Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Dictatorship and Democracy in the Ancient World (1940)

From the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Critics of our interpretation of history are in the habit of putting forward what they consider to be devastating examples of the absurdity of our claims. One such example is the Peloponnesian War which threw into turmoil the ancient Greek States about two thousand four hundred years ago.

To some readers it may appear futile, in these turbulent times, to discuss a conflict that raged so long ago. It may be that before we have reached the end of this article they will have reason to change their minds.

At the time the war broke out Athens, by far the best known and most venerated of the Greek communities, had reached its highest pitch of brilliance in all the arts; architecture, sculpture, literature and the rest. It was the age of Pericles. But it was the economic conditions of the times that were responsible for this brilliance, and it was the political struggle arising out of those economic conditions that brought about the Peloponnesian War and eventually reduced this brilliant civilisation to ruin.

Nearly three thousand years ago Greece was invaded by two Hellenic tribes, Dorian and Ionian, which settled in various places as small self-sufficing land communities. The places in which the communities settled had a considerable influence on the subsequent development of four of the principal states, Sparta, Athens and Corinth and Megara.

Greece consisted of numerous landlocked valleys and islands, and the climate was inclement. The soil was generally poor, especially in Attica, where Athens was situated, corn in particular did not flourish there, and in later times the bulk of the grain supply was imported from eastern lands. The ensuring of an adequate grain supply was the great problem that agitated the Greeks, just as in later days it agitated the Romans.

Before the arrival of the Hellenes, Greece, Asia-Minor, and the islands of the Argean Sea were dominated by a great maritime civilisation centred in Crete. By the time the Hellenic tribes had settled in their new homes the Cretan civilisation had fallen to decay, its colonies over-run, and its maritime trade taken over by the Phonoecians. But the colonies established by Crete on the Greek mainland exerted some influence on the rude Hellenic barbarians, particularly in the products of art such as pottery.

As time passed the nature of the Greek settlements commenced to diverge. At first they were all farming communities, but in the course of time those near the coast commenced to engage in seafaring, and commerce as a source of wealth began to take the place of farming. Athens, Corinth and Megara were states of this kind, but Sparta, owing to its position inland, remained a farming community ruled by an agricultural aristocracy.

In order to understand the position before war broke out a brief description of the leading participants is necessary.

The community established by the Spartans has become a byword for physical fitness and the value of plain living. The system of physical training is ascribed to one of the early “lawgivers,” Lycurgus, and became necessary to conserve the rule of the Spartans over their subject people. When the Spartans came down into Peloponnesus they reduced the people they conquered there to the condition of serfs, who since have gone by the name of “Helots.” The country they conquered consisted of valleys surrounded by mountains and was one of the most fertile portions of Greece. The Spartans (or Lacedaemonians) were not all of equal status. Only the free citizens of the city of Sparta itself controlled the government of the country. Throughout the rest of Sparta settlements were planted to guard the frontiers and help keep the Helots in subjection. The inhabitants of these settlements, who were called Periscii (“dwellers round about”), were free, had full control of local affairs, but no share in the government of the state.

In numbers the Spartans were only a small proportion of the state, and it was the necessity they were under to keep the Helots down that led to the stringent discipline they imposed upon themselves. One rising of Helots that threatened to overthrow the Spartan rule gave them such a fright that they decided to abandon luxurious living and keep themselves always on a warlike basis.

The means adopted by the Spartans to forestall any risk of revolt on the part of the Helots, who were about eight times as numerous, is described in the following passage from A. J. Grant’s “Greece in the Age of Pericles,” which was written towards the end of the last century : —
“And there were in the life of the Helot certain terrible possibilities that quite explain their restiveness. We need lay little stress on such grotesque details as Plutarch’s story that it was a Spartan custom to make Helots drunk in public that they may serve as warnings to the Spartan youth. It is more important to notice that the system of secret police (crypteia) was devised against them. At the beginning of every year war was declared against them, that their murder might not bring blood-guiltiness upon the state. Year by year a certain number of young men put themselves, as secret police, under the direction of the Ephors. It was their duty to go into the country districts to spy out any discontent or designs of insurrection that might lurk there; and if any Helots seemed to entertain designs contrary to the interests of the state, they were at once to be put to death without form of trial. An incident in the eighth year of the Peloponnesian war does not allow us to believe that the system of secret police was a mere threat. In that terrible struggle the Spartans were forced to give to the Helots not only the light arms with which they usually accompanied their masters to battle but the full panoply of the heavy-armed soldier. To put such weapons into the hands of so hostile a population was clearly a great danger that must be met. How it was met Thucydides shall tell. “They proclaimed that a selection would be made of those Helots who claimed to have rendered the best service to the Lacedaemonians in the war, and promised them liberty. The announcement was intended to test them; it was thought that those among them who were foremost in asserting their freedom would be most high-spirited and most likely to rise against their masters. So they selected about two thousand, who were crowned with garlands, and went in procession round the temple; they were supposed to have received their liberty, but not long afterwards the Spartans put them all out of the way, and no man knew how any of them came to their end.” (Pages 57-58).
Pretty ghastly ! It would seem that the German Gestapo and their like still have something to learn !

While the Spartans were settling in and dominating the Peloponnesian peninsula the Ionian tribes had gone down into Attica, settling in Athens, on the coastline of the Aegean Sea and the adjoining islands. A glance at the map will show that this territory, with the island of Crete at the south and Asia-Minor on the east, made a little world of its own, admirably set out for commerce with uninterrupted access by sea everywhere. It was, in fact, commerce that eventually dominated the economics and politics of this area. The history of the city states round the Aegean fundamentally diverged from that of the other states, like Sparta, that always remained under the rule of landed aristocracies. Thus the class struggles and conflicts that developed were waged between rich and poor, commercial groups and landed classes, expressed politically as wars against aristocracy, dictatorship or democracy.

The development of Athens, the leading commercial state of the time, is typical of them all. Founded as a landed aristocracy, the poverty of the soil of Attica soon drove the people of Athens to the sea to obtain by barter (principally of pottery, as they had one asset—good potters clay) the sustenance they could not obtain from the soil. The introduction of coinage eventually helped on the ruin of small landowners, who were forced to mortgage their land and implements and finally their bodies to creditors. We have not sufficient space now to give this interesting history.

The economic aspect of Athens at the opening of the war was as follows: —

There was a free citizen population of about 105,000; a free non-citizen (mainly alien) population of about 30,000; and a slave population of 100,000. The greater number of the citizens lived in the country, cultivating their own farms. All of these landowners did not live on their own estates, many of the richer ones living in the town and leasing their property or having it worked by slaves. Of the rest of the citizens the richer were interested in industry or commerce, either as principals or lenders of money, the poorer as craftsmen, sailors and so on. The bulk of the inhabitants of the town and its port—the Piraeus—were poor men reduced to the necessity of manual labour and, with the poor aliens and slaves, formed the industrial class.

Politically the rich landed proprietors supported aristocratic government, and the industrial class supported democratic. Between the two were the rich class, interested in commerce, and the moderate landowners who alternately favoured aristocracy or democracy as one or other appeared likely to serve their momentary interests. Thus during the war Athens, unlike Sparta, was constantly torn by internal conflict.

The invasion of Greece by the Persians gave Athens the opportunity to build up a great maritime empire. While Sparta, the farthest from the conflict, hesitated and fell back, Athens was compelled to fight. The island and coastal states formed a confederacy and voted Athens, who had the largest navy, to the headship, sending money to build up the navy and fortifications. Athens acquitted herself well and used the large navy, with which she was provided, to acquire a virtual monopoly of the commerce and the carrying trade of the Aegean. This monopoly drove two wealthy trading states, Corinth and Megara, into the arms of aristocratically ruled Sparta, and was the real cause of the Peloponnesian War.

Corinth and Megara were situated on either side of the isthmus that divided Peloponnesia from Ionia, and built up a profitable trade owing to the goods that were transported across the isthmus to avoid the dangerous sea journey round the Peloponnesian peninsula. Grant makes the following remarks about Corinth : —
“She had invented the war-ship, the trireme, which had now become the main instrument of the greatness of Athens. Her position upon the Isthmus had given her great advantages for trade, and she made full use of them. A vast slave population ministered to her wants at home and abroad. At Corinth probably life was more luxurious and more unhealthy in its social conditions than elsewhere in Greece. This state now found herself hemmed in by the growth of Athenian power.” (Page 242, “Greece in the age of Pericles.”)
The carrying trade monopoly established by Athens compelled the bulk of shipping to avoid the harbours of Corinth, and the result threatened Corinth with economic ruin !

Largely by the influence of Corinth a conference was held at Sparta in 432 B.C., at which the Corinthians urged Sparta to declare war upon Athens. The following extracts, with their striking modern parallels, are from the speech of the Corinthian delegate at this conference.
“. . . . Time alter rime we have warned you of the mischief which the Athenians would do to us; but instead of taking our words to heart, you chose to suspect that we only spoke from interested motives. And this is the reason why you have summoned these allies here to Sparta too late—not before but after the injury has been inflicted, and when we are smarting under the sense of it. Of all persons who has a better right to speak than ourselves, who have the heaviest accusations to make, outraged as we are by the Athenians, and neglected by you ? If the crimes which they are committing against Hellas were being done in a corner, then you might be ignorant, and we should have to inform you of them; but now, what need of many words ? Some of us, as you see, have already been enslaved; they are at this moment intriguing against others, notably against allies of ours; and long ago they had made all their preparations in expectation of war. Else why did they seduce from her allegiance Corcyra, which they still hold in defiance of us, and why are they blockading Potidoea—the latter a most advantageous post for the command of the Thracian peninsula, the former a great naval power which might have assisted the Peloponnesians ?

And the blame of all this rests on you; for you originally allowed them to fortify their city after the Persian War, and afterwards to build their long walls . . . . By this time we ought to have been considering, not whether we are wronged, but how we are to be revenged. The aggressor is not now threatening, but advancing; he has made up his mind, while we are resolved about nothing. And we know too well by what road and how little by little the Athenians move upon their neighbours. While they think that you are too dull to observe them, they are most careful, but when they perceive that you with full knowledge overlook their aggressions, they will strike and not spare. Of all Hellenes, Lacedaemonians, you are the only people who keep at rest warding off (an enemy) not with your active power but with delay; and you are the only people who do not destroy the increase of your foes in the beginning but when it has grown to fulness. How came you to be considered safe? That reputation of yours was never justified by facts. We all know that the Persian made his way from the ends of the earth against Peloponnesus before you encountered him in a worthy manner; and now you are blind to the doings of the Athenians, who are not at a distance as he was, but close at hand. Instead of attacking your enemy, you wait to be attacked, and take the chance of a struggle which has been deferred until his power is doubled. . . . Some have already been ruined by the hopes which you inspired in them; for so entirely did they trust you that they took no precautions themselves. . . . There are important interests at stake to which, as far as we can see, you are insensible. You have never considered what manner of men are these Athenians with whom you will have to fight, and how utterly unlike yourselves. They are ready to resort to novel devices, equally quick in the conception and in the execution of every new plan; while you are conservative—careful only to keep what you have. . . . Again they are bold beyond their strength; they run risks which prudence would condemn. .. . .” (Thucydides I. 68-71.)
The above forceful language shows how bitterly the Corinthian ruling class felt the loss of their commercial position and the successful rivalry of Athens.

Early in the war Pericles delivered a funeral oration over the Athenians who died in action against Sparta. The following extracts from it give a typical Athenian view.—
“But before I praise the dead, I should like to point out by what principles of action we rose to power, and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great. For I conceive that such thoughts are not unsuited to the occasion, and that this numerous assembly of citizens and strangers may profitably listen to them.

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy our neighbours but are an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognised. . . . Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever be the obscurity of his condition. . . . .

And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirit many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; at home the style of our life is refined; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish sadness. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth now in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of our own.

Then again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a foreigner, or prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret, if revealed to any enemy, might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own heart and hands. …. The Lacedaemonians come into Attica not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbour’s country, and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we are on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength; the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our citizens elsewhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.”—(Thucydides ii. 35-46.)
Unfortunately for the Athenians in the prosecution of the war they came up against evils which have also afflicted modern states. One of these was the profiteer, as the following quotation from a speech made in the prosecution of certain grain dealers. Grain was almost the basis of Athenian life, hence the severity of the penalty, death, for anyone caught hindering its free disposal. Yet the fact that there were prosecutions for attempting to evade the law shows that the urge to make profit, even in those days, was strong enough to induce people to take grave risks.
“When these men (the grain dealers) are required to pay a special tax which everyone is going to hear about, they are reluctant, and plead their pretended poverty as an excuse, but when they have done something for which the punishment is death, and which it behoved them to keep secret, they make the outrageous assertion that their illegal acts were on your behalf. Yet you are all aware that they are the very last men who ought to put forward such a plea, for their advantage is diametrically opposed to that of other people. They make their greatest profit when some public calamity becomes known and the price of grain goes up. They are so delighted to learn of your misfortunes that, in some instances, they find out about them before other people, and in others, themselves concoct false news of disaster—that the grain fleet in transit has been lost, or has been captured by the Lacedaemonians, or that the truce is going to be declared at an end. . . . When you happen to be most in want of grain, they get their hands on the supply and are reluctant to sell—to the end that we may not quarrel about the price, but may be content if we can purchase and carry home the least little bit.” (The speech is quoted in full by Calhoun, “Business Life of Ancient Athens,” p. 73.)
Another interesting Athenian view is that put into the mouth of the disputants by Plato in his “Republic.”
“And as they are all Hellenes themselves they will not devastate Hellas, nor will they burn houses nor even suppose that the whole population of a city—men, women and children—are equally their enemies, for they know that the guilt of war is always confined to a few persons and that the many are then friends. And for all these reasons they will be unwilling to waste their lands, and raze their houses; their enmity to them will only last until the many innocent sufferers have compelled the guilty few to give satisfaction.” (P. 470.)
(Space prevents the conclusion of this article in this issue. It will be completed in the next issue.)

The Importance of Marxism—(continued) (1940)

From the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the concluding paragraph of last month’s article we stated that surplus-value is produced in industry. Let us now examine the productive process.

Constant and Variable Capital
The capital of the industrialist can be divided into two parts. One part consists of buildings, machinery and raw materials, the other of human labour-power. Marx calls the former part constant capital, because its value undergoes no change in the process of production but is simply transferred to the article; whereas the latter part Marx refers to as variable capital on account of the fact that in the productive process it produces a greater value than that contained within itself. This distinction in the two aspects of capital is not one made by the capitalist. The latter usually lumps the whole of his capital together and calculates his profit on the total sum invested. If he makes any distinction at all it is between what he calls fixed capital, i.e., buildings and machinery, and circulating capital, i.e., raw materials and wages, etc. The Marxian classification, however, enables us to penetrate the inner mechanism of capitalist production. Its full meaning will become clear at later stages of the argument.

Labour and Labour-Power
During the course of our discussion we have frequently used the expression “labour-power.” So as to avoid all possible misunderstanding, let us give the Marxian definition of the term : —

“By labour-power or capacity for labour is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description” (page 186, Vol. I, Modern Library Ed.). Labour-power is therefore the energy contained within a worker’s body and brain. On the other hand “labour” is the energy thrown out from his body, the juice itself, so to speak. When this energy is incorporated in a product it forms the substance of value. The capitalist economists were wrong in assuming that the worker sells his “labour” to the capitalist. The worker cannot sell something that does not belong to him. What he in fact sells is his labouring-power for a day, or a week, or a month, and so on.

Wages are the price of labour-power. The value of labour-power is determined by the labour time required to reproduce it, which, in effect, means the labour time required to produce the food, clothing and shelter necessary to keep the worker (and his family, if he has one) alive. Wages are therefore determined by the cost of subsistence of the worker. It must not be assumed, however, that the worker’s standard of living is a fixed quantity. On the contrary the standard is influenced by the climate of a country and by historical factors. So Marx points out: —
“His natural wants, such as food, clothing, fuel, and housing, vary according to the climate and other physical conditions of his country. On the other hand, the number and extent of his so-called necessary wants, as also the mode of satisfying them, are themselves the product of historical development, and depend, therefore, to a great extent on the degree of civilisation of a country, more particularly on the conditions under which, and consequently on the habits and degree of comfort in which, the class of free labourers has been formed. In contradiction, therefore, to the case of other commodities, there enters into the determination of the value of labour-power a historical and moral element. Nevertheless, in a given country at a given period, the average quantity of the means of subsistence necessary for the labourer are practically known” (page 190).
As far as the skilled worker is concerned, his labouring-power possesses a greater value than that of the unskilled worker because more labour time has been required to produce it, i.e., to train him, consequently he can command a higher price for his commodity on the market. Let us assume, for the sake of example, that the means of subsistence necessary to maintain the worker for a day can be produced in four hours. Let us also assume that in four hours 12s. gold can be produced. In that case, if the worker, say, sells his labouring-power to the capitalist for a day and receives the sum of 12s., he is getting a price corresponding to the full value of his day’s labour-power. Utilising this example let us see what happens in the factory. Our figures are, of course, quite arbitrary, but they will serve the purpose of illustration.

The Production of Surplus Value
Let us assume that the factory owner is a manufacturing furrier, selling, say, marmot coats at £10 3s. per coat, that he has bought the labour-power of a worker for a day (8 hours) and that the worker produces the entire coat, from start to finish. For the production of marmot coats the factory owner requires buildings, machines, benches, boards, skins, lining, etc., and labour-power. Now let us set down the expenditure of the capitalist on a single coat :—

If, according to the above example, the worker produced only one coat a day, the capitalist would actually lose. But let us assume that the worker can produce a coat in one hour. In that case, after eight hours he will have produced eight coats, each valued at £10 3s., making a total value of £81 4s. (£80 being previous value, and 24s. fresh value), thus producing a surplus value of 12s. Now let us set down the expenditure of the factory owner for a day:—

The value of the coats is £81 4s., and the capitalist has made a surplus-value of 12s., or appropriated four hours of labour for nothing if he sells the goods at their value.

Rate of Surplus Value
As we have seen, surplus-value is labour-time for which the capitalist does not return any equivalent. It does not matter whether we regard surplus-value from the aspect of time work or piece work. The formula for surplus value can be expressed : —

With regard to the formula (b) Marx says : —
“After the investigations we have given above, it is no longer possible to be misled by the formula unpaid labour/paid labour, into concluding, that the capitalist pays for labour and not for labour-power. This formula is only a popular expression for surplus-labour/ necessary-labour. The capitalist pays the value, so far as price coincides with value, of the labour-power, and receives in exchange the disposal of the living labour-power itself. His usufruct is spread over two periods. During one the labourer produces a value that is only equal to the value of his labour-power; he produces its equivalent. Thus the capitalist receives in return for his advance of the price of the labour-power, a product of the same price. It is the same as if he had bought the product ready made in the market. During the other period, the period of surplus-labour, the usufruct of the labour-power creates a value for the capitalist, that costs him no equivalent. This expenditure of labour-power comes to him gratis. In this sense it is that surplus-labour can be called unpaid labour (pages 584-585).
Marx calls the surplus value, calculated on the variable capital, “the rate of surplus value.” In the instance we have given it would be 100 per cent. The rate of surplus value discloses the degree of exploitation of the worker. Once we know the length of exploitation, which may vary, how long the worker has been engaged in producing his wages and surplus value, we then know the degree of exploitation of the proletarian.
Solomon Goldstein

(To be continued.)

The Materialist Conception of History (1940)

Book Review from the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some misrepresentations of Marx turn up again

The Labour Book Service recently published “The Politics of Democratic Socialism,” by Mr. E. F. M. Durbin. It was highly praised in reviews in the Labour and Liberal Press, and Mr. Herbert Morrison and Professor Tawney were among those who congratulated Mr. Durbin on his work. There is a good deal of merit, though perhaps not much originality, in some parts of the book, but the section dealing with the Materialist Conception of History shows a reckless and profound ignorance of the subject. So far as the writer of the article is aware the reviews of the book said nothing about that section, though it is of the greatest importance.

In it Mr. Durbin discusses what he believes to be the Marxian view, and dismisses it as wholly untenable. It is, he says, impossible to accept “as a true theory of history” (page 179). Readers who are not already familiar with Marx’s views and who find Mr. Durbin’s destructive criticism convincing will be surprised to learn that in fact he does not deal with Marx’s view. Instead, he alters its name to “economic interpretation of history,” robs it of its real content and substitutes other things that would have amazed Marx and Engels, treats as qualified exponents of it such people as Laski, Strachey and Cole (the last of whom took upon himself to alter its name to “realistic interpretation of history”), and ends up with the condescending remark that “Marxists show no willingness whatever to accept the more reasonable version of their own theory” (page 175).

Before dealing with Mr. Durbin’s errors it may be remarked that he is not at all original. It has all been done before; though Mr. Durbin’s ignorance of Marx probably extends also to an ignorance of his predecessors in the art of knocking down Aunt Sallies of his own construction. He might, with profit, look up Kautsky’s “Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History” and Boudin’s “Theoretical System of Karl Marx,” where he would find that the critics who preceded him are duly answered.

As it is impossible for reasons of space to deal with all of Mr. Durbin’s errors it must suffice to show the line on which his argument is developed.

The doctrine which Mr. Durbin shows to be untenable is the doctrine “that history is determined, and the action of individuals and groups controlled, by rational acquisitive self-interest” (page 168). To clinch his argument he makes the following points (page 171): —
“We are clearly influenced continuously by the thought of our material welfare. But are we influenced by nothing else ? Do we order our whole lives and choose all our group loyalties by the thought of nothing but our real wages. … It is only if we are moved by these considerations alone that a purely economic interpretation of history can be sustained.” (His italics.)
All very true, but what on earth has this to do with Marx and the Materialist Conception of History? Mr. Durbin, to be sure, is certain that it has everything to do with it; but the reader of his book will notice that nowhere does he show where Marx or Engels ever wrote anything about history being determined “by the thoughts of nothing but our real wages.”

Instead Mr. Durbin adopts an old device of quoting not from Marx to prove his point against Marx, but of quoting from Laski, Cole and Strachey, whom he blandly describes as “the modern exponents of the doctrine” and “the newest schools of Marxist thought” (page 158).

May we protest to Mr. Durbin that it would not occur to serious students of Marx that Marxism has been understood and correctly stated, much less improved, by the speculations and interpretations of these gentlemen.

How Marx really stated the view held by him and Engels can be seen from the following passage in his preface to his “Critique of Political Economy,” 1859: —
“In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations which are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society—the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.”
It is not that Mr. Durbin is entirely unaware of what Marx and Engels said about the Materialist Conception of History. Indeed, he quotes on page 157 of his book the following passage from Engels’ 1888 preface to the Communist Manifesto: —
“In every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes.”
But after quoting this, instead of examining it to see whether it is tenable or not, he prefers to make a slashing attack on some other and utterly absurd theory which explains historical movements as the sole result of thinking “of nothing but our real wages.” Did it not once occur to Mr. Durbin that it would be odd for a prosperous manufacturer like Engels to devote much time and money to the working-class movement and the abolition of capitalism (and prosperous manufacturers) if in fact he held the view that (in Mr. Durbin’s words) “we order our whole lives and choose all our group loyalties by the thought of nothing but our real wages”?

Did Mr. Durbin never notice that “the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it”—this being the definition used by Engels—is wider than, and very different from, the conception of mere individual or group self-interest?

Does he not appreciate that the prevailing “mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it” exercise an influence on the ideas and aims and actions of individuals and social groups far beyond the simple notion of individual wages or profits. This confusion of “material conditions” with “material interests” has misled many others besides Mr. Durbin. It was, for example, dealt with by Boudin in his ”Theoretical System for Karl Marx,” published in 1907 (Chapter III).

Did Mr. Durbin never ask himself why Marx and Engels habitually used the term materialist conception of history and not “economic” interpretation, still less “economic determination”? (the phrase used by Professor Seligman and those who have followed him).

Engels, in a letter to a student written in 1890, anticipated Mr. Durbin’s errors. He wrote: —
“According to the Materialist Conception of History, the factor which is in the last instance decisive in history is the production and reproduction of actual life. More than this neither Marx nor myself ever claimed. If now someone has distorted the meaning in such a way that the economic factor is the only decisive one, this man has changed the above proposition into an abstract, absurd phrase which says nothing. The economic situation is the base, but the different parts of the structure—the political forms of the class struggle and its results, the constitutions established by the victorious class after the battle is won, forms of law and even the reflections of all these real struggles in the brains of the participants, political theories, juridical, philosophical, religious opinions, and their further development into dogmatic systems—all this exercises also its influence on the development of the historical struggles and in cases determines their form. (Italics Engels’.)
Engels went on to explain that the overemphasis of the economic factor was in part the fault of Marx and himself—”Facing our adversaries we had to lay especial stress on the essential principle denied by them, and, besides, we had not always the time, place, or occasion to assign to the other factors . . . the part which belongs to them.”

Nevertheless, at no time did Marx or Engels put forward the view that the economic factor is the only one or that “economic factor” is so narrow a conception as mere “acquisitive self-interest.”

In Ins letter Engels elaborated the Marxian view in its correct form, a form quite unlike that of Mr. Durbin’s imagination: —
“The economic conditions, which we consider as the determinative basis in the history of society, we understand to be the manner in which men in a given society produce their means of subsistence and the ways in which they effect the exchange of products among themselves (this as long as division of labour exists). The entire technique of production and transportation is here included. According to our conception this technique determines the mode of exchange, of distribution of products, and—after the disintegration of the tribal society—the division of society into classes, the conditions of master and slave, of State, of politics, law, etc. Further, among the economic conditions under which these phenomena obtain, must be included the geographical environment, and also the actual remains of former phases of economic evolution which often persisted by force of tradition, inertia, or because of circumstances which surround that form of society.

Even if …. technique largely depends on the condition of science, yet, in a greater measure, does the latter depend on the conditions of and the need for, technique. If society is in the need of the development of a certain technique, this helps science more than ten universities.”
And again: —
“History is not as some would imagine, for the sake of their greater convenience, an automatic effect of the economic situation, but men themselves make their own history. Certain it is, however, that men act in accordance with the prevailing conditions that dominate their field of action.” (Italics Engels’.)
It will also be seen from Engels’ letter above that he did not hold the view that for Marxists “economic forces” can be narrowed down to “technical discoveries” alone. Mr. Durbin, however, is able to reach that conclusion, by quoting from Mr. Laski and Mr. Stratchey. After the quotation (pages 156 and 157) Mr. Durbin says: —
“These quotations demonstrate beyond doubt that the first of the four basic contentions of the Marxist analysis—that history is exclusively determined by “economic” forces, and even exclusively by technical discoveries—has been seriously maintained by Marxists from the dawn of Marxist thought in the forties of last century down to the most recent publications of the Left Book Club.” (Page 157.)
This conclusion may be true as regards Laski and Strachey, but Mr. Durbin cannot base it on the passages he quotes from Marx and Engels.

This fact about technical development was dealt with by Louis Boudin (“Theoretical System of Karl Marx,” page 35) in a passage which concludes with the following: —
“Be it therefore said here for the Nth time, that while changes in the technical development of the means of production usually go together with changes in the material conditions of the people, they do not necessarily so go together and are separate and distinct from each other. While the technical developments in the means of production and distribution are the chief cause of changes in the material conditions of the people, they are not always so and not necessarily so. There are other causes which may affect the material conditions of the people, and there are changes in the technical part of production and distribution which do not at all affect the material conditions of the people. And the Marxists claim that it is the changes in the “material conditions” that are the prime movers of history, no matter what the causes of these changes may be. The technical development only affects the course of history indirectly and only in so far as it causes changes in the material conditions under which people live and work.”
Another of Mr. Durbin’s errors disposed of by Engels is the belief that Marxists “are committed” to the doctrine of “the impotence of ideas” (page 175). It will be noticed that Engels mentions “political theories” as one of the factors which exercise an influence on historical struggles. Does this surprise Mr. Durbin ? Has he forgotten the lifetime devoted by Marx and Engels to studying and teaching, and to Socialist propaganda?

We could say a lot more about Mr. Durbin’s book, but perhaps it will be sufficient to add that if Mr. Durbin really wants to do a serious job of work he should start off with the assumption that Marx and Engels meant and understood what they wrote, and should take the advice Engels himself gave to a student in the letter written in 1890—“I would further ask you to study the theory from its original sources and not from second-hand works; it is really much easier.”

When Mr. Durbin says (page 179) that he and others “who cannot accept any of the existing variants of this theory, await any new forms of it with sustained and lively interest,” our advice to him is to go back and look at the theory as it really was in the original and is still, and to remember that his “variants of it” are not variants of Marx but variants on the theme Cole-Laski-Strachey. This is not the same thing.
Edgar Hardcastle

Party Speaker fined (1940)

Party News from the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

As a result of a speaker of the Party being fined in connection with a Party meeting in Hyde Park we have had to meet a bill for £18 8s. Donations are invited to prevent this expenditure interfering with the Party’s normal activities.

Send to S.P.G.B., 42 Great Dover Street, S.E.1 Cheques and Postal Orders should be crossed.

To Readers of “The Socialist Standard” (1940)

Party News from the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hitherto war-time conditions have not placed as many obstacles in the way of producing and distributing the Socialist Standard as had been expected. Now, however, difficulties are rapidly increasing. Paper is more costly and the shortage has already made it impossible to print as many copies as could have been sold. Later on it is probable that the size will have to be reduced.

At the moment, however, a more pressing problem is the difficulty of selling the Socialist Standard at meetings in streets and parks. The number of meetings has been reduced, and, for various reasons arising out of war-time conditions and restrictions, opportunities for selling the Socialist Standard in the streets may be drastically curtailed.

We therefore ask readers who have been in the habit of buying the Socialist Standard at meetings to cease relying on this and take out a subscription for six months or a year.

All that is necessary is to send a postal order to the Literature Secretary, at 42, Great Dover Street, S.E.I.

The cost has been increased owing to the recent raising of the postage rates, but it will still cost you only 1s. 6d. for six months, or 3s. for twelve months.

Send in your order now if you want to be sure of receiving your the Socialist Standard regularly each month.

Please cross your postal orders.

Appeal for Donations (1940)

Party News from the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some months ago I described the remarkable success of our propaganda efforts during last winter—the crowded meetings, the huge literature sales and the big collections. Well comrades and friends Winter is drawing near and although the conditions may be such that will prevent us from repeating our successes on quite the same lines, nevertheless we are planning to adapt our efforts to changing circumstances.

We must of course have money—every fund requires it; Propaganda, General, Educational and Publicity Funds all require enlarging. Is there any need for me to say more? You know how vital is the Party’s need for money. Send it in as quickly as you can. Thanks.
H. G. Holt, 
Party Funds Organiser.

The Shape of Things to Come—and The Forces That Will Shape Them (1940)

From the August 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those who seek to explain by reference to “ideologies” the swift movement of events in the world, the sudden collapse of impregnable positions, the seemingly inexplicable changes which show the grand old men of yesterday to be the dodderers of to-day, must be bewildered and confused by what is going on before their eyes. In a short period of time they have seen those exponents of supposedly irreconcilable doctrines—Stalin and Hitler—joined in a pact of friendship, while Catholic Italy and Catholic Spain fall more and more under the influence of Nazi Germany, erstwhile enemy of Catholicism. They have seen democratic France turn towards Dictatorship, and Conservatives proclaiming the need to back up “revolutionary” movements. The idealist who tries to discern the pattern in history, past and present, is prevented from doing so because he believes that ideas and beliefs have an independent origin and that one set of ideas will triumph over another if only the men who hold them have leaders of goodwill and integrity. The Socialist who looks to social relations and economic forces is better placed. Not, of course, that the Socialist can predict with certainty just how and when a conflict of forces will work out in the future, but at least he knows what is the nature of the forces on which the issue depends. Knowing, as Marx puts it, that “it is not men’s consciousness which determines their life,” but “their social life which determines their consciousness,” he also allows for the fact that at any given period of history the vital forces at work have to struggle with ideas which resulted from past conditions—”the tradition of all past generations weighs like an alp upon the brain of the living.”

The Weakness of France
Some of the explanations given of the French collapse are of the most superficial kind : Petain, we are told, was a “pessimist ” even in 1917, and Laval “a defeatist and potential traitor”; there were elements in France who were “vaguely anti-Parliamentarian and anti-democratic and equally vaguely pro-Fascist”; Daladier was “a civilian mediocrity,” and Gamelin “a military mediocrity”—and so on. These “explanations” cry aloud themselves to be explained. A little nearer the mark is the Economist’s French correspondent (July 20th, 1940), who says that he interviewed many French officers and “cannot recall one who was not a pessimist, not about the outcome of the war, but about the social and economic difficulties which would open up for France after the end of hostilities.” “It was not,” he says, “the mental attitude that wins wars.”

Some of the newspaper correspondents have, however, shown a more correct and robust grasp of realities in their judgment of the forces at work in France.

A Special Correspondent in France of the Daily Telegraph (June 25th, 1940) pointed out that Petain and Weygand were scared by reports (proved to be incorrect) that Communists had seized public buildings in Paris. This incident shows that preoccupation with maintaining France’s social tranquillity and repressing subversive movements weighed heavily with the two aged soldiers, and that they did not see the situation in its true perspective.”

Mr. Ward Price (Daily Mail, July 8th) mentions the “rich and influential Frenchmen” (including an unnamed “owner of iron ore mines in Lorraine”) who were behind Laval because they thought that “their personal interests would be benefited by co-operation with Germany, or, conversely, that war between the two countries would ruin them.” As long ago as 1931, in pre-Nazi days, Laval had proposed a Franco-German Committee of Economic Co-operation.

Another Daily Mail correspondent, Mr. Francis Tuohy, classifies the people behind French Fascism as “Catholics, Royalists, Officers, aristocracy, big business, police and functionaries, intellectuals and students, the propertied classes in general” (Daily Mail, July 22nd), and according to a French ex-editor, writing in the Manchester Guardian (July 22nd), one of the members of the Petain Cabinet is a Senator named Mireaux, editor of the Temps. “That paper,” he says, “is the organ of the Comité des Forges, the head of which is M. de Wendel, a great friend of M. Laval.” (The Comité des Forges is the organisation of French heavy industry.)

One last quotation on this aspect is from an editorial in the Manchester Guardian (July 12th) :
“That France needs reform is evident enough. In the last twenty years she has had forty-two Ministries. Only five Governments have kept themselves alive for twelve months. Such rapid changes give a mischievous instability to politics. In the background there lurks the power of what M. Herriot called “the 200 best families,” obstructing all social reform and threatening the Governments that did not obey them. It was, indeed, because the revolt against the sinister rule of the banks and big business was so certain at the end of the war, however the war ended, that many rich men were anxious to compound with Hitler ; they were more afraid of victory than of defeat. When defeat came they spoke like the rich friend of Cicero who wrote to him, ” Since the Republic is lost, let us at least keep our property!””

Forces for Change in Europe
The safeguarding of property interests is the dead hand of the past, but what of the more active forces pushing towards change and reorganisation in Europe? Can the men who appear as leaders hold developments in check, or failing that can they guide them into the channels they desire? Are they the creatures or the masters of the forces behind and below them ? We need to be cautious in forecasting events, but it seems a safe conclusion that the regime of Petain and that of his friend Franco are both doomed to fail. Petain’s Foreign Minister, Baudouin, can say (News Chronicle, July 18th) that “the world existing before May 10th is definitely buried,” and think that he is free to determine the destiny of France so that “new relations will be instituted between Capital and Labour and there will be new conceptions of life based on authority, order and obedience.” So also Franco’s brother-in-law and Foreign Minister, Serano Suner, can say (Daily Express, July 19th) that “freedom has been buried for ever in Spain,” but events will determine otherwise. Franco, only a brief while ago, was talking of a new stable order in Spain based on the peasants and national self-sufficiency just as Petain’s Government at the present time “apparently sees France’s role in the new Europe as primarily a peasant and handicraft country” (Daily Telegraph, July 23rd). But the clock of industrial and capitalist development cannot be turned back to medievalism. Franco and Petain both ignored or forgot that they live in a world which is subject to the intense and inescapable pressure of trade and competition ; on the one hand, and working-class resistance on the other. It is not to be forgotten that “a million Republicans are held in prison camps” in Franco’s Spain (W. Forrest, News Chronicle, July 18th). And it is from a Spanish newspaper correspondent in Vichy that the report came that Petain’s Government had to shift from Clermont-Ferrand to Vichy because of the violent and threatening attitude of the workers at the Michelin tyre factory in the former town (Daily Telegraph, July 19th).

Franco used to talk of being free from the pressure of capitalist forces, determined to build up Spain within her own border and on her own resources, but already he has been forced to change his tune to the more familiar one of Spain’s “duty and mission” to command Gibraltar and go in for a policy of Empire building : “We have shed the blood of our dead, not in order to return to the decadent past but in order to build a nation and create an empire” (The Times, July 19th). “Expansion in Africa” is now the order of the day.

When considering the prospects of such dictatorships as those of Petain and Franco, it is worth noticing that the four dictatorships that succeeded in establishing themselves (Russia, Germany, Italy and Turkey), along with some differences had two things in common. In each case power was obtained by a new group, not a mere reshuffling of representatives of existing parties and interests, and in each case those who seized power contrived to do so by using (or exploiting) the more or less constitutional machinery without waging open civil war against the workers or other large representative section of the population. On one or the other of these counts both Franco and Petain fail to possess the qualities that make for comparative permanence (not, of course, that other dictatorships have real permanence either).

It is relevant at this point to consider the position of Russia, and the urge that drove the Stalin regime to enter into the pact with Hitler. The military consideration of not wanting to be isolated in face of Germany and Japan was one aspect, but observers have recently confirmed that behind that fear was the factor of internal economic difficulties. The Moscow correspondent of the American New Republic (quoted in Forward, July 20th) gives it as his judgment that slackening industrial development compelled the Russian Government to take the view that “in both technical organisation and labour, efficiency was advancing so slowly that it would be generations before these departments would compare with those of the modern industrial States.
“Stalin’s way out was an alliance with some big industrial country, in order (1) to ensure Russia’s position of strength in the coming European war; (2) to supplement consumer’s goods industries until they would be able to stand on their own; (3) to supply the machine tools, optical apparatus, etc., which Russia is still forced to import.”
Mr. Louis Fischer, who was for 14 years a newspaper correspondent in Russia, says much the same in his “Stalin and Hitler” (Penguin Special, 6d., May, 1940). He attributes Russia’s industrial slowing down to several factors: “In part (it is) due to military preparations. But it is more adequately explained by the purges and several inherent Soviet economic weaknesses.” (P. 62.)

Here again, as in every other instance of international trends, it is idle to look wholly or mainly to abstract ideas and motives whether of rulers or ruled.

Before leaving the question of the forces making for change in Europe, it is interesting to view the spectacle of Conservatives being forced against every inclination to support movements that may help to undermine the German-Italian dictatorship systems. It is put most strikingly in the columns of the Daily Express. Below are two quotations from recent issues. The first is from an article by Mr. Geoffrey Cox, showing how Franco should be attacked at home if Spain goes to war on Germany’s side: —
“Seize the Canary Islands and other Spanish island possessions and set up there at once a Republican Government which we recognise.

But we can only do this if our appeal is a genuine Republican revolutionary appeal for straight-out revolution.

We must be prepared to co-operate with all the parties of the last Spanish Popular Front Government—Socialists and Communists and Anarchists, as well as Liberals and Radicals. We must get out of our minds all questions of whether these people are Red, or pink or white.
For no other appeal will rouse Spain now except the cry of the Republic.”—(Daily Express July 19th.)
The second quotation is from an editorial: —
“Our allies are ordinary people, not Fascist dictators. And since the ordinary people of Europe are now ruled by Fascists we must organise revolutions.

If (by some terrible folly) Britain were ever at war with Soviet Russia, we would work for a Right Wing revolution there. Since we are fighting Fascists, we must work for Left Wing revolutions in Europe. That is only common sense.

And so our Foreign Office and Ministry of Information should change their whole mentality.

Respectable ex-public school-boys and English gentlemen were admirably suited for conducting our relations with Right Wing politicians abroad. But they are the wrong people for carrying on underground intrigues, organising strikes, arranging sabotage and fomenting general discontent in Europe.”
— (Daily Express, July 23rd.)
In that quarter, at least, the dead hand of the past has been thrown off in so far as the winning of the war is concerned.
Edgar Hardcastle

Karl Marx by Frederick Engels (1940)

From the August 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard
[We are indebted to Messrs. Lawrence and Wishart, Ltd., for permission to reproduce the following essay on Marx, taken from “Karl Marx: Man, Thinker and Revolutionist,” a symposium edited by D. Riazanov. This book, published in 1927, is now out of print.

Engels’ essay was written for the German workers several years before Marx’s death.]
Karl Marx, the first to provide Socialism and therewith the whole modern labour movement with a scientific foundation, was born at Treves in the year 1818. In his student days at Bonn and Berlin he devoted himself, to begin with, to the study of jurisprudence, but soon turned from this field to concentrate upon history and philosophy. In 1842 he was on the point of becoming an instructor in philosophy when he was involved in the political movement which had originated since the death of Frederick William III., and he was thus switched into a different career. He collaborated with the leaders of the Rhenish liberal bourgeoisie (Camphausen, Hansemann, etc.) in founding the Rheinische Zeitung at Cologne; and, in the autumn of 1842, his criticism of the proceedings of the Rhenish provincial diet having aroused widespread attention, Marx became editor-in-chief of the new journal. Of course, the Rheinische Zeitung was subject to the prevailing censorship, but the censorship was not equal to the task of controlling it. [1] The Rheinische Zeitung nearly always managed to publish what it wanted. Sometimes articles of no importance, written to be censored, were sent in as a preliminary. At other times the official’s hands were forced by telling him : “If you censor this article, we shall not be able to publish the paper tomorrow.” Had there been ten newspapers as bold as the Rheinische, ten journals whose editors had had a few hundred thalers more to squander upon type-setting, the German press censorship would already have become impracticable in 1843. But the German newspaper proprietors were timid folk, humdrum fellows with small ideas and limited means, so the Rheinische Zeitung had to fight alone. Its activities wore out one censor after another. At length a twofold censorship was imposed ; after the matter for publication had been passed by the ordinary censor, it had to be submitted to the provincial governor for final approval. Even this was inadequate. Early in 1843, government realised that the newspaper was too much for it, and the Rheinische Zeitung was unceremoniously suppressed.

Marx, who that summer married Jenny von Westphalen (the father was in later years a reactionary minister of State), now removed to Paris. There, in conjunction with A. Ruge, he issued the “Deutsche-franzosische Jahrbücher,” beginning here the series of his Socialist writings with a criticism of Hegel’s philosophy of law. He also combined with the present writer in the publication of a book entitled “Die Helige Familie; gegen Bruno Bauer und Konsorten (The Holy Family; against Bruno Bauer and Co) a satirical critique of one of the latest forms then assumed by German idealist philosophy.

While engaged in these activities and in the study of political economy and of the great French revolution, Marx still had time to spare for occasional attacks on the Prussian government. In the spring of 1845, the Prussian authorities revenged themselves by inducing the Guizot ministry to order the expulsion of the offender from France. (Alexander von Humboldt is said to have acted as intermediary in this matter.) Marx now set up house in Brussels, and there, in the year 1846, published his “Discours sur le libre echange” (Essay on Free Trade), and in 1847 Misère de la philosophic (Poverty of Philosophy), a criticism of Proudhon’s “Philosophie de la misère” (Philosophy of Poverty). While thus engaged, he now made his first entry into the field of practical agitation by founding in Brussels a German Arbeiterverein (workers’ association). His participation in the revolutionary movement became still more active when, in 1847, he and his political associates joined the Communist League, which had already been in existence for several years as a secret society. The whole nature of this body was now transformed. Hitherto it had been more or less conspiratorial in scope and method. Now it remained secret only because secrecy was forced upon it, becoming an organisation for communist propaganda, the first organisation of the German Social Democratic Party. The League struck root wherever German workers’ associations existed. The leading members of nearly all such associations in England, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and those of manv of the associations in Germany, were members of the Communist League, and this body played a notable part in the initiation of the German labour movement. Furthermore, our League was the first to stress the international charter of the labour movement as a whole; the first to unite Englishmen. Belgians, Hungarians. Poles, etc., as active participators in a working-class organisation; the first to call international meetings of the workers (this especially in London).

The metamorphosis of the League was effected at two congresses held during the year 1847. At the second of these, it was agreed that the party principles should be formulated and published in a manifesto to be drafted by Marx and Engels. Such was the origin of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, which appeared in 1848 shortly before the February revolution, and has since then been translated into almost all the languages of Europe.

In Brussels there was a German newspaper, the Deutsche Brusseler Zeitung, which ruthlessly exposed the Fatherland’s police-made paradise. Here the hand of Marx was once more at work, and the Prussian government therefore moved, though fruitlessly for the nonce, to secure his expulsion from Belgium. But when the February revolution in Paris was followed by a popular movement in Brussels, so that a revolution seemed imminent in Belgium likewise, the Belgian government laid hands on Marx and summarily expelled him from the country. Meanwhile the French provisional government had, through Flocon, invited him to return to Paris, and he accepted the invitation.

In the French capital his chief business was to withstand the crazy scheme of the German workers there, who designed to form themselves into armed legions, bring about a revolution in Germany, and establish a German republic. Marx pointed out: first of all that it was Germany’s task to make her own revolution; and, secondly, that the Lamartines and their kind in the provisional government would infallibly betray to the enemy any foreign revolutionary legion organised on French soil — as actually happened in Belgium and Baden.

After the March revolution, Marx went to Cologne where he founded the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. This newspaper was issued from June 1, 1848, to May 19, 1849, and was the only organ of the democratic movement of that period to represent the outlook of the proletariat. It did this, above all, by its unqualified support of the June insurrection in Paris (1848) — a policy which almost all the shareholders of the journal repudiated. In vain did the Kreuz Zeitung complain of the “colossal impudence” with which the Neue Rheinische Zeitung attacked everything sacred, from king and vice-regent down to the ordinary policemen — and this in a Prussian fortress city then garrisoned by 8,000 men. In vain did the Rhenish liberals, who had suddenly become reactionaries, furiously rage. In vain did the local authorities of Cologne, where a state of siege had been declared, suspend the offending newspaper for a long period during the autumn of 1848. In vain did the Ministry of Justice in Frankfort instruct the Cologne public prosecutor to take legal proceedings on account of article after article. The work of editing and printing the Neue Rheinische Zeitung went on unhindered; and the circulation and the repute of the journal grew as the fierceness of its attacks on the government and the bourgeoisie increased. When the Prussian coup d’état occurred in November, 1848, at the head of each issue the Rheinische appealed to the people to refuse payment of taxes and to counter force with force. In the spring of 1849, it was prosecuted twice, once for this offence, and once for a specific article; but in both cases the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty. At length, however, when the May rising of 1849 in Dresden and Rhenish Prussia had been suppressed, and when the Prussian campaign against the insurgents in Baden and the Palatinate had been begun by the concentration and mobilisation of a large force of troops, the government felt strong enough to make an end of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung by force. The last issue, that of May 19th, was printed in red ink.

Marx now returned to Paris, but within a few weeks after the demonstration of June 13, 1849, the French government confronted him with the choice of going to live in Brittany or of leaving France altogether. He chose the latter alternative, and went to London, where he has lived ever since.

During the year 1850, an attempt was made to reissue the Neue Rheinische Zeitung at Hamburg, in the form of a review; but the scheme was soon dropped owing to the increasing violence of the reaction. Soon after the coup d’état in Paris (December, 1851), Marx wrote “Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte.” [2] In 1853 he wrote “Enthüllungen über den kölner Kommunistenprozess “(Revelations concerning the Cologne Communist Trial), first published in Boston, U.S.A.; subsequently reissued at Basle, and later still at Leipzig.

After the condemnation of the members of the Communist League in Cologne, Marx withdrew from the work of political agitation for the next ten years. During this period he was mainly devoted to the study of the treasures of economic literature to be found in the British Museum Reading Room. Throughout the earlier part of this period (down to the outbreak of the American civil war) he was a regular contributor to the New York Tribune, which published, in addition to Marx’s signed contributions, a considerable number of leading articles penned by him and dealing with European and Asiatic affairs. His attacks on Lord Palmerston, based upon a detailed examination of British official documents, were reissued in London as pamphlets.

The first fruit of his economic researches was entitled “Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomte” (published by Duncker, Berlin, 1859). [3]

This work contains the first coherent exposition of the Marxist theory of value together with the theory of money. During the Italian war, Marx (writing in Das Volk, a German newspaper published in London) was busied in attacking Bonapartism, which was masquerading as a liberal movement for the freeing of oppressed nationalities; and also in onslaughts upon the Prussian policy of the day, showing how Prussia, under the pretext of neutrality, was trying to fish in troubled waters. In the same connexion it was necessary to attack Herr Karl Vogt, who, commissioned by Prince Napoleon (“Plon-Plon”) and paid by Louis Bonaparte, was working to secure German “neutrality” (read “sympathy”). Assailed by Vogt with the most abominable and deliberate calumnies, Marx replied in the work “Herr Vogt” (London, 1860). Herein the machinations of Vogt and other gentlemen wearing false democratic colours were exposed, and on both external and internal evidence Vogt was accused of accepting bribes from the Second Empire. The justice of this accusation was confirmed ten years later, for in the list of the sums paid to Bonapartist hirelings (found in the Tuileries in 1870, and published by the September government) was an item among the V’s : “Vogt, Handed over to him in August, 1859, frs. 40,000.”

Finally, in the year 1867, there was published at Hamburg, “Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, erster Band”, Marx’s chief work, an exposition of his Socialist economics and of the fundamentals of his criticism of the extant order of society, of the capitalist method of production and its consequences. The second edition of this epoch-making book appeared in 1872. The present writer is now engaged in the elaboration of the second volume.

Meanwhile the labour movement had been regaining strength in the various countries of Europe, so that Marx was now able to work for the realisation of a wish he had long cherished. This was for the foundation of a workingmen’s association in the most advanced lands of Europe and America, which should give the workers, and also the bourgeois and the governments, a concrete demonstration of the international character of the Socialist movement, should encourage and strengthen the proletariat, and should strike terror into the hearts of its enemies. An opportunity was provided at a public meeting, primarily summoned on behalf of the Poles (then suffering from renewed oppression at the hands of the Russian government), and held on September 28, 1864, in St. Martin’s Hall, London. The proposal to found the International Workingmen’s Association was enthusiastically adopted; and a provisional General Council, to sit in London, was elected at the meeting. In this General Council, and in all the subsequent General Councils down to the time of the Hague Congress, Marx was the leading spirit. Almost all the documents issued by the General Council, from the Inaugural Address (1864) down to The Civil War in France (1871), were drafted by him. A description of Marx’s activities in the International would be a history of the Association, which still lives in the memory of the European workers.

The fall of the Paris Commune made the position of the International untenable. It was thrust into the foreground of European history at a moment when all possibilities of successful practical action had been cut off. The events which raised it to the position of a seventh great Power, made the mobilisation of its fighting forces and their use in the field out of the question — for defeat would have been inevitable, and thereby the working-class movement would have been checked for decades. Furthermore, the suddenly acquired fame of the Association had attracted to it elements spurred on by personal vanity, and individuals eager to turn it to account for the gratification of their own ambition, ignorant or regardless of the real position of the International. Heroic measures were needed, and once more it was Marx who conceived them and then carried them into effect at The Hague Congress. The International, in a formal resolution, disclaimed all responsibility for the doings of the Bakuninists, who were the most active among the before-mentioned foolish and unsavoury elements. Then, in view of the impracticability (under the shadow of the general reaction) of coping with the increased demands now being made upon the International, and of continuing actively at work except at the cost of sacrifices which would have drained the labour movement of its life-blood, it was agreed that the organisation should temporarily withdraw from the stage, the seat of the General Council being transferred to the United States. This decision has often been criticised, but events have shown that it was sound. On the one hand, the step put an end to the endeavours to make the International responsible for futile insurrections. On the other hand, the continued and close association between the Socialist labour parties of the various countries showed that community of interest and solidarity of feeling (once awakened among the workers of all lands through the formation of the International) were able to secure active expression without the existence of a formal International Workingmen’s Association — which had for the time being become a hindrance to progress.

After The Hague Congress, Marx could at length find repose and leisure for the resumption of his studies in the theoretical field, and there is good reason to hope that ere long the second volume of “Capital” will be ready for the press.

Among the numerous important discoveries for which Marx’s name will be famous in the history of science, two only can be mentioned here.

The first of these is the transformation he has brought about in our general conception of universal history. Hitherto the accepted view has been that the ultimate causes of historical changes are to be found in the changing ideas of human beings; and that, among all historical changes, political changes are the most important — are dominant in history. People did not trouble to ask whence ideas came into men’s minds, or to enquire what were the primary causes of political changes. Only upon the newer school of French historians, and to some extent also upon recent English historians, had the conviction forced itself that, since the Middle Ages at any rate, the chief motive force of European history had been the struggle of the rising bourgeoisie to wrest social and political power from the feudal nobility. But Marx has shown that all history down to the present day has been the history of class struggles; that in all the manifold and complicated political struggles, what is really at issue is nothing more or less than the social and political dominion of social classes — the struggle of an old-established class to maintain power, and the struggle of a subordinate class to rise to power. But how do these classes originate, and upon what does their existence depend? Classes arise out of, and their existence depends upon, the material conditions under which society at any given time produces and exchanges the means of life.

The feudal regime of the Middle Ages was based upon the self-sufficing economy of small communities of peasants, who themselves produced almost everything they needed, so that there was practically no system of exchange. The nobles, a fighting caste, protected these peasant communities against attack from outside, and gave them national, or at any rate political cohesion. But with the growth of the towns there arose a system of handicrafts, and commerce developed — national at first and then international. Therewith the urban bourgeoisie came into being; and even before the close of the Middle Ages this new class, after a struggle with the nobility, secured acceptance into the feudal order of society. Then, from the middle of the fifteenth century onwards, and especially after the discovery of the extra-European world, the bourgeoisie began to find a much wider area for its commercial activities, and there with to feel a new spur to its industry. Handicraft, in most fields of production, gave place to the factory system of manufacture. Then, thanks to the discoveries of the eighteenth century (and especially thanks to the discovery of the steam engine), the development of large-scale industry became possible; and this in its turn reacted upon commerce, for in the more backward countries it drove out the old, handicrafts, and in the more advanced lands it brought into being new means of communication — steam transport, railways, and electric telegraphs. Thus the bourgeoisie was able to an increasing extent to concentrate social wealth and social power into its hands, whilst political power was still exclusively vested in the nobility and in the monarchy based upon the nobility. But at a certain stage the bourgeoisie is able to win political power as well (in France this happened through the great revolution), and thenceforward it becomes the governing class, holding sway over the proletariat and the lesser peasantry.

From this outlook we can find the simplest possible explanation of all historical happenings, provided we have sufficient knowledge concerning the economico-social conditions of the period we are studying — a knowledge which, however, our professional historians never possess. Thus, too, we can readily explain the prevailing ideas in any historical epoch as the outcome of the economic vital conditions of the time and the social and political relationships that issue from these conditions. Marx’s discovery for the first time set history upon its true foundation. The obvious fact (which, though obvious, had previously been overlooked) that human beings must eat and drink, must have clothing and shelter, in a word must work, before they can fight for dominion or cultivate politics and religion and philosophy — this obvious fact was at last able to enter into its historical heritage.

The new philosophy of history was of supreme importance to Socialist theory. It showed that hitherto all history had been the history of class contrasts end class struggles; that there had always been ruling and ruled, exploiting and exploited classes; and that the great majority of human beings had been invariably condemned to hard labour and little enjoyment. Why was this? For the simple reason that, in all earlier phases of social evolution, production had been so little developed that historical progress had been substantially dependent upon the activity of a small privileged minority, whilst to the vast majority had been left the task of producing their own bare subsistence and also the increasingly generous portion of the privileged minority. Such an analysis of history gives a natural and reasonable explanation of class rule, which had previously seemed explicable only as the outcome of human malevolence. But it does more than this, for it leads us to the view that nowadays, thanks to the tremendous increase in the forces of production, the last pretext for a division of mankind into rulers and ruled, exploiters and exploited, has vanished — at any rate in the more advanced countries of the world. It shows us that the dominant great bourgeoisie has fulfilled its historic mission, that it is no longer competent to lead society on the forward march and has actually become a hindrance to the development of production (as we can see from the occurrence of commercial crises, and especially from the last great collapse and from the depressed condition of industry in all lands). It shows, likewise, that the historic mission of leadership now devolves on the proletariat, a class which, in virtue of its social position, can only free itself by doing away once for all with class dominion, subjugation, and exploitation. It shows, finally, that the social forces of production, which have outgrown the control of the bourgeoisie, only await seizure by the associated proletariat in order to bring about a state of affairs in which every member of society will not merely participate in the production of social wealth, but will have an equal share in the distribution and administration of this wealth ; and it shows that, by the purposively organised control of production as a whole, the forces of production and the social yield will be so greatly intensified and expanded that there will be guarantees for the satisfaction of every individual’s reasonable needs to an ever-increasing degree.

The second of Marx’s epoch-making discoveries is his definitive explanation of the relationship between capital and labour; in other words, his elucidation of the way in which, within existing society and under the dominion of the extant capitalist method of production, the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists is effected. As soon as economic science had proved that labour was the source of all wealth and all value, it became inevitable that people should go on to ask : “How can this demonstration be reconciled with the fact that the wage worker does not receive the whole of the value created by his labour, but is compelled to part with a portion of it to the capitalist?” The bourgeois economists and the Socialists alike did their utmost to find an answer that should be scientifically valid, but all their attempts were vain until Marx solved the problem. 

Here is the Marxist solution. The present capitalist method of production presupposes the existence of two social classes : on the one hand the capitalists, who own the means of production and life; and, on the other, the proletarians, who, being dispossessed, have nothing to sell but their labour power, and are forced to sell this in order to get the means of life. But the value of a commodity is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour time incorporated in its production or requisite for its reproduction; and the value of the labour power of an average human being for a day, a month, or a year, is thus determined by the amount of labour incorporated in the quantity of the necessaries of life requisite for the maintenance of this labour power during a day, a month, or a year. Let us assume that the necessaries of life requisite for the maintenance of a worker throughout a working day needed six working hours for their production, or (which is the same thing) that the labour incorporated in them represents a labour quantum of six hours; in that case the value of one day’s labour power will be expressed by a sum of money which likewise incorporates six working hours. Let us assume, further, that the capitalist who employs our workman pays him this sum, which is the full value of his labour power. Then, as soon as the workman has worked six hours for the capitalist, he has fully repaid the capitalist’s outlay — has given six hours labour for six hours’ labour. There is nothing left over for the capitalist, who therefore looks at the matter from a very different standpoint. The capitalist says : “I have bought this worker’s labour power not for six hours only, but for a whole day”; and he therefore makes the workman stick to the job for eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, or more hours (as the case may be), so that the product of the seventh, eighth, and subsequent working hours is the outcome of unpaid labour, and finds it ways into the capitalist’s pocket. Thus the worker in capitalist employ produces, not merely the value of his labour power (which he receives as his wages), but also a surplus value which, in the first instance appropriated by the capitalist, is subsequently distributed throughout the capitalist class in accordance with definite economic laws, and forms the source of land-rent, profit, the accumulation of capital — in a word of all the wealth that is consumed or hoarded by the leisure classes.

This demonstration shows that the acquisition of wealth by latter-day capitalists is just as much the appropriation of others’ labour, of unpaid labour, as was the acquisition of wealth by the slave-owner or by the feudal baron imposing forced labour on his serfs; it shows that these various forms of exploitation are merely distinguished one from another by variations in the method whereby the unpaid labour is appropriated. It cuts the ground from under the feet of the hypocritical contention of the possessing classes that law and justice dominate the existing order of society, that in that order there are established equality of rights and duties and a general harmony of interests. Contemporary bourgeois society is seen, no less than its forerunners, to be a gigantic institution for the exploitation of the overwhelming majority of the population by a small and continually decreasing minority.

Modern scientific Socialism is grounded upon these two salient facts. In the second volume of “Capital” this and other hardly less important discoveries concerning the capitalist system of society will be further developed; and certain aspects of political economy not touched upon in the first volume will likewise be revolutionised. We may hope that Marx will soon be able to send it to the printers.

[1] The first censor of the Rheinische Zeitung was Police Councillor Dolleschal. This worthy once blue-pencilled in the Kolnische Zeitung an advertisement of a translation of Dante’s Divina Comedia (the translation was by “Philolethes,” later King John of Saxony), with the remark: “No comedy must be written about divine affairs.”

[2] First published in the United States (1852), and reissued at Hamburg (1869) shortly before the Franco-German war. English translations, as The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte by Daniel De Leon, New York, 1897, and by Eden and Cedar Paul, London, 1926.

[3] Englished as “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” translated from the second German edition by N. I. Stone, second edition, London and New York, 1904.