness abolishes estrangement because estrangement itself is understood only as an attitude adopted by consciousness. This ‗abolition‘ leaves everything in reality as it is. Thus the critical apparatus issues in ‗uncritical positivism‘.[35] Secondly, since the ‗subject‘ of the movement is ‗spirit‘, Hegel cannot conceive of objectification except as resulting in estrangement—hence he substitutes for the category of objectification (Vergegenständlichung) that of alienation (Entäusserung—which, like Vergegenständlichung, has the connotation of positing as objective but which also implies the relinquishment of what is manifested, constituting therefore an alienation). [36] Nonetheless, Hegel sees something positive in this process[37] because in this alienation spirit becomes objective to itself. It is an essential moment in spirit‘s self-actualization and self-awareness. Hegel is not, then, opposed to objectification, on the grounds that it leads to estrangement. He certainly thinks that it does lead to estrangement, but this does not mean that he thinks spirit should rest content in itself and avoid the misfortune of alienation from itself. However, instead of a real historical solution we are provided with a displacement of the problem into general philosophical reflection issuing in a solution posed exclusively within philosophy, which preserves estrangement (‗otherness as such‘) as a moment in the absolute. This is his ‗merely apparent criticism‘ (Marx [38]). In truth, Hegel‘s equation of objectification and alienation makes him uncritical of the estrangement brought to life in spirit‘s self-actualization. That is to say, Hegel, in common with modern political economy, grasps labour as the essence of human development but not as alienated from itself in capitalist society because, if one is unable to posit a genuine historical negation of the negation, the existing conditions become the horizon which blocks off the possibility of a critical standpoint. In fact, these conditions which twist and distort the objectification of man in and through labour are endorsed as the necessary groundwork within which the coming-to-be of man for himself must occur. The world of estrangement is presented as labour‘s absolute self-expression.[39] In conclusion, one can say that focus on the master-slave dialectic reflects two biases. First: one must remark in Kojève, and Hyppolite, the beginnings of the ‗existentialist‘ reading of the Phenomenology with its absurd over-emphasis on the ‗life and death struggle‘, and its outcome in ‗Lordship and Bondage‘—as if the remaining six hundred pages of the Phenomenology were merely an afterthought! Second: while Marxist discussion used to lean towards immediately political problems such as that of domination and class struggle, the diffusion of texts such as the 1844 Manuscripts, the German Ideology, and, more recently, the Grundrisse, has made possible a serious discussion of ontological questions; hence the influence on Marx of Hegel, and of his Phenomenology, must be differently interpreted. Acknowledgements Thanks are due to Jonathan Rée and to Joe McCarney.


Footnotes 1. J.-P. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, London 1958, p. 237. 2. Marcuse in a review of Being and Nothingness says: ‗Sartre makes reference to Marx‘s early writings ...‘ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, March 1948. But in fact there is no such reference. Marcuse probably has in mind this remark about the ‗MasterSlave‘ influence on Marx—a view held independently by Marcuse and which he had already linked to Marx‘s early writings (see below). 3. A. Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1947), New York 1969. 4. J. Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel‘s Phenomenology of Spirit, Evanston 1974, p. 172. Also: ‗the famous dialectic of the Master and Slave that became the inspiration of Marxian philosophy‘. Studies on Marx and Hegel (1955), New York 1969, 1973, p. 29. 5. A typical example is George L. Kline who says Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite ‗attended some of Kojève‘s lectures and doubtless read the mimeographed versions of those they did not attend‘. See ‗The Existentialist Rediscovery of Hegel and Marx‘, in Phenomenology and Existentialism, ed. E. N. Lee and M. Mandelbaum, Baltimore 1967, p. 120. He gives as his authority for this a book by Wilfred Desan: The Marxism of JeanPaul Sartre, New York 1965. This says ‗early audiences ... including Sartre, MerleauPonty, Hyppolite ...‘ (p. 24); and again ‗Sartre learned to study Hegel in the classes of Kojève just before W.W.II‘ (p. 50n). However, Desan gives no evidence. Mark Poster‘s Existentialist Marxism in Post-War France, Princeton 1975 is more cautious: ‗It was even said that Jean-Paul Sartre himself was enrolled, although his attendance at the classes was not recalled‘ (pp. 8–9). 6. Critique nos. 195–96, 1963. The list is cited by Vincent Descombes in his Modern French Philosophy, Cambridge 1980, p. 10n. 7. Interview with John Heckman. See his ‗Introduction‘ to Genesis ... p. xxvi. Heckman is under the impression that Sartre attended:– p. xxiii. 8. This throws an interesting light on Kline‘s judgment (op. cit. p. 120): ‗During the late 1930s Jean Hyppolite, under Kojève‘s influence, began to publish articles on Hegel and the Phenomenology‘; his 1946 commentary ‗draws freely on both Wahl and Kojève ...‘ 9. Republished by Queneau, ‗In Place of an Introduction‘, as the first chapter of his Kojève collection. The (partial) English translation (see note 3) includes it, also as chapter one. (Note that the German Mensch or Menschen is non-gender specific, though difficult to translate as other than man or men in English.) 10. H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution (1941), London 1954, p. 115. R. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, Cambridge 1961, p. 147. D. Struik, ‗Introduction‘ to Marx‘s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, New York 1964, p. 36. W. Desan, The Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre, New York 1965, p. 34. M. Poster, Existentialist Marxism in Post-War France, Princeton 1975, pp. 13–16. Z. Hanfi, ‗Introduction‘ to The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, New York 1972, p. 42. R. Norman, Hegel‘s Phenomenology, London 1976, p. 53 and p. 73. G. A. Kelly, Hegel‘s Retreat from Eleusis, Princeton 1978, p. 30. J. Israel, The Language of Dialectic and the Dialectics of Language, Brighton 1979, p. 122. M. Petry, ‗Introduction‘ to G. W. F. Hegel, The Berlin Phenomenology, Dordrecht 1981, p. lxxxix. Allen W. Wood Karl Marx, London 1981 pp. 242-3. 11. See previous note. In fact Marcuse had already said in his 1932 review of the 1844 manuscripts that Marx‘s critical concepts point back to the ontological categories of ‗labour‘ and ‗domination and servitude‘ developed by Hegel in his Phenomenology (From Luther to Popper, London 1983 p. 13, 39). Pierre Naville gives prominence to Hegel‘s discussion but says that it is too simple to claim this was Marx‘s source (De L‘Alienation à la Jouissance, Paris 1957 p. 10). 12. K. Marx, Early Writings, Harmondsworth 1975, p. 385.


13. That this choice of terminology was deliberate is seen when we find that in his Berlin lecture on Herrschaft und Knechtschaft Hegel draws a distinction between der Sklave and der Knecht. See: Hegel‘s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit Vol. 3, ed. M. Petry, Holland/Boston 1979, appendix pp. 342–43 ( Phil Slater in a brief unpublished paper, ‗Objectification, alienation and labour: Notes on Hegel, Marx and Marcuse‘ (1980), in the context of polemics against Marcuse‘s early work for confusing ‗objectification‘ in Hegel and Marx. 14. Gesammelte Werke, Band 9, Phänomenologie des Geistes, Hamburg 1980, pp. 114-15 15. Phänomenologie p. 115 16. Loc. Cit. 17. Ibid p. 116 18. This is clearer in The Berlin Phenomenology, paras 434, 435. 19. Early Writings, pp. 385-86 20. Ibid, p. 386 21. See David McLellan Marx before Marxism, London 1970, p. 197. 22. Early Writings, pp. 386. 23. Phänomenologie p. 422. 24. Ibid, p. 18 25. This point is stressed by Phil Slater in his unpublished paper ‗Objectification, alienation and labour‘ (1980) 26. Jonathan Rée draws my attention to the fact that Hegel is not really discussing individuality here, and a fortiori not social relationships. Hence there is no discussion of master–master or slave–slave relations. We are concerned here with consciousness in general as against objects. 27. Op. Cit., paras 434–35. By contrast, in the Phänomenologie Hegel said: ‗Albeit fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, consciousness is not therein aware of being selfexistent. Through labour, however, it comes to itself ‘ (p. 115). And on the next page: ‗For the reflection of self into self the two moments, fear and service in general, as also that of formative activity, are necessary... .‘ 28. Norman is particularly good on the lack of a ‗happy ending‘ for the servant, and the further dialectic (op. cit., ch. 3). See also Kojève, ch. 2. 29. ‗Whether on the throne or in chains ... its aim is to be free‘. Op. cit., p. 117. 30. Ernest Mandel says (Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx, London 1971) that for Hegel material labour is alienating ‗because labour is, by its nature, the externalizing (Veräusserung) of a human capacity, which means that man loses something that previously belonged to him‘ (p. 155). Mandel seems to have in mind para. 67 of Hegel‘s Philosophy of Right which deals with the Veräusserung (= alienation in the sense of sale) of human powers. If so, this is a complete misrepresentation of Hegel‘s text. So far from labour ‗by its nature‘ having an alienating import, Hegel again in the Philosophy of Right gives the ‗forming of things‘ (para 56) a role in actualizing freedom. For Hegel, however, human freedom is more real in alienating things through contracts. When he faces the problem that freedom of alienation is used to sell human capacities—physical and mental skills inherent in the person—this is achieved ‗through the mediation of mind which reduces its inner possessions to ... externality‘ (para. 43). In virtue of the temporal restriction on such alienation in wage-labour, the labour-power sold acquires ‗an external relation‘ to the substance of the labourer‘s personality and he remains a free subject notwithstanding it (para. 67). It is clear, then, that Hegel does not say labour ‗by its nature‘ as ‗externalizing‘ is alienating; rather, he says complex social mediations achieve alienation through setting labour in an (artificial) external relation to the person. (For a full treatment see my ‗Personality and the dialectic of labour and property—Locke, Hegel, Marx‘ Radical Philosophy 26, 1980.) 31. Op. cit., p. 385.


32. G. Lukács, The Young Hegel (1948), London 1975, last chapter. Incidentally, Lukács does not refer Marx‘s 1844 Mss. to the ‗Master–Slave‘. 33. As Marx says: ‗Entfremdung constitutes the real interest of this Entäusserung‘ (op. cit., p. 384). 34. Op. cit., p. 386. 35. Ibid., p. 385. 36. Lukács originated this understanding in The Young Hegel, p. 551. Hyppolite defends Hegel on this point—see the last section of his ‗Commentary on G. Lukács‘s The Young Hegel‘ in Studies ... pp. 86–90. 37. Phänomenologie, p. 422. See Marx, op. cit., p. 395. 38. Op. cit., p. 393. 39. This paragraph is a condensed version of an argument developed at length in my ‗Objectification and Alienation in Hegel and Marx‘, Radical Philosophy 30, Spring 1982.


Joseph McCarney Ideology and False Consciousness
Source: ―Ideology and False Consciousness‖ was written for ―Marx Myths and Legends‖ by Joseph McCarney in April 2005, and rights remain with the author, as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. The myth to be discussed here was given its purest expression by John Plamenatz when he asserted that ‗Marx often called ideology ―false consciousness‖‘. [1] Not surprisingly, Plamenatz cites no instances of this usage, as, in truth, Marx never calls ideology ‗false consciousness‘. Indeed, he never calls anything ‗false consciousness‘, a phrase that does not occur in his work. The standard of Marx scholarship in English has, it must be admitted, greatly improved since Plamenatz‘s time. No serious commentator today would propose a relationship in the terms he employs with such assurance. There is, nevertheless, a sense in which the shadow of the false consciousness connection still looms large over the subject. This may be illustrated by the work of two later writers, both of whom recognise that Marx does not himself speak of ‗false consciousness‘. Moreover, both have been highly influential and are representative of distinct general tendencies. Jorge Larrain, while eschewing the language of ‗false consciousness‘, maintains that Marx identifies ideology with cognitive distortion in the specific sense of the concealment of social contradictions.[2] Terry Eagleton for his part believes that this language will serve to characterise not Marx‘s sole conception of ideology but rather one he held among others. [3] In general, it may be suggested, the dominant view in the literature is that Marx should be credited with an understanding of ideology as necessarily involving what is cognitively defective or deficient, in being illusory, deceptive, partial, distorted or at any rate failing in some way to present a veridical picture of the social world. This is the myth which the present discussion seeks to expose. It should be said by way of preliminary that the association of ideology and cognitive deficiency is now so widespread that it must be assumed to serve a deep need of the age, the need for a concept that collects items in virtue of just that sort of deficiency. No objection will be raised here to the devising of such a concept, or to labelling it ‗ideology‘. What will be argued is simply that the ascription of the result to Marx is entirely gratuitous. It has generated what may properly be called a ‗myth‘ in one familiar sense of the term, a systematic, internally coherent, imaginative construction that lacks any rational foundations. In matters of exegesis the foundations required are a grounding in the testimony of the relevant texts. The discussion will show that there are no such grounds in the present case. Thus, its aim is merely negative. It will not seek to put forward a positive, and necessarily disputable, interpretation of what Marx means by ‗ideology‘ beyond whatever is directly conveyed by the textual evidence that will be cited. [4] An important aspect of this evidence might be captured, without undue strain, by remarking that Marx never calls ideology anything. We have to deal not just with the kind of reticence that is evident in the case of such concepts as ‗class‘ and ‗dialectic‘. The difficulty here is still more basic in that Marx never manages even to set the scene for an attempt at conceptual explication since the bare substantive ‗ideology‘ hardly figures at all in his work. The noun is almost always accompanied by an epithet such as ‗German‘, ‗republican‘, ‗political‘ or ‗Hegelian‘, or by a qualifying phrase, as in ‗the ideology of the bourgeoisie‘ or ‗the ideology of the political economist‘. More typical in any case is the adjectival usage in which such varied items as ‗forms‘, ‗expressions‘, ‗phrases‘, ‘conceptions‘, ‗deception‘, and ‗distortion‘ are said to have an ‗ideological‘ character. Even more distinctive is the frequency, amounting to approximately half of all references in the relevant range, of invocations of the ‗ideologists‘, the creators and purveyors of the ideological forms. It is in general almost impossible to exaggerate the concrete,


conjunctural nature of Marx‘s dealings with the ideological, in marked contrast to the abstractions that characterise the later debates. Thus, one should not expect to find in Marx‘s writings a definition, even in a veiled form, of ‗ideology‘. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to assume that they will provide some clues as to the nature of the general considerations that control his use of the term. The most important of these is to be found in a text in which, it is generally agreed, he reaches unusual heights of methodological self-consciousness, the ‗Preface‘ to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. There he describes the conflict between material forces and relations of production and goes on to refer to the ‗legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic---in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out‘.[5] What is most striking about this reference for present purposes is that so far from associating ideology with cognitive deficiency it associates it rather with cognitive achievement, the ‗becoming conscious‘ of the fundamental social conflict. It is an association which, to put it mildly, has not been allowed its due weight in the interpretative literature. Moreover, it is far from unique among the occasions on which Marx offers some guidance as to the main lines of his thinking in this area. Thus, in The Communist Manifesto we learn that, when the class struggle nears its decisive hour, ‗a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole‘.[6] The natural reading is surely that these thinkers raise themselves to theoretical comprehension of the historical movement as a whole just in their role as bourgeois ideologists. It also seems natural to suppose that this achievement is what triggers their going over to the other side in the class struggle, a move that presumably brings that role to an end. In the light of these passages anyone suffering the burden of the prevailing myth might be tempted to conclude that, so far as Marx‘s explicit guidance goes, ideology is true consciousness. As a slogan this at least would have the merit of having some basis in the evidence of the texts. By itself, however, it could never amount to more than a misleading, if for a limited purpose salutary, paradox. This is shown, to look no further, by Marx‘s all too frequent references to bourgeois ideologists who remain mired in incomprehension of the historical movement as a whole. The correct conclusion is surely that, for Marx, ideology is conceptually compatible with both theoretical comprehension and incomprehension. This is to suggest that ideology is not, for him, an epistemological category of any kind. In more concrete terms he is, it may be said, indifferent to questions of truth status in deciding to designate items as ‗ideological‘. To attempt to say more positively what his linguistic practice is determined by would, however, go beyond the limits of the present discussion. What has been attempted here is a summary account of the direction in which the textual evidence points. It is time to consider more closely the relationship between that evidence and the view that was characterised above as ‗mythical‘. For it is not to be supposed that those who propagate, or fall victim to, that myth do so without some reassuring sense that the weight of Marx‘s writings is to be reckoned on their side. Even if this support is at best a matter of misleading appearances, the appearances still have to be revealed as such and, so far as space allows, traced to their roots. They are rooted in part, it might be suggested, in a degree of confusion. The confusion in question may itself arise from another feature of Marx‘s dealings with the ideological, their overwhelmingly forensic and polemical character. In practice, he tends almost exclusively to be concerned with ideological forms he wishes to criticise and reject, above all with elements of the ideology of the bourgeoisie. This is not quite uniformly the case. Thus, when he writes of the ‗ideological superstructure‘ of the ‗proletarians‘, one would need to be firmly in the grip of myth to suppose that he intends a criticism. [7] Nevertheless, it may be that the rather consistently hostile tone of his references to the manifestations of ideology has, so to speak, tended to rub off on the concept itself, creating a negative aura around it. If so, this


could be only a matter of association and slippage of ideas, not of inference. For it is plainly one thing to characterise particular ideological beliefs as deceptive or distorted and quite another to conclude that ideology as such necessarily partakes of deception and distortion, thereby inflating a contingent circumstance into a conceptual truth. Moreover, so far from supporting such a conclusion, Marx‘s quite frequent references to ‗ideological deception‘ and ‗ideological distortion‘ rather point away from it. For, if it were true, they would have a pleonastic character from which they could be rescued only by supposing that a contrast is intended on the occasions of their use with ‗non-ideological‘ deception and distortion. Such a suggestion is, however, so lacking in vitality and resonance in the context of Marx‘s work that it has never figured significantly in the literature. It seems that the prevailing myth may be tacitly relying in some degree on vagueness and unclarity with regard to the way the texts bear on it, on unexamined assumptions that turn out on examination to be untenable. A sense of there being massive support held in reserve, without needing to be called up on any particular occasion, may help in some measure to explain a curious feature of the prevailing view, the fact that so often its advocates seem to experience no need to provide any textual warrant at all. It is any rate the case that it tends to be taken for granted, not made the object of self-conscious scrutiny or seen as a contentious doctrine in need of justification. Yet it would not be quite true to say that no attempt is ever made to adduce evidence on its behalf. At this point, however, the task facing an attempt at the exposure of myth can be drastically simplified. For over and over again, when, so to speak, the pressure is too great to ignore, it is a particular passage that is called into service, the well-known passage with the image of the camera obscura from The German Ideology. It may be reduced to its working parts for present purposes in the form of a single sentence. This is standardly translated as follows: ‗If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.‘[8] It may be that the quickest way to show how little support this sentence actually lends the prevailing myth is to draw attention to a matter of translation. The key phrase rendered above as ‗in all ideology‘ is in the original ‗in der ganzen Ideologie‘. [9] On linguistic grounds, however, it seems more natural to render this combination of definite article, adjective and noun by some such phrase as ‗in the whole ideology‘. Such a rendering would make clear that what is in question here is the totality of a particular ideology or that ideology taken ‗as a whole‘. If read in this way there is only one possible candidate, the ideology that is the central and, so to speak, eponymous concern of The German Ideology. The reading fits well not just with the overall context of the work but also with the specific thrust of the sentence in which the key phrase appears and with the immediate context of that sentence. For Marx is concerned here not with cognitive defect in general but with a specific, even if large-scale, error. This is the reversal in German idealism of the true order of priority of ideas and material reality. The image of things being ‗upside-down‘, ‗standing on their heads‘, (auf den Kopf gestellt) is a standard recourse of Marx in characterising his relationship with Hegelianism, and indeed may be taken as an echo of phrases in Hegel‘s own work. Marx is far from thinking that the image is serviceable in characterising a wide range of other thinkers such, for instance, as Adam Smith, Ricardo, Bentham and the older French materialists, who, nevertheless, seem uncontentiously to count for him as ideologists. Thus, he does not think of it as capturing a defining feature even of bourgeois ideology, still less of ideology as such. The sense of a specificity of reference is reinforced by the immediate continuation of the sentence that was quoted above. It assures us that that ‗In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven‘. This encourages the suggestion that the chief point of the key sentence may be condensed as follows: ‗Even if the entire German ideology gets things upside-down, this can be


explained in materialist terms‘. It might be thought that the kind of materialist explanation on offer is fairly crude, and destined to be superseded in the course of Marx‘s development, in view of the way it seems to assimilate a complex, socially mediated process to a simple natural one. This does not, however, affect the conclusion to be drawn for present purposes. This is that the camera obscura passage offers a reflection on a feature of a particular ideology, not a conceptual remark about ideology as such. The passage now falls back easily into its place within the consistent texture of the parent work as a whole, no longer seeming to aspire to a meta-level of self-consciousness alien to it. Any appearance of supporting the dominant view has thereby vanished and it is left without a basis in Marx‘s work. The discussion should seek by way of conclusion to trace the false consciousness theme to its source. This is to be found beyond all question in Engels: ‗Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces‘.[10] It would be idle to deny that some conceptual connection is being proposed here between ideology and false consciousness. Yet more needs to be said if its weight is to be assessed correctly. The first point to make is that the proposal, Engels‘s only explicit reference to ‗false consciousness‘, comes from a letter written some ten years after Marx‘s death. Moreover, Engels himself has a sharp sense of the division between private correspondence and work intended for the public realm. A short time later he was to warn another correspondent: ‗Please do not weigh each word in the above too scrupulously… I regret that I have not the time to work out what I am writing to you so exactly as I should be obliged to do for publication‘.[11] The conception that was sketched in his private correspondence plays no part, it should be noted, in Engels‘s own use of the concept of ideology in works written for publication, even in those of which he was the sole author. [12] Moreover, his warning has in one sense been thoroughly heeded. For very little attention has been paid in the later literature to the particular shade of meaning he wished to attach to the notion of false consciousness. What he seems to have had in mind is a quite specific kind of cognitive failure on the part of an individual, a failure of self-awareness, a lack of insight into the ‗motive forces‘ of their own thinking. What is generally in question later under the rubric of false consciousness is, as was suggested above, some form of collective illusion of much more general scope. Plainly this cannot claim even so much of the authority of Engels as would otherwise attach to the contents of the false consciousness letter. It should be added that this letter is not the only source of guidance on the question of ideology that Engels has to offer after Marx‘s direct influence on him was removed. In a text Engels did intend for publication, and indeed over which he might be assumed to have taken particular care, he speaks of ‗the great law of motion of history, the law according to which all historical struggles, whether they proceed in the political, religious, philosophical or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the more less clear expression of struggles of social classes‘.[13] This may surely be taken as a version of the formulation of Marx‘s ‗Preface‘ that is helpfully more explicit in one important respect, its reference to ‗the struggles of social classes‘, than the earlier work could afford to be in its own time. An attempt to develop a positive account of what ideology means to Marx and, a lone aberration apart, to Engels also, could hardly do better than to start here. To do so would be a more fitting tribute to Engels‘s intellectual legacy than that represented by the pursuit of the spectre of false consciousness he so lightly conjured into existence. Notes 1. J. Plamenatz, Ideology, London, Macmillan, 1970, p.23. 2. J. Larrain, Marxism and Ideology, London, Macmillan, 1983.


3. T. Eagleton, Ideology, London, Verso, 1991. 4. An attempt at such an interpretation is made in J. McCarney, The Real World of Ideology, Brighton, Harvester, 1980. 5. K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1970, p.21. 6. K. Marx and F. Engels, ‗Manifesto of the Communist Party‘, The Revolutions of 1848, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1973, p. 77. 7. K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1965, p.417. 8. German Ideology, p.37. 9. K. Marx and F. Engels, Die Deutsche Ideologie, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1960, p.22. 10. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, n.d., p.541. 11. Selected Correspondence, p. 551. 12. The discussion of the ideological significance of religion in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy is typical and instructive in this regard. See K.Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, vol.2, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1958, pp. 380- 402. 13. Preface to K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1934, p.9.


Lawrence Wilde „The creatures, too, must become free‟: Marx and the Animal/Human Distinction
Source: This article was originally published in Capital & Class, Issue no.72, Autumn '00 , and is reproduced here with the author's permission as per Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0. The clarion call for the liberation of animals quoted in the title of this paper is cited approvingly by Marx in On the Jewish Question (Marx, 1975: 172). The words themselves belong to Thomas Münzer, the leader of the German Peasants‘ Revolt in the early sixteenth century, and what attracted Marx was Münzer‘s view that under the dominion of private property and money, nature is treated in such a contemptuous way that it is debased. Münzer had conduded: ...all creatures have been turned into property, the fishes in the water, the birds in the air, the plants on the earth; the creatures, too, must become free. As far as I know there is no further evidence to suggest that Marx was a champion of animal liberation, but his appreciation of Münzer‘s position should at least lead us to expect from him a sympathetic view towards (non-human) animals. However, a number of prominent commentators, chief among them Ted Benton and Jon Elster (Benton, 1988 and 1993; Elster, 1985), claim that Marx completely lacked respect for animals, thinking of them as inferior beings. In this paper I will refute this position and argue that Marx has a respectful attitude towards animals and non-human nature in general. This is an intrinsic feature of his humanistic philosophy, which is grounded in defining the human essence by comparing humans with other animals. Shortly after endorsing Münzer‘s sentiments Marx characterises his own brand of communism as the equation of humanism and naturalism (Marx, 1975: 296), but if Benton is correct in attributing a form of ‗species imperialism‘ to Marx, it would seriously undermine his communist vision (Benton, 1993: 42). I will argue that Marx‘s discussion of the difference between humans and animals is entirely free of prejudice against animals and certainly does not treat them as inferior or deficient beings. Further, Marx‘s brief discussions of animals, in particular his recognition of their specific needs and capabilities, indicates that his humanism seeks a harmony between humanity and nature, in which ‗nature‘ comprises both human and non-human nature, as a number of commentators have appreciated (Grundmann, 1991; Vaillancourt, 1996; Wilde, 1998: ch.7). The primary political implication is that as the modern maltreatment of animals reflects the extent to which the capitalist accumulation process drives towards the disregard of all natural feelings, resistance to such maltreatment constitutes resistance to the mode of production. Animal welfare activism is, therefore, an antisystemic movement, albeit operating with a high degree of autonomy from anti systemic movements which are either explicitly socialist or else focused on other particular forms of oppression. Marx‟s Essentialism It is important to clarify just why Marx felt the need to raise the issue of the distinction between humans and animals in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and then return to it in his mature political economy. One of the aspects of alienation described in the Manuscripts is alienation from species being (Marx, 1975: 275-7), a Feuerbachian term for human essence. Like Feuerbach‘s discussion of what it is that makes us human (Feuerbach, 1986: 69-71), Marx‘s argument is couched in terms of what distinguishes us from other animals. In fact the influence of Aristotle‘s De Anima is clear in the work of both Feuerbach (Wartofsky, 1977: 224, 374, 423) and Marx, who translated the text into German as early as 1840 (Meikle, 1985: 58). Whereas Aristotle focuses on


‗reason‘ as the defining human quality, and Feuerbach emphasises ‗universality‘, Marx argues for ‗conscious life activity‘ (Marx, 1975: 276). We will look more closely at precisely what Marx means by this in the next section, but for now let us note that he shares with Aristotle the view that the human being is essentially a social being, a zoon politikon, and the human essence can be realised only in society (Aristotle, 1969: 5; Marx, 1986: 18). But the stress on activity introduces an emphasis on production which in turn brings in a developmental or historical dimension which is not to be found in Aristotle‘s philosophy. Despite this important difference, both Aristotle and Marx should be regarded as essentialists (Meikle, 1985; Wilde, 1998, chs.2, 3; Pike, 1999). When they define the essence of the human species they are not simply making an empirical statement but also implying that this essence ought to be fulfilled. In Marx‘s case, he argues that it may be possible to define human uniqueness by such things as consciousness or religion or ‗anything else you like‘, but humans really begin to distinguish themselves from other animals when they begin to produce their means of subsistence (Marx,1976a: 31). In other words focusing on consciousness or even language leaves us with the problem of understanding exactly what is going on when animals really think or communicate verbally, whereas the difference in our capacities to produce is tangible. In creating a world of objects humanity proves its species being, so that, in Marx‘s view, the history of industry and the objective existence of industry constitute the ‗open book of man‘s essential powers‘ (Marx,1975: 302). Marx views human essence as creative social activity, something which is expressed throughout human history, but always in distorted ways insofar as the producers themselves are not experiencing work as their act of creation. Only in communist society would we see the ‗real appropriation of the human essence by and for man‘ and the ‗true resolution of the strife between existence and essence‘ (Marx, 1975: 296). Essentialism is roundly condemned in (post)modern social theory, usually on the grounds that it obstructs the recognition of difference and fails to grasp the rich pluralism of life (e.g. Young,1990: ch.8). But there is nothing in the view that all people should be able to realise their social creativity that stipulates any particular form which the free society should adopt. I do not want to revisit the old arguments about whether the alienation theme persists in the writings of the mature Marx, or what parts of it may persist, but at this stage we should note that in his later writings Marx affirrns both the idea that there is a human essence, or human nature in general, and that humans can be distinguished from animals in the way they produce. It is absolutely clear in Capital that there are two sorts of human nature, the ‗general‘ and the ‗historically modified‘. Lambasting Bentham‘s utilitarianism, he argues that it is necessary to understand human nature in general (human essence) in order to judge what is good for humans, just as if we are to know what is good for dogs we need to study dog-nature (Marx, 1996: 605n). As for what constitutes quintessentially human production, the discussion in one of Marx‘s final works, the marginal notes on Adolph Wagner‘s Lehrbuch der politischen Öconomie, closely follows that of the 1844 Manuscripts, as Terrell Carver has pointed out (Carver, 1975; 167). It is also very similar to the discussion in part one of The German Ideology (Marx, 1976a 44). The emphasis is again on the practical activities through which humans reveal their distinctiveness from other animals. Marx is impatient with Wagner‘s formulation that the human ‗finds himself‘ in relation to the outside world as a means of satisfying his needs. He objects that Wagner‘s individualistic and idealistic conception of what it is to be human implies an ‗isolated juxtaposition with nature‘ and pictures the human as a ‗non-gregarious animal‘ (Marx, 1989: 538-9). They begin, ‗like every animal‘, by satisfying their needs, but in constantly developing their needs in interaction with each other and with non-human nature they develop linguistic skills, naming goods because they are useful for themselves and thereby conferring utility on those goods. We can gain further insight into Marx‘s conceptualisation of the human-animal distinction in two separate and apparently ambivalent comments in Capital on Benjamin


Franklin‘s definition of man as a tool-making animal. His first citation approvingly acknowledges Franklin‘s insight that our ability to make and use tools is a distinctively human capacity, although Marx acknowledges that the germ of this ability can be found in some other species (Marx, 1996: 189). Later on, however, he mocks Franklin‘s definition as being typical of ‗Yankeedom‘ (Marx, 1996: 331n). What is going on here? In the first instance Marx agrees with Franklin that the use of tools is characteristic of purely human productiveness, but ultimately he finds something profoundly wrong with the conclusion that we are therefore to be regarded as tool-making animals. For Marx, it is not acceptable to reduce the difference between humans and animals to a technical proclivity, for this obscures the range of distinctively human needs which go with our difference. ‗Yankeedom‘ signifies the most advanced and energetic form of capitalist endeavour which drives towards the commodification of everything and, in the process, denies the workers control over their lives. According to Franklin‘s definition there is no necessary problem with this, as long as our animal needs are met. For Marx, it represents an alienation of the human essence and is incompatible with the realisation of human freedom. However, it does not follow from this, as Benton suggests, that distinctively human needs are superior to animal needs, or that animal needs within humans are profaned and regarded as shameful residual features (Benton: 1993: 43-4). Unfortunately such views have been common enough in the past but they are not shared by Marx, for whom the different types of needs are not antagonistic, just different. I hope to make this clearer by examining what Marx says about the human/animal distinction in the Manuscripts, The German Ideology, and the first volume of Capital. The Human-Animal Distinction in the Manuscripts Let us take a closer look at what Marx says about the differences between humans and animals in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts in the discussion of estranged labour towards the end of the first manuscript. He begins by stating that as a result of alienation the worker feels freely active only in ‗animal functions‘ such as eating, drinking and procreating, while in his human functions ‗he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal‘ (Marx, 1975: 275-6). He accepts that eating and drinking are genuinely human functions, but when they are separated from the sphere of all other human activity and turned into ‗sole and ultimate ends‘, they are animal functions. So, humans share attributes with other animals, but to express their true humanity they must realise their human essence of social creativity. When their conditions of existence prevent them from doing so they experience a ‗loss of self‘. Hence the prevailing discourse of the Manuscripts is one of dehumanisation, implying that capitalist production denies them something which is their due as human beings (Marx, 1975: 137, 212, 284, 303, 308). Animals in their natural state do not feel this loss of self because the animal is immediately ‗at one‘ with its life activity. Marx argues that humans make life activity the object and will of their consciousness; ‗conscious life activity distinguishes man immediately from animal life activity‘ (Marx, 1975: 276). He contrasts human production, in its widest sense, with the way in which animals produce: But an animal only produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young. It produces one-sidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom therefrom. An animal produces only itself, whilst man reproduces the whole of nature. An animal‘s product belongs immediately to its physical body, whilst man freely confronts his product. An animal forms objects only in accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs, whilst man knows how to produce in accordance with the standard of every species, and knows how to apply everywhere the inherent standard to the object. Man therefore also forms objects in accordance with the laws of beauty (Marx, 1975: 276). The theme here is the uniqueness of human universality, the capacity to produce according to plan on a grand scale, over and above what is required by natural necessity


and with the knowledge of how the other species produce. Later in the Manuscripts he describes the specifically human natural being as a ‗being for himself,‘ manifested by having a known history, ‗a conscious self-transcending act of origin‘ (Marx, 1975: 337) Truly human production, then, transcends the instinctive response to immediate physical needs, and we are able to create things in accordance with the standards of other species and imbue our products with aesthetic qualities. The cave paintings of early homo sapiens provide a good illustration of Marx‘s conception, for they were created beyond the requirements for physical survival and they often depict the struggle for survival in our relationships with other animals. Marx‘s ruminations on the human/animal distinction seem to me to be entirely without disrespect to animals, and, furthermore, as Erich Fromm has concluded, they constitute perhaps the most significant definition of the species characteristic of the human being (Fromm, 1968: 58, cf.Fromm, 1992, ch.4). However, it seems that any attempt to establish human uniqueness is likely to provoke a hostile response from those who consider that inevitably it degrades animals. Benton, for example, attributes to Marx arguments referring to the ‗merely animal‘ or ‗merely existing‘ seven times within two paragraphs of Natural Relations (Benton, 1993: 41), despite the fact that Marx does not use the word ‗mere‘. Marx intends no slight against animals when defining human uniqueness, nor is it obvious that he operates from an underestimation of animal capabilities and needs. Indeed, as we shall see in the next section Marx does have a view on what constitutes natural needs for animals in general, but first we must deal with the objection that Marx‘s emphasis on creative production does not work as a way of distinguishing humans from other animals. Benton argues that Marx‘s formulation ignores the wealth and complexity of social life in other species. It also, he claims, ignores the adaptability of many species in their relationships with the environment. Now it is clearly not Marx‘s intention to write a disquisition on animal life, but his characterisations turn on the animals‘ meeting of immediate physical needs and their unmediated relationship with their environment. These characterisations are not contradicted by any number of examples of co-operation and ingenuity displayed by many species as long as that activity remained directed towards the meeting of immediate needs. However, Marx‘s characterisation of animals would indeed be refuted if Benton is correct in arguing that ‗inventing, making, using and intergenerational teaching of the use of tools are now well recognised as powers of non-human primates‘ (Benton, 1993: 36-7). The research cited by Benton, conducted by Jane Goodall in Tanzania, refers to the use of stripped sticks to ‗fish‘ termites from their mounds. This use of a stick as a tool is so rudimentary that it surely serves to confirm rather than rebut the fact that humans produce in radically different ways from other animals. Jon Elster falls into the same trap in seeking to minimise the differences in productive capacities between humans and other animals (Elster, 1985: 62-8). In both cases the rhetorical strategy is similar, citing a scientific source to blur the distinction in productive techniques without genuinely getting to grips with Marx‘s argument. Do other animals fashion and use tools in the same way as humans? Do they make tools to make other tools? The answer to both questions is plainly ‗no‘ and it seems to me that to argue otherwise does animals no favour.[1] As animal intelligence expert Stephen Budiansky points out, attempts to show that animals can do some things almost like humans ignores the glaring discontinuities between humans and animals: To play the game of trying to smash the pedestal of human uniqueness by showing that animals can, too (after a fashion), make tools, or create sentences or count, misses this fundamental point (Budiansky, 1999: 18). To argue that animals use tools almost like humans encourages the view to which Benton rightly objects, that is, that animals are not properly human. Benton accepts that there is no evidence of generation-by-generation cumulative development of collective


skills, but he claims this is a ‗purely contingent matter‘; just because other animals have not shown this capability there is no a priori reason why they might not at some stage in the future (Benton, 1993: 41). Similarly Elster concedes that there are no documented cases of animals making tools to make other tools, but suggests that ‗such cases might yet be found‘ (Elster, 1985: 66). This is sheer sophism. Marx‘s claim that there is a qualitative difference in the productive capacities of humans and other animals does not mean that there is no development whatsoever in animal capabilities, as this passage from Capital makes clear: The use and fabrication of instruments of labour, although existing in the germ among certain species of animals, is specifically characteristic of the human labour process (Marx, 1996: 188). The fact that the ‗germ‘ is present in other animals does not detract in the slightest from the force of Marx‘s argument that, according to available empirical evidence, humans and other animals can be distinguished in essence by the way in which they produce. This carries no connotations of deficiency on the part of animals. Indeed his characterisation of the animal as immediately ‗one with its life activity‘ suggests a simplicity and integrity which many humans might envy. It is possible to view any comparison of closely related forms in terms of inferiority or superiority, but it is not necessary to do so. If we compare a sparrow with an eagle and describe some of the differences in terms of size, speed, and physical power, this should not be taken to suggest that the sparrow is an inferior being. To identify a capability in humans by comparing them with animals does not imply a disability in animals; it states merely that they are different in essence. I think that is Marx‘s position and that this is clearly demonstrated in the language he employs. Animal Needs Although Marx argues that animals live under the dominion of immediate physical need, this carries no implication that their needs are not to be respected. In the third manuscript of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts there is another reference to animals and their needs which is pertinent to the discussion. Marx launches into an indignant description of the way in which the satisfaction of those needs which we share with other animals is frequently denied to workers in capitalism. The dwelling in the light, recognised by Prometheus as one of the greatest boons to humanity, is no longer available for the worker; ‗light, air etc.—the simplest animal cleanliness— ceases to be a need for man‘ (Marx, 1975: 307-8). He then cites the plight of the Irish poor, forced to exist on a diet comprised exclusively of scabby potatoes, commenting that ‗it is not only that man has no human needs—even his animal needs cease to exist.‘ He goes on to say that animals have at least the need to hunt, to roam, and to have companionship. The point of these remarks is to highlight the cruel insensitivity to human needs which capitalist production metes out to its workers, but there is a clear description of animal needs which have been systematically disregarded by twentieth century capitalist production methods—light, air, a varied diet, the freedom to roam and companionship. Marx is not simply concerned to emphasise the difference between humans and other animals but also to demonstrate the extent to which the needs they share are brutally disregarded even in a system devised by humans. The reference to hunting as a need for some animals also reminds us that the needs of different species are often incompatible. In The German Ideology Marx provides examples in which the development of modern production methods prevents animals from meeting their essential needs. He discusses the effects of the pollution of a river, using an essentialist language which owes much to his Aristotelian philosophical background: The ‗essence‘ of the freshwater fish is the water of a river. But the latter ceases to be the ‗essence‘ of the fish and is no longer a suitable medium of existence as soon as the river is made to serve industry, as soon as it is polluted by dyes and other waste products


and navigated by steamboats, or as soon as its water is diverted into canals where simple drainage can deprive the fish of its medium of existence (Marx, 1976a: 58). The context of these remarks is important, for the point Marx is making is that Feuerbach‘s abstract naturalism tends to identify the essence of things, including the human essence, without reference to their historical evolution and their social context. Feuerbach is accused of failing to grasp that essences can be understood only in relation to existence. It is only by recognising the historicity and universality of human activity that we can begin to understand and change the nature of things. He considers that Feuerbach‘s philosophy views problems such as the plight of the freshwater fish as ‗inevitable abnormalities‘ rather than problems which can be resolved through radical change. A little further on in the German Ideology he argues that human needs are developed uniquely as part of a historical process, by which he means through the conscious creation of the means of production and exchange. He begins by saying that sheep and dogs are not historical in that way, but then says that in their present form, ‗in spite of themselves,‘ they are products of a historical process (Marx, 1976a: 82). In other words the physical forms of these animals is altered by human intervention in their breeding. The object of these remarks is not to denounce human interference in nature per se, but to emphasise that what we term ‗nature‘ is not pristine, that we are part of nature and have the unique ability to reconstruct our relationship with it. This refers to our relationship with our own nature as well as with non-human nature. Lost in Translation So far we have looked only at Marx‘s comments on the human animal relationship made relatively early in his life, but we can identify a continuity of theme in two passages from his mature political economy. In the first volume of Capital Marx introduces his discussion of the labour process by arguing that although humans initially laboured instinctively like other animals, through social interaction with their environment they develop the exclusively human characteristic of conscious life activity whereby they are able to plan their work. I have argued that Marx‘s formulations in the early writings do not impute a disability to animals when comparing their production to humans, but this reading is thrown in doubt when we read the popular Moore and Aveling translation of this part of Capital. They translate ‗Wir haben es hier nicht mit den ersten tierartig instinktmassigen Formen derArbeitzu tun‘ (Marx, 1970: 192-3) as ‗We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal‘ (Marx, 1996: 187). In fact Marx does not use the words ‗primitive‘ or ‗mere‘ and the speciesist connotations are entirely the product of the translators. The superior translation of Ben Fowkes has Marx talking about ‗those first instinctive forms of labour which remain on the animal level,‘ but this reference to a lower animal level is not how Marx chose to express himself (Marx, 1976b: 283). The translation by Eden and Cedar Paul gives us ‗those primitive and instinctive forms of labour which we share with other animals,‘ and despite the insertion of ‗primitive‘ this at least captures Marx‘s acknowledgment that there is much we share with other animals (Marx, 1957: 169). A more reliable translation suggested to me by Terrell Carver has Marx saying ‗We are not dealing here with the first forms of labour bounded by instincts as animals are‘. Marx did not consider that the instinct-bound production of animals rendered them deficient, but the Moore and Aveling misreading of Marx is unfortunately all too common. It is diffficult for people who have known nothing other than the intensely competitive ethos of capitalist society to grasp that to establish a difference does not have to imply a deficiency on one side. Indeed the different capacities of humans might well suggest that we are lacking some of the skills which develop in instinct bound production. Marx argues that the productions of spiders and bees put to shame the equivalent efforts of weavers and architects, but ‗what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality‘ (Marx, 1996:


188). Marx selects the most intricate of animal productions to make his point, and in so doing reveals a respect for their endeavours and their nature. However, his concern in Capital is to explain what happens to human beings in the capitalist mode of production. Specifically, his purpose in the chapter on the labour process is to show how money was transformed into capital through the extraction of surplus value in the process of exploitation. The controlling power in the labour process shifts from the producer to capital. The formally free individuals enter a contract which deprives the producers of the freedom to exercise the creative power which defines their humanity. In the chapter on cooperation Marx reverts to his earlier humanist discourse when he contrasts this alienated world with the image of a cooperative, planned society, in which the worker ‗strips off the fetters of his individuality, and develops the capabilities of his species‘ (Marx, 1996: 334). This is very close to his 1844 articulation of communism as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for humanity. Marx argues that the ineluctable contradictions inherent in capitalism provide the opportunity to construct a social system in which humanity is able to fulfil its creative potential.[2] But of course Marx is no starry-eyed optimist. The sort of mastery of nature displayed in capitalism amounts to a tragic perversion of our species potential, as he laments in a speech given for the anniversary of the People‘s Paper: At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy... All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force (Marx, 1980: 655-6). Clearly for Marx mastery of nature is not liberating until such time as we master our own nature and, in so doing, take sensitive and responsible control of the management of the interchange between human nature and non-human nature, including other animals. For Marx, humanity is always ‗part of nature‘ (Marx, 1975: 276). In the third volume of Capital he speaks of humanity achieving freedom within the realm of natural necessity, whereby the associated producers govern the interchange with nature in a rational way under conditions ‗most worthy and appropriate for their human nature‘ (Marx, 1981: 959) What does he mean by this? We fulfil our nature when we realise our potential for social creativity, when we create a world in which life is sustained harmoniously. It is unimaginable that we could manage our interchange with nature in a truly humane way without actualising our sense of compassion, through which we empathise with the suffering of other species and in doing so manifest our own uniqueness. Political Implications The tendency of advanced capitalism to stultify the lives of humans into nothing more than a material force has long been the fate of many species of animals. The logic of accumulation is indifferent to the feelings of the producers and the produced, and the inhumane treatment of animals in the production process bears this out. However, Marx did not simply reveal the logic of capitalist accumulation, he identified the contradictions within it and the social forces which could intervene in order to hasten its end. More often than not socialist resistance has been associated with direct confrontation with capital on economic issues or with the activities of socialist parties in the political sphere. Today, in addition to struggles of this sort, protest movements have developed on a range of issues conventionally termed non-class issues. However, it seems to me that the emergence of these issues and the mobilisation which has taken place as a result should be regarded as important phenomena from a socialist perspective. This is certainly true when it comes to the politics of animal protection. The first set of issues raised is a particular form of the contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production whereby the drive to accumulation actually destroys the very basis of production itself. Marx noted this in relation to soil exhaustion and was very interested in the scientific work in this area conducted by von Liebig and Fraas (Marx, 1996: 506-8; Marx, 1987: 558-9). With animal products it is not


simply the animals who are killed but also some consumers. In the drive to minimise the cost of production unsafe feeding methods lead to disease breaking out on a wide scale, as in the recent examples of the salmonella and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The beef crisis in Britain was not exceptional, it was the all-too predictable outcome of a scramble for profits. It carries with it a survivalist deregulatory ideology of frightening irrationality, expressed by one farmer in a radio interview who asked ‗why should we have to put up with all these regulations when the French get away with feeding their animals on shit?‘. The logic of accumulation determines that capitalist farmers will go to any lengths to cheapen their product and increase profitability. That these lengths include the violation of natural laws and the chronic disregard for the natural needs of animals has now become a public issue. What is exposed in this instance is the vacuity of the usual justification for ‗efficient‘ production. In this case there is no shortage of meat in the developed world and there is a limit to how much of it people can be persuaded to buy, there is simply no need for this disgusting perversion of nature. A range of groups have attacked the cruelty inherent in all instances of factory farming, in which the natural needs of animals as described by Marx and others are disregarded. These groups, which have expanded dramatically in size since the 1970s, have used a variety of methods, including legal and illegal direct action (Garner, 1993, chs. 2 and 8). Sometimes the issues are raised in campaigns which are specifically aimed at the insidious nature of corporate power, as when the McLibel campaign exposed the appalling suffering of battery chickens. The furious response of corporations and the state to these campaigns indicates the extent to which the economic and political elites recognise that what is being questioned here are the rights of the owners of the means of production. The second set of issues is around cruelty to animals outside the horrors of factory farming induding blood sports and circuses (Garner, 1993: 170-4 and 83-4). The campaign to have fox hunting banned has attracted widespread publicity in recent years, and although this issue may seem ‗peripheral‘ to some socialists, its greater significance lies in the challenge to the values which society is prepared to tolerate. Interestingly, on this issue of compassion the battle lines are drawn along old-fashioned class lines, despite the claims of the Countryside Alliance to be up holding the interests of poor rural workers. Again, the sentences meted out to hunt saboteurs reveal the class nature of the legal system, just as the pusillanimous backpedalling of the Labour Government shows the mysterious strength of a pro-hunting lobby with little popular support. Other instances of pastime cruelty such as animal circuses, shooting birds and other animals, and bull fights have elicited opposition in recent years. From an essentialist philosophical standpoint, not only do those taking part show no respect for the essence of the animals concerned, but in doing so they betray their own human essence by failing to recognise the cruelty of what they are involved with. The third set of issues is to do with experiments on animals (Singer, 1990, ch.2). On the question of animal experimentation for potentially life-saving treatments for humans there is an assumption on the humanist side that this is justified. But there can be no justification for all those experiments on animals conducted for other purposes, such as cosmetics. The relationship between humans and animals could never be rendered entirely non-conflictual. Marx‘s formulation of communism in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts as ‗the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man‘ (Marx, 1975: 296) perhaps promises too much. Herbert Marcuse pointed out that the myth of Orpheus, who tamed the wild beasts by the power of his music, is not a realisable goal when it comes to complex matters about our relations with nature. Nevertheless, operating within a Marxist humanist framework, Marcuse asserts that ‗no free society is imaginable which does not...make the concerted effort to reduce consistently the suffering which man imposes on the animal world‘ (Marcuse, 1972: 68). If resistance to cruelty to animals in the production process is regarded as a struggle against that production process, then in a strong sense the groups involved in those


struggles are new antisystemic movements. However, like many of the ‗old‘ antisystemic movements, those involved may not see the wider picture and may not be able to link with movements concerned with different forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, or economic exploitation. However, in states where the electoral system permits ‗New Left‘ parties to participate in parliament, the politics of animal welfare occupies an important place—Die Grunen in Germany are perhaps the best example. The development of these political forces, and their uneasy and uncertain links with older movements of the Left, is crucial to the development of a long, pluralistic movement for the democratic control of the regulation of all production, which will be a feature of the struggle of all humane forces against capital in the coming century. Marx‘s conception of communist society was that of an ethical community operating democratically through free and equal individuals no longer under the tutelage of the law of value. To achieve the consciousness necessary to create this new world, Marx claimed that the alteration of humanity on a mass scale was required. When he talked of revolution it was an ethical as well as a social revolution, through which humanity rid itself of the ‗muck of all ages‘ and became ‗fitted to found society anew‘ (Marx, 1976a: 52-3). The realisation of our sense of compassion in our dealings with animals is a necessary part of that revolution. Notes 1. Benton admits that there are ‗profound differences‘ in production techniques between humans and other species, but tries to reduce the force of this argument by saying that there are profound differences between different groups of humans (p. 37). As Marx is talking about essential difference between whole species Benton‘s objection is jejune. There are profound differences. 2. Of course we have a potential to be destructive, and Benton complains that Marx ignores this potential for ‗evil‘. But, as Erich Fromm argues, this potential must be regarded as a ‗secondary potentiality‘ which develops when creativeness is thwarted (Fromm, 1991, 37-8—for a detailed analysis see Fromm, 1997). References Aristotle (ed. & trans. Ernest Barker) ( 1969) Politics. Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York. Benton,Ted (1993) Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice. Verso, London. Budiansky, Stephen (1999) ‗Cheap Imitations of Human Thought‘ in The Times Higher Educational Supplement, January 1. Carver, Terrell (1975) Commentary on Marx Texts on Method.Blackwell, Oxford. Elster, Jon (1985) Making Sense of Marx.Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Feuerbach, Ludwig ( 1986) Principles of the Philosophy of the Future. Hackett, Indianapolis. Fromm, Erich ( 1968) The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanised Technology. Harper & Row, New York. - (1991 ) The Sane Society, Routledge, London. - (1992) Marx‘s Concept of Man. Continuum, New York. - (1997) The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Pimlico, London. Garner, Robert (1993) Animals, Politics and Morality. Manchester University Press, Manchester. Grundmann, Reiner (1991) Marxism and Ecology. Clarendon Press, Oxford. Marcuse, Herbert (1972) Counter-Revolution and Revolt. Beacon Press, Boston. Marx, Karl (trans. E. & C. Paul)(1957) Capital, vol.1. Everyman Library, London. - (1970) Werke, vol.23. Dietz Verlag, Berlin. - (1975) Collected Works,vol.3. Lawrence & Wishart, London. - (1976a) Collected Works,vol.5. Lawrence & Wishart, London.


- (trans. Ben Fowkes)(1976b) Capital vol.l. Penguin, Harmondsworth. - (1980) Collected Works, vol.14, Lawrence & Wishart, London. - (trans. David Fernbach) (1981) Capital, vol.3. Penguin, Harmondsworth. - (1987) Collected Works,vol.42. Lawrence & Wishart, London. - (1996) Collected Works, vol.35. Lawrence & Wishart, London. Meikle, Scott (1985) Essentialism in the Thought of Karl Marx. Duckworth, London. Pike, Jonathan E. (1999) From Aristotle to Marx: Aristotelianism in Marxist Social Ontology. Ashgate, Aldershot. Singer, Peter (1990) Animal Liberation. Thorsons, London. Vaillancourt, Jean-Guy (1996) ‗Marxism and Ecology: More Benedictine than Franciscan‘, in Ted Benton (ed.) The Greening of Marxism. Guilford, New York & London. Wartofsky, Marx (1977) Feuerbach. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Wilde, Lawrence (1998) Ethical Marxism and its Radical Critics. Macmillan, Basingstoke.


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