Marxism and the 19th Century

Marxism and the 19th Century

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Karl Marx, the third of nine children and only surviving son of Hirschel and Henrietta Marx, was born in Trier, Germany, on 5th May 1818. His father was a lawyer and to escape anti-Semitism decided to abandon his Jewish faith when Karl was a child. Although the majority of people living in Trier were Catholics, Marx decided to become a Protestant. He also changed his name from Hirschel to Heinrich. (1)

Marx attended Friedrich-Wilhelm Gymnasium in Trier. At the age of seventeen he wrote about his ambitions for the future and the morality of the type of work he intended to do: ‘If he is working only for himself, he can become a famous scholar, a sage, a distinguished writer, but never a complete, a truly great, man." (2)

Marx entered Bonn University to study law in 1835. His father warned him to look after his body as well as his mind: "In providing really vigorous and healthy nourishment for your mind, do not forget that in this miserable world it is always accompanied by the body, which determines the well-being of the whole machine. A sickly scholar is the most unfortunate being on earth. Therefore, do not study more than your health can bear." (3)

At university he spent much of his time socialising and running up large debts. His father was horrified when he discovered that Karl had been wounded in a duel. His father asked him: "Is duelling then so closely interwoven with philosophy? Do not let this inclination, and if not inclination, this craze, take root. You could in the end deprive yourself and your parents of the finest hopes that life offers." (4)

Heinrich Marx agreed to pay off his son's debts but insisted that he moved to the more sedate Berlin University. At this time he also began a relationship with Jenny von Westphalen. She was the daughter of Baron Ludwig von Westphalen, and as Francis Wheen pointed out: "It may seem surprising that a twenty-two-year-old princess of the Prussian ruling class... should have fallen for a bourgeois Jewish scallywag four years her junior, rather than some dashing grandee with a braided uniform and a private income; but Jenny was an intelligent, free-thinking girl who found Marx's intellectual swagger irresistible. After ditching her official fiance, a respectable young second lieutenant, she became engaged to Karl in the summer of 1836." (5)

The move to Berlin resulted in a change in Marx and for the next few years he worked hard at his studies, especially when he switched from law to philosophy. Marx came under the influence of one of his lecturers, Bruno Bauer, whose atheism and radical political opinions got him into trouble with the authorities. Bauer introduced Marx to the writings of G. W. F. Hegel, who had been the professor of philosophy at the university until his death in 1831.

Marx wrote a long letter to his father describing his conversion to Hegel's theories: "There are moments in one's life, which are like frontier posts marking the completion of a period but at the same time clearly indicating a new direction. At such a moment of transition we feel compelled to view the past and the present with the eagle eye of thought in order to become conscious of our real position. Indeed, world history itself likes to look back in this way and take stock." (6)

His father was upset by his decision to abandon his law degree. Marx rarely replied to his parents' letters. He did not return home during university holidays and showed no interest in his family. His father appeared to accept defeat when he wrote: "I can only propose, advise. You have outgrown me; in this matter you are in general superior to me, so I must leave it to you to decide as you will." (7)

Karl Marx was especially impressed by Hegel's theory that a thing or thought could not be separated from its opposite. For example, the slave could not exist without the master, and vice versa. Hegel argued that unity would eventually be achieved by the equalising of all opposites, by means of the dialectic (logical progression) of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. This was Hegel's theory of the evolving process of history.

Heinrich Marx, aged fifty-seven, died of tuberculosis on 10th May 1838. Marx now had to earn his own living and he decided to become a university lecturer. After completing his doctoral thesis at the University of Jena, Marx hoped that his mentor, Bruno Bauer, would help find him a teaching post. However, Bauer was dismissed as a result of his outspoken atheism and was unable to help. (8)

Marx gradually began to question the purpose of philosophy: "Since every true philosophy is the intellectual quintessence of his time, the time must come when philosophy not only internally by its content, but also externally through its form, comes into contact and interaction with the real world of its day." (9) Three years later he commented: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." (10)

While in Berlin he met Moses Hess, a radical who called himself a socialist. Marx began attending socialist meetings organised by Hess who wrote to his friend, Berthold Auerbach, about the new member of the group: "He is a phenomenon who made a tremendous impression on me in spite of the strong similarity of our fields. In short you can prepare yourself to meet the greatest - perhaps the only genuine - philosopher of the current generation. When he makes a public appearance, whether in writing or in the lecture hall, he will attract the attention of all Germany... Dr Marx (that is my idol's name) is still a very young man - about twenty-four at the most. He will give medieval religion and philosophy their coup de grâce (an action or event that serves as the culmination of a bad or deteriorating situation); he combines the deepest philosophical seriousness with the most biting wit. Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine and Hegel fused into one person - I say fused not juxtaposed - and you have Dr. Marx." (11)

As well as his intellect his new friends commented on his unusual appearance. Gustav von Mevissen later recalled: "Karl Marx... was a powerful man of twenty-four whose thick black hair sprang from his cheeks, arms, nose and ears. He was domineering, impetuous, passionate, full of boundless self-confidence." Pavel Annenkov added: "He was most remarkable in his appearance. He had a shock of deep black hair and hairy hands... He looked like a man with the right and power to command respect." Friedrich Lessner believed that his looks gave him leadership qualities: "His brow was high and finely shaped, his hair thick and pitch-black... Marx was a born leader of the people." (12)

At these socialist meetings Marx discovered that he was not a great orator. He had a slight lisp and his gruff Rhenish accent was difficult to understand. He therefore decided to try journalism. However, his radical political views meant that most editors were unwilling to publish his articles. He moved to Cologne where the city's liberal opposition movement was fairly strong and had its own newspaper, The Rhenish Gazette. It has been pointed out by Eric Hobsbawm that the newspaper was funded by "a group of wealthy Cologne men in business and the professions and representing the moderate but loyal liberalism of the (non-clerical) Rhineland bourgeoisie". (13)

After six months and a number of articles, he became the newspaper's editorial director. He developed an aggressive style of writing and clearly "delighted in his talent for inflicting verbal violence". Karl Heinzen claimed he would use "logic, dialectics, learning... to annihilate anyone who would not see eye to eye with him. Marx, he said, wanted "to break windowpanes with cannon". According to the socialist politician, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Marx had the "style is the dagger used for a well-aimed thrust at the heart". (14)

A rival newspaper, accused Marx of editing a communist newspaper. Marx responded by arguing that "communist ideas in their present form possess even theoretical reality, and therefore can still less desire their practical realisation, or even consider it possible, will subject these ideas to thoroughgoing criticism." He was however interested in the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who had recently published What is Property? (1840) and pointed out that the "sharp-witted work by Proudhon, cannot be criticised on the basis of superficial flashes of thought, but only after long and profound study." (15)

In a letter to his friend, Arnold Ruge, Marx admitted that the censor would not allow his socialist views to be published. Every edition of the newspaper had to be shown to Laurenz Dolleschall of the Cologne Police Department and any article he did not like could not appear in the newspaper. "Our newspaper has to be presented to the police to be sniffed at and if the police nose smells anything unChristian or UnPrussian, the newspaper is not allowed to appear." (16)

Even so, the provincial governor complained in November 1842 that the tone of the newspaper was "becoming more and more impudent". It was an article by Marx on accusing the authorities of ignoring "the wretched economic plight of Moselle wine-farmers who were unable to compete with the cheap, tariff-free wines being imported into Prussia from other German states." On 21st January 1843, the government banned the newspaper. (17)

Marx's friend, Arnold Ruge, offered him a position on a new journal based in Paris. Marx accepted but pointed out that "I am engaged to be married and I cannot, mist not and will not leave Germany without my intended wife.... She has fought the most violent battles, which almost undermined her health, partly against her pietistic aristocratic relatives... and partly against my own family, in which some priests and other enemies of mine have ensconced themselves... For years, therefore, my fiancée and I have been engaged in more unnecessary and exhausting conflicts than many who are three times our age." (18)

Marx married Jenny von Westphalen on 19th June, 1843. It was claimed that when she was dealing with "aristocratic mediocrities in gilded ballrooms she was witty, lively and supremely self-assured". However, in the early days of her relationship she admitted that: "I cannot say a word for nervousness, the blood stops flowing in my veins and my soul trembles". Over the next forty years she remained by his side helping him with his work and "since his handwriting was indecipherable to the untrained eye, he depended on her to transcribe" his writings. (19)

After a brief honeymoon Karl and Jenny Marx arrived in Paris, and became the joint-editor of the Deutsche-Französische Jahrbücher. He approached German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach to write an article for the new journal. Marx had been very impressed with his work which provided a critique of Christianity and advocated liberalism, atheism, and materialism. However, Feuerbach, who disagreed with Marx's political activism, refused.

The first issue of the journal appeared in February 1844, and included contributions from his old mentor, Bruno Bauer, the Russian anarchist, Michael Bakunin and the radical son of a wealthy German industrialist, Friedrich Engels. The following month the Prussian government issued an arrest warrant against its editors on the grounds of high treason. (20)

Marx continued to write and developed his ideas on the concept of alienation. In Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts he developed his ideas on the concept of alienation. Marx identified three kinds of alienation in capitalist society. First, the worker is alienated from what he produces. Second, the worker is alienated from himself; only when he is not working does he feel truly himself. Finally, in capitalist society people are alienated from each other; that is, in a competitive society people are set against other people. Marx believed the solution to this problem was communism as this would enable the fulfilment of "his potentialities as a human." (21)

During this period Marx took a detailed look at religious belief. "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. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo." (22)

Marx than tackled the ideas of Feuerbach. James Richmond has pointed out that in Feuerbach's book, The Essence of Christianity (1841) he announced "his programme of doing what his philosophical mentors had shrunk from doing - to transform completely theology into anthropology, the love of God into the love of man, the service of God into the service of man. Man must be persuaded to turn his attention away from the other-worldly to the worldly, from some life which is allegedly to come to the present life, from heaven towards earth." (23)

He wrote to him saying that he had earned his lasting gratitude. "I am glad to have an opportunity of assuring you of the great respect and - if I may use the word - love which I feel for you... You have provided - I don't whether intentionally - a philosophical basis for socialism... The unity of man with man, which is based on the real differences between men, the concept of the human species brought down from the heaven of abstraction to the real earth, what is this but the concept of society." (24)

Feuerbach was not convinced by the arguments put forward by Marx. He replied that, in his opinion, "it would be rash to move from theory to practice until the theory itself had been honed to perfection". Marx, by contrast, believed the two were - or ought to be - inseparable and philosophers should concentrate on the "merciless criticism of all that exists".

In his article, Theses on Feuerbach (1845) Marx argued "The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. 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-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice... Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." (25)

Marx insisted that "the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism". He pointed out the contradictions of the role that Martin Luther played in the Protestant Reformation: "He destroyed faith in authority, but only by restoring the authority of faith. He transformed the priests into laymen, but only by transforming the laymen into priests. He freed mankind from external religiously, but only by making religiously the inner man. He freed the body from the chains, but only by putting the heart in chains." (26)

Marx agreed with Tom Paine that Christianity is a mask for the purpose of carrying on struggles for power over others. Paine, like Marx, was also a man of action. It was Paine who had "prepared the intellectual ground... for a more secular system of government and society in which, at a minimum, the freedom to believe and worship according to individual and group conscience required a pluralistic civil society". (27)

Karl Marx decided to study economics. He began by reading the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and James Mill. He scribbled a running commentary as he went on. The first manuscript begins with the simple declaration: "Wages are determined by the fierce struggle between capitalist and worker. The capitalist inevitably wins. The capitalist can live longer without the worker than the worker can without him."

The only defence the workers have against capitalism is competition, which enables wages to rise and prices to fall. Marx believed that there was a tendency for monopolies to be created and therefore undermining the power of the workers: "The big capitalists ruin the small ones and a section of the former capitalists sinks into the class of the workers which, because of this increase in numbers, suffers a further depression of wages and becomes ever more dependent on the handful of big capitalists. Because the number of capitalists has fallen, competition for workers hardly exists any longer, and because the number of workers has increased, the competition among them has become all the more considerable, unnatural and violent." (28)

Marx pointed out that Adam Smith had warned of the dangers of a system that allowed individuals to pursue individual self-interest at the detriment of the rest of society. He was very much against the establishment of monopolies. "A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures. The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly under-stocked, by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, and raise their emoluments, whether they consist in wages or profit, greatly above their natural rate." (29)

Marx argued that even in times of economic growth, conditions do not get better for the worker. The only consequence is "overwork and early death, reduction to a machine, enslavement to capital". He is in competition with the machines. "Since the worker has been reduced to a machine, the machine can confront him as a competitor. The accumulation of capital enables industry to turn out an ever greater quantity of products. This leads to overproduction and unemployment.

The system is organised in such a way to benefit the employer. An industrialist can store his products of his factory until they fetch a decent price, whereas the worker's only product, his labour, loses its value completely if it is not sold at every instant. Unlike other commodities, labour can be neither accumulated nor saved. The employer is more fortunate, since capital is "stored-up labour".

Karl Marx pointed out that classical economists treated private property as a primordial human condition. However, the Industrial Revolution had shown that nothing is fixed or immutable. In the 18th century we had begun to see power being transferred from feudal landlords to industrialists. Feudal landowners had been efficient who had not attempted to extract the maximum profit from their property.

Under capitalism the worker devotes his life to producing objects which he does not own or control. His labour thus becomes a separate, external being which "exists outside him, independently of him and alien to him, and begins to confront him as an autonomous power; the life which he has bestowed on the object confronts him as hostile and alien". (30)

As Francis Wheen points out: "For Marx, alienated labour was not an eternal and inescapable problem of human consciousness but the result of a particular form of economic and social organization. A mother, for instance, isn't automatically estranged from her baby the moment it emerges from the womb... But she would feel very alienated indeed if, every time she gave birth, the squealing infant was immediately seized from her by some latter-down Herold. This, more or less, was the daily lot of the workers, forever producing what they could not keep. No wonder they felt less than human." (31)

While living in Paris he become a close friend of Friedrich Engels. As a young man his father sent him to England to help manage his cotton-factory in Manchester. Engels was shocked by the poverty in the city and began writing an account that was published as Condition of the Working Class in England (1844). Engels shared Marx's views on capitalism and after their first meeting Engels wrote that there was virtually "complete agreement in all theoretical fields became evident and our joint work dates from that time." (32)

Marx and Engels decided to work together. It was a good partnership, whereas Marx was at his best when dealing with difficult abstract concepts, Engels had the ability to write for a mass audience. For Engels, Marx was "the greatest living thinker", the "Darwin of the law of human historical evolution, the pathbreaker for humanity's future, a genius to whom he, a mere man of talent and intelligence, was justified in devoting his mind and money - even at the cost of continuing in the hated family cotton business to provide him with an income." (33)

While working on their first article together, The Holy Family, the Prussian authorities put pressure on the French government to expel Karl Marx from the country. On 25th January 1845, Marx received an order deporting him from France. Marx and Engels decided to move to Belgium, a country that permitted greater freedom of expression than any other European state. Marx went to live in Brussels, where there was a sizable community of political exiles, including the man who converted him to socialism, Moses Hess.

Friedrich Engels helped to financially support Marx and his family. Engels gave Marx the royalties of his recently published book, Condition of the Working Class in England and arranged for other sympathizers to make donations. This enabled Marx the time to study and develop his economic and political theories. Marx spent his time trying to understand the workings of capitalist society, the factors governing the process of history and how the proletariat could help bring about a socialist revolution. (34)

In July 1845 Marx and Engels visited England. They spent most of the time consulting books in Manchester Library. Marx also visited London where he met the Chartist leaders, George Julian Harney and other political exiles from Europe. He praised Feargus O'Connor and wrote articles for the Northern Star and claimed it was "the only English paper worth reading for the continental democrats". (35)

Marx returned to Brussels and along with Engels finished their book, The German Ideology. It begins with one of Marx's attention-grabbing generalisations: "Hitherto men have always formed wrong ideas about themselves, about what they are and what they ought to be." He then went on to attack other German philosophers that he had previously praised. This included Ludwig Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner. (36)

Marx and Engels spent 300 pages attacking Stirner's book, The Ego and Its Own (1845). As Richard Parry has pointed out: "Stirner saw all morality as an ideological justification for the repression of individuals; he opposed those revolutionaries who wished to set up a new morality in place of the old, as this would still result in the triumph of the collectivity over the individual and lay the basis for another despotic State. He denied that there was any real existence in concepts such as 'Natural Law', 'Common Humanity', 'Reason', 'Justice' or 'The People'; more than being simply absurd platitudes (which he derisively labelled sacred concepts, they were some of the whole gamut of abstract ideas which unfortunately dominated the thinking of most individuals... Stirner perceived the repressive nature of ideologies, even so-called revolutionary ones; he believed that all these sacred concepts manufactured by the intellect actually resulted in practical despotism." (37)

Marx and Engels completely rejected Stirner's idea that "heroic egoism and self-indulgence would liberate individuals from their imaginary oppression". It has been argued that the book reveals what Marx had learned from his philosophical and political adventures. Having rejected God, Hegel and Feuerbach in quick succession, he and Engels were now ready to unveil their own scheme of practical theory of theoretical practice - otherwise known as historical materialism". (38)

"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions of their life... These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way... The division of labour inside a nation leads at first to the separation of industrial and commercial from agricultural labour, and hence to the separation of town and country and to the conflict of their interests. Its further development leads to the separation of commercial from industrial labour... The social structure and the state are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals... It is not consciousness that determines life, but life that determines consciousness." (39)

Max Stirner had suggested that the division of labour applied only to those tasks which any reasonably trained person could perform. He used the example of the Italian artist, Raphael, as someone whose talent was such that no one else could have produced. This was an unfortunate example as Raphael had teams of assistants and pupils to complete his frescoes. Marx also pointed out that he did not believe that everyone should or not produce the work of a Raphael, but only a communist society would enable an artist to reach their full potential. (40)

"Stirner imagines that Raphael produced his pictures independently of the division of labour that existed in Rome at the time. If he were to compare Raphael with Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, he would see how greatly Raphael's works of art depended on the flourishing of Rome at that time, which occurred under Florentine influence, while the works of Leonardo depended on the state of things in Florence, and the works of Titian, at a later period, depended on the totally different development of Venice. Raphael as much as any other artist was determined by the technical advances in art made before him, by the organisation of society and the division of labour... In a communist society there are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities." (41)

In June 1847 Friedrich Engels produced a document called the Principles of Communism. It included the statement on what it meant to be a communist: "To organise society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society". He then goes on to explain how communism was to be achieved: "By the elimination of private property and its replacement by community of property." (42)

Karl Marx used this document as a first draft of the pamphlet entitled The Communist Manifesto. Marx finished the 12,000 word pamphlet in six weeks. Unlike most of Marx's work, it was an accessible account of communist ideology. Written for a mass audience, the book summarised the forthcoming revolution and the nature of the communist society that would be established by the proletariat. It has been claimed that it is the most widely read political pamphlet in human history. (43)

The pamphlet begins with the assertion: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Marx argued that if you are to understand human history you must not see it as the story of great individuals or the conflict between states. Instead, you must see it as the story of social classes and their struggles with each other. Marx explained that social classes had changed over time but in the 19th century the most important classes were the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. By the term bourgeoisie Marx meant the owners of the factories and the raw materials which are processed in them. The proletariat, on the other hand, own very little and are forced to sell their labour to the capitalists. (44)

Marx believed that these two classes are not merely different from each other, but also have different interests. He went on to argue that the conflict between these two classes would eventually lead to revolution and the triumph of the proletariat. With the disappearance of the bourgeoisie as a class, there would no longer be a class society. "Just as feudal society was burst asunder, bourgeois society will suffer the same fate." (45)

In November 1847 Marx made a visit to London. In a speech to a group of Chartists he argued: "The unification and brotherhood of nations is a phrase which is nowadays on the lips of all parties, particularly of the bourgeois free traders. A kind of brotherhood does indeed exist between the bourgeois classes of all nations. It is the brotherhood of the oppressors against the oppressed, of the exploiters against the exploited. Just as the bourgeois class of one country is united in brotherhood against the proletarians of that country, despite the competition and struggle of its members among themselves, so the bourgeoisie of all countries is united in brotherhood against the proletarians of all countries, despite their struggling and competing with each other on the world market."

Marx went on to say: "Of all countries it is England where the opposition between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is most highly developed. Thus the victory of the English proletariat over the English bourgeoisie is of decisive importance for the victory of all oppressed peoples over their oppressors. Poland, therefore, must be freed, not in Poland, but in England. You Chartists should not express pious wishes for the liberation of nations. Defeat your own enemies at home and then you may be proudly conscious of having defeated the old social order in its entirety." (46)

Marx's main friend amongst the Chartists was Ernest Jones who had been born in Berlin but the family had returned to London where he became a lawyer. Jones was a follower of Feargus O'Connor, the leader of the Physical Force movement. Unlike most Chartists he was a revolutionary socialist. Marx accepted Jones as "the best and most advanced that England had to offer". Jones supplied Marx "with a great deal of information about English conditions". (47)

As the result of his research Marx became convinced that the revolution would first take place in Britain. Society was divided into "two radically dissimilar nations, as unlike as difference of race could make them." Gathered together in towns and cities but separated from the bourgeoisie. "The workers begin to feel as a class, as a whole: they begin to perceive that, though feeble as individuals, they form a power united." Through the growth of working-class political movements, led by people such as Robert Owen and John Doherty, "all the workers employed in manufacture are won for one form or the other of resistance to capital and bourgeoisie; and all are united upon this point, that they, as working-men... from a separate class, with separate interests and principles." (48)

The Communist Manifesto was published in Germany in February, 1848. Later that month a police spy in Belgium reported that: "This noxious pamphlet must indisputably exert the most corrupting influence upon the uneducated public at whom it is directed. The alluring theory of the dividing-up of wealth is held out to factory workers and day labourers as an innate right, and a profound hatred of the rulers and the rest of the community is inculcated into them. There would be a gloomy outlook for the fatherland and for civilisation if such activities succeeded in undermining religion and respect for the laws and in any great measure infected the lower class of the people." (49)

They were especially concerned by the fact that Marx had just received 6,000 gold francs as his share of his father's legacy and they suspected he was going to use this money to "finance the revolutionary movement". Jenny Marx later admitted: "The German workers in Brussels decided to arm themselves. Daggers, revolvers, etc., were procured. Karl willingly provided money, for he had just come into an inheritance." The couple were arrested and expelled from Belgium. (50)

Karl and Jenny Marx and their three children went to France who had just experienced a successful revolution. Within weeks, and on a temporary French passport, he was back in Cologne with Engels, who raised most of the money to found the daily Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Organ der Democratie. According to Eric Hobsbawm it was "the most coherent voice of the democratic left". (56) Engels claimed that he was not the most effective editor: "He is no journalist and will never become one. He pores for a whole day over a leading article that would take someone else a couple of hours as though it concerned the handling of a deep philosophical problem." (51)

On 21st March, 1848, Marx published a handbill headed "Demands of the Communist Party in Germany". The seventeen-point programme included only four of the ten points from the CMM - progressive income-tax, free schooling, state ownership of all means of transport and the creation of a national bank. One measure that was dropped was "abolition of all right of inheritance". Whereas the Manifesto had demanded the nationalisation of all land this was amended to "princely and other feudal estates". Other demands included universal adult suffrage and payment of salaries to parliamentary representatives. (52)

Marx fell out with Andreas Gottschalk, the leader of the Cologne Workers' Association and a representative of the Communist League in the German Constituent National Assembly. Gottschalk was a doctor who treated the poor and had a large following in the city. Whereas Marx's newspaper had a circulation of 5,000, the Cologne Workers' Association, had a membership of over 8,000 people. Marx condemned Gottschalk as a left-wing sectarian who had jeopardised the "united front" of bourgeoisie and proletariat by founding an exclusively working-class pressure group. When Gottschalk was arrested and charged with incitement to violence Marx refused to defend him: "We are reserving our judgement since we are all still lacking definite information about their arrest and the manner in which it was carried out... The workers will be sensible enough not to let themselves be provoked into creating a disturbance." (53)

Carl Schurz, a student, witnessed a meeting addressed by Karl Marx in August 1848. "He could not have been much more than thirty years old at that time, but he was already the recognised head of the advanced socialistic school... I have never seen a man whose bearing was so provoking and intolerable. To no opinion which differed from his own did he accord the honour of even condescending consideration. Everyone who contradicted him he treated with abject contempt; every argument that he did not like he answered either with biting scorn at the unfathomable ignorance that had prompted it, or with opprobrious aspersions upon the motives of him who had advanced it. I remember most distinctly the cutting disdain with which he pronounced the word 'bourgeoi''; and as a 'bourgeois' - that is, as a detestable example of the deepest mental and moral degeneracy - he denounced everyone who dared to oppose his opinion... It was very evident that not only had he not won any adherents, but had repelled many who otherwise might have become his followers." (54)

Marx warned that without a revolution in England the rebellion in Europe would end in failure: "The liberation of Europe is dependent on a successful uprising by the French working class. But every French social upheaval necessarily founders on the English bourgeoisie, on the industrial and commercial world-domination of Great Britain. England will only be overthrown by a world war, which is the only thing that could provide the Chartists, the organised party of the English workers, with the conditions for a successful rising against their gigantic oppressors." (55)

On 25th September, 1849, a state of martial law was declared in Cologne and the military commander immediately suspended publication of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Organ der Democratie. Marx now moved to Paris. He believed a socialist revolution was likely to take place in France at any time. However, within a month of arriving, the French police ordered him out of the capital. Only one country remained who would take him, England. He wrote to Friedrich Engels: "I count on this absolutely. You cannot stay in Switzerland. In London we shall get down to business." (56)

The Communist Manifesto was translated into English by Helen Macfarlane, a feminist Chartist who knew both Marx and Engels. George Julian Harney, a socialist leader of the Chartist movement, arranged for it to be published in his newspaper, Red Republican, in June 1850, with an editorial comment that it was the most revolutionary document ever published. (57)

The Prussian authorities applied pressure on the British government to expel Marx but the Prime Minister, John Russell, held liberal views on freedom of expression and refused. At that time the country had the reputation for allowing political outcasts to live in London. Census figures show that 300,000 newcomers settled in the capital between 1841 and 1851, including several hundred political refugees.

With only the money that Engels could raise, the Marx family lived in extreme poverty. In March 1850 they were ejected from their two-roomed flat in Chelsea for failing to pay the rent. Jenny Marx explained in a letter to a friend, Joseph Weydemeyer: "Suddenly in came our landlady... and demanded the £5 we still owed her and, since this was not ready to hand... two bailiffs entered the house and placed under distrait what little I possessed - beds, linen, clothes, everything, even my poor infant's cradle, and the best of the toys belonging to the girls, who burst into tears." (58)

They found cheaper accommodation at 28 Dean Street, Soho, where they stayed for six years. Their fifth child, Franziska, was born at their new flat but she only lived for a year. Eleanor Marx was born in 1855 but later that year, Edgar became Jenny Marx's third child to die. Marx spent most of the time in the Reading Room of the British Museum, where he read the back numbers of The Economist and other books and journals that would help him analyze capitalist society. (59)

In order to help supply Marx with an income, Friedrich Engels decided to work at the Manchester office for his father's textile firm, Ermen & Engels. Jenny Marx wrote to him soon after he left: "My husband and all the rest of us have missed you sorely and have often longed to see you... However, I am very glad that you have left and are well on the way to becoming a great cotton lord." (60)

The two kept in constant contact and over the next twenty years they wrote to each other on average once every two days. Engels sent postal orders or £1 or £5 notes, cut in half and sent in separate envelopes. In this way the Marx family was able to survive. It has been estimated that on average Marx received £150 a year from Engels and other supporters. A sum on which a lower-middle-class family could live in some comfort. "The problem of the Marxian finances had been particularly intractable for two reasons: the Marxes felt it essential to maintain the public expenditure of a successful professional household, especially after their move into a middle-class district, and they were spectacularly bad at budgeting." (61)

The poverty of the Marx's family was confirmed by a Prussian police agent who visited the Dean Street flat in 1852. In his report he pointed out that the family had sold most of their possessions and that they did not own one "solid piece of furniture" and "though he is idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has a great deal of work to do." (62)

Jenny Marx helped her husband with his work and later wrote that "the memory of the days I spent in his little study copying his scrawled articles is among the happiest of my life." The only relief from the misery of poverty was on a Sunday when they went for family picnics on Hampstead Heath. On 14th April, 1852, shortly after her first birthday, Franziska died: "Only a couple of lines to let you know that our little child died this morning at a quarter past one." (63)

In 1852, Charles Dana, the socialist managing editor of the New York Daily Tribune, offered Marx the opportunity to write for his newspaper. Over the next ten years the newspaper published 487 articles by Marx (125 of them had actually been written by Engels). With a circulation of more than 200,000, the newspaper provide Marx with a large readership. "Its outlook was broadly progressive: in internal affairs it pursued an anti-slavery, free trade policy, while in foreign affairs it attacked the principle of autocracy, and so found itself in opposition to virtually every government in Europe." (64)

Another radical in the USA, George Ripley, commissioned Marx to write for the New American Cyclopaedia. Marx admitted that Engels was doing most of his writing: "Engels really has too much work, but being a veritable walking encyclopedia, he's capable, drunk or sober, of working at any hour of the day or night, is a fast writer and devilish quick on the uptake." (65)

With the money from Marx's journalism and the £120 inherited from Jenny's mother, the family were able to move to 9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town. In 1856 Jenny Marx, who was now aged 42, gave birth to a still-born child. Her health took a further blow when she contacted smallpox. Although she survived this serious illness, it left her deaf and badly scarred. Marx's health was also bad and he wrote to Engels claiming that "such a lousy life is not worth living". After a bad bout of boils in 1863, Marx told Engels that the only consolation was that "it was a truly proletarian disease" and "I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day." (66)

Marx published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in 1859. In the book Marx argued that the superstructure of law, politics, religion, art and philosophy was determined by economic forces. "It is not", he wrote, "the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness." This is what Friedrich Engels later called "false consciousness". (67)

Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Daily Tribune, a supporter of democratic nationalism, found himself in growing disagreement with Marx's articles. The circulation of the newspaper went into decline and Greeley decided to dismiss most of his European correspondents. Charles Dana pleaded to be allowed to retain Marx, but in vain and in 1862 he was dismissed. (68)

This increased Marx's money problems. Engels sent him £5 a month but this failed to stop him getting deeply into debt. Ferdinand Lassalle, a wealthy socialist from Berlin also began sending money to Marx and offered him work as an editor of a planned new radical newspaper in Germany. Marx, unwilling to return to his homeland and rejected the job. Lassalle continued to send Marx money until he was killed in a duel on 28th August 1864. (69)

Despite all his problems Marx continued to work on Das Kapital. On 2nd April 1867, Marx wrote to Engels pointing out that "I had resolved not to write to you until I could announce completion of the book, which is now the case". He added that "without you I would never have been able to bring the work to a conclusion, and I can assure you it always weighed like a nightmare on my conscience that you were allowing your fine energies to be squandered and to rust in commerce." (70)

The first volume of the book was published in September 1867. A detailed analysis of capitalism, the book dealt with important concepts such as surplus value (the notion that a worker receives only the exchange-value, not the use-value, of his labour); division of labour (where workers become a "mere appendage of the machine") and the industrial reserve army (the theory that capitalism creates unemployment as a means of keeping the workers in check). "The result was an original amalgam of economic theory, history, sociology and propaganda". (71)

Marx also deals with the issue of revolution. Marx argued that the laws of capitalism will bring about its destruction. Capitalist competition will lead to a diminishing number of monopoly capitalists, while at the same time, the misery and oppression of the proletariat would increase. Marx claimed that as a class, the proletariat will gradually become "disciplined, united and organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production" and eventually will overthrow the system that is the cause of their suffering.

Paul Samuelson, one of the leading economists of the 20th century, has declared that Marx's theories can safely be ignored because the impoverishment of the workers "simply never took place". However, Francis Wheen argues that this view is based on a misreading of Marx's "General Law of Capitalist Accumulation" where he makes clear that he is "referring not to the pauperisation of the entire proletariat but to the 'lowest sediment' of society - the unemployed, the ragged, the sick, the old, the widows and orphans". The main point that Marx was making was that labour always "lags further and further behind capital, however many microwave ovens the workers can afford." (72)

Leszek Kolakowski, the Polish philosopher, supports Wheen when he tackles this issue in Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution (1978): "It must be borne in mind that material pauperisation was not a necessary premiss either of Marx's analysis of the caused by wage labour, or of his prediction of the inescapable ruin of capitalism." (73)

Marx now began work on the second volume of Das Kapital. By 1871 his sixteen year old daughter, Eleanor Marx, was helping him with his work. Taught at home by her father, Eleanor already had a detailed understanding of the capitalist system and was to play an important role in the future of the British labour movement. On one occasion Marx told his children that "Jenny (his eldest daughter) is most like me, but Tussy (Eleanor) is me." (74)

Eleanor returned to the family home in 1881 to nurse her parents who were both very ill. Marx, who had a swollen liver, survived, but Jenny Marx died on 2nd December, 1881. Karl Marx was also devastated by the death of his eldest daughter in January 1883 from cancer of the bladder. Karl Marx died two months later on the 14th March, 1883.

Liberalism And Marxism In 19th Century

Liberalism and Marxism in 19th Century The rise of Liberalism and Marxism in 19th century is result of two major socio-political developments, which signify modern times the decline of Christianity and the decreased biological quality of people in industrialized societies. Liberalism is essentially the ideology of egoism, brought to the whole new level. The Communism is much worse it is active promotion of slave mentality, which main purpose was to substitute aging Christian doctrine with new set of ideas that would appeal to peoples lowest instincts. Therefore we cannot say that the essence of these two political doctrines is new. Nevertheless, it was 19th century that theories of universal equality and individual liberty began to gain popularity among great many people. Nowadays Socialism, as theory, is being closely linked with Marxism, but apparent similarity between Marxism and Socialism can be only found on the level of unions activity, with foundations of each theory being based on different metaphysical principles. This is why we cannot refer to Marxism and Socialism in this paper as having the same properties, because it would mislead us to the wrong conclusions in the long run. Let us analyze the fundamental nature of Marxism and Liberalism, so it would be easier to answer the question about which political ideology is less despicable.

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The Term Paper on 19th Century Theories in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

19th Century Theories in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment “I teach you the Superman. Man is something that has to be surpassed. What have you done to surpass him? ” These words said by Friedrich Nietzsche encompass the theories present in Dostoevsky’s nineteenth century novel, Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoevsky, living a life of suffering himself, created the .

The roots of modern Liberalism can be traced back to the philosophy of John Lock, Montesquieu, Emanuel Kant, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson. Their worldviews were marked with the idea of individual values prevalence over the social values. The post- revolutionary France was the first country in the world to incorporate many liberal ideas in its constitution. The freedom of religious expression, the protected rights of private ownership and political liberty also defined the American democracy to a large degree. Nevertheless, in many respects liberal ideas resemble Anarchism, which insists on elimination of all social institutions, in order for the individual to attain the maximum of personal freedom. Therefore, it is wrong to associate Liberalism with democracy, as modern Medias try to convince us. If brought to its logical conclusion, the Liberalism will inevitably result creating social chaos, which has nothing to do with classical principles of democracy.

As it was being said earlier, the Liberalism is a philosophy of egoism, which can be highly appealing but hardly moral. Despite many of its negative qualities, Liberalism, as political theory, resulted in bringing down feudal traditions that ruled the public institutions in many European countries in 19th century. In this respect, the historical role of Liberalism appears to be positive, since it helped to eliminate obstacles on the way of social progress. The irony lies in the fact that in post-industrial societies this political theory itself became an obstacle. This is why todays Liberal politicians express so much intolerance towards their opponents. We can talk of Liberalism as political movement in transition.

While in 19th century it stood out to defend peoples liberties, now it turned out to be the ultimate tool in securing their comfort. It started out as anti dogmatic theory but now it engages in suppressing alternative political movements by labeling them as fascist. The liberty and social freedoms is the last thing that comes to ones mind today when Liberalism is mentioned, now it is closely linked with promoting homosexuality and enforcing affirmative action. In the first part of 20th century Liberalism has proved to be ineffective political movement, as it failed to offer any effective resistance to Nazism or Communism. Still, comparing to Marxism, Liberalism appears to be much more favorable. So far, Liberals hadnt participated in mass killings of its political opponents, although it can be explained by the fact that they havent had a chance to do it yet, rather by their high moral standards. Let us say a few words about Communism.

The Essay on Social Contract Theory of John Locke 2

According to John Locke (1690), “the people give up some freedoms to the government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law. ” When the people surrender some freedoms and the government agreed to work together towards a common goal, to promote equal protection for both the people and the government. Based on the agreement a government was created. .

Among its early proponents we can name utopical socialists like Charles Fourier, Robert Owen and Saint-Simon, who based their visions of universal equality on the assumption that the rich people would voluntarily give up their possessions and political privileges so that they could join with the rest of humanity in the frenzy of brotherly love. The history has proven the cheer naivety of such theories long ago. Sill, it was Marx and Engel that started the whole show of absurd, presently known as Communism. In 1848 Karl Marx and Frederic Engel published a so-called Communist Manifesto, which stated that all people in the world are divided on bourgeoisie and proletariat. These are the biggest enemies and there can be no reconciliation reached between them. They predicted that historically, bourgeoisie is doomed to physical annihilation, to prevent it from exploiting proletariat any further.

Marx and Engel suggested that there is no other purpose of ones existence, but materialistic one. If person isnt hungry all his needs are satisfied. The reason why so many people were strongly opposed against Communism is because it openly proclaims its immediate goals: The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat in the whole world. (Communist Manifesto, part 2).

Up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, its symbol used to be a hammer and the sickle over the globe. Soviet constitution openly stated that USSR only temporarily consists of 15 republics, but it is only the matter of time before all the countries in the world will become part of it.

The Essay on Marxism And Fascism

. people as possible into the slaves. Bibliography:Communist Manifesto. in Marxism Page. 2001. to.html (20 Dec, 2005). Marx, Karl.1995. Capital. A Critique of Political . in highly industrialized contries. The attempts of Communists to overthrow governments in European countries, . deployed a racial approach in its social policies. It has to be said .

There are many left-wing intellectuals in our time that try to convince us that Marxs ideas were being wrongly interpreted and that theyre essentially beneficial to mankind. Id like to refer them to the only time when Communist ideas were being deployed in its purest form Cambodia, during regime of Pol Pot in 1975-1978. Marx wouldve been proud of this bloody dictator for exactly following his recipes that were written in 19th century: abolition of family women are shared whether they want or not, 12 hours a day working for food without holidays, making everyone to wear the same gray ropes to emphasize their equality. The price of this paradise on Earth was 5 million people killed and starved to death. The main antagonists of Marxists and socialists were always the old aristocracy and bourgeoisie. It is quite explainable these were privileged classes and they rightly feared that they could lose their social status, if Marxist theory was to be applied in their countries. At the same time, there were considerations of maintaining social order, on their part, as well. The intellectual elite were well aware that the proponents of Marxism would not only promote the idea of social equality, but they would also enforce it, as soon as they would gain enough political influence.

Instead of believing in childish concepts of universal equality, aristocracy and bourgeoisie believed in power of universal corruption. Marxism is contradictory concept, because it proclaims the priority of individual values, on one hand, but on another, it regards such individual as social nucleus. It strives for the integral functioning of society, but it can only be accomplished if powerful bureaucratic authority is established. But then, the social progress in every Communist society becomes stagnant, as bureaucracy is not concerned with anything else but pursuing its own secular agendas. The significance of Marxism, as political philosophy, can be compared to the significance of Christianity, as the religion of death and decay, which helped to seal the fate of Roman civilization. Both are based on the denial of scientifically proven fact of natural inequality between men and the practical implications of both doctrines resulted in enormous amount of suffering among people.

The Term Paper on Social, Political and Economic Effects of WWI

Social, Political and Economic Effects of WWI Essay submitted by Unknown "Everywhere in the world was heard the sound of things breaking." Advanced European societies could not support long wars or so many thought prior to World War I. They were right in a way. The societies could not support a long war unchanged. The First World War left no aspect of European civilization untouched as pre-war .

The Marxism prepared the ground for Communism, which almost succeeded in destroying Western civilization. I feel more comfortable with Liberalism but not because I think that it is a superior political philosophy but because it is less totalitarian. It is also closer to the original principles of democracy, with which Marxism is simply incompatible.


Communist Manifesto. Marxism Page.( 2001).

October 8, 2005 to.html History of Socialism (2003).

Absolute October 8, 2005 /History_of_Socialism.htm Liberalism. (2005).

Wikipedia. October 8, 2005 Marx, Karl Capital. A Critique of Political Economy trans. by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling.

New York: Random House. 1995.

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Jarrett Stepman is a contributor to The Daily Signal and co-host of The Right Side of History podcast. Send an email to Jarrett. He is also the author of the book "The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America's Past."

“Wokeness” has become the nomenclature for the ideology or mentality of radical leftist activists on college campuses, at protests, and on social media.

But wokeness has not been limited to just a handful of activists. It’s becoming a dominant mindset in the American workplace, in both the public and private sectors, as a method to promote “anti-racism.”

A Heritage Foundation panel on July 24 addressed first what wokeness actually is, but also how it has crept into corporate boardrooms and why it’s such a problem.

Angela Sailor, vice president of The Feulner Institute at The Heritage Foundation, said that “pervasive trends under the guise of equality makes diversity training in government, and corporate America, and schools, destructive, divisive, and harmful.”

James Lindsay, the co-author of a forthcoming book, “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody,” says wokeness is actually a combination of many different ideas.

“Wokeness is a fusion of the critical theory school of neo-Marxism, which is a form of identity politics, and radical activism that has a very particular worldview that separates the world into liberationists versus oppressors or oppressed versus oppressors,” said Lindsay, whose book is set for release Aug. 25.

It marries that, Lindsay said, with postmodern theory, which holds that “all applications of truth are actually applications of politics by other means.”

In other words, the truth is malleable, based on power and who drives the narrative of what truth really is. In effect, the truth is replaced by my truth.

Marxism is a mostly economic theory, with origins in the 19th century. Those ideas, he said, led to some of the worst atrocities in world history.

Traditional Marxist ideas were adopted but changed in the 1920s by Italian communist Antonio Gramsci and others, and became the project of the Frankfurt school of critical theory. That new theory focused more on shaping culture, Lindsay said, marrying traditional Marxism with Freudian psychology and other social theories to change the way people think.

The goal of postmodernists who were part of that movement was to “deconstruct the very meanings of things,” said Lindsay.

Those ideas reached a new phase with the writings of Herbert Marcuse, a Columbia University professor in the 1960s and 1970s who advocated radical activism based on identity politics.

But this radicalism burned out, Lindsay said, because its violence ultimately made it unpopular.

The radicals then left the streets and embedded themselves in our schools and universities.

“It has all of the conflict theory—separate the world into oppressor-versus-oppressed classes—with zero-sum conflict, no ability to agree or understand one another across those, and then takes on the postmodern understanding of truth being just politics by other means, which removes all of the brakes standing up against it,” Lindsay said.

Seeing the world through that lens is what constitutes wokeness.

Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of the new book “The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free,” explained how these ideas entered the workplace under the guise of combating racism and why they are so toxic.

“Anti-racism training is a con,” Gonzalez said. “These consultants get paid exorbitant amounts of money. Often these fees come from taxpayer funds.”

Though many of the advocates of wokeness are con artists, we have to take them seriously, Gonzalez said, because there is a strong ideological component to it.

“The true name of anti-racism training is consciousness-raising struggle sessions,” he said.

It’s used to demolish the “hegemonic narrative,” which in simpler terms, Gonzalez said, is simply “the American story, the American dream, the promise of liberty and prosperity that have attracted about 100 million immigrants from all over the world from 1850 to the present.”

Christopher Rufo, the director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and contributing editor at City Journal, has delved into how “anti-racist training,” together with the Black Lives Matter movement, has invaded the boardroom and government.

“This is now becoming the default ideology of the bureaucracy, and people are making, in some cases, millions of dollars offering essentially political indoctrination on the public dime to public employees,” Rufo said.

All levels of government, as well as nonprofits and corporations, now have human resources departments that have adopted critical race theory as their dominant functioning ideology, he said, adding that it’s become a particularly big problem at the federal level.

“You have an apparatus of federal power that has grown extraordinarily since the days of Woodrow Wilson through [Franklin Roosevelt] through [Lyndon Johnson] in this kind of permanently expanding power that until recently, at least theoretically, operated under the ostensible ideology of the social sciences, of neutrality, but it’s really been abandoned,” Rufo said.

The permanent bureaucracy, no matter who the president is, has adopted critical race theory as its ideology of choice.

That’s leading to a “change in regime” that has never been voted on or approved by the American people, Rufo said. The result is that the machinery of the bureaucracy will be weaponized against the American people.

Rufo spoke of potential ways to stop this form of regime change. He said that it’s important to create institutional infrastructure to protect people from being targeted and “canceled.”

Gonzalez said that it is essential to inform other Americans of the transformation taking place and warn them of the radical changes to come if these ideas are not stopped.

“The more we write about this, the more we expose people to what has taken place, to why, who did it, how they did it, and what is their real goal here, we can start to demolish this idea that ‘no, this is nice because people need … justice,’” Gonzalez said, adding: “Let’s really be honest, and without rancor in our heart, just expose them. Sunshine can be a great disinfectant. Let’s really allow in the light and expose this for what it is.”

Part 1

This is the first of a three-part series comprising a lecture by WSWS correspondent Chris Talbot to meetings of the International Students for Social Equality in Britain. Part 2 was posted on June 18 and Part 3 on June 19.

We have organised these meetings of the International Students for Social Equality in honour of Charles Darwin from a different standpoint from the many other bicentenary events. We want to bring out the connection between Darwin and that other great thinker of the mid-19 th century, Karl Marx.

The importance of Marx hits you when you take in the events of the last few months. We are now in a world economic crisis comparable to, if not more severe than, that of the 1930s, which will have a major effect on all of our futures. Current economic theory completely failed to predict this crisis. The economists cannot explain how it happened and have no answer to it [1]. In contrast, Karl Marx spent much of his life developing an economic analysis that explains the inherent instability of capitalism and provides a scientific basis for the development of the socialist working class movement.

Superficially, it may seem there is not much of a connection between Darwin, the retiring English gentleman, and Marx ,who along with Frederick Engels, was involved in revolutionary communist activity for most of his adult life. But Marx and Engels themselves immediately recognised the significance of Darwin’s theory when On the Origin of Species appeared 150 years ago. Engels wrote to Marx in 1859, just after he had read the first edition of Darwin’s book [2]:

Darwin, by the way, whom I’m reading just now, is absolutely splendid. There was one aspect of teleology that had yet to be demolished, and that has now been done. Never before has so grandiose an attempt been made to demonstrate historical evolution in Nature, and certainly never to such good effect. One does, of course, have to put up with the crude English method.

The last sentence is a reservation that Engels and Marx held—only in private it must be stressed—regarding the methodological approach of Darwin. But throughout their lives they insisted on the importance of Darwin’s work. Teleology, meaning a divine purpose which was working itself out in nature, had been demolished.

Most importantly, Darwin’s theory could “demonstrate historical evolution in Nature.” Here was the most significant development in natural science in the 19 th century, the culmination of the revolution in science that began 200 years earlier. Science was at the core of the Enlightenment, the liberation from religious and dogmatic thought that had developed in the preceding century, the outlook of “Dare to Know” in Kant’s famous dictum.

However, the tremendous strides that science had made were largely in physics and chemistry and they did not really involve evolutionary development, or history. It is true that geology, a science that does involve history, had become established, and work in evolutionary biology had begun, but it was still lacking a scientific basis. Darwin had brought about a revolution in thought that would place biology alongside the other natural sciences. And at its core was an explanation of historical development in nature.

Marx and Engels were well aware that to develop a scientific outlook on society—which was the only way that the emerging movement of the working class could establish socialism—a historical approach was needed. When Marx wrote in 1861 on Darwin he stressed this [3]:

Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle.

This historical approach is the essence of Marx’s method. It is derived from the dialectical approach of the great German philosopher Hegel, another product of the Enlightenment. By the mid-1840s, Marx and Engels had firmly established a materialist and scientific analysis of the historical development of human society, but throughout their lives they continued to develop this work, especially in Marx’s great contribution to the politically economy of capitalism.

In parenthesis it can be pointed out that there was something of a division of labour between them and it was Engels who tended to lead their studies in the natural sciences, as the 1859 letter shows. Even so, we now know from research done on the extensive libraries of Marx and Engels by the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam [4] that Marx read widely in the natural sciences after 1870.

Most of you are familiar with the key mechanisms of Darwin’s historical theory of nature that is now regarded as central to the whole of biology. There are the two sides to it—Natural Selection and Modification by Descent. As Darwin explains himself in the first edition of On the Origin of Species [5]:

Can it, then, be thought improbable . . . that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations I shall call Natural Selection. (Chapter IV)

Several classes of facts . . . seem to me to proclaim so plainly, that the innumerable species, genera and families of organic beings, with which this world is peopled, have all descended, each within its own class or group, from common parents, and have all been modified in the course of descent. (Chapter XIII).

Perhaps in parallel to presenting this core idea of Darwin’s theory, I can briefly set out Marx’s historical approach to society by quoting a footnote that Marx adds in Chapter 15, Section 1, in the first volume of Capital [6]:

Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s Technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organisation, deserve equal attention? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the former, but not the latter? Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them.

I hope this quote establishes briefly the mechanism of social development understood by Marx and the central role played by labour, “the productive organs of man.” As Marx explains, the social relations of society—fundamentally class relations—and the ideology that flows from them are rooted in the process of production. I will add also the second part of this footnote, as it very much relates to the subject matter of this talk.

Every history of religion, even, that fails to take account of this material basis, is uncritical. It is, in reality, much easier to discover by analysis the earthly core of the misty creations of religion, than, conversely, it is, to develop from the actual relations of life the corresponding celestialised forms of those relations. The latter method is the only materialistic, and therefore the only scientific one. The weak points in the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism that excludes history and its process, are at once evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions of its spokesmen, whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own specialty.

Marx took a scientific materialist position, particularly in relation to religion. I will come back to the question raised about abstract materialism in the last sentence.

A vast range of developments have been made in biology since Darwin’s day and the excerpts presented here are only intended to present the essential elements of his theory. But it must be stressed that the synthesis with genetics that took place in the 1930s and 1940s and then the discovery of DNA in the 1950s and the understanding of the biochemical basis of genes since then have only validated Darwin’s basic theory.

We could make the same point about Marx. The development of imperialism at the end of the 19 th century and the beginning of the 20 th century that led to two world wars and fascism has had to be extensively studied and explained from the Marxist standpoint. The 1917 Russian Revolution was a tremendous confirmation of Marx’s theory. It established the first workers’ state. The rise of Stalinism and the bureaucratic degeneration and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union called for extensive analysis, which our movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International has carried out.

The two great historical theories of the 19 th century, of Darwin and Marx—the pinnacle of Enlightenment thought—have fundamentally changed our understanding of the world. They were part of the development of science in its broadest form—the desire to comprehend the natural and social worlds in order to change them for the benefit of mankind.

Consider the letter from Darwin to Marx in 1873. Marx had sent him a copy of Capital, and it is true, as cynical writers today such as Francis Wheen in his biography of Marx have pointed out, that Darwin’s copy only has the first 100 or so pages opened. But Darwin had a fiercely exclusive focus on his own specialized study and seldom strayed outside it. He wrote [7]:

Though our studies have been so different, I believe that we both earnestly desire the extension of Knowledge, & that this is in the long run sure to add to the happiness of mankind.

This approach—to extend knowledge for the benefit of mankind—was taken for granted by both Marx and Darwin and was widely accepted by intellectuals and scientists in that period. I maintain it is possible to retain it today despite all kinds of arguments that it is naïve, or utopian, that it doesn’t take into account so-called human nature, and so on. The many attempts, stemming from the Frankfurt School of social theory and developed by poststructuralists and postmodernists in the last two or three decades, to deny the objective materialist basis of science and to pour scorn on the achievements of the Enlightenment do not diminish the fundamental importance of this approach to knowledge.

This is a vast subject area that is central to the development of a socialist movement in the twenty first century. In this talk I just want to focus on two contemporary Darwinian issues that relate to these many attempts to attack science.

Firstly, I want to look at how evolutionary science is actually viewed today and how it is being dealt with by the political and religious establishment. Secondly, I want to look at controversies that have arisen over the last three decades or so relating to Marx and Darwin and that have created much confusion in understanding the important relationship between these two great thinkers.

[1] See for example John Kay, “How economics lost sight of the real world,” Financial Times, April 21, 2009.

[5] cited in Sean B. Carroll, The Making of the Fittest, Quercus, London, 2008.

[7] cited in Francis Wheen, Karl Marx, Fourth Estate, London, 1999.

Marxism and the 19th Century - History

A. He was born in what is now Germany but spent most of his life in exile because of his political stands.

B. He studied law for awhile but later turned to philosophy, getting a doctorate at the University of Jena in 1841.

C. He became editor of a newspaper, Rheinische Zeitung, which was suppressed by the government in 1843. He then moved to Paris, where he began a lifelong friendship and collaboration with Friedrich Engels. (Although they jointly authored several works, both regarded Marx as the guiding figure.)

D. Marx moved to Brussels, after being expelled from France in 1845.

1. He and Engels produced The Communist Manifesto, one of the most influential documents in human history, in 1848.

2.Expelled from Brussels, Marx moved back briefly to Paris and then to Cologne, where he was expelled in 1849.

E. He then moved to London, where he spent the rest of his life.

F. Marx never held regular work for any extended period of time.

1. He did serve for awhile as a journalistic correspondent of the New York Tribune.

2. For the most part, however, he was continually dependent upon Engels for financial support.

G. He lived much of his life in poverty, dedicated primarily to extensive research advancing the cause of socialism. Marx himself suffered chronic illnesses, and three of his children died.

H. With time, the fame and influence of his works grew, until Marx became the leading theorist and prophet of European socialism.

1. He was not much of a political activist, however.

2. In 1864, he helped establish and then dominated the International Working Men's Association (which came to be known as the “First International”) although he then pretty much destroyed the Association in a bitter controversy with the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin.

3. Political activism was not well-suited to Marx' often vitriolic temperament and his tendency to take “hard-line” stands.

I. The Communist Manifesto and Kapital are Marx' two most famous works. Of particular philosophical interest, however, is The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.

A. Marx is one of the most influential political philosophers in human history, in terms of practical application of his thought. Powerful political movements sprang up through his writings.

B. His writings deserve to be considered seriously in understanding the modern world--particularly since the start of the industrial revolution.

C. His emphasis on the social nature of human beings and the importance of technology (the modes of production) in human life are challenging, important contributions to human thought.

D. He insisted on the need to move philosophy from abstract thinking to active changing of the human condition.

E. He contributed to the rising importance of the social sciences since the beginning of the 19th century.

F. Like Thomas Hobbes, he produced a social and political system so striking and challenging that numerous subsequent philosophers want to offer refutations.

1. History is a dialectical, deterministic process directed, overwhelmingly, by the material modes of production.

a. Ideologies do not move the world.

b. What occurs in detail follows from the particular historical situation.

2. Capitalism is a social-economic system which, because of its institutionalization of private property, causes alienation in three ways--alienation from products, alienation from one's activity (and hence alienation from oneself), and alienation from other human beings.

3. In political terms, the historical process exhibits itself through a series of class struggles in which a dominant minority class directs the society.

a. Increasing polarization occurs.

b. The classless society offers a resolution of the struggle.

4. Capitalism creates forces that it cannot control and these forces institute the destruction of the capitalist system.

5. Labor determines the value of a product.

6. The destruction of capitalism will occur first in the most advanced industrial societies because of the increasing misery of the workers (which strengthens and unifies the proletariat).

7. All the preceding theses are empirical generalizations.

1. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” (not dealt with in detail) is a transitionary stage in the development of communism.

2. Although measures in different nations or societies will differ, violent means are necessary for the destruction of capitalism.

3. Free competition in a capitalist system does not further the best interests of the society as a whole and does not even preserve free competition--because it inevitably concentrates capital in fewer and fewer hands.

4. There can be no real freedom and individuality for the great mass of people in a capitalist society.

5. In modern society, the distinction between capitalist and landowner tends to break down.

6. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

7. Communism is an international movement, although the overthrow of capitalism also occurs in separate nations.

8. Communism will bring about the abolition of war as antagonism among classes and nations disappears.

9. “Religion is the opium of the people.”

10. All the preceding theses are empirical generalizations.

According to Marx, any description of human nature in terms of separately existing individuals distorts reality with disastrous consequences. It creates the delusion of an egoistic, independent individual functioning apart from other persons or the community as a result, it produces a social structure in which alienation is the common human experience.

Such individualism allows us to presume, as the starting-point for the construction of civil society, egoistic individuals with private interests, needs, work-objectives, and values—which then become the basis for asserting fundamental rights such as freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom to do whatever does not harm others, freedom to engage in trade, freedom to acquire, hold, and dispose of private property. Society “appears as a framework exterior to individuals, a limitation of their original self-sufficiency [emphasis added].”1 The citizen is taken to be an abstraction in contrast with the egoistic individual who has a sensuous, immediate, individual existence.

Given the social structure based upon this distorted description of human nature, or more particularly, given the subsequent institutionalization of private property, alienation enters into human experience. The freedom to acquire, hold, and dispose of private property, over time, leads to existence of a relatively small class of wealthy persons and of a much larger class composed of the great mass of people in the society. In an industrialized society, capitalists constitute the relatively small class and the workers, or proletariat, constitute the larger one. The workers sell their labor to the capitalists who, in turn, own and dispose of the products of their labor. As a result of this process, according to Marx, workers experience four types of alienation—alienation from (1) the products of labor, (2) the laboring activity, (3) themselves, and (4) other human beings.

Alienation from the products of labor occurs because the objects produced by labor do not belong to the workers and because their power and importance decrease in proportion to the increase in the objects produced. In the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx says,

. . . the more the worker spends himself, the more powerful becomes the alien world of objects which he creates over and against himself, the poorer he himself—his inner world—becomes, the less belongs to him as his own.2

Alienation from the products of labor entails alienation from laboring activity as well:

. . . labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his essential being that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the plague. . . . Lastly, the external character of labor for the worker appears in the fact that it is not his own, but someone else's, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to himself, but to another.3

To the extent they produce objects viewed to be alien to them and to the extent they regard their laboring activity as a means to subsist rather than as the satisfaction of an internal, essential need, workers experience alienation from the laboring activity itself. They feel that they are only truly human, and themselves, when they are not working.

Since their work constitutes probably the major part of their activity in life while awake however, workers cannot experience alienation from laboring activity without also experiencing alienation from themselves.

Finally, when workers' conscious activity becomes merely a means to subsist, that is, a means to preserve their physical existence, they experience alienation from other human beings because their consciousness, the essential species-characteristic that differentiates humans from other animals, becomes too confined to express the full range of its potentialities—for reflection, for evaluation, for beauty, for envisioning non-immediate, diverse interests. In effect, this severe reduction in workers' conscious activity alienates them from their own essence as human beings and, in so doing, alienates them from other human beings as well.

The solution to the problem of alienation, for Marx, requires the elimination of private property which, in turn, requires a correct description of human nature—one that stresses the social, not the individualistic, nature of human beings.

According to Marx, “. . . the essence of man is not an abstraction inherent in each particular individual. The real nature of man is the totality of social relations.”4 Thus nothing is truly human until it is understood through its social relationships. Language, thought, freedom, and crime are all social products rather than properties of an egoistic individual. In effect, the individual's thoughts and feelings constitute a subjective expression of society's existence. Marx says,

[Even] when I am active scientifically, etc.,—when I am engaged in activity which I can seldom perform in direct community with others—then I am social, because I am active as a man. Not only is the material of my activity given to me as a social product (as is even the language in which the thinker is active): my own existence is social activity, and therefore that which I make of myself, I make of myself for society and with the consciousness of myself as a social being.5

Thought is not the private prerogative of freely willing, individual persons. Thought and the products of thought—such as religious, ethical, scientific, and legal ideas—instead are a reflection of material (physical), social existence. Accordingly, for Marx, we do not find human nature through introspection rather, we find it by observing the physical activities of human beings functioning in social relationships. When the social relationships change, the description of human nature changes as well.

Ultimately the social relationships are determined by the material modes of production—that is, the relations of labor, capital, industry, technology, means of subsistence, reproduction, and distribution of material goods. Consequently, any institutions or thought within a society derive their particular form and content from the underlying economic processes present. So human beings can best understand how to act through a historical understanding of changes in the modes of production, with their associated effects.

Now how does this social interpretation of human nature solve the problem of alienation? It does so by doing away with the individualistic interpretation that makes possible the claim that the freedom to acquire, hold, and dispose of private property is a fundamental right. Denial of the claim's legitimacy then paves the way for abolition of private property and hence an end to alienation. According to Marx however, we cannot conclude that an intellectual argument will change human consciousness so that people will then decide to eliminate private property. “ It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”6 Change in the productive forces, the material modes of production, within a society is the actual instrument that ends the alienation. Marx describes such a process this way:

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 their 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. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness on the contrary, 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. No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.7

Instead of an alienating system of private property whereby human beings enjoy or dispose of possessions arbitrarily without regard for other persons and view others as instruments or competitors in the process of production, there will develop a human system of production whereby human beings function as species-beings and develop the full range of their potentialities. Of this human system of production, Marx says,

Let us suppose that we had produced as human beings. In that event each of us would have doubly affirmed himself and his neighbour in his production. (1) In my production I would have objectified the specific character of my individuality and for that reason I would both have enjoyed the expression of my own individual life during my activity and also, in contemplating the object, I would experience an individual pleasure, I would experience my personality as an objective sensuously perceptible power beyond all shadow of doubt. (2) In your use or enjoyment of my product I would have the immediate satisfaction and knowledge that in my labour I had gratified a human need, i.e. that I had objectified human nature and hence had procured an object corresponding to the needs of another human being. (3) I would have acted for you as the mediator between you and the species, thus I would be acknowledged by you as the complement of your own being, as an essential part of yourself. I would thus know myself to be confirmed both in your thoughts and your love. (4) In the individual expression of my own life I would have brought about the immediate expression of your life, and so in my individual activity I would have directly confirmed and realized my authentic nature, my human, communal nature.8

In asserting the social nature of human beings, Marx does not want to do away with human freedom. True human freedom however cannot be associated with egoistic individuals because, in practice, such egoistic freedom only exists for the few, not the many. The freedom to acquire, enjoy, and dispose of private property means nothing to the worker who is struggling barely to survive. The freedom to get an education or to travel means nothing to persons with little or no money. Egoistic freedom is based on “separation of man from man” rather than on “the union of man with man.” Consequently, human beings see others as a limitation on, not a realization of, their own freedom9 and they struggle with one another.

For Marx, true human freedom must be based on the social cooperation that the social nature of human beings makes possible. For example, the freedom to work in a society must be a cooperative enterprise where everyone can work, and not just a freedom to compete with other workers for scarce jobs. The rallying cry, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”10 becomes an instrument of human freedom, not a denial of it.

Marx says very little about freedom of thought and conscience—partly, no doubt, because they tend to be associated with egoistic freedom. More importantly however, he does not regard thought and conscience to function independently. Remember that social being (existence), determined ultimately by the modes of production, determines consciousness. Thus, if true human freedom is established with respect to the modes of production and social organization, no special attention to freedom of thought and conscience is necessary.

In a similar way, for Marx, no special attention to ethics is necessary. Ethics is just the ideological form in which persons become conscious of the conflict between the modes of production and a particular set of social relationships. The modes of production, not morality, constitute the fundamental instrument of social change. Accordingly, Marx regards a scientific description of transformations in the material modes of production as a much more valuable guide to the directing of human life than any set of moral exhortations.

Regarding social relationships, Marx asserts, in The Communist Manifesto:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of the contending classes. 11

The present time, "the epoch of the bourgeoisie," has simplified the class struggle as society splits more and more into two hostile, contending classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Writing in the nineteenth century, Marx asserts that the bourgeoisie, or capitalists, have gained such power over the proletariat, or workers, that "the executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." 12 This triumph of the bourgeoisie occurred over a long period of time due to a "series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange"―the introduction of steam and machinery revolutionizing industrial production at the same time that technological advances in navigation and transportation led to ever-expanding markets for goods. As a result, according to Marx,

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarcely one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground--what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour? 13

In the process of ruling, there occurs a continual consolidation of power within industrialized nations and over non-industrialized ones. Within industrialized nations, "the bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization. Independent or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs tariff." 14 Within non-industrialized nations, the bourgeoisie subjugates people and forces them to adopt capitalistic modes of production as a way of guaranteeing sources of raw materials and a market for cheap goods. The social consequences of the rule of the bourgeoisie, according to Marx, are devastating. Everywhere, social relationships revolve around money and self-interest. Personal worth becomes "exchange value" freedom becomes "free trade" physicians, lawyers, priests, poets, and scientists become merely "paid wage-labourers" and the family relation becomes merely a "money relation." Meanwhile, commercial crises and competition among the bourgeoisie causes ever greater insecurity for the workers and their wages always tend toward the minimum necessary for their hare survival.

The rule of the bourgeoisie will not continue indefinitely, however, for the process of its own development carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Marx says,

. . . Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world which he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past, the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society. In these crises a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity―the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence industry and commerce seem to be destroyed and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented. 15

Thus, for Marx, ever more frequent commercial crises of ever-increasing intensity, due to excesses generated by the continual revolution in the modes of production, lead inevitably to the downfall of capitalism.

The eventual, violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie is accomplished by the proletarian class, whose power grows with the development of capitalism itself. As bourgeois modes of production necessitate the raising of huge industrial armies, as property comes into fewer and fewer hands, as some members of the ruling class and of the lower middle class join the proletariat, as workers eke out a meager existence while constantly competing among themselves in the midst of scarcity―the proletariat as a class swells in numbers and becomes ever more aware of both its oppression and its oppressors, the capitalists. It is only a matter of time until the proletariat gains the power and awareness sufficient to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

Given this description of the historical situation, what ought to be the relation of the individual to the society'?

Obviously, the future resides with the proletarian class and individuals who face reality will act accordingly. More important from Marx' standpoint however, is his claim that the communists stand in the forefront of the proletariat. 16 They are the ones clearly aware of the current class struggle and resolute enough to constantly push forward the working-class movement. Consequently, for Marx, becoming a communist is the best action an individual can take. In passing however, we should note that Marx does not regard his work as the construction of an ideology that will triumph through the effort of will of communists and the proletariat. Rather he views his work as a scientific description of an historical process which necessitates the overthrow of capitalism. For example, he says,

The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.

They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes . . . . 17

Warning that allowances must he made for different conditions in different countries, Marx lays out the following general objectives for the communist movement:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc. 18

These measures are designed to end the alienation and exploitation of workers―most especially through the abolition of bourgeois private property, that is, the "kind of property which exploits wage labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage labour for fresh exploitation." 19 Marx wants to insure that private property does not remain the instrument of oppression of the capitalistic class. He does not however oppose the possession of all personal property: "Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation." 20

The result of the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat will be the establishment of a classless society, one in which class distinctions and antagonisms no longer exist. In such a society, there also will no longer exist the political power represented by the State, in which one class rules and exploits other classes. 21 Marx offers few details regarding the precise nature of this future society. In a classless society, the governance of people, which characterizes a State, is supplanted by the administration of things, whereby there is a co-operative management of non-human objects and processes for the benefit of all. Without providing details, he also mentions the need for a state in which there exists a "revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat" during the stage of transition from capitalist to communist society. And, ultimately, in a communist society, it will be possible to declare, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" From Marx' standpoint though, speculation concerning the precise nature of future society is far less important than the description of the present historical conditions which establish the inevitable overthrow of capitalism.

A. Misunderstanding 1 - Since communism is supposed to abolish the State, Marx is an anarchist, predicting that all government will disappear

Correction: The State has a special meaning for Marx it represents one political class oppressing another. So, in a classless society where the oppression disappears, there is no longer a State, although there can still be some sort of governing going on.

B. Misunderstanding 2 - Marx' call for the abolition of private property entails the elimination of all personal or private belongings.

Correction: Marx calls for (predicts) the elimination of the system of private property--whereby individuals are able to exploit the labor of others for their own gain and do what they will with “their” property. But this does not mean that all personal possessions must go. What is acquired without exploitation or without a system of exploitation may be kept legitimately.

Marxism and the 19th Century - History

This detail from an illustration in a 1911 Industrial Workers of the World publication depicts a class of workers struggling to hold up finely dressed elites while they drink and dine. Rhetoric about class warfare has waxed and waned in American politics, and is frequently employed by both sides in debates about tax law and other economic policies.

Editor's Note:

In the midst of a presidential election campaign that pits a wealthy Republican businessman against a self-proclaimed warrior for the middle class, Americans are talking a lot these days about class. Many credit the Occupy Wall Street movement with making &ldquoclass warfare&rdquo&mdashwhich, in its contemporary use, is really about tax policy&mdasha driving issue in 2012. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels&rsquo original idea of class struggle emerged with the creation of a class of factory wage earners during the Industrial Revolution. Now the term is a slander used by conservatives such as Karl Rove to imply its historic connection to socialism. This month, historian Sarah Brady Siff explores the history of the ideas and practices of &ldquoclass warfare&rdquo in American history.

Whatever its other accomplishments, the Occupy Wall Street movement that sprouted in New York City in September 2011 focused public attention on the issue of wealth inequality. To the millions of Americans facing unemployment, losing their homes, and racking up student loan debt, the idea of a struggling "99 percent" struck a chord.

U.S. citizens have long fantasized that ours is a classless society with limitless upward mobility. But abruptly, people and politicians have started talking about a class divide. More and more of them detect a serious conflict between the rich and poor in society, as this Pew opinion poll indicates.

Lately, conservatives have invoked the term "class warfare" to talk about President Obama's plans to raise tax rates for wealthy Americans. They frequently use it as an adjective, as in "class-warfare rhetoric" and "class-warfare policy."

There are many ways to envision economic class in America. The term "99 percent" is technically nonsense, as the bottom 99 percent of households in America includes plenty of millionaires.

The Congressional Budget Office offered this analysis of household income shortly after Occupy Wall Street started, showing that "after-tax income for the highest-income households grew more than it did for any other group."

Economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez chart income inequality historically, showing the top 1 percent of earners have increased their share of wealth over the past 30 years, largely through increased compensation for the "working rich," such as CEOs.

Billionaire Warren Buffet raised some hackles when he suggested in a New York Times op-ed that taxes on the wealthy are far too low. Obama subsequently introduced the Buffett Rule, a tax plan requiring those with annual incomes over a million dollars to pay a minimum of 30 percent.

Obama responded to criticism of his longstanding plans to close corporate and investment tax loopholes by saying, "This isn't class warfare. It's math." But he has also taken the novel step of embracing the role of "warrior for the middle class." In his 2012 State of the Union address, he said income inequality is "the defining issue of our time."

When Obama makes this argument, he is building on a long tradition. The rhetoric of class tension and income inequality has been a defining discourse in American history for more than a century and a half.

Class Comes to America

The term class warfare is a long-lived popular twist on Marxist jargon.

In 1848, revolutionary socialists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels famously wrote that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle." When The Communist Manifesto was translated into English in the late 1800s, the original German word klassenkämpfen was interpreted in some editions as class warfare rather than class struggle.

Based on their observations of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on British workers, Marx and Engels theorized that capitalism inevitably created conflict between laborers and capitalists. They saw in England that industrialization increased workers' productivity by dividing and specializing jobs. No longer did a cobbler make a pair of shoes from start to finish now as a wage worker, he cut one piece of leather to the same shape over and over.

As industrialization and specialization solidified in the early nineteenth century, capitalists and managers pushed down wages, demanded longer shifts, and allowed more dangerous working conditions.

The Industrial Revolution came to the U.S. in earnest after the Civil War with a vast system of railroads as its centerpiece. The federal government made enormous grants of land and money to a handful of businessmen to connect the West and the South to the heart of the Union by rail.

Oil and steel magnates John D. Rockefeller (who single-handedly amassed one percent of the nation's wealth for himself) and Andrew Carnegie capitalized on this development by expanding their reach and selling materials to the builders. Hundreds of thousands of laborers worked in their factories and on the railroads for subsistence wages.

In this period of industrial expansion, politicians talked regularly about the creation of economic classes and the implications such class divisions might have for American democracy and American society.

Amid intense railway construction efforts, a financial crisis in 1873 led the owners to cut wages. In 1877, railway workers went on strike. Violence spread rapidly from city to city as the railway workers' fellow wage earners joined in insurrection against the railroads. For 45 days, crowds burned and looted corporate property, stopped the trains in their tracks, and clashed with authorities.

Despite losing the popular vote in 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the presidency through a process many regarded as corrupt (the press often referred to him as "Rutherfraud"). The winner of the popular vote, Samuel J. Tilden, campaigned by excoriating the government's ties to big business. Tilden accused the Republicans of "enriching favored classes by impoverishing the earnings of the people." Hayes campaigned for economic development of the South and currency stabilization, both of which he argued would benefit "all classes of society."

Once installed, Hayes sent federal troops to put down the labor violence and protect the railroads' property, ending the strike.

Democrat Grover Cleveland did the same thing during the Pullman strike in 1894. However, his use of federal troops to support employers sat ill with his party, and he lost re-nomination in 1896 to William Jennings Bryan, one of the most eloquent speakers to articulate the divide between the haves and the have-nots in American society.

Bryan won the Democratic party's nomination in 1896 after delivering his "Cross of Gold" speech to a thrilled convention crowd in Chicago.

He railed against the "few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world." The definition of a "business man" should be enlarged to include workers of all stripes, he thundered, and together the people had every right to craft policies in their own favor. The question at hand was "upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight. Upon the side of the idle holders of idle capital, or upon the side of the struggling masses?"

Bryan spoke about "two ideas of government" that, in hindsight, sounds like the popular notion of trickle-down economics: "There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below," he said. "The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them."

In the campaign of 1896, McKinley defeated Bryan with two tactics that will sound familiar. Republicans raised and spent an unprecedented $4 million—more than 10 times the amount Democrats spent and roughly $100 million today—primarily donated by wealthy industrialists such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Rockefeller. And McKinley's handlers played on popular fears about Bryan by connecting him to socialist and anarchist movements.

Once in office, McKinley upheld the gold standard, ignored labor, and ushered in a long era of Republican rule and prosperity. But that prosperity did not trickle down the wealth gap grew into the next century.

Roosevelts: "Traitors" to their Class

The ensuing age of Republican dominance was not exactly corporation-friendly. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, assumed office. Roosevelt was a progressive reformer who wanted to curb corporate control over wealth. Although from an upper-crust family himself, he rallied the working class against the accumulated wealth and power of large trusts, groups of business interests cooperating to evade competition.

As president, Roosevelt won a legal suit against J.P. Morgan's Northern Securities Company, a behemoth railroad trust, and moved against trusts in oil, sugar, tobacco, and more. While in office, he espoused a "square deal" for workers and warned against the "evils" of concentrated capital, including the possibility of an actual class war.

While Roosevelt preferred federal regulation to rein in big business, his successor, William Howard Taft, pursued legal action against trusts even more vigorously. In 1911 he successfully broke up Rockefeller's Standard Oil Monopoly.

At Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1910, Roosevelt outlined the main ideas of his "New Nationalism," on which he would run again for president—this time as the Progressive party candidate—in 1912.

The speech is considered one of the most radical ever delivered by a former president. Roosevelt compared contemporary struggles between labor and capital to the Civil War, and "special privileges" accrued by big business to slaveholding. He acknowledged the tension between the wealthy few and the working many, framing it as a contest between property rights and human rights.

But he exhorted the crowd to use democratic means to curb the power of the trusts, warning that "ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism."

He heaped scorn upon the ability of magnates to purchase political power and called for tax reform: "I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective—a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate."

Roosevelt continued as a popular speaker but would never again occupy the White House. However, a federal income tax soon became constitutional law with the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913.

During his first term (1933-1936), Franklin D. Roosevelt cut income taxes for 99 percent of American families (those earning less than $26,000 per year), but raised them for the wealthiest 1 percent. He talked about this policy while stumping for reelection in 1936, saying that "less than one percent of the heads of American families pay more than they did [in 1932] and more than 99 percent pay less than they did, for more than 99 percent earn less than $26,000 per year … . Taxes are higher for those who can afford to pay high taxes. They are lower for those who can afford to pay less. That is getting back again to the American principle—taxation according to ability to pay."

Also born to great wealth and privilege, Teddy Roosevelt's genteel fifth cousin faced the Great Depression by experimenting frenetically with economic programs and federal spending. His "alphabet soup" of agencies (AAA, CCC, WPA, FHA, NRA, etc.) created jobs and offered outright relief to struggling Americans. FDR increased federal spending to unprecedented levels and helmed an astonishing expansion of presidential authority.

FDR displayed an exceptional sympathy for struggling Americans, crafting a populist message that pitted the "economic royalists" of an "industrial dynasty" against the mass of citizen laborers.

Origins of 19th Century Socialism

The revolutions of the late eighteenth century saw the asking of the ‘political question’, namely “where does the sovereignty to rule reside?” The answer given by American and French revolutionaries was “sovereignty resides in the people.” And thus, with the advent of the American and French Revolutions, the old feudal order of the Ancien Regime was delivered a crippling blow and the structures of feudalism began to fade away, albeit in a slow process culminating in the Great War. However, the ‘political question’ soon gave way to the ‘social question’ which sought to find equality not only in a civil sense, but in a financial sense. The sacristy of private property was put into doubt. Of all the different branches of socialism, there is a shared fundamental concern for cooperation and social justice, and the emphasis on people’s social nature over that of the individual. The nineteenth century saw the advent of socialism as a force that would shake the foundations of society, and to understand its origins brings a new conception of communism and our own modern liberal age. The origins of nineteenth century socialism is two-fold first it draws on philosophy and intellectualism from the Enlightenment to ancient times, and second, it draws on the historical precedents of the French Revolution.

Many tenets of Socialist ideology have roots dating back to ancient times. In Plato’s Republic, he advocates for a total reshuffle of society including the abolition of private property, ending the make-up of the family, and a government ran based on the principles of philosopher kings. Plato’s Republic stands as the first utopian work, in where he envisions an elite of selfless and virtuous citizens that would place social concerns over that of the individual.[1] The waning years of the Roman Republic saw conflict over the issue of land reform and redistribution in the time of the Gracchi brothers and the Lex Agraria. Here is a situation where large numbers of Roman citizen farmers were losing land and becoming impoverished due to the demands by the state for military service and from the inability to compete with slave labor. Later, early Christianity in the Roman Empire valued the life of the poor and weak over that of the rich. Christ’s teaching over the value of private property does not equate its ownership with that of virtue. Instead, the asceticism of Christ lead to many later religious figures from ancient times through the middle-ages to denounce all property. When Christianity’s power and prestige began to contradict its egalitarian origins, small communes of monks and nuns existed outside of normal society in monasteries where they claimed nothing for themselves.

Enlightenment Philosophes, Rousseau, and Utopian Socialists

The period of the Enlightenment saw foreshadows of socialism in the works of some philosophes such as Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, who argued for the abolition of private property. Mably’s devotion to the works of Plato and admiration of Sparta embedded in him the desire for a society of virtue. Mably believed that humans had social and coexisting instincts, but that these instincts were overshadowed by egotism and greed. By removing private property, citizens would have no incentive to be antisocial, and the altruistic nature of man would shine.[2] Another Philosophe known as Morelly, whose real name remains a mystery, argued that ownership of property corrupted love into greed. He argued, “I dare to conclude…that all division of goods, whether equal or unequal, and that all private property…is, in all societies, [the] material for the highest evil.”[3] Morelly and Mably have an indirect influence over nineteenth century socialism as they had a direct impact on proto-socialist Gracchus Babeuf.

Yet, the most influential of the enlightenment philosophes was Jean-Jacque Rousseau who, while never going so far as to call for the abolition of private property, did bring the origin of property up to question in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men (1755) saying, “The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.”[4] Rousseau goes on to assert that, “the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!”[5] In Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762) his concept of the ‘General Will’ set for a base of ideas that was a precursor to modern totalitarian governments. The ‘General Will’ is the sovereign will of the people that reflects the true interests of the people and is not necessarily a majority held consensus. Rousseau says that, “whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free”[6] The idea that an individual or a group could act in the best interests for the people, regardless of whether the people condone their actions or not, is a concept that has been used to justify both revolution and terror.

In the early nineteenth century, several intellectuals attempted to answer the social questions of poverty and the role of industry in society in what is called Utopian Socialism. Charles Fourier (1772-1837) believed that all oppression of thought and emotion should be lifted, and that all work could be made into play. All human drives should be satisfied and cultivated.[7] Fourier was an isolated thinker with no formal education and not directly influence by ancient philosophers or the enlightened philosophes. To call his writings odd would be an understatement, as one historian says, “At times the contents of his pages resemble the fantasies of someone on an LSD trip He [Fourier] writes of androgynous planets which copulate, oceans of lemonade, anti-bugs and anti-lions.”[8] Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a successful industrial entrepreneur that was admired in the upper rungs of British society and who was sympathetic to plight of the poor and working class. Owen gave workers in his textile factories shorter hours, better working conditions, insurance plans, and free education all while making a profit.[9] His success inspired him to create self-contained agricultural communities in England and in the United States, however ‘Owenism’ had its own problems and failed to attract many followers. Other utopian socialists, such as Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, and Etienne Cabet, also wrote and lived during roughly at the same time, 1770-1825, which filled that intellectual gap between the enlightenment and the introduction of Marxist theory. Yet, the above-mentioned philosophers and writers only constituted the intellectual origins of nineteenth century socialism, and do not account for its revolutionary character. In other words, while intellectuals thoroughly answered how society “ought to be,” they did not provide the answer to how to make socialist dreams a reality. The revolutionary origins of socialism has its roots in the French Revolution of 1789.

The French Revolution and the Conspiracy of Equals sets a precedent for revolution

The French Revolution unleashed a myriad of different ideologies upon the world and directly influenced socialism through ideology and historical precedent. With the destruction of the Ancien Regime came bold utopian attempts to build a perfect society. The world that the revolutionaries believed possible to build was both something new, and a return to what they considered the ‘natural’ state of man. The belief that power resides not in monarchs or in religion was a building block in the evolution of socialist thought. The revolution saw a sudden recognition of identity among the majority of people who comprised the Third Estate, those who worked. In his pamphlet, What is the Third Estate? (1789), Abbe Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes argues that the bulk of the private activities and public services that nations required for survival were performed by the Third Estate. Sieyes argues that, “The Third Estate then contains everything that pertains to the nation while nobody outside the Third Estate can be considered as part of the nation. What is the Third Estate? Everything.”[10] That same year the National Assembly in France passed The Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen that claimed, “Men are born, and always continue, free and equal in respect of their rights.”[11] However, the egalitarianism in this document was political and not social. Private property was not seen as a hindrance to freedom but a marker of it, in a usual liberal sense. “The right to property being inviolable and sacred, no one ought to be deprived of it”[12] However, the political egalitarianism of the French Revolution of 1789 would prove to be a stepping point for the social egalitarianism of the French Revolution of 1848.

The insurrections, riots, protests, and mobilization during the French Revolution set important precedents in the development of socialist ideology. Apart from intellectuals and philosophers arguing for how the world ought to be, revolutionaries served as examples for how to bring ideological agendas into reality. The storming of the Bastille saw Parisians tear down a symbol of stately oppression in 1789. Later that year, thousands of Parisian women marched to the palace in Versailles and successfully forced King Louie XVI to relocate to Paris effectively taking him and his family hostage. In 1792, the planned insurrection of August 10 brought an end to the monarchy and led to the declaration of the First French Republic. The pattern of taking political action through the might of the mob was romanticized and utilized by future French Revolutionaries and others in Europe as well. If a minority could effectively take power in the name of the people, they could justify their actions by claiming to act in accordance with the ‘General Will’ as Rousseau had described. One failed attempt by proto-socialist Gracchus Babeuf and his disciples to seize power through a coup d’état led to his martyrization by future socialists. The ‘Conspiracy of Equals’ consisted of a small central committee acting in secret with a few thousand followers mostly made up of discontent artisans and shopkeepers.[13] In 1796, Babeuf and his secret organization were prepared to take action. However, the police had managed to infiltrate the ranks of its members and ended the movement by arresting its leaders.

As for the doctrines of Babeuf and his disciples, we can look to a series of placards that his followers posted around Paris in April 1796, which contained a list of beliefs of the Conspiracy of Equals. The placards espoused universal truths that nature had “imposed on everyone the obligation to work” but also gave “everyman an equal right to the enjoyment of all its goods.”[14] Those that are strong and wicked pervert nature’s gifts and it is the goal of society to defend natural equality and “to add to common happiness by the working together of all.”[15] Thus, in society there should be no rich nor poor, and so those wealthy few that swam in abundance while doing nothing were “enemies of the people.”[16] Babeuf and his followers believed that the goal of the Revolution was to destroy inequality and restore common welfare. The spirit of the French Revolution resided in the Constitution of 1793 it was the true constitution of the French Republic because, “the people solemnly accepted it and the Convention did not have the right to change it.”[17] Another key member of the Conspiracy of Equals, Sylvain Marechal, wrote of a new revolution that would build upon the success of the French Revolution and achieve true equality. Speaking for the members of the conspiracy, Marechal said, “We want real equality or death this is what we need. And we’ll have this real equality, at whatever the cost. Woe on those who stand between it and us! Woe on those who resist a wish so firmly expressed. The French Revolution is nothing but the precursor of another revolution, one that will greater, more solemn, and which will be the last.”[18]

Gracchus Babeauf

The legacy of Gracchus Babeuf lies in the methods that he used to start a wider chain of events that would lead to widespread revolution, even though Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals failed to do so. Such methods stressed secrecy, centralized decision making, discipline within the organization, and the preparation of revolutionary activists through propaganda and training.[19] Philippe Buonarroti was a member of the Conspiracy of Equals, had managed to survive after 1796, and went to work with another secretive organization, the carbonari. Towards the end of his life, he wrote a history of Babeuf’s conspiracy that “provided an important symbolic link between the martyrdom of Babeuf and the new conspiratorial activities of the 1830s and 1840s.”[20]

Auguste Blanqui was a revolutionary socialist of the generation after Buonarroti, who followed in the footsteps of Babeuf. Like Babeuf, Blanqui hated the rich and felt sympathy for the poor, and believed in seizure of power by conspiratorial revolutionaries to achieve a communistic society. From 1834-36 he created the Society of Families, a secret organization with about a thousand members that horded weaponry and ammunition.[21] After France’s authorities found some of these weapon stashes, the organization disbanded, only to be recreated again in 1837 as the Society of Seasons. On May 12, 1839 about 500 members of the Society of Seasons staged an uprising, catching Paris and the July Monarchy completely by surprise. Gun shops were raided, barricades erected, and key strategic points in the city were taken, including the Hotel de Ville, Paris’s city hall, which held a symbolic importance in revolutionary memory.[22] However, the Uprising failed to spark a greater revolution and the authorities were able to quickly retake control.

The uprising of 1839 is just one of many revolutionary movements Auguste Blanqui took part of in his life. He was a participant or leader in the insurrections of 1830, 1848, and 1871. As a result, he spent much of his adult life, about thirty-three years, in prison.[23] Yet Blanqui was but one leader in a wave of revolutions and insurrections that permeated throughout the nineteenth century, and socialism was but one branch of the tree of ideologies that had sprouted from 1789. In 1848, after King Louie Phillipe abdicated the throne and the French Declared the 2 nd Republic, an alliance between moderate liberals and radical socialists was on shaky ground. Still, the republic implicated reforms to answer the ‘social question’ so to improve on the conditions of the working class. However, it speaks to the infant state of the development of the socialist movement that elections by universal manhood suffrage saw power shift back to the Right. The social programs established earlier were thrown asunder and the alliance between Liberals and Socialists with it.

In the crisis of 1871, when Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians and Liberals declared the 3 rd Republic, Paris was isolated and established its own government, the Commune. While the Paris Commune was not fully Marxist, Michael Rapport says, “more republican than socialist, more Proudhonist than Marx,”[24] the social reforms it hoped to bring were certainly far left of the Liberal government in Bordeaux. In the ‘bloody week’ that followed the new ‘forces of order’ were ruthless in their suppression of the Commune. Rapport says, “While the Communards killed hostages, including 24 priests, government troops summarily executed some twenty to twenty-five thousand people.”[25] The short-lived Paris Commune foreshadowed the future re-alignment of the Left and the Right by the twentieth century liberalism would be the conservative force for order, while communist the radical force for change.

Advent of Marxism and the Influence of Industrialization on Socialist Thought

The tumultuous times of the mid-nineteenth century also saw the advent of Marxism, which drew on both the intellectual heritage of socialism and its revolutionary history. Karl Marx (1818-83) and Frederick Engels (1820-95) provided the base of ideas that revolutionary communists would utilize in the twentieth century especially China and the Soviet Union. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx redefines all of human history saying, “the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.”[26] Marx believed that the French Revolution saw the fall of the feudal order, and the rise of a new upper-class, the bourgeoisie, capitalists who controlled the means of production. The influence of industrialization radically transformed society, eliminating old bonds and social roles and joining people together into a working-class of proletariats. The spread of industrialization is due to the Bourgeoisie class as “it creates a world after its own image.”[27]

However, Marx did not reject industrialization, but instead, saw it as a path to freedom for the working-class. Marx argued for a universal movement among the proletarians that ran across the borders of nations. Through communism, Marx left a blueprint for future revolutions saying that, “The immediate aim of the Communist is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”[28] The abolition of all bourgeois property and the overthrow of all existing social conditions would lead to the final stage in human development, or the end of the process of history. Marx believed that widespread revolution was inevitable and ends his manifesto with the proclamation, “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!”[29]

Marx’s own writing

James Muldoon, University of Exeter

The long history of brutal, totalitarian “Marxist” regimes around the world has left many people with the impression that Marx was an authoritarian thinker. But readers who dive into his work for the first time are often surprised to discover an Enlightenment humanist and a philosopher of emancipation, one who envisaged well-rounded human beings living rich, varied and fulfilling lives in a post-capitalist society. Marx’s writings don’t just propose a revolutionary political project they offer a moral critique of the alienation of individuals living in capitalist societies.

1. An Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Available here)

Originally published in 1844 in a radical Parisian newspaper, this fascinating short essay captures many of Marx’s early criticisms of modern society and his radical vision of emancipation. It also introduces several of the key themes that would shape his later writings.

Marx claims that the bourgeois revolutions of the 18th century may have benefited a wealthy and educated class, but did not challenge private forms of domination in the factory, home and field. Marx theorises the revolutionary subject of the working class, and proposes its historic task: to abolish private property and achieve self-emancipation.

2. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Available here)

Not published within his lifetime, and only released in 1932 by officials in the Soviet Union, these notes written by Marx are an important source for his theory of capitalist alienation. They reveal the essential outline of what “Marxism” is, and provide the philosophical basis for humanist readings of Marx.

In these manuscripts, Marx analyses the harmful effects of the organisation of labour in modern industrial societies. Modern workers, he argues, have become estranged from the goods they produced, from their own labour activity, and from their fellow workers. Rather than achieving a sense of satisfaction and self-actualisation in their labour, workers are left exhausted and spiritually depleted. For Marx, the antidote to modern alienation is a humanist conception of communism based on free and cooperative production.

3. The Communist Manifesto (Available here)

The Communist Manifesto in its original edition. Wikimedia Commons

Opening with the famous line, “a spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism”, the Communist Manifesto has become one of the most influential political documents ever written. Co-authored with Friedrich Engels, this pamphlet was commissioned by London’s Communist League and published on the cusp of the various revolutions that rocked Europe in 1848.

The manifesto presents Marx’s materialist conception of history and his theory of class struggle. It outlines the growing tensions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat under capitalist relations of production, and predicts the triumph of the workers.

4. The German Ideology (Available here)

For anyone seeking to understand Marxism’s deeper philosophical and historical underpinnings, this is one of his most important texts. Written in around 1846, again with Engels, The German Ideology provides the full development of the two men’s methodology, historical materialism, which seeks to understand the history of humankind based on the development of its modes of production.

Marx and Engels argue that individuals’ social consciousness depends on the material conditions in which they live. He traces the development of different historical modes of production and argues that the present capitalist one will be replaced by communism. Some interpreters view this text as the point where Marx’s thought began to emerge in its mature form.

5. Capital (Volume 1) (Available here)

Published in 1867, Capital is Marx’s critical diagnosis of the capitalist mode of production. In it, he details the ultimate source of wealth under capitalism: the exploited labour of workers. Workers are free to sell their labour to any capitalist, but since they must sell their labour in order to survive, they are dominated by the class of capitalists as a whole. And through their labour, workers reproduce and reinforce both the economic conditions of their existence and also the social and ideological structure of their society.

Capital, volume 1. Dive in. Wikimedia Commons

In Capital, Marx outlines a number of capitalism’s internal contradictions, such as a declining rate of profit and the tendency for the formation of capitalist monopolies. While certain aspects of the text have been questioned, Marx’s analysis informs economic debate to this day. For anyone trying to understand why capitalism keeps falling into crisis, it’s still hugely relevant.

The Civil War Was a Victory for Marx and Working-Class Radicals

Andrew Zimmerman is professor of history at the George Washington University. He is writing an international history of the American Civil War.

The Stars and Stripes held the place of honor at the 1865 festivities of the International Workingmen’s Association, Karl Marx’s London-based organization of socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unionists. To Americans raised in the ideological climate of the Cold War, the U.S. flag and Karl Marx might seem an odd juxtaposition, but to 19th-century working-class radicals, the triumph of the United States over the slaveholding Confederacy represented a victory not only for the formerly enslaved but also for workers everywhere.

Slavery, for Marx and other radicals, was an especially cruel version of a much broader conflict between democracy and the rights of property owners. The Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter began what Marx, in an 1864 letter to President Abraham Lincoln, called a “general holy Crusade of Property against Labour.” By claiming to own people, a wealthy elite in the South accorded to itself the right not only to brutalize their "property" but also to take for themselves the wealth created by four million African-American workers. Elsewhere, wealthy elites claimed similarly that their ownership of factories gave them the right to manage, and to live off the work of, "their" employees.

Marx had been calling for the “emancipation” of workers through the “abolition” of oligarchic concentrations of property -- capital -- for decades. The emancipation of the enslaved through the abolition of slavery represented a world-transforming step in this direction.

Marx also followed the progress of the Civil War closely because so many of his fellow exiled European revolutionaries fought in the ranks of the Union Army. Defeated and sent into American exile after a wave of European revolutions in 1848-49, many discovered in the struggle against slavery more hopeful strategies than any they had previously pursued.

Revolutionary socialists were thus one of the many groups that won the Civil War. For them, it was a decisive victory in an even larger struggle between democracy and private property. More conservative elites, northern as well as southern, sought to limit the scope of emancipation even before the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. They continue to do so, as we saw last week with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet the example of this successful democratic revolution against oligarchic property remains as powerful today as it was a century and a half ago when Karl Marx cheered for the Red, White and Blue.


Before 1825, Victorian dress was marked by Napoleonic neo-classicism and Orientalism. The women were dressed in very little, but adorned with feathers and a shawl. The gloves were a sign of sophistication, and the Empire waist did allow freedom of movement to an extent.

Male fashion continued with stockings and breeches, high collar and tailed coat, but shorter hair.

By 1826, we see a return to a more conservative style that covers the woman's body more. The waist becomes more pinched, a signal that fertility is becoming more important than freedom of movement. The hats have gotten larger and more ornate, and more fabric throughout means more expense. The shawl is large and actually adds warmth.

Victorian hair is really interesting. Women were supposed to never cut their hair. Unmarried girls wore their hair down to indicate their available status. Married women were to always pin it up in public. In private, only with their husband, could they let their hair down.

At the height of the era, women are covered to the neck and floor, gloved, and sedate. Movement is restricted by a corset under the dress, and stiff petticoats. The bonnet kept the sun off the face so that the skin remained pale. Make-up was not permitted unless one were a prostitute, so the skin must be naturally fair.

Notice that the little boy's clothes are an imitation of a man's clothes, as Victorian kids were seen as little adults. He does have a boy's straw hat, but not much freedom to move or be a kid.

Crinolines were frameworks made from bone and cloth, and made possible the huge skirts of mid-century (ever see Gone With the Wind?). Big skirts use lots of cloth and are a sign of middle-class prosperity (as were houses with wide doorways to let them through!). The fertility symbol is at its finest here: large hips and breasts, teeny-tiny waist held in by boned hour-glass corset.

It was hard to waltz in these things, but they did prevent unwanted caresses and literally kept folks at a distance. Since everything was covered, the favorite sexual peek was seeing a woman's ankle.

Men (yeah, there's a guy there) have outrageously high hats that I'm sure Freud would have something to say about. The tight trousers and somber colors create an upward style to counter the women's width.

By the 1870s and 1880s, conditions had changed. The Franco-Prussian War brought on an era of harder times, and fabric was at a premium. Pinched-waist corsets were seen as unhealthy (some women had removed ribs surgically to be able to wear them, and they'd restricted air supply and caused fainting). The sewing machine and artificial dyes made possible greater designs and colors even with the slimmer line. The longer corset made movement difficult, as did the narrow cut of the skirt's bottom. Women in this style obviously did not perform manual labor, which was the social point.

Men's necks came down and coat went up, creating a slimmer, cleaner line. From this we get the modern tuxedo, but it would also be influenced by the freer movement of sporting costumes.

The 1890s saw the advent of the "mutton-chop" and "balloon" sleeves for women, and the origin of children's clothing. The sailor suit is not as easy to get around in as shorts and a tee-shirt, but it was better than before.

Men's hats became more conservative, facial hair (especially the handle-bar moustache) were popular, and mixing patterns was trendy. Notice how, in response to the popularity of golf and other sporting oufits, the trousers have become more relaxed.