Main Marx: A Very Short Introduction
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Great 'review' by Usa ...
18 July 2021 (03:23)
Some very well rounded, intellectual comments here I see...
28 October 2021 (14:09)
18 November 2021 (08:14)
"What a disease this book and similar books are. This kind of trash is destroying young (as well as old) minds.",What a wise comment!Hegemony of public opinion should be completely destroyed
06 April 2022 (07:19)
I didn't want to read this book. Seeing the enthusiastic comments of several people upstairs, I couldn't help reading it.
05 June 2022 (04:06)
Marx: A Very Short Introduction Very Short Introductions are for anyone wanting a stimulating and accessible way in to a new subject. They are written by experts, and have been published in 13 languages worldwide. Very Short Introductions available from Oxford Paperbacks: ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY Julia Annas THE ANGLO-SAXON AGE John Blair ARCHAEOLOGY Paul Bahn ARISTOTLE Jonathan Barnes THE BIBLE John Riches BUDDHISM Damien Keown CLASSICS Mary Beard and John Henderson DESCARTES Tom Sorell EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN Paul Langford HEIDEGGER Michael Inwood HINDUISM Kim Knott HISTORY John H. Arnold HUME A. J. Ayer ISLAM Malise Ruthven JUDAISM Norman Solomon THE KORAN Michael Cook LITERARY THEORY Jonathan Culler LOGIC Graham Priest MACHIAVELLI Quentin Skinner MARX Peter Singer MEDIEVAL BRITAIN John Gillingham and Ralph A. Grifﬁths MUSIC Nicholas Cook NIETZSCHE Michael Tanner NINETEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN Christopher Harvie and H. C. G. Matthew POLITICS Kenneth Minogue Psychology Gillian Butler and Freda McManus ROMAN BRITAIN Peter Salway SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY John Monaghan and Peter Just SOCIOLOGY Steve Bruce Socrates C. C. W. Taylor STUART BRITAIN John Morrill THEOLOGY David F. Ford THE TUDORS John Guy TWENTIETH-CENTURY BRITAIN Kenneth O. Morgan Forthcoming Very Short Introductions: ANIMAL RIGHTS David DeGrazia ART THEORY Cynthia Freeland BIOETHICS Helga Kuhse CHAOS Leonard Smith CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY Simon Critchley COSMOLOGY Peter Coles ECONOMICS Partha Dasgupta EMOTION Dylan Evans ETHICS Simon Blackburn THE EUROPEAN UNION John Pinder EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY Oliver Curry THE FIRST WORLD WAR Michael Howard FREE WILL Thomas Pink INDIAN PHILOSOPHY Sue Hamilton INTELLIGENCE Ian Deary MATHEMATICS Timothy Gowers OPERA Roger Parker PHILOSOPHY Edward Craig PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION Jack Copeland and Diane Proudfoot Peter Singer Marx A Very Short Introduction 1 3 Great Clarendon Street, Oxford o x2 6 d p Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s obje; ctive of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Athens Auckland Bangkok Bogotá Buenos Aires Calcutta Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Florence Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi Paris São Paulo Shanghai Singapore Taipei Tokyo Toronto Warsaw with associated companies in Berlin Ibadan Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York © Peter Singer 1980 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published 1980 as an Oxford University Press paperback Reissued 1996 First published as a Very Short Introduction 2000 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographic rights organizations. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data available ISBN 0–19–285405–4 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Typeset by ReﬁneCatch Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk Printed in Spain by Book Print S. L. Contents Preface vii Abbreviations ix List of Illustrations 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 xi A Life and its Impact 1 The Young Hegelian 16 From God to Money 23 Enter the Proletariat 28 The First Marxism 32 Alienation as a Theory of History 39 The Goal of History 47 Economics 59 Communism 78 An Assessment 86 Note on Sources 101 Further Reading 103 Index 106 Preface There are many books on Marx, but a good brief introduction to his thought is still hard to ﬁnd. Marx wrote at such enormous length, on so many different subjects, that it is not easy to see his ideas as a whole. I believe that there is a central idea, a vision of the world, which uniﬁes all of Marx’s thought and explains what would otherwise be puzzling features of it. In this book I try to say, in terms comprehensible to those with little or no previous knowledge of Marx’s writings, what this central vision is. If I have succeeded, I need no further excuse for having added yet another book to the already abundant literature on Marx and Marxism. For biographical details of Marx’s life, I am especially indebted to David McLellan’s ﬁne work, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (Macmillan, London, 1973). My view of Marx’s conception of history was affected by G.A. Cohen’s Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979), although I do not accept all the conclusions of that challenging study. Gerald Cohen sent me detailed comments on the draft of this book, enabling me to correct several errors. Robert Heilbroner, Renata Singer, and Marilyn Weltz also made helpful comments on the draft, for which I am grateful. In the interest of clear prose I have occasionally made minor amendments to the translations of Marx’s works from which I have quoted. Finally, were it not for an invitation to take part in this series from Keith Thomas, the general editor of the series, and Henry Hardy, of Oxford University Press, I would never have attempted to write this book; and were it not for a period of leave granted me by Monash University, I would never have written it. Peter Singer Washington, DC, June 1979 Abbreviations References in the text to Marx’s writings are generally given by an abbreviation of the title, followed by a page reference. Unless otherwise indicated below, these page references are to David McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977). B ‘On Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy’ CI Capital, Volume I (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1961) C III Capital, Volume III CM Communist Manifesto D Doctoral thesis EB The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte EPM Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 G Grundrisse (translated M. Nicolaus, Penguin, Harmondsworth, GI The German Ideology GP ‘Critique of the Gotha Program’ I ‘Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction’ 1973) J ‘On the Jewish Question’ M ‘On James Mill’ (notebook) MC Letters and miscellaneous writings cited in David McLellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (Macmillan, London, 1973) P Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy PP The Poverty of Philosophy R Correspondence with Ruge of 1843 T ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ WLC Wage Labour and Capital WPP ‘Wages, Price and Proﬁt’ (in K. Marx, F. Engels, Selected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1951) List of Illustrations 2 6 Marx in 1836, aged 18. 1 Karl Marx (1818–83) 2 Lithograph showing the on p. 4 young Marx (1836) at a Courtesy of the International drinking club of Trier Institute of Social History, Detail from the lithograph students at the University 26 Amsterdam of Bonn 4 7 Courtesy of the International Ludwig Feuerbach Institute of Social History, (1804–72) Amsterdam Courtesy of the Mary Evans Picture 42 Library 3 The exterior of 41 Maitland Park Road, Haverstock Hill, 8 London, where Marx spent Friedrich Engels (1820–95) 45 the last ﬁfteen years of his life 13 9 English factories in the mid-nineteenth century: Courtesy of Hulton Getty men and women at work in 4 5 Marx with his eldest the Patent Renewable daughter, Jenny, in 1870 14 Stocking Factory at Courtesy of Hulton Getty Tewkesbury in 1860 G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) 53 Courtesy of the Mary Evans Picture 19 Library 10 David Ricardo (1772– 1823) 13 65 Cemetery in London Courtesy of Hulton Getty 11 Marx’s grave at Highgate The round reading room of 14 Joseph Stalin the old British Library, opened (1879–1953) in 1842, where Marx worked Courtesy of Hulton Getty on Das Kapital 87 Courtesy of Hulton Getty 96 69 15 Courtesy of Hulton Getty Military tanks passing a mural of key communist 12 Cover of the ﬁrst German ﬁgures in a 1974 parade in edition of Das Kapital, vol. 1 Courtesy of AKG London Havana, Cuba, marking the 75 anniversary of the Revolution 98 Courtesy of Miroslav Zaji/Corbis The publisher and the author apologize for any errors or omissions in the above list. If contacted they will be pleased to rectify these at the earliest opportunity. Chapter 1 A Life and its Impact Marx’s impact can only be compared with that of religious ﬁgures like Jesus or Muhammad. For much of the second half of the twentieth century, nearly four of of every ten people on earth lived under governments that considered themselves Marxist and claimed – however implausibly – to use Marxist principles to decide how the nation should be run. In these countries Marx was a kind of secular Jesus; his writings were the ultimate source of truth and authority; his image was everywhere reverently displayed. The lives of hundreds of millions of people have been deeply affected by Marx’s legacy. Nor has Marx’s inﬂuence been limited to communist societies. Conservative governments have ushered in social reforms to cut the ground from under revolutionary Marxist opposition movements. Conservatives have also reacted in less benign ways: Mussolini and Hitler were helped to power by conservatives who saw their rabid nationalism as the answer to the Marxist threat. And even when there was no threat of an internal revolution, the existence of a foreign Marxist enemy served to justify governments in increasing arms spending and restricting individual rights in the name of national security. 1 1. Karl Marx (1818–83) On the level of thought rather than practical politics, Marx’s contribution is equally evident. Can anyone now think about society without reference to Marx’s insights into the links between economic and intellectual life? Marx’s ideas brought about modern sociology, transformed the study of history, and profoundly affected philosophy, literature, and the arts. In this sense of the term – admittedly a very loose sense – we are all Marxists now. What were the ideas that had such far-reaching effects? That is the subject of this book. But ﬁrst, a little about the man who had these ideas. Karl Marx was born in Trier, in the German Rhineland, in 1818. His parents, Heinrich and Henrietta, were of Jewish origin but became nominally Protestant in order to make life easier for Heinrich to wealthy; they held liberal, but not radical, views on religion and politics. Marx’s intellectual career began badly when, at the age of seventeen, he went to study law at the University of Bonn. Within a year he had been imprisoned for drunkenness and slightly wounded in a duel. He also wrote love poems to his childhood sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalen. His father had soon had enough of this ‘wild rampaging’ as he called it, and decided that Karl should transfer to the more serious University of Berlin. In Berlin Marx’s interests became more intellectual, and his studies turned from law to philosophy. This did not impress his father: ‘degeneration in a learned dressing-gown with uncombed hair has replaced degeneration with a beer glass’ he wrote in a reproving letter (MC 33). It was, however, the death rather than the reproaches of his father that forced Marx to think seriously about a career – for without his father’s income the family could not afford to support him 3 A Life and its Impact practise law. The family was comfortably off without being really 2. Lithograph showing the young Marx (1836) at a drinking club of Trier students at the University of Bonn indeﬁnitely. Marx therefore began work on a doctoral thesis with a view to getting a university lectureship. The thesis itself was on a remote and scholarly topic – some contrasts in the philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus – but Marx saw a parallel between these ancient disputes and the debate about the interpretation of the philosophy of Hegel which was at that time the meeting ground of divergent political views in German thought. The thesis was submitted and accepted in 1841, but no university lectureship was offered. Instead Marx became interested in journalism. He wrote on social, political, and philosophical issues for a newly founded liberal newspaper, the Rhenish Gazette (Rheinische Zeitung). His articles were appreciated and his contacts with the newspaper increased to such an extent that when the editor resigned late in 1842, Marx was the obvious replacement. in the newspaper increased, so did the attentions of the Prussian government censor. A series of articles by Marx on the poverty of wine-growers in the Moselle valley may have been considered especially inﬂammatory; in any case, the government decided to suppress the paper. Marx was not sorry that the authorities had, as he put it in a letter to a friend, ‘given me back my liberty’ (MC 66). Freed from editorial duties, he began work on a critical study of Hegel’s political philosophy. He also had a more pressing concern: to marry Jenny, to whom he had now been engaged for seven years. And he wanted to leave Germany, where he could not express himself freely. The problem was that he needed money to get married, and now he was again unemployed. But his reputation as a promising young writer stood him in good stead; he was invited to become co-editor of a new publication, the German– French Annals (Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher). This provided him with enough income to marry and also settled the question of where 5 A Life and its Impact Through no fault of his own, Marx’s editorship was brief. As interest to go – for, as its name implies, the new publication was supposed to draw French as well as German writers and readers. Karl and Jenny Marx arrived in Paris in the autumn of 1843 and soon began mixing with the radicals and socialists who congregated in this centre of progressive thought. Marx wrote two articles for the Annals. The publication was, however, even more short-lived than the newspaper had been. The ﬁrst issue failed to attract any French contributors and so was scarcely noticed in Paris; while copies sent to Prussia were conﬁscated by the authorities. The ﬁnancial backers of the venture withdrew. Meanwhile, in view of the communist and revolutionary ideas expressed in the conﬁscated ﬁrst issue, the Prussian government issued a warrant for the arrest of the editors. Now Marx could not return to Germany; he was a political refugee. Luckily he received a sizeable amount of money from the former shareholders of Marx the Rhenish Gazette, so he had no need of a job. Throughout 1844 Marx worked at articulating his philosophical position. This was philosophy in a very broad sense, including politics, economics, and a conception of the historical processes at work in the world. By now Marx was prepared to call himself a communist – which was nothing very unusual in those days in Paris, for socialists and communists of all sorts could be found there then. In the same year the friendship between Marx and Engels began. Friedrich Engels was the son of a German industrialist who also owned a cotton factory in Manchester; but Engels had become, through contacts with the same German intellectual circles that Marx moved in, a revolutionary socialist. He contributed an article to the Annals which deeply affected Marx’s own thinking about economics. So it was not surprising that when Engels visited Paris he and Marx should meet. Very soon they began to collaborate on a pamphlet – or rather Engels thought it was going to be a pamphlet. He left his contribution, about ﬁfteen pages long, with Marx when he departed from Paris. The 6 ‘pamphlet’ appeared under the title The Holy Family in 1845. Almost 300 pages long, it was Marx’s ﬁrst published book. Meanwhile the Prussian government was putting pressure on the French to do something about the German communists living in Paris. An expulsion order was issued and the Marx family, which now included their ﬁrst child, named Jenny like her mother, moved to Brussels. To obtain permission to stay in Brussels, Marx had to promise not to take part in politics. He soon breached this undertaking by organizing a Communist Correspondence Committee which was intended to keep communists in different countries in touch with each other. Nevertheless Marx was able to stay in Brussels for three years. He signed a contract with a publisher to produce a book consisting of a book to be ready by the summer of 1845. It was the ﬁrst of many deadlines missed by the book that was to become Capital. The publisher had, no doubt to his lasting regret, undertaken to pay royalties in advance of receiving the manuscript. (The contract was eventually cancelled, and the unfortunate man was still trying to get his money back in 1871.) Engels also now began to help Marx ﬁnancially, so the family had enough to live on. Marx and Engels saw a good deal of each other. Engels came to Brussels, and then the two of them travelled to England for six weeks to study economics in Manchester, the heart of the new industrial age. (Meanwhile Jenny was bearing Marx their second daughter, Laura.) On his return Marx decided to postpone his book on economics. Before setting forth his own positive theory, he wanted to demolish alternative ideas then fashionable in German philosophical and socialist circles. The outcome was The German Ideology, a long and often turgid volume which was turned down by at least seven publishers and ﬁnally abandoned, as Marx later wrote, ‘to the gnawing criticism of the mice’. 7 A Life and its Impact critical analysis of economics and politics. The contract called for the In addition to writing The German Ideology, Marx spent a good deal of these years attacking those who might have been his allies. He wrote another polemical work attacking the leading French socialist, Proudhon. Though theoretically opposed to what he called ‘a superstitious attitude to authority’ (MC 172), Marx was so convinced of the importance of his own ideas that he could not tolerate opinions different from his own. This led to frequent rows in the Communist Correspondence Committee and in the Communist League which followed it. Marx had an opportunity to make his own ideas the basis of communist activities when he went to London, to attend a Congress of the newly formed Communist League in December 1847. In lengthy debates he defended his view of how communism would come about; and in the end he and Engels were commissioned with the task of putting down the doctrines of the League in simple language. The Marx result was The Communist Manifesto, published in February 1848, which was to become the classic outline of Marx’s theory. The Manifesto was not, however, an immediate success. Before it could be published the situation in Europe had been transformed by the French revolution of 1848, which triggered off revolutionary movements all over Europe. The new French government revoked Marx’s expulsion order, just as the nervous Belgian government gave him twenty-four hours to get out of the country. The Marxes went ﬁrst to Paris and then, following news of revolution in Berlin, returned to Germany. In Cologne Marx raised money to start a radical newspaper, the New Rhenish Gazette (Neue Rheinische Zeitung). The paper supported the broad democratic movements that had made the revolution. It ﬂourished for a time, but as the revolution ﬁzzled out the Prussian monarchy reasserted itself and Marx was compelled to set out on his travels again. He tried Paris, only to be expelled once more; so on 24 August 1849 he sailed for England to wait until a more thoroughgoing revolution would allow him to return to Germany. 8 Marx lived in London for the rest of his life. The family was at ﬁrst quite poor. They lived in two rooms in Soho. Jenny was pregnant with their fourth child (a son, Edgar, had been born in Brussels). Nevertheless Marx was active politically with the Communist League. He wrote on the revolution in France and its aftermath, and attempted to organize support for members of the Cologne Committee of the League, who had been put on trial by the Prussian authorities. When the Cologne group were convicted, notwithstanding Marx’s clear demonstration that the police evidence was forged, Marx decided that the League’s existence was ‘no longer opportune’ and the League dissolved itself. For a while Marx lived an isolated existence, unconnected with any organized political group. He spent his time reading omnivorously and engaging in doctrinal squabbles with other left-wing German refugees. but bread and potatoes and little enough of those. He even applied for a job as a railway clerk, but was turned down because his handwriting was illegible. He was a regular client of the pawnshops. Yet Marx’s friends, especially Engels, were generous in their gifts, and it may be that Marx’s poverty was due to poor management rather than insufﬁcient income. Jenny’s maid, Helene Demuth, still lived with the family, as she was to do until Marx’s death. (She was also the mother of Marx’s illegitimate son, Frederick, who was born in 1851; to avoid scandal, the boy was raised by foster parents.) These were years of personal tragedy for the family: their fourth child had died in infancy; Jenny became pregnant again, and this child died within a year. The worst blow was the death of their son Edgar, apparently of consumption, at the age of eight. From 1852 Marx received a steadier income. The editor of the New York Tribune, whom he had met in Cologne, asked him to write for the newspaper. Marx agreed, and over the next ten years the Tribune 9 A Life and its Impact His correspondence is full of complaints of being able to afford nothing published an article by Marx almost every week (although some were secretly written by Engels). In 1856 the ﬁnancial situation improved still further when Jenny received two inheritances. Now the family could move from the cramped Soho rooms to an eight-room house near Hampstead Heath, the scene of regular Sunday picnics for all the family. In this year Marx’s third daughter, Eleanor – nicknamed Tussy – was born. Although Jenny was to become pregnant one more time, the child was stillborn. From this time on, therefore, the family consisted of three children: Jenny, Laura, and Eleanor. Marx was a warm and loving father to them. All this time Marx was expecting a revolution to break out in the near future. His most productive period, in 1857–8, resulted from his mistaking an economic depression for the onset of the ﬁnal crisis of capitalism. Worried that his ideas would be overtaken by events, Marx began, as he wrote to Engels, ‘working madly through the Marx nights’ in order to have the outlines of his work clear ‘before the deluge’ (MC 290). In six months he wrote more than 800 pages of a draft of Capital – indeed the draft covers much more ground than Capital as it ﬁnally appeared. In 1859 Marx published a small portion of his work on economics under the title Critique of Political Economy. The book did not contain much of Marx’s original ideas (except for a now famous summary of his intellectual development in the preface) and its appearance was greeted with silence. Instead of getting the remaining, more original sections of his manuscript ready for publication, Marx was distracted by a characteristic feud with a left-wing politician and editor, Karl Vogt. Marx claimed that Vogt was in the pay of the French government. Lawsuits resulted, Vogt called Marx a forger and blackmailer, and Marx replied with a 200-page book of satirical anti-Vogt polemic. Years later, Marx was shown to have been right; but the affair cost him a good deal of money and for eighteen months prevented him writing anything of lasting value. 10 There was also a more serious reason for Marx’s tardiness in completing his work on economics. The International Workingmen’s Association – later known as the First International – was founded at a public meeting in London in 1864. Marx accepted an invitation to the meeting; his election to the General Council ended his isolation from political activities. Marx’s forceful intellect and strength of personality soon made him a dominant ﬁgure in the association. He wrote its inaugural address and drew up its statutes. He had, of course, considerable differences with the trade unionists who formed the basis of the English section of the International, but he showed rare diplomacy in accommodating these differences while trying constantly to draw the working-class members of the association closer to his own long-term perspective. In 1867 Marx ﬁnally completed the ﬁrst volume of Capital. Again, the did what they could to get the book reviewed. Engels alone wrote seven different – but always favourable – reviews for seven German newspapers. But wider recognition came slowly. In fact Marx became a well-known ﬁgure not because of Capital, but through the publication, in 1871, of The Civil War in France. Marx wrote this as an address to the International on the Paris Commune, the workers’ uprising which, after the defeat of France at the hands of Prussia, took over and ruled the city of Paris for two months. The International had had virtually nothing to do with this, but it was linked with the Commune in the popular mind. Marx’s address reinforced these early suspicions of an international communist conspiracy, and Marx himself immediately gained a notoriety which, as he wrote to a friend, ‘really does me good after the tedious twenty-year idyll in my den’ (MC 402). The ruthless suppression of the Commune weakened the International. Disagreements that had simmered beneath the surface now rose to the top. At the Congress of 1872, Marx found that he had lost control. A motion restricting the powers of the General Council was carried over 11 A Life and its Impact initial reaction was disappointing. Marx’s friends were enthusiastic and his strong opposition. Rather than see the organization fall into the hands of his enemies, Marx proposed that the General Council should henceforth be based in New York. The motion was passed by a narrow margin. It meant, as Marx must have known it would, the end of the First International; for with communications as they then were, it was utterly impractical to run the largely European organization from across the Atlantic. By this time Marx was ﬁfty-four years old and in poor health. The remaining ten years of his life were less eventful. Further inheritances had by now ended any threat of poverty. In many respects the Marxes’ life now was like that of any comfortably-off bourgeois family: they moved to a larger house, spent a good deal on furnishing it, sent their children to a ladies’ seminary, and travelled to fashionable Continental spas. Marx even claimed to have made money on the stock exchange – which did not stop him asking for, and receiving, further gifts of money Marx from Engels. Marx’s ideas were spreading at last. By 1871 a second edition of Capital was needed. A Russian translation appeared in 1872 – Marx was very popular among Russian revolutionaries – and a French translation soon followed. Though Capital was not translated into English during Marx’s lifetime (like his other books, it was written in German) Marx’s growing reputation, even among the untheoretical English, was indicated by his inclusion in a series of pamphlets on ‘Leaders in Modern Thought’. Marx and Engels kept up a correspondence with revolutionaries throughout Europe who shared their views. Otherwise Marx worked desultorily on the second and third volumes of Capital, but never got them ready for publication. This task was left to Engels after Marx’s death. The last important work Marx wrote arose from a congress held in Gotha, in Germany, in 1875. The purpose of the congress was to unite rival German socialist parties, and to do this a common platform was drawn up. Neither Marx nor Engels was consulted about this platform – known as ‘the Gotha Program’ – and Marx was angry at the 12 many deviations it contained from what he considered to be scientiﬁc socialism. He wrote a set of critical comments on the Program, and attempted to circulate it among German socialist leaders. After Marx’s death this Critique of the Gotha Program was published and recognized as one of Marx’s rare statements on the organization of a future communist society. At the time, however, Marx’s critique had no inﬂuence, and the planned uniﬁcation went ahead. In his last years the satisfaction Marx might have gained from his growing reputation was overshadowed by personal sorrows. Marx’s elder daughters, Jenny and Laura, married and had children, but none 13 A Life and its Impact 3. The exterior of 41 Maitland Park Road, Haverstock Hill, London, where Marx spent the last ﬁfteen years of his life 4. Marx with his eldest daughter, Jenny, in 1870 of Laura’s three children lived beyond the age of three. Jenny’s ﬁrstborn also died in infancy, although she then had ﬁve more, all but one of whom survived to maturity. But in 1881 the older Jenny, Marx’s dearly beloved wife, died after a long illness. Marx was now ill and lonely. In 1882 his daughter Jenny became seriously ill; she died in January 1883. Marx never got over this loss. He developed bronchitis and died on 14 March 1883. A Life and its Impact 15 Chapter 2 The Young Hegelian Little more than a year after his arrival as a student in Berlin, Marx wrote to his father that he was now attaching himself ‘ever more closely to the current philosophy’. This ‘current philosophy’ was the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, who had taught at the University of Berlin from 1818 until his death in 1831. Years later, Friedrich Engels described Hegel’s inﬂuence in the period when he and Marx began to form their ideas: The Hegelian system covered an incomparably greater domain than any earlier system and developed in this domain a wealth of thought which is astounding even today . . . One can imagine what a tremendous effect this Hegelian system must have produced in the philosophy-tinged atmosphere of Germany. It was a triumphal procession which lasted for decades and which by no means came to a standstill on the death of Hegel. On the contrary, it was precisely from 1830 to 1840 that ‘Hegelianism’ reigned most exclusively, and to a greater or lesser extent infected even its opponents. The close attachment to this philosophy Marx formed in 1837 was to affect his thought for the rest of his life. Writing about Hegel in 1844, Marx referred to The Phenomenology of Mind as ‘the true birthplace and secret of his philosophy’ (EPM 98). This long and obscure work is therefore the place to begin our understanding of Marx. 16 The German word for ‘Mind’ is sometimes translated as ‘Spirit’. Hegel uses it to refer to the spiritual side of the universe, which appears in his writings as a kind of universal mind. My mind, your mind, and the minds of every other conscious being are particular, limited manifestations of this universal mind. There has been a good deal of debate about whether this universal mind is intended to be God or whether Hegel was, in pantheistic fashion, identifying God with the world as a whole. There is no deﬁnite answer to this question; but it seems appropriate and convenient to distinguish this universal mind from our own particular minds by writing the universal variety with a capital, as Mind. The Phenomenology of Mind traces the development of Mind from its ﬁrst appearance as individual minds, conscious but neither selfprocess is neither purely historical, nor purely logical, but a strange combination of the two. One might say that Hegel is trying to show that history is the progress of Mind along a logically necessary path, a path along which it must travel in order to reach its ﬁnal goal. The development of Mind is dialectical – a term that has come to be associated with Marx because his own philosophy has been referred to as ‘dialectical materialism’. The dialectical elements of Marx’s theory were taken over from Hegel, so this is a good place to see what ‘dialectic’ is. Perhaps the most celebrated passage in the Phenomenology concerns the relationship of a master to a slave. It well illustrates what Hegel means by dialectic, and it introduces an idea echoed in Marx’s view of the relationship between capitalist and worker. Suppose we have two independent people, aware of their own independence, but not of their common nature as aspects of one 17 The Young Hegelian conscious nor free, to Mind as a free and fully self-conscious unity. The universal Mind. Each sees the other as a rival, a limit to his own power over everything else. This situation is therefore unstable. A struggle ensues, in which one conquers and enslaves the other. The master/ slave relationship, however, is not stable either. Although it seems at ﬁrst that the master is everything and the slave nothing, it is the slave who works and by his work changes the natural world. In this assertion of his own nature and consciousness over the natural world, the slave achieves satisfaction and develops his own self-consciousness, while the master becomes dependent on his slave. The ultimate outcome must therefore be the liberation of the slave, and the overcoming of the initial conﬂict between the two independent beings. This is only one short section of the Phenomenology, the whole of which traces the development of Mind as it overcomes contradiction or opposition. Mind is inherently universal, but in its limited form, as the minds of particular people, it is not aware of its universal nature – that Marx is, particular people do not see themselves as all part of the one universal Mind. Hegel describes this as a situation in which Mind is ‘alienated’ from itself – that is, people (who are manifestations of Mind) take other people (who are also manifestations of Mind) as something foreign, hostile, and external to themselves, whereas they are in fact all part of the same great whole. Mind cannot be free in an alienated state, for in such a state it appears to encounter opposition and barriers to its own complete development. Since Mind is really inﬁnite and all-encompassing, opposition and barriers are only appearances, the result of Mind not recognizing itself for what it is, but taking what is really a part of itself as something alien and hostile to itself. These apparently alien forces limit the freedom of Mind, for if Mind does not know its own inﬁnite powers it cannot exercise these powers to organize the world in accordance with its plans. The progress of the dialectical development of Mind in Hegel’s 18 5. G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), whose philosophy provided the framework for Marx’s ideas philosophy is always progress towards freedom. ‘The History of the World is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom,’ he wrote. The Phenomenology is thus an immense philosophical epic, tracing the history of Mind from its ﬁrst blind gropings in a hostile world to the moment when, in recognizing itself as master of the universe, it ﬁnally achieves self-knowledge and freedom. Hegel’s philosophy has an odd consequence which would have been embarrassing to a more modest author. If all history is the story of Mind working towards the goal of understanding its own nature, this goal is actually reached with the completion of the Phenomenology itself. When Mind, manifested in the mind of Hegel, grasps its own nature, the last stage of history has been reached. To us this is preposterous. Hegel’s speculative mixture of philosophy Marx and history has been unfashionable for a long time. It was, however, taken seriously when Marx was young. Moreover we can make sense of much of the Phenomenology even if we reject the notion of a universal Mind as the ultimate reality of all things. We can treat ‘Universal Mind’ as a collective term for all human minds. We can then rewrite the Phenomenology in terms of the path to human liberation. The saga of Mind then becomes the saga of the human spirit. This is what a group of philosophers known as Young Hegelians attempted in the decade following Hegel’s death. The orthodox interpretation of Hegel was that since human society is the manifestation of Mind in the world, everything is right and rational as it is. There are plenty of passages in Hegel’s works which can be quoted in support of this view. At times he seems to regard the Prussian state as the supreme incarnation of Mind. Since the Prussian state paid his salary as a professor of philosophy in Berlin, it is not surprising that the more radical Young Hegelians took the view that in these passages Hegel had betrayed his own philosophy. Among these 20 was Marx, who wrote in his doctoral thesis: ‘if a philosopher really has compromised, it is the job of his followers to use the inner core of his thought to illuminate his own superﬁcial expressions of it’ (D 13). For the Young Hegelians the ‘superﬁcial expression’ of Hegel’s philosophy was his acceptance of the state of politics, religion, and society in early nineteenth-century Prussia: the ‘inner core’ was his account of Mind overcoming alienation, reinterpreted as an account of human self-consciousness freeing itself from the illusions that prevent it achieving self-understanding and freedom. During his student days in Berlin and for a year or two afterwards Marx was close to Bruno Bauer, a lecturer in theology and a leading Young Hegelian. Under Bauer’s inﬂuence Marx seized on orthodox religion as the chief illusion standing in the way of human self-understanding. The doctoral thesis, Marx wrote: Philosophy makes no secret of it. The proclamation of Prometheus – in a word, I detest all the gods – is her own profession, her own slogan against all the gods of heaven and earth who do not recognize man’s self-consciousness as the highest divinity. There shall be no other beside it. (D 12–13) In accordance with the general method of the Young Hegelians, Bauer and Marx used Hegel’s own critique of religion to reach more radical conclusions. In the Phenomenology Hegel referred to the Christian religion at a certain stage of its development as a form of alienation, for while God reigns in heaven, human beings inhabit an inferior and comparatively worthless ‘vale of tears’. Human nature is divided between its essential nature, which is immortal and heavenly, and its non-essential nature, which is mortal and earthly. Thus individuals see their own essential nature as having its home in another realm; they 21 The Young Hegelian chief weapon against this illusion was philosophy. In the Preface to his are alienated from their mortal existence and the world in which they actually live. Hegel, treating this as a passing phase in the self-alienation of Mind, drew no practical conclusions from it. Bauer reinterpreted it more broadly as indicating the self-alienation of human beings. It was humans, he maintained, who had created this God which now seemed to have an independent existence, an existence which made it impossible for humans to regard themselves as ‘the highest divinity’. This philosophical conclusion pointed to a practical task: to criticize religion and show human beings that God is their own creation, thus ending the subordination of humanity to God and the alienation of human beings from their own true nature. So the Young Hegelians thought Hegel’s philosophy both mystifyingly presented and incomplete. When rewritten in terms of the real world Marx instead of the mysterious world of Mind, it made sense. ‘Mind’ was read as ‘human self-consciousness’. The goal of history became the liberation of humanity; but this could not be achieved until the religious illusion had been overcome. 22 Chapter 3 From God to Money The transformation of Hegel’s method into a weapon against religion was carried through most thoroughly by another radical Hegelian, Ludwig Feuerbach. Friedrich Engels later wrote of the impact of the work that made Feuerbach famous: ‘Then came Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity . . . One must himself have experienced the liberating effect of this book to get an idea of it. Enthusiasm was general; we all became at once Feuerbachians.’ Like Bauer, Feuerbach in The Essence of Christianity characterized religion as a form of alienation. God, he wrote, is to be understood as the essence of the human species, externalized and projected into an alien reality. Wisdom, love, benevolence – these are really attributes of the human species, but we attribute them, in a puriﬁed form, to God. The more we enrich our concept of God in this way, however, the more we impoverish ourselves. The solution is to realize that theology is a kind of misdescribed anthropology. What we believe of God is really true of ourselves. Thus humanity can regain its essence, which in religion it has lost. When The Essence of Christianity appeared, in 1841, the ﬁrst meeting between Marx and Engels still lay two years ahead. The book may not have made as much of an impression on Marx as it did on Engels, for Marx had already been exposed to similar ideas through Bauer; but 23 Feuerbach’s later works, particularly his Preliminary Theses for the Reform of Philosophy, did have a decisive impact on Marx, triggering off the next important stage in the development of his thought. Feuerbach’s later works went beyond the criticism of religion to the criticism of Hegelian philosophy itself. Yet it was a curious form of criticism of Hegel, for Feuerbach continued to work by transforming Hegel, using Hegel’s method against all philosophy in the Hegelian mode. Hegel had taken Mind as the moving force in history, and humans as manifestations of Mind. This, according to Feuerbach, locates the essence of humanity outside human beings and thus, like religion, serves to alienate humanity from itself. More generally, Hegel and other German philosophers of the idealist school began from such conceptions as Spirit, Mind, God, the Absolute, the Inﬁnite, and so on, treating these as ultimately real, and regarding Marx ordinary humans and animals, tables, sticks and stones, and the rest of the ﬁnite, material world as a limited, imperfect expression of the spiritual world. Feuerbach again reversed this, insisting that philosophy must begin with the ﬁnite, material world. Thought does not precede existence, existence precedes thought. So Feuerbach put at the centre of his philosophy neither God nor thought, but man. Hegel’s tale of the progress of Mind, overcoming alienation in order to achieve freedom, was for Feuerbach a mystifying expression of the progress of human beings overcoming the alienation of both religion and philosophy itself. Marx seized on this idea of bringing Hegel down to earth by using Hegel’s methods to attack the present condition of human beings. In his brief spell as editor of the Rhenish Gazette, Marx had descended from the rareﬁed air of Hegelian philosophy to more practical issues like censorship, divorce, a Prussian law prohibiting the gathering of dead timber from forests, and the economic distress of Moselle wine24 growers. When the paper was suppressed Marx went back to philosophy, applying Feuerbach’s technique of transformation to Hegel’s political philosophy. Marx’s ideas at this stage (1843) are liberal rather than socialist, and he still thinks that a change in consciousness is all that is needed. In a letter to Arnold Ruge, a fellow Young Hegelian with whom he worked on the short-lived German–French Annals, Marx wrote: ‘Freedom, the feeling of man’s dignity, will have to be awakened again in these men. Only this feeling . . . can again transform society into a community of men to achieve their highest purposes, a democratic state.’ And in a later letter to Ruge about their joint venture: we can express the aim of our periodical in one phrase: A selfunderstanding (equals critical philosophy) of the age concerning its declare them for what they are. (R 38) Up to this point Marx had followed Feuerbach in reinterpreting Hegel as a philosopher of man rather than Mind. His view of human beings, however, focused on their mental aspect, their thoughts, and their consciousness. The ﬁrst signs of a shift to his later emphasis on the material and economic conditions of human life came in an essay written in 1843 entitled ‘On the Jewish Question’. The essay reviews two publications by Bruno Bauer on the issue of civil and political rights for Jews. Marx rejects his friend’s treatment of the issue as a question of religion. It is not the sabbath Jew we should consider, Marx says, but the everyday Jew. Accepting the common stereotype of Jews as obsessed with money and bargaining, Marx describes the Jew as merely a special manifestation of what he calls ‘civil society’s Judaism’ – that is, the dominance in society of bargaining and ﬁnancial interests 25 From God to Money struggles and wishes . . . To have its sins forgiven, mankind has only to 6. Marx in 1836, aged 18. Detail from the lithograph on p. 4 generally. Marx therefore suggests that the way to abolish the ‘problem’ of Judaism is to reorganize society so as to abolish bargaining. The importance of this essay is that it sees economic life, not religion, as the chief form of human alienation. Another German writer, Moses Hess, had already developed Feuerbach’s ideas in this direction, being the ﬁrst, as Engels put it, to reach communism by ‘the philosophic path’. (There had, of course, been many earlier communists who were more or less philosophical – what Engels meant was the path of Hegelian philosophy.) Now Marx was heading down the same route. The following quotation from ‘On the Jewish Question’ reads exactly like Bauer, Feuerbach, or Marx himself, a year or two earlier, denouncing religion – except that where they would have written ‘God’ Marx now substitutes ‘money’: robbed the whole world, the human world as well as nature, of its proper value. Money is the alienated essence of man’s labour and life, and this alien essence dominates him as he worships it. (J 60) The ﬁnal sentence points the way forward. First the Young Hegelians, including Bauer and Feuerbach, see religion as the alienated human essence, and seek to end this alienation by their critical studies of Christianity. Then Feuerbach goes beyond religion, arguing that any philosophy which concentrates on the mental rather than the material side of human nature is a form of alienation. Now Marx insists that it is neither religion nor philosophy, but money that is the barrier to human freedom. The obvious next step is a critical study of economics. This Marx now begins. Before we follow this development, however, we must pause to note the emergence of another key element in Marx’s work which, like economics, was to remain central to his thought and activity. 27 From God to Money Money is the universal, self-constituted value of all things. Hence it has Chapter 4 Enter the Proletariat We saw that when the Prussian government suppressed the newspaper he had been editing, Marx started work on a critique of Hegel’s political philosophy. In 1844 he published, in the German–French Annals, an article entitled ‘Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction’. The critique which this article was to introduce remained unﬁnished, but the ‘Introduction’ stands alongside ‘On the Jewish Question’ as a milestone on the road to Marxism. For it is in this article that Marx ﬁrst allocates to the working class a decisive role in the coming redemption of humanity. The ‘Introduction’ starts by summarizing the attack on religion made by Bauer and Feuerbach. This passage is notable for its epigrams, including the frequently quoted description of religion as ‘the opium of the people’, but it says nothing new. Now that human self-alienation has been unmasked in its holy form, Marx continues, it is the task of philosophy to unmask it in its unholy forms, such as law and politics. He calls for more criticism of German conditions, to allow the German people ‘not even a moment of self-deception’. But for the ﬁrst time – and in contrast to Bauer and Feuerbach – Marx suggests that criticism by itself is not enough: The weapon of criticism obviously cannot replace the criticism of weapons. Material force must be overthrown by material force. But theory also becomes a material force once it has gripped the masses. (I 69) 28 In his initial recognition of the role of the masses, Marx treats this role as a special feature of the German situation, not applicable to France. Whereas in France ‘every class of the nation is politically idealistic and experiences itself ﬁrst of all not as a particular class but as representing the general needs of society’, in Germany practical life is ‘mindless’ and no class can be free until it is forced to be by its immediate condition, by material necessity, by its very chains’. Where then, Marx asks, is the positive possibility of German freedom to be found? And he answers: In the formation of a class with radical chains . . . a sphere of society having a universal character because of its universal suffering . . . a sphere, in short, that is the complete loss of humanity and can only redeem itself through the total redemption of humanity. This dissolution of society as a particular class is the proletariat. (I 72–3) transformed Hegelian philosophy: As philosophy ﬁnds its material weapons in the proletariat, the proletariat ﬁnds its intellectual weapons in philosophy. More explicitly: Philosophy cannot be actualized without the superseding of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be superseded without the actualization of philosophy. (I 73) Here is the germ of a new solution to the problem of human alienation. Criticism and philosophical theory alone will not end it. A more practical force is needed, and that force is provided by the artiﬁcially impoverished working class. This lowest class of society will bring about ‘the actualization of philosophy’ – by which Marx means 29 Enter the Proletariat Marx concludes by placing the proletariat within the framework of a the culmination of the philosophical and historical saga described, in a mystiﬁed form, by Hegel. The proletariat, following the lead of the new radical philosophy, will complete the dialectical process in which humans have emerged, grown estranged from themselves, and become enslaved by their own alienated essence. Whereas the property-owning middle class could win freedom for themselves on the basis of rights to property – thus excluding others from the freedom they gain – the property-less working class possess nothing but their title as human beings. Thus they can liberate themselves only by liberating all humanity. Before 1844, to judge from his writings, Marx scarcely noticed the existence of the proletariat; certainly he never suggested they had a part to play in overcoming alienation. Now, like a ﬁlm director calling on the errand-boy to play Hamlet, Marx introduces the proletariat as the material force that will bring about the liberation of humanity. Marx Why? Marx did not arrive at his view of the proletariat as the result of detailed economic studies, for his economic studies were just beginning. He had read a great deal of history, but he does not buttress his position by quoting from historical sources, as he was later to do. His reasons for placing importance on the proletariat are philosophical rather than historical or economic. Since human alienation is not a problem of a particular class, but a universal problem, whatever is to solve it must have a universal character – and the proletariat, Marx claims, has this universal character in virtue of its total deprivation. It represents not a particular class of society, but all humanity. That a situation should contain within itself the seed of its own dissolution, and that the greatest of all triumphs should come from the depths of despair – these are familiar themes in the dialectic of Hegel and his followers. (They echo, some have said, the redemption of 30 humanity by the cruciﬁxion of Jesus.) The proletariat ﬁts neatly into this dialectical scenario, and one cannot help suspecting that Marx seized upon it precisely because it served his philosophical purposes so well. To say this is not to say that when he wrote the ‘Introduction’ Marx knew nothing about the proletariat. He had just moved to Paris, where socialist ideas were much more advanced than in Germany. He mixed with socialist leaders of the time, living in the same house as one of the leaders of the League of the Just, a radical workers’ group. His writings reﬂect his admiration of the French socialist workers: ‘The nobility of man’, he writes, ‘shines forth from their toil-worn bodies’ (MC 87). In giving so important a role to the proletariat, therefore, the ‘Introduction’ reﬂects a two-way process: Marx tailors his conception of the proletariat to suit his philosophy, and tailors his philosophy in its revolutionary ideas. 31 Enter the Proletariat accordance with his new-found enthusiasm for the working class and Chapter 5 The First Marxism Marx had now developed two important new insights: that economics is the chief form of human alienation, and that the material force needed to liberate humanity from its domination by economics is to be found in the working class. Up to this stage, however, he had only made these points brieﬂy, in essays ostensibly on other topics. The next step was to use these insights as the basis of a new and systematic world-view, one which would transform and supplant the Hegelian system and all prior transformations of it. Marx began his critical study of economics in 1844. It was to culminate in Marx’s greatest work, Capital, the ﬁrst volume of which was published in 1867, later volumes appearing after Marx’s death. So the work Marx produced in Paris, known as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, was the ﬁrst version of a project that was to occupy him, in one form or another, for the rest of his life. The 1844 version of Marxism was not published until 1932. The manuscript consists of a number of disconnected sections, some obviously incomplete. Nevertheless we can see what Marx was trying to do. He begins with a Preface which praises Feuerbach as the author of ‘the only writings since Hegel’s Phenomenology and Logic containing a real theoretical revolution’. There are then sections on the economics of wages, proﬁts, and rent, in which Marx quotes liberally from the 32 founding fathers of classical economics like J.-B. Say and Adam Smith. The point of this, as Marx explains, is to show that according to classical economics the worker becomes a commodity, the production of which is subject to the ordinary laws of supply and demand. If the supply of workers exceeds the demand for labour, wages fall and some workers starve. Wages therefore tend to the lowest possible level compatible with keeping an adequate supply of workers alive. Marx draws another important point from the classical economists. Those who employ the workers – the capitalists – build up their wealth through the labour of their workers. They become wealthy by keeping for themselves a certain amount of the value their workers produce. Capital is nothing else but accumulated labour. The worker’s labour increases the employer’s capital. This increased capital is used to build bigger factories and buy more machines. This increases the business. They must then sell their labour on the market. This intensiﬁes the competition among workers trying to get work, and lowers wages. All this Marx presents as deductions from the presuppositions of orthodox economics. Marx himself is not writing as an economist. He wants to rise above the level of the science of economics, which, he says, simply takes for granted such things as private property, greed, competition, and so on, saying nothing about the extent to which apparently accidental circumstances are really the expression of a necessary course of development. Marx wants to ask larger questions, ignored by economists, such as ‘What in the evolution of mankind is the meaning of this reduction of the greater part of mankind to abstract labour?’ (By ‘abstract labour’ Marx means work done simply in order to earn a wage, rather than for the worker’s own speciﬁc purposes. Thus making a pair of shoes because one wants a pair of shoes is not abstract labour; making a pair of shoes because that happens to be a way of getting money is.) Marx, in other words, wants 33 The First Marxism division of labour. This puts more self-employed workers out of to give a deeper explanation of the meaning and signiﬁcance of the laws of economics. What type of explanation does Marx have in mind? The answer is apparent from the section of the manuscripts entitled ‘Alienated Labour’. Here Marx explains the implications of economics in terms closely parallel to Feuerbach’s critique of religion: The more the worker exerts himself, the more powerful becomes the alien objective world which he fashions against himself, the poorer he and his inner world become, the less there is that belongs to him. It is the same in religion. The more man attributes to God, the less he retains in himself. The worker puts his life into the object; then it no longer belongs to him but to the object . . . The externalization of the worker in his product means not only that his work becomes an object, an external existence, but also that it exists outside him, independently, Marx alien, an autonomous power, opposed to him. The life he has given to the object confronts him as hostile and alien. (EPM 78–9) The central point is more pithily stated in a sentence preserved in the notebooks Marx used when studying the classical economists, in preparation for the writing of the 1844 manuscripts: It is evident that economics establishes an alienated form of social intercourse as the essential, original and natural form. (M 116) This is the gist of Marx’s objection to classical economics. Marx does not challenge the classical economists within the presuppositions of their science. Instead he takes a viewpoint outside those presuppositions and argues that private property, competition, greed, and so on are to be found only in a particular condition of human existence, a condition of alienation. In contrast to Hegel, whom Marx 34 praises for grasping the self-development of man as a process, the classical economists take the present alienated condition of human society as its ‘essential, original and deﬁnitive form’. They fail to see that it is a necessary but temporary stage in the evolution of mankind. Marx then discusses the present alienated state of humanity. One of his premises is that ‘man is a species-being’. The idea is taken directly from Feuerbach who in turn derived it from Hegel. Hegel, as we saw, told the story of human development in terms of the progress of a single Mind, of which individual human minds are particular manifestations. Feuerbach scrubbed out the super-Mind, and rewrote Hegel in less mysterious human terms; but he retained the idea that human beings are in some sense a unity. For Feuerbach the basis of this unity, and the essential difference between humans and animals, is the ability of humans to be conscious of their species. It is because can see themselves as individuals (that is, as one among others), and it is because humans see themselves as a species that human reason and human powers are unlimited. Human beings partake in perfection – which, according to Feuerbach, they mistakenly attribute to God instead of themselves – because they are part of a species. Marx transforms Feuerbach, making the conception of man as a species-being still more concrete. For Marx ‘Productive life . . . is species-life.’ It is in activity, in production, that humans show themselves to be species-beings. The somewhat unconvincing reason Marx offers for this is that while animals produce only to satisfy their immediate needs, human beings can produce according to universal standards, free of any immediate need – for instance, in accordance with standards of beauty (EPM 82). On this view, labour in the sense of free productive activity is the essence of human life. Whatever is produced in this way – a statue, a house, or a piece of cloth – is therefore the essence of human life made 35 The First Marxism they are conscious of their existence as a species that human beings into a physical object. Marx calls this ‘the objectiﬁcation of man’s species-life’. Ideally the objects workers have freely created would be theirs to keep or dispose of as they wish. When, under conditions of alienated labour, workers must produce objects over which they have no control (because the objects belong to the employers) and which are used against those who produced them (by increasing the wealth and power of the employers) the workers are alienated from their essential humanity. A consequence of this alienation of humans from their own nature is that they are also alienated from each other. Productive activity becomes ‘activity under the domination, coercion and yoke of another man’. This other man becomes an alien, hostile being. Instead of humans relating to each other co-operatively, they relate competitively. Love and trust are replaced by bargaining and exchange. Human beings cease to recognize in each other their common human Marx nature; they see others as instruments for furthering their own egoistic interests. That, in brief, is Marx’s ﬁrst critique of economics. Since in his view it is economic life rather than Mind or consciousness that is ultimately real, this critique is his account of what is really wrong with the present condition of humanity. The next question is: What can be done about it? Marx rejects the idea that anything would be achieved by an enforced wage rise. Labour for wages is not free productive activity. It is merely a means to an end. Higher wages Marx describes as ‘nothing but a better slave-salary’. It would not restore signiﬁcance or dignity to workers or their labour. Even equal wages, as proposed by the French socialist Proudhon, would only replace individual capitalists with one overall capitalist, society itself (EPM 85). The solution is the abolition of wages, alienated labour, and private 36 property in one blow. In a word, communism. Marx introduces communism in terms beﬁtting the closing chapter of a Hegelian epic: Communism . . . is the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man; it is the true resolution of the conﬂict between existence and essence, objectiﬁcation and selfafﬁrmation, freedom and necessity, individual and species. It is the riddle of history solved and knows itself as this solution. (EPM 89) One might expect that Marx would go on to explain in some detail what communism would be like. He does not – in fact nowhere in his writings does he give more than sketchy suggestions on this subject. He does, however, gesture at the enormous difference communism would make. All human senses, he claims, are degraded by private handles, not their beauty. In the alienated condition caused by private property we cannot appreciate anything except by possessing it, or using it as a means. The abolition of private property will liberate our senses from this alienated condition, and enable us to appreciate the world in a truly human way just as the musical ear perceives a wealth of meaning and beauty where the unmusical ear can ﬁnd none, so will the senses of social human beings differ from those of the unsocial. These are the essential points of ‘the ﬁrst Marxism’. It is manifestly not a scientiﬁc enterprise in the sense in which we understand science today. Its theories are not derived from detailed factual studies, or subjected to controlled tests or observations. The ﬁrst Marxism is more down to earth than Hegel’s philosophy of history, but it is a speculative philosophy of history rather than a scientiﬁc study. The aim of world history is human freedom. Human beings are not now free, for they are unable to organize the world so as to satisfy their needs and develop their human capacities. Private 37 The First Marxism property. The dealer in minerals sees the market value of the jewels he property, though a human creation, dominates and enslaves human beings. Ultimate liberation, however, is not in doubt; it is philosophically necessary. The immediate task of revolutionary theory is to understand in what way the present situation is a stage in the dialectical progress to liberation. Then it will be possible to encourage the movements that will end the present stage, ushering in the new age of freedom. Marx’s writings after 1844 – including all the works which made him famous – are reworkings, modiﬁcations, developments, and extensions of the themes of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. The number and bulk of these writings make it impossible to discuss each work adequately. (Their repetitiveness would make it tedious, anyway.) So from here on I shall depart slightly from a strict chronological account. I shall begin by tracing the development of the materialist conception of history, which Marx himself described as the ‘guiding thread for my Marx studies’ (P 389), and Engels, in his funeral oration by Marx’s grave, hailed as Marx’s chief discovery, comparable with Darwin’s discovery of the theory of evolution. This will occupy the next two chapters. I shall then consider Marx’s economic works, principally, of course, Capital. Since Capital was written only after Marx had arrived at the materialist conception of history, the departure from chronological order in this section will be slight. It will be greater in the next and last of these expository sections, which will assemble from passages of varying vintage Marx’s thoughts on communism and on the ethical principles underlying his preference for a communist rather than a capitalist form of society. 38 Chapter 6 Alienation as a Theory of History Marx’s ﬁrst published book – and, incidentally, the ﬁrst work in which Engels participated – attacked articles published in the General Literary Gazette (Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung), a journal edited by Marx’s former friend and teacher, Bruno Bauer. Since Bauer’s brother was a co-editor, the book was mockingly entitled The Holy Family. The best comment on it was made by Engels: ‘the sovereign derision that we accord to the General Literary Gazette is in stark contrast to the considerable number of pages that we devote to its criticism’. Nevertheless some passages of The Holy Family are interesting because they show Marx in transition between the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts and later statements of the materialist conception of history. One section is a defence of the French socialist Proudhon and his objections to private property. Marx is still thinking in terms of alienation: The propertied class and the class of the proletariat represent the same human self-alienation. But the former feels comfortable and conﬁrmed in this self-alienation, knowing that this alienation is its own power and possessing in it the semblance of a human existence. The latter feels itself ruined in this alienation and sees in it its impotence and the actuality of an inhuman existence. 39 Then comes a passage in which the outlines of an embryonic materialist theory of history are clearly visible: In its economic movement, private property is driven towards its own dissolution but only through a development which does not depend on it, of which it is unconscious, which takes place against its will, and which is brought about by the very nature of things – thereby creating the proletariat as proletariat, that spiritual and physical misery conscious of its misery, that dehumanization conscious of its dehumanization and thus transcending itself . . . It is not a question of what this or that proletarian or even the whole proletarian movement momentarily imagines to be the aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is and what it consequently is historically compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is prescribed, irrevocably and obviously, in its own situation in life as well as in the entire organization of contemporary civil society. Marx (HF 134–5) The structure of this and surrounding passages is Hegelian. Private property and the proletariat are described as ‘antitheses’ – the two sides of a Hegelian contradiction. It is a necessary contradiction, one which could not have been otherwise, for to maintain its own existence private property must also maintain the existence of the property-less working class needed to run the factories. The proletariat, on the other hand, is compelled to abolish itself on account of its miserable condition. This will require the abolition of private property. The end result will be that both private property and the proletariat ‘disappear’ in a new synthesis that resolves the contradiction. Here we have an early version of the materialist theory of history. The basis of the dialectical movement Marx describes is the economic imperatives that ﬂow from the existence of private property. The 40 movement does not depend on the hopes and plans of people. The proletariat becomes conscious of its misery, and therefore seeks to overthrow capitalist society, but this consciousness arises only because of the situation of the proletariat in society. This is the point Marx and Engels were to make more explicitly in a famous passage of The German Ideology: ‘Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness’ (GI 164). According to Engels’ later account of the relationship between German philosophy and the materialist conception of history, ‘the ﬁrst document in which is deposited the brilliant germ of the new world outlook’ is not The Holy Family but the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ which Marx jotted down in the spring of 1845. These ‘Theses’ consist of eleven brief remarks in which Marx distinguishes his own form of form they have become among the most quoted of Marx’s writings. Because Engels published them in 1888, long before any of Marx’s other early unpublished writings appeared, they are also among the most misunderstood. Despite Engels’ accolade, the ‘Theses’ largely recapitulate points Marx had made before. They attack Feuerbach and earlier materialists for taking a passive view of objects and our perception of them. Idealists like Hegel and Fichte emphasized that our activities shape the way we see the world. They were thinking of mental activity. A child sees a red ball, rather than a ﬂat red circle, only when it has mentally grasped the idea of three-dimensional space. Marx wants to combine the active, dialectical side of idealist thought with the materialism of Feuerbach: hence ‘dialectical materialism’ as later Marxists called it (though Marx himself never used this phrase). By the active side of materialism Marx meant practical human activity. Marx thought that practical activity was needed to solve theoretical problems. We have seen examples of this. In ‘On the Jewish Question’ 41 Alienation as a Theory of History materialism from that of Feuerbach. Because of their epigrammatic 7. Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72), who showed how Hegel’s ideas could be transformed into a materialist philosophy and used to provide a radical critique of human alienation Marx wrote that the problem of the status of Jews, which Bauer had seen as a problem in religious consciousness, would be abolished by reorganizing society so as to abolish bargaining. In ‘Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction’, Marx argued that philosophy cannot be ‘actualized’ without the material weapon of the proletariat. And in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts Marx had referred to communism as ‘the riddle of history solved’. This ‘riddle of history’ is, of course, a theoretical problem, a philosophical riddle. In Marx’s transformation the contradictions of Hegelian philosophy become contradictions in the human condition. They are resolved by communism. The ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ are the principal source of the celebrated Marxist doctrine of ‘the unity of theory and practice’. This unity some barricades. Others take it as meaning that one should live in accordance with one’s theoretical principles – socialists sharing their wealth, for instance. The intellectual background of the ‘Theses’ makes it clear that Marx had neither of these ideas in mind. For Marx the unity of theory and practice meant the resolution of theoretical problems by practical activity. It is an idea which makes little sense outside the context of a materialist transformation of Hegel’s philosophy of world history. The eleventh thesis on Feuerbach is engraved on Marx’s tombstone in Highgate Cemetery. It reads: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is, to change it’ (T 158). This is generally read as a statement to the effect that philosophy is unimportant; revolutionary activity is what matters. It means nothing of the sort. What Marx is saying is that the problems of philosophy cannot be solved by passive interpretation of the world as it is, but only by remoulding the world to resolve the philosophical contradictions inherent in it. It is to solve philosophical problems that we must change the world. 43 Alienation as a Theory of History think of as scribbling Marxist philosophy during quiet moments on the The materialist conception of history is a theory of world history in which practical human activity, rather than thought, plays the crucial role. The most detailed statement of the theory is to be found in Marx and Engels’ next major work, The German Ideology (1846). Like The Holy Family this was a polemic of inordinate length against rival thinkers. Marx later wrote that the book was written ‘to settle our accounts with our former philosophic conscience’ (P 390). This time Feuerbach is included in the criticism, although treated more respectfully than the others. It is in the section on Feuerbach that Marx and Engels take the opportunity to state their new view of world history: The ﬁrst premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals . . . Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion, or by anything else you like. They Marx themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organization. By producing means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life . . . In direct contrast to German philosophy, which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the ﬂesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reﬂexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material lifeprocess, which is empirically veriﬁable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics and all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness no longer seem to be independent. They have no history or development. Rather, men who develop their material production and their material relationships alter 44 their thinking and the products of their thinking along with their real existence. Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness. (GI 160, 164) This is as clear a statement of the broad outline of his theory as Marx was ever to achieve. Thirteen years later, summing up the ‘guiding thread’ of his studies, he used similar language: ‘It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness’. With The German Ideology we have arrived at Marx’s mature formulation of 45 Alienation as a Theory of History 8. Friedrich Engels (1820–95), Marx’s co-author, friend, benefactor, and the ﬁrst Marxist the outline of historical materialism (though not the detailed account of the process of change). In view of this, and Marx’s later description of the work as settling accounts with his ‘former philosophic conscience’, it might be thought that his early interest in alienation has now been replaced by a more scientiﬁc approach. It has not. Henceforth Marx makes more use of historical data and less use of abstract philosophical reasoning about the way the world must be; but his interest in alienation persists. The German Ideology still describes the social power as something which is really nothing other than the productive force of individuals, and yet appears to these individuals as ‘alien and outside them’ because they do not understand its origin and cannot control it. Instead of them directing it, it directs them. The abolition of private property and the regulation of production under communism would abolish this ‘alienation between men and their products’ and enable men to Marx ‘regain control of exchange, production and the mode of their mutual relationships’ (GI 170). It is not the use of the word ‘alienation’ that is important here. The same point can be made in other words. What is important is that Marx’s theory of history is a vision of human beings in a state of alienation. Human beings cannot be free if they are subject to forces that determine their thoughts, their ideas, their very nature as human beings. The materialist conception of history tells us that human beings are totally subject to forces they do not understand and cannot control. Moreover the materialist conception of history tells us that these forces are not supernatural tyrants, for ever above and beyond human control, but the productive powers of human beings themselves. Human productive powers, instead of serving human beings, appear to them as alien and hostile forces. The description of this state of alienation is the materialist conception of history. 46 Chapter 7 The Goal of History We have traced the development of the materialist conception of history from Marx’s earlier concern with human freedom and alienation, but we have not examined the details of this theory of history. Is it really, as Engels claimed, a scientiﬁc discovery of ‘the law of development of human history’, comparable to Darwin’s discovery of the law of development of organic nature? The classic formulation of the materialist conception of history is that of the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, written in 1859. We have already seen a little of this summary by Marx of his own ideas, but it merits a lengthier quotation: In the social production which men carry on they enter into deﬁnite relations that 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 and to which correspond deﬁnite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions 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. At a certain stage of 47 their development the material forces of production in society come into 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 had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes the 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 the 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. (P 389–90) It is commonly said that Marx divided society into two elements, the Marx ‘economic base’ and the ‘superstructure’, and maintained that the base governs the superstructure. A closer reading of the passage just quoted reveals a threefold, rather than a twofold, distinction. The opening sentence refers to relations of production, corresponding to a deﬁnite stage of the material powers of production. Thus we start with powers of production, or ‘productive forces’, as Marx usually calls them. The productive forces give rise to relations of production, and it is these relations – not the forces themselves – which constitute the economic structure of society. This economic structure, in turn, is the foundation on which the superstructure rises. Marx’s view may be clearer if made more speciﬁc. Productive forces are things used to produce. They include labour-power, raw materials, and the machines available to process them. If a miller uses a handmill to grind wheat into ﬂour, the handmill is a productive force. Relations of production are relations between people, or between people and things. The miller may own his mill, or may hire it from its 48 owner. Owning and hiring are relations of production. Relations between people, such as ‘Smith employs Jones’ or ‘Ramsbottom is the serf of the Earl of Warwick’, are also relations of production. So we start with productive forces. Marx says that relations of production correspond to the stage of development of productive forces. In one place he puts this very bluntly: The handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam mill, society with the industrial capitalist. (PP 202) In other words, when the productive forces are developed to the stage of manual power, the typical relation of production is that of lord and serf. This and similar relations make up the economic structure of superstructure of feudal times, with the religion and morality that goes with it: an authoritarian religion, and a morality based on concepts of loyalty, obedience, and fulﬁlling the duties of one’s station in life. Feudal relations of production came about because they fostered the development of the productive forces of feudal times – the handmill for example. These productive forces continue to develop. The steam mill is invented. Feudal relations of production restrict the use of the steam mill. The most efﬁcient use of steam power is in large factories which require a concentration of free labourers rather than serfs tied to their land. So the relation of lord and serf breaks down, to be replaced by the relation of capitalist and employee. These new relations of production constitute the economic structure of society, on which a capitalist legal and political superstructure rises, with its own religion and morality: freedom of religious conscience, freedom of contract, a right to disposable property, egoism, and competitiveness. 49 The Goal of History society, which in turn is the foundation of the political and legal So we have a three-stage process: productive forces determine relations of production, which in turn determine the superstructure. The productive forces are fundamental. Their growth provides the momentum for the whole process of history. But isn’t all this much too crude? Should we take seriously the statement about the handmill giving us feudal lords, and the steam mill capitalists? Surely Marx must have realized that the invention of steam power itself depends on human ideas, and those ideas, as much as the steam mill itself, have produced capitalism. Isn’t Marx making a deliberately exaggerated statement of his own position in order to display its novelty? This is a vexed question. There are several other places where Marx says ﬂatly that productive forces determine everything else. There are other statements which acknowledge the effect of factors belonging to Marx the superstructure. Particularly when writing history himself, in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, for instance, Marx traces the effects of ideas and personalities, and makes less deterministic general statements, for example: Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past. (EB 300) And what of the opening declaration of The Communist Manifesto: ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’? If the forces of production control everything, class struggles can be no more than the superﬁcial form in which these forces are cloaked. Like the images on a cinema screen they would be powerless to affect the underlying reality they reﬂect. So why describe history as the history of class struggles? And if neither thought nor politics has any real causal 50 signiﬁcance, what is the meaning of Marx’s dedication, intellectually and politically, to the cause of the working class? After Marx died, Engels denied that Marx had said that ‘the economic element is the only determining one’. He and Marx, he conceded, were partly to blame for this misinterpretation, for they had emphasized the economic side in opposition to those who rejected it altogether. Marx and he had not, Engels wrote, overlooked the existence of interaction between the economic structure and the rest of the superstructure. They had afﬁrmed only that ‘the economic movement ﬁnally asserts itself as necessary’. According to Engels, Marx grew so irritated at misinterpretations of his doctrine that towards the end of his life, he declared: ‘All I know is that I am not a Marxist.’ Was Engels right? Some have accused him of watering down the really meant than his lifelong friend and collaborator. Moreover the relatively recent publication of Marx’s Grundrisse – a rough preliminary version of Capital and other projects Marx never completed – reveals that Marx did, like Engels, use such phrases as ‘in the last analysis’ to describe the predominance of the forces of production in the interacting whole that constitutes human existence (G 495). Right or wrong, one cannot help sympathizing with Engels’ position after Marx died. As the authoritative interpreter of Marx’s ideas he had to present them in a plausible form, a form not refuted by common-sense observations about the effect of politics, religion, or law on the productive forces. But once ‘interaction’ between the superstructure and the productive forces is admitted, is it still possible to maintain that production determines the superstructure, rather than the other way round? It is the old chicken-and-egg problem all over again. The productive forces determine the relations of production to which correspond the ideas of the society. These ideas lead to the further development of productive 51 The Goal of History true doctrine; yet no one was in a better position to know what Marx forces, which lead to new relations of production, to which correspond new ideas. In this cyclical movement it makes no more sense to say that productive forces play the determining role than to say that the egg ensures the continued existence of chickens rather than the other way round. Talk of the productive forces ‘ﬁnally’ or ‘in the last analysis’ determining the other interacting factors does not provide a way out of the dilemma. For what can this mean? Does it mean that in the end the superstructure is totally governed by the development of the forces of production? In that case ‘ﬁnally’ merely stretches the causal chain; it is still a chain and so we are back with the hard-line determinist version of the theory. On the other hand, if ‘ﬁnally’ not merely stretches, but actually breaks, the chain of economic determinism, it is difﬁcult to see that Marx asserting the primacy of the productive forces can mean anything signiﬁcant at all. It might mean, as the passage from The German Ideology quoted in the previous chapter appears to suggest, that the process of human history only gets going when humans ‘begin to produce their means of subsistence’; or as Engels put it in his graveside speech: ‘mankind must ﬁrst of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.’ But if politics, science, art, and religion, once they come into existence, have as much effect on the productive forces as the productive forces have on them, the fact that mankind must eat ﬁrst and can only pursue politics afterwards is of historical interest only; it has no continuing causal importance. Alternatively, describing the economic side as ‘ﬁnally’ asserting itself could be an attempt to say that although both economic and noneconomic factors interact, a larger proportion of the causal impetus comes from the productive forces. But on what basis could one say this? How could one divide the interacting processes and say which 52 9. English factories in the mid-nineteenth century: men and women at work in the Patent Renewable Stocking Factory at Tewkesbury in 1860 by saying that while the existence of the species is not due to the egg alone, the egg has more to do with it than the chicken. In the absence of more plausible ways of making sense of the softening phrases used by Engels and – more rarely – Marx, the interpretation of the materialist conception of history seems to resolve itself into a choice between hard-line economic determinism, which would indeed be a momentous discovery if it were true, but does not seem to be true; or the much more pliable conception to be found in the Grundrisse, where Marx describes society as a ‘totality’, an ‘organic whole’ in which everything is interconnected (G 99–100). The view of society as a totality is no doubt illuminating when set against the view that ideas, politics, law, religion, and so on have a life and history of their own, independently of mundane economic matters. Nevertheless it does not amount to ‘the law of development of human history’, or to a scientiﬁc discovery comparable to Darwin’s 53 The Goal of History played the larger role? We cannot solve the chicken-and-egg problem theory of evolution. To qualify as a contribution to science, a proposed law must be precise enough to enable us to deduce from it certain consequences rather than others. That is how we test proposed scientiﬁc laws – by seeing if the consequences they predict actually occur. The conception of society as an interconnected totality is about as precise an instrument of historical analysis as a bowl of porridge. Anything at all can be deduced from it. No observation could ever refute it. It still needs to be explained how Marx, though obviously aware of the effect of the superstructure on the productive forces, could so conﬁdently assert that the productive forces determine the relations of production and hence the social superstructure. Why did he not see the difﬁculty posed by the existence of interaction? The explanation may be that belief in the primacy of the productive Marx forces was not, for Marx, an ordinary belief about a matter of fact but a legacy of the origin of his theory in Hegelian philosophy. One way to see this is to ask why, if Marx’s view is inverted Hegelianism, the existence of interaction between ideas and material life does not pose exactly the same problem for Hegel’s view (that the progress of Mind determines material life) as it poses for Marx’s inversion of this view. Hegel’s writings contain as many descriptions of material life inﬂuencing consciousness as Marx’s contain of consciousness inﬂuencing material life. So the problem of establishing the primary causal role of one set of factors over the other should be as great for Hegel as for Marx. Yet Hegel’s reason for believing in the primacy of consciousness is clear: he regards Mind as ultimately real, and the material world as a manifestation of it; accordingly he sees the purpose or goal of history as the liberation of Mind from all illusions and fetters. Hegel’s belief that consciousness determines material life therefore rests on his view 54 of ultimate reality and the meaning of history. History is not a chain of meaningless and often accidental occurrences, but a necessary process heading towards a discoverable goal. Whatever happens on the stage of world history happens in order to enable Mind to reach its goal. It is in this sense that what happens on the level of Mind, or consciousness, is the real cause of everything else. Like Hegel, Marx has a view about what is ultimately real. His materialism is the reverse of Hegel’s idealism. The materialist conception of history is usually regarded as a theory about the causes of historical change, rather than a theory about the nature of ultimate reality. In fact it is both – as Hegel’s idealist conception of history was both. We have already seen passages from The German Ideology which indicate that Marx took material processes as real in a way that ideas are not. There Marx and Engels contrast the ‘real life-process’ of ‘real, process’. They distinguish the ‘phantoms formed in the human brain’ from the ‘material life-process, which is empirically veriﬁable’. The frequent reiteration of ‘real’ or ‘actual’ in describing the material or productive life of human beings, and the use of words like ‘reﬂex’, ‘echo’, ‘phantom’ and so on for aspects of consciousness, suggest a philosophical distinction between what is real and what is merely a manifestation or appearance. Nor is this terminology restricted to Marx’s early works. The contrast between appearance and reality is repeated in Capital, where the religious world is said to be ‘but the reﬂex of the real world’ (C I 79). Also like Hegel, Marx thought that history is a necessary process heading towards a discoverable goal. We have seen evidence of this in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, where Marx criticized classical economists for saying nothing about the meaning of economic phenomena ‘in the evolution of mankind’ or about the 55 The Goal of History active men’ with ‘the ideological reﬂexes and echoes of this life- extent to which ‘apparently accidental circumstances’ are nothing but ‘the expression of a necessary course of development’. That this too is not a view limited to Marx’s youthful period seems clear from, for instance, the following paragraph from an article of his on British rule in India, written in 1853: England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulﬁl its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England, she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution. The references to ‘mankind’s destiny’ and to England as ‘the unconscious tool of history’ imply that history moves in a purposive Marx way towards some goal. (The whole paragraph is reminiscent of Hegel’s account of how ‘the cunning of reason’ uses unsuspecting individuals to work its purposes in history.) Marx’s idea of the goal of world history was, of course, different from Hegel’s. He replaced the liberation of Mind by the liberation of real human beings. The development of Mind through various forms of consciousness to ﬁnal self-knowledge was replaced by the development of human productive forces, by which human beings free themselves from the tyranny of nature and fashion the world after their own plans. But for Marx the progress of human productive forces is no less necessary, and no less progress towards a goal, than the progress of Mind towards self-knowledge is for Hegel. We can now explain the primary role of the productive forces in Marx’s theory of history in the same manner as we explained Hegel’s opposite conviction: for Marx the productive life of human beings, rather than 56 their ideas and consciousness, is ultimately real. The development of these productive forces, and the liberation of human capacities that this development will bring, is the goal of history. Marx’s suggestion about England’s role in advancing mankind towards its destiny illustrates the nature of the primacy of material life. Since England’s colonial policy involves a series of political acts, the causing of a social revolution in Asia by this policy is an instance of the superstructure affecting the economic base. This happens, though, in order to develop the productive forces to the state necessary for the fulﬁlment of human destiny. The superstructure acts only as the ‘unconscious tool’ of history. England’s colonial policy is no more the ultimate cause of the social revolution in Asia than my spade is the ultimate cause of the growth of my vegetables. ordinary causal theory. Few historians – or philosophers for that matter – now see any purpose or goal in history. They do not explain history as the necessary path to anywhere. They explain it by showing how one set of events brought about another. Marx, in contrast, saw history as the progress of the real nature of human beings, that is, human beings satisfying their wants and exerting their control over nature by their productive activities. The materialist conception of history was not conceived as a modern scientiﬁc account of how economic changes lead to changes in other areas of society. It was conceived as an explanation of history which points to the real forces operating in it, and the goal to which these forces are heading. That is why, while recognizing the effect of politics, law, and ideas on the productive forces, Marx was in no doubt that the development of the productive forces determines everything else. This also makes sense of Marx’s dedication to the cause of the working class. Marx was acting as the tool – a fully conscious tool – of history. The productive 57 The Goal of History If this interpretation is correct the materialist theory of history is no forces always ﬁnally assert themselves, but they do so through the actions of individual humans who may or may not be conscious of the Marx role they are playing in history. 58 Chapter 8 Economics Although Marx described the materialist conception of history as the leading thread of his studies, he was in no doubt that his masterpiece was Capital. In this book he presented his economic theories to the public in their most ﬁnished form. ‘Most ﬁnished’, not ‘ﬁnished’; Marx saw only the ﬁrst volume of Capital through to publication. The second and third volumes were published by Engels, and a fourth volume, entitled Theories of Surplus Value, by the German socialist Kautsky. As with the materialist conception of history, so with the economics: the mature form is easier to appreciate in the light of earlier writings. So let us return to Marx’s ideas in 1844, the point at which we ceased to follow their general development and went off in pursuit of the materialist conception of history. By 1844 Marx had come to hold that the capitalist economic system, regarded by the classical economists as natural and inevitable, was an alienated form of human life. Under capitalism workers are forced to sell their labour – which Marx regards as the essence of human existence – to the capitalists, who use this labour to accumulate more capital, which further increases the power of the capitalists over the workers. Capitalists become rich, while wages are driven down to the bare minimum needed to keep the workers alive. Yet in reducing so 59 large a class of people to this degraded condition, capitalism creates the material force that will overthrow it. For Marx, the importance of economics lay in the insight it provided into the workings of this alienation and the manner in which it could be overcome. In the years immediately after 1844 Marx’s major literary efforts went into polemical works: The Holy Family, The German Ideology, and The Poverty of Philosophy. In the course of castigating his opponents Marx developed the materialist conception of history, but did not greatly advance his economic theories. His ﬁrst attempt to work out these theories in any detail came in 1847, when he gave a series of lectures on economics to the Workingmen’s Club in Brussels. The lectures were revised and published as newspaper articles in 1849, and later reprinted under the title Wage Labour and Capital. Wage Labour and Capital is a lucidly written work, containing many Marx echoes of the 1844 manuscripts, but without their Hegelian terminology. It is worth examining in some detail, because its clarity makes the more difﬁcult Capital easier to grasp. Marx starts with labour. Labour is described as ‘the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life’. Yet it becomes, under capitalism, a commodity the worker must sell in order to live. Therefore his life-activity is reduced to a means to