The Class Struggles in France
The condition of the French peasants, when the republic had added new burdens to their old ones, is comprehensible. It can be seen that their exploitation differs only in form from the exploitation of the industrial proletariat. The exploiter is the same: capital. The individual capitalists exploit the individual peasants through mortgages and usury, the capitalist class exploits the peasant class through the state taxes. The peasant's title to property is the talisman by which capital held him hitherto under its spell, the pretext under which it set him against the industrial proletariat. Only the fall of capital can raise the peasant; only an anticapitalist, a proletarian government can break his economic misery, his social degradation.
The constitutional republic is the dictatorship of his united exploiters; the social-democratic, the Red republic, is the dictatorship of his allies. And the scale rises or falls according to the votes the peasant casts into the ballot box. He himself has to decide his fate. So spoke the socialists in pamphlets, almanacs, calendars, and leaflets of all kinds. This language became more understandable to him through the counterwritings of the Party of Order, which for its part turned to him, and which by gross exaggeration, by its brutal conception and representation of the intentions and ideas of the socialists, struck the true peasant note and overstimulated his lust after forbidden fruit. But most understandable was the language of the actual experience that the peasant class had gained from the use of the suffrage, were the disillusionments overwhelming him, blow upon blow, with revolutionary speed. Revolutions are the locomotives of history.
Little by little we have seen peasants, petty bourgeois, the middle classes in general, stepping alongside the proletariat, driven into open antagonism to the official republic and treated by it as antagonists. Revolt against bourgeois dictatorship, the need of a change of society, adherence to democratic-republican institutions as organs of their movement, grouping around the proletariat as the decisive revolutionary power — these are the common characteristics of the so-called party of social democracy, the party of the Red republic. This party of Anarchy, as its opponents christened it, is no less a coalition of different interests than the Party of Order. From the smallest reform of the old social disorder to the overthrow of the old social order, from bourgeois liberalism to revolutionary terrorism — as far apart as this lie the extremes that form the starting point and the finishing point of the party of "anarchy."
Abolition of the protective tariff — Socialism! For it strikes at the monopoly of the industrial faction of the party of Order. Regulation of the state budget — Socialism! For it strikes at the monopoly of the financial faction of the party of Order. Free admission of foreign meat and corn — Socialism! For it strikes at the monopoly of the third faction of the party of Order, large landed property. The demands of the free-trade party, that is, of the most advanced English bourgeois party, appear in France as so many socialist demands. Voltaireanism Socialism! For it strikes at a fourth faction of the party of Order, the Catholic. Freedom of the press, right of association, universal public education — Socialism, Socialism! They strike at the general monopoly of the party of Order.
So swiftly had the march of the revolution ripened conditions that the friends of reform of all shades, the most moderate claims of the middle classes, were compelled to group themselves around the banner of the most extreme party of revolution, around the red flag.
Yet manifold as the Socialism of the different large sections of the party of Anarchy was, according to the economic conditions and the total revolutionary requirements of the class or fraction of a class arising out of these, in one point it is in harmony: in proclaiming itself the means of emancipating the proletariat and the emancipation of the latter as its object. Deliberate deception on the part of some; self-deception on the part of the others, who promote the world transformed according to their own needs as the best world for all, as the realization of all revolutionary claims and the elimination of all revolutionary collisions.
Behind the general socialist phrases of the "party of Anarchy", which sound rather alike, there is concealed the Socialism of the "National", of the Presse, and the Siécle, which more or less consistently wants to overthrow the rule of the finance aristocracy and to free industry and trade from their hitherto existing fetters. This is the Socialism of industry, of trade, and of agriculture, whose bosses in the party of Order deny these interests, insofar as they no longer coincide with their private monopolies. Socialism-proper, petty-bourgeois Socialism, Socialism par excellence, is distinct from this bourgeois Socialism, to which, as to every variety of Socialism, sections of the workers and petty bourgeois naturally rally.
Capital hounds this class chiefly as its creditor, so it demands credit institutions; capital crushes it by competition, so it demands associations supported by the state; capital overwhelms it by concentration, so it demands progressive taxes, limitations on inheritance, taking over of large construction projects by the state, and other measures that forcibly stem the growth of capital. Since it dreams of the peaceful achievement of its Socialism — allowing, perhaps, for a second February Revolution lasting a brief day or so the coming historical process naturally appears to it as an application of systems which the thinkers of society, whether in companies or as individual inventors, devise or have devised. Thus they become the eclectics or adepts of the existing socialist systems, of doctrinaire Socialism, which was the theoretical expression of the proletariat only as long as it had not yet developed further into a free historical movement of its own.
While this utopian, doctrinaire Socialism, which subordinates the total movement to one of its stages, which puts in place of common social production the brainwork of individual pedants and, above all, in fantasy does away with the revolutionary struggle of the classes and its requirements by small conjurers' tricks or great sentimentality, while this doctrinaire Socialism, which at bottom only idealizes present society, takes a picture of it without shadows, and wants to achieve its ideal athwart the realities of present society; while the proletariat surrenders this Socialism to the petty bourgeoisie; while the struggle of the different socialist leaders among themselves sets forth each of the so-called systems as a pretentious adherence to one of the transit points of the social revolution as against another — the proletariat rallies more and more around revolutionary Socialism, around Communism, for which the bourgeoisie has itself invented the name of Blanqui. This Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations.
Online Version: Marx/Engels Selected Works (marxists.org) 1999
Abstract by: Historical Materialism (Marx, Engels, Lenin); p. 108 - 111
Original text: The Class Struggles in France