G.V. Plekhanov

The Development of the Monist View of History

Chapter III
The Utopian Socialists
(Part 2)

We already know that the historians of the Restoration, in contradistinction to the writers of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, regarded the political institutions of any country as the result of its civil conditions. This new view became so widespread and developed that in its application to practical questions it reached strange extremes which to us nowadays are almost incomprehensible. Thus, J.B. Say asserted that political questions should not interest an economist, because the national economy can develop equally well even under diametrically opposite political systems. Saint-Simon notes and applauds this idea of Say’s, although in fact he does give it a somewhat more profound content. With very few exceptions, all the Utopians of the nineteenth century share this view of “politics.”

Theoretically the view is mistaken in two respects. In the first place, the people who held it forgot that in the life of society, as everywhere where it is a case of a process and not of some isolated phenomenon, a consequence becomes, in its turn, a cause, and a cause proves to be a consequence. In short, they abandoned here, at quite the wrong moment, that very point of view of interaction to which in other cases, also at very much the wrong moment, they limited their analysis. Secondly, if political relations are the consequence of social relations, it is incomprehensible how consequences which differ to the extreme (political institutions of a diametrically opposite character) can be brought about by one and the same cause – the same state of “wealth.” Evidently the very conception of the causal relationship between the political institutions of a country and its economic condition was still extremely vague; and in fact it would not be difficult to show how vague it was with all the Utopians.

In practice this vagueness brought about a double consequence. On the one hand the Utopians, who spoke so much about the organization of labour, were ready occasionally to repeat the old watchword of the eighteenth century – “laissez faire, laissez passer.” Thus, Saint-Simon, who saw in the organization of industry the greatest task of the nineteenth century, wrote: “l’industrie a besoin d’être gouvernée le moins possible.” (“Industry has need of being governed as little as possible.”) [19] On the other hand the Utopians – again with some exceptions falling in the later period – were quite indifferent to current politics, to the political questions of the day.

The political system is a consequence, not a cause. A consequence always remains a consequence, never be-coming in its turn a cause. Hence followed the almost direct conclusion that “politics” cannot serve as a means of realizing social and economic “ideals.” We can there-fore understand the psychology of the Utopian who turned away from politics. But what did they think would help them realize their plans of social transformation? What was it they pinned their practical hopes on? Everything and nothing. Everything – in the sense that they awaited help indifferently from the most opposed quarters. Nothing – in the sense that all their hopes were quite unfounded.

The Utopians imagined that they were extremely practical people. They hated “doctrinaires,” [12*] and unhesitatingly sacrificed their most high-sounding principles to their own idées fixes. They were neither Liberals, nor Conservatives, nor Monarchists, nor Republicans. They were quite ready to march indifferently with the Liberals and with the Conservatives, with the Monarchists and with the Republicans, if only they could carry out their “practical” – in their view, extremely practical-plans. Of the old Utopians Fourier was particularly noteworthy in this respect. Like Gogol’s Kostanjoglo [13*], he tried to use every piece of rubbish for the good cause. Now he allured money-lenders with the prospect of the vast interest which their capital would bring them in the future society; now he appealed to the lovers of melons and artichokes, drawing for them a seductive picture of the excellent melons and artichokes of the future; now he assured Louis Philippe that the princesses of the House of Orleans, at whom at the time other princes of the blood were turning up their noses, would have no peace from suitors under the new social order. He snatched at every straw. But, alas! neither the money-lenders, nor the lovers of melons and artichokes, nor the “Citizen King,” as they say, pricked up an ear: they did not pay the slightest attention to what, it might have seemed, were the most convincing arguments of Fourier. His practicality turned out to be doomed beforehand to failure, and to be a joyless chase of some happy accident.

The chase of the happy accident was the constant occupation of the writers of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century as well. It was just in hope of such an accident that they sought by every means, fair and foul, to enter into friendly relations with more or less enlightened “legislators” and aristocrats of their age. Usually it is thought that once a man has said to himself that opinion governs the world, he no longer has any reason to despair of the future: la raison finira par avoir raison. But this is not so. When and in what way will reason triumph? The writers of the Enlightenment held that in the life of society everything depends, in the long run, on the “legislator.” Therefore they went on their search for legislators. But the same writers knew very well that the character and views of man depend on his upbringing, and that generally speaking their upbringing did not predispose the “legislators” to the absorption of enlightened doctrines. Therefore they could not but realize that there was little hope of the legislators. There remained only to put trust into some happy accident. Imagine that you have an enormous box in which there are very many black balls and two or three white ones. You take out ball after ball. In each individual case you have incomparably fewer chances of taking out a white ball than a black. But, if you repeat the operation a sufficient number of times, you will finally take out a white ball. The same applies to the “legislators.” In each individual case it is incomparably more probable that the legislator will be against the “philosophers”: but in the end there must appear, after all, a legislator who would be in agreement with the philosophers. This one will do everything that reason dictates. Thus, literally thus, did Helvetius argue. [20] The subjective idealist view of history (“opinions govern the world”), which seems to provide such a wide field for man’s freedom of action, in reality represents him as the plaything of accident. That is why this view in its essence is very joyless.

Thus, for example, we know nothing more joyless than the views of the Utopians of the end of the nineteenth century, i.e., the Russian Narodniks and subjective sociologists. Each of them has his ready-made plan for saving the Russian village community, and with it the peasantry generally: each of them has his “formula of progress.” But, alas, life moves on, without paying attention to their formulae, which have nothing left but to find their own path, also independently of real life, into the sphere of abstractions, fantasies and logical mischances. Let us, for example, listen to the Achilles of the subjective school, Mr. Mikhailovsky.

“The labour question in Europe is a revolutionary question . since it requires the transfer of the conditions” (?) “of labour into the hands of the labourer, the expropriation of the present owners. The labour question in Russia is a conservative question, since here all that is needed is preserving the conditions of labour in the hands of the labourer, guaranteeing to the present owners the property they possess. Quite close to St. Petersburg itself ... in a district dotted with factories, works, parks, country cottages, there are villages the inhabitants of which live on their own land, burn their own timber, eat their own bread, wear coats and sheepskins made by their own labour out of the wool of their own sheep. Give them a firm guarantee that this property of theirs will remain their own, and the Russian labour question is solved. And for the sake of such a purpose everything else can be given up, if we properly understand the significance of a stable guarantee. It will be said: but we cannot forever remain with wooden ploughs and three-field economy, with antediluvian methods of making coats and sheepskins. We cannot. There are two ways out of this difficulty. One, approved by the practical point of view, is very simple and convenient: raise the tariffs, dissolve the village community, and that probably will be enough – industry like that of Great Britain will grow up like a mushroom. But it will devour the labourer and expropriate him. There is another way, of course much more difficult: but the simple solution of a question is not necessarily the correct solution. The other way consists in developing those relations between labour and property which already exist, although in an extremely rude and primitive form. Obviously this end cannot be achieved without broad intervention by the state, the first act of which should be the legislative consolidation of the village community.” [21]

Through the wide world
For the free heart
There are two paths still.
Weigh your proud strength,
Bend your firm mind,
Choose which you will!

We suspect that all the arguments of our author have a strong aroma of melons and artichokes; and our sense of smell hardly deceives us. What was Fourier’s mistake in his dealings with melons and artichokes? It was that he fell into “subjective sociology.” The objective sociologist would ask himself: is there any probability that the lovers of melons and artichokes will be attracted by the picture I have drawn? He would then ask himself: are the lovers of melons and artichokes in a position to alter existing social relations and the present course of their development? It is most probable that he would have given himself a negative reply to each of these questions, and therefore would not have wasted his time on conversation with the “melon and artichoke lovers.” But that is how an objective sociologist would have acted, i.e., a man who founded all his calculations upon the given course of social development in conformity to law. The subjective sociologist, on the other hand, discards conformity to law in the name of the “desirable,” and there-fore there remains no other way out for him but to trust in chance. As the old Russian saying has it, in a tight corner you can shoot with a stick too: that is the only consoling reflection upon which a good subjective sociologist can rely.

In a tight corner you can shoot with a stick too. But a stick has two ends, and we do not know which end it shoots from. Our Narodniks and, if I may use the expression, subjectivists have already tried a vast number of sticks (even the argument as to the convenience of collecting arrears of taxes in the village-community system of landholding has sometimes appeared in the role of a magic stick). In the vast majority of cases the sticks proved quite incapable of playing the part of guns, and when by chance they did fire, the bullets hit the Narodniks and subjectivists themselves. Let us recall the Peasant Bank. What hopes were placed upon it, in the sense of reinforcing our social “foundations”! [15*] How the Narodniks rejoiced when it was opened! And what happened? The stick fired precisely at those who were rejoicing. Now they themselves admit that the Peasant Bank-a very valuable institution in any case-only undermines the “foundations”; and this admission is equivalent to a confession that those who rejoiced were – at least for some time – also engaged in idle chatter. [16*]

“But then the Bank undermines the foundations only because its statutes and its practice do not completely correspond to our idea. If our idea had been completely applied, the results would have been quite different ...”

“In the first place, they would not have been quite different at all: the Bank in any case would have facilitated the development of money economy, and money economy would inexorably have undermined the ‘foundations.’ And secondly, when we hear these endless ‘ifs’, it seems all the time to us, for some reason, that there is a man with a barrow shouting under our windows: ‘Here are melons, melons, and good artichokes?’”

It was already in the 20s of the present century that the French Utopians were incessantly pointing out the “conservative” character of the reforms they had invented. Saint-Simon openly tried to frighten both the government and what we nowadays call society with a popular insurrection, which was meant to present itself to the imaginations of the “conservatives” in the shape of the terrible movement of the sansculottes, still vividly remembered by all. But of course nothing came of this frightening, and if history really provides us with any lessons, one of the most instructive is that which attests the complete unpracticality of all the plans of all the would-be practical Utopians.

When the Utopians, pointing to the conservative character of their plans, tried to incline the government to put them into effect, They usually, to confirm their idea, presented a survey of the historical development of their country over a more or less prolonged epoch – a survey from which it followed that on these or those particular occasions “mistakes” were made, which had given a quite new and extremely undesirable aspect to all social relations. The government had only to realize and correct these “mistakes” immediately to establish on earth something almost resembling paradise.

Thus, Saint-Simon assured the Bourbons that before the revolution the main distinguishing feature of the internal development of France was an alliance between the monarchy and the industrialists. This alliance was equally advantageous for both sides. During the revolution the government, through a misunderstanding, came out against the legitimate demands of the industrialists, and the industrialists, through just as sad a misunderstanding, revolted against the monarchy. Hence all the evils of the age that followed. But now that the root of the evil had been laid bare things could be put straight very easily, as the industrialists had only to, make their peace on certain conditions with the government. It is this that would be the most reasonable, conservative way out of the numerous difficulties of both sides. It is unnecessary to add now that neither the Bourbons nor the industrialists followed the sage advice of Saint-Simon.

“Instead of firmly keeping to our age-old traditions; instead of developing the principle of the intimate connection between the means of production and the direct producer, which we inherited; instead of taking advantage of the acquisitions of West European science and applying them for the development of forms of industry, founded on the possession by the peasantry of the implements of production; instead of increasing the productivity of its labour by concentrating the means of production in its hands; instead of taking advantage, not of the form of production, but of its very organization as it appears in Western Europe ... instead of all this, we have taken a quite opposite path. We not only have not prevented the development of the capitalist forms of production, in spite of the fact that they are founded on the expropriation of the peasantry, but on the contrary have tried with all our strength to promote the complete break-up of all our economic life, a break-up which led to the famine of 1891.” [22]

Thus laments Mr. N.—on [17*] recommending “society” to correct this mistake, by solving an “extremely difficult” but not “impossible” problem: “to develop the productive forces of the population in such a form that not an insignificant minority, but the entire people could take advantage of them.” [23] Everything depends upon correcting the “mistake.”

It is interesting that Mr. N.-on imagines himself to be ever so foreign to any utopias. Every minute he makes references to people to whom we owe the scientific criticism of utopian socialism. [18*] Everything depends on the country’s economy, he repeats in season and out of sea-son, echoing these people, and all the evil springs from this: “Therefore the means to eliminate the evil, once it has been discovered, must consist likewise in altering the very conditions of production.” To explain this he once again quotes one of the critics of utopian socialism: “These means must not be invented by the mind, but discovered by means of the mind in the existing material facts of production.” [24]

But in what, then, consist those “material facts of productionwhich will move society to solve, or at least to understand, the problem presented to it by Mr. N. —on? This remains a mystery not only to the reader but, of course, to the author himself as well. By his “problem” he has very convincingly demonstrated that in his historical views, he remains a full-blooded Utopian, in spite of his quotations from the works of quite non-utopian writers. [25]

Can it be said that the plans of Fourier contradicted the “material facts” of production in his times? No, not only did they not contradict them, but they were entirely founded upon those facts, even in their defects. But this did not prevent Fourier from being a Utopian, because, once having founded his plan “by means of the mind” on the material conditions of the production of his age, he failed to adopt its realization to those same conditions, and therefore with complete futility pestered with his “great task” those social strata and classes which, in virtue of those same material conditions, could not have either the inclination to set about its solution or the possibility of solving it. Mr. N. —on sins in this way just as much as Fourier or the Rodbertus whom he loves so little: most of all he reminds one precisely of Rodbertus, be-cause Mr. N. —on’s reference to age-old traditions is just in the spirit of that conservative writer.

For the better instruction of “society,” Mr. N. —on points to the terrifying example of Western Europe. By such observations our Utopians have long attempted to give themselves the aspect of positive people, who don’t get carried away by fantasies but know how to take ad-vantage of the “lessons of history.” However this method, too, is not at all new. The French Utopians were already attempting to terrify their contemporaries and make them listen to reason by the example of England, where “a vast distance separates the employer from the workman” and where there hangs over the latter the yoke of a special kind of despotism. “Other countries which follow England along the path of industrial development,” said the Producteur [19*], “must understand that they ought to search for the means to prevent such a system arising on their own soil.” [26] The only real obstacle to the appearance of English methods in other countries could be the Saint-Simonists’ “organization of labour and labourers.” [27] With the development of the labour movement in France it was Germany that became the principal theatre of day-dreams about avoiding capitalism. Germany, in the person of her Utopians, long and stubbornly set herself up against “Western Europe” (den westlichen Ländern). In the Western countries, said the German Utopians, the bearer of the idea of a new organization of society is the working class, with us it is the educated classes (what is called in Russia the intelligentsia). It was precisely the German “intelligentsia” which was thought to be called upon to avert from Germany the cup of capitalism. [28] Capitalism was so terrifying to the German Utopians that, for the sake of avoiding it, they were ready in the last resort to put up with complete stagnation. The triumph of a constitutional system, they argued, would lead to the supremacy of the money aristocracy. Therefore let there rather be no constitutional system. [29] Germany did not avoid capitalism. Now it is the Russian Utopians who talk about avoiding it. Thus do utopian ideas journey from west to east, everywhere appearing as the heralds of the victory of that same capitalism against which they are revolting and struggling. But the further they penetrate into the east the more their historical significance changes. The French Utopians were in their day bold innovators of genius; the Germans proved much lower than they; and the Russians are now capable only of frightening western people by their antediluvian appearance.

It is interesting that even the writers of the French Enlightenment had the idea of avoiding capitalism. Thus, Holbach was very upset by the fact that the triumph of the constitutional order in England led to the complete supremacy of l’intérêt sordide des marchands. He was very saddened by the circumstance that the English were tirelessly looking for new markets – this chase of markets distracted them from philosophy. Holbach also condemned the inequality of property existing in England. Like Helvetius, he would have liked to prepare the way for the triumph of reason and equality, and not of mercantile interests.

But neither Holbach nor Helvetius, nor any other of the writers of the Enlightenment could put forward anything against the then course of events except panegyrics of reason and moral instructions addressed to the “peuple d’Albion.” In this respect they were just as impotent as our own present-day Russian Utopians.

One more remark, and we shall have finished with the Utopians. The point of view of “human nature” brought forth in the first half of the nineteenth century that abuse of biological analogies which, even up to the present day, makes itself very strongly felt in Western sociological – and particularly in Russian quasi-sociological – literature.

If the cause of all historical social progress is to be sought in the nature of man, and if, as Saint-Simon himself justly remarks, society consists of individuals, then the nature of the individual has to provide the key to the explanation of history. The nature of the individual is the subject of physiology in the broad sense of the word, i.e., of a science which also covers psychological phenomena. That is why physiology, in the eyes of Saint-Simon and his followers, was the basis of sociology, which they called social physics. In the Opinions philosophiques, litteraires et industrielles published during Saint-Simon’s lifetime and with his active participation, there was printed an extremely interesting but unfortunately unfinished article of an anonymous doctor of medicine, entitled: De la physiclogie appliquée à l’amélioration des institutions sociales. The author considered the science of society to be a component part of “general physiology” which, enriched by the observations and experiments of “special physiology” of the individual, “devotes itself to considerations of a higher order.” Individuals are for it “only organs of the social body,” the functions of which it studies “just as special physiology studies the functions of individuals.” General physiology studies (the author writes: “expresses”) the laws of social existence, with which the written laws should be accordingly co-ordinated. Later on the bourgeois sociologists, as for example Spencer, made use of the doctrine of the social organism to draw the most conservative conclusions. But the doctor of medicine whom we quote was first of all a reformer. He studied “the social body” with the object of social reconstruction, since only “social physiology” and the “hygiene” closely bound up with it provided “the positive foundations on which it is possible to build the system of social organization required by the present state of the civilized world.” But evidently social physiology and hygiene did not provide much food for the reforming fantasy of the author, because in the end he found himself obliged to turn to the doctors, i.e., to persons dealing with individual organisms, asking them to give to society, “in the form of a hygienic prescription,” a “system of social organization.”

This view of “social physics” was later on chewed over – or, if you prefer, developed – by Auguste Comte in his various works. Here is what he said about social science still in his youth, when he was writing in the Saint-Simonist Producteur:

“Social phenomena, being human phenomena, should without doubt be classed among physiological phenomena. But although social physics must find its point of departure in, and be in constant connection with, individual physiology, it nevertheless should be examined and developed as quite a separate science: for various generations of men progressively influence one another. If we maintain the purely physiological point of view, we cannot properly study that influence: yet its evaluation should occupy the principal place in social physics.” [30]

Now you can see what hopeless contradictions confront those who regard society from this point of view.

In the first place, since “social physics” has individual physiology as its “point of departure,” it is built on a purely materialist foundation: in physiology there is no place for an idealist view of an object. But the same social physics was principally to concern itself with evaluating the progressive influence of one generation on another. One generation influences the next, passing on to it both the knowledge which it inherited from previous generations, and the knowledge which it acquired itself. “Social physics” therefore examines the development of the human species from the point of view of the development of knowledge and of “enlightenment” (lumières). This is already the purely idealist point of view of the eighteenth century: opinions govern the world. Having “closely connected,” on Comte’s advice, this idealistic point of view with the purely materialist point of view of individual physiology, we turn out to be dualists of the purest water, and nothing is easier than to trace the harmful influence of this dualism on the sociological views even of the same Comte. But this is not all. The thinkers of the eighteenth century noticed that in the development of knowledge there is a certain conformity to law. Comte firmly maintained such a conformity, putting into the foreground the notorious law of three stages: theological, metaphysical and positive.

But why does the development of knowledge pass precisely through these stages? Such is the nature of the human mind, replies Comte: “By its nature (par sa nature), the human mind passes wherever it acts through three different theoretical conditions.” [31] Excellent; but to study that “nature” we shall have to turn to individual physiology, and individual physiology does not give us an adequate explanation.; and we have again to refer to previous “generations” – and the “generations” again send us back to “nature.” This is called a science, but there is no trace of science in it: there is only an endless movement round a vicious circle.

Our own allegedly original, “subjective” sociologists fully share the view-point of the French Utopian of the 20s.

“While I was still under the influence of Nozhin [21*] ” Mr. Mikhailovsky tells us about himself, “and partly under his guidance, I interested myself in the question of the boundaries between biology and sociology, and the possibility of bringing them together.... I cannot sufficiently highly assess the advantage I gained from communion with the ideas of Nozhin: but nevertheless there was much in them that was accidental, partly because they were still only developing in Nozhin himself, partly because of his limited knowledge in the sphere of the natural sciences. I received from Nozhin really only an impulse in a certain direction, but it was a strong, decisive and beneficent impulse. Without thinking of any special study of biology, I nevertheless read a great deal on Nozhin’s suggestion and, as it were, by his testament. This new trend in my reading threw an original and most absorbing light on that considerable – though disorderly, and to some extent simply useless – material, both of facts and ideas, which I had stored up previously.” [32]

Nozhin has been described by Mr. Mikhailovsky in his sketches In the Intervals, under the name of Bukhartsev. Bukhartsev “dreamed of reforming the social sciences with the help of natural science, and had already worked out an extensive plan for that purpose.” The methods of this reforming activity can be seen from the following. Bukhartsev undertakes to translate into Russian from the Latin an extensive treatise on zoology, and accompanies the translation with his own footnotes, in which he proposes “to include the results of all his independent work,” while to these footnotes he adds new footnotes of a “sociological” character. Mr. Mikhailovsky obligingly acquaints the reader with one such second-storey foot-note: “Generally speaking, I cannot in my supplements to Van der Heven proceed too far in theoretical discussions and conclusions regarding the application of all these purely anatomical questions in solving social and economic questions. Therefore I again only draw the attention of the reader to the fact that my whole anatomical and embryological theory has as its main object the discovery of the laws of the physiology of society, and therefore all my later works will, of course, be founded on the scientific data set forth by me in this book.” [33]

Anatomical and embryological theory “has as its main object the discovery of the laws of the physiology of society”! This is very awkwardly put, but nevertheless is very characteristic of the utopian sociologists. He constructs an anatomical theory, with the help of which he intends to write out a number of “hygienic prescriptions” for the society surrounding him. It is to these prescriptions that his social “physiology” is reduced. The social “physiology” of Bukhartsev is, strictly speaking, not “physiology” but the “hygiene” with which we are al-ready acquainted: not a science of what is, but a science of what ought to be, on the basis ... of the “anatomical and embryological theory” of that same Bukhartsev.

Although Bukhartsev has been copied from Nozhin, he, nevertheless, represents to a certain extent the product of the artistic and creative work of Mr. Mikhailovsky (that is, if we can speak of artistic work in relation to the sketches quoted). Consequently even his awkward footnote, perhaps, never existed in reality. In that event it is all the more characteristic of Mr. Mikhailovsky, who speaks of it with great respect.

“I chanced nevertheless to come across the direct reflection in literature of the ideas of my unforgettable friend and teacher,” says Tyomkin, in whose name the story is told. Mr. Mikhailovsky reflected, and still reflects, the ideas of Bukhartsev-Nozhin.

Mr. Mikhailovsky has his own “formula of progress.” This formula declares: “Progress is the gradual approach to the integrity of the individual, to the fullest possible and most manifold division of labour between the organs and the least possible division of labour between people. Anything, retarding this movement is immoral, unjust, harmful and unreasonable. Only that is moral, just, reasonable and useful which diminishes the heterogeneity of society, thereby increasing the heterogeneity of its individual members.” [34]

What can be the scientific significance of this formula? Does it explain the historical progress of society? Does it tell how that progress took place, and why it took place in one particular way and not in another? Not in the least: and its “main aim” is not that at all. It does not speak of how history advanced, but of how it ought to have advanced to earn the approval of Mr. Mikhailovsky. This is a “hygienic prescription” invented by a Utopian on the basis of “exact investigations of the laws of organic development.” It is just what the Saint-Simonist doctor was looking for.

. “We have said that the exclusive use in sociology of the objective method would be equivalent, if it were possible, to adding up arshins and poods [35]: whence, by the way, it follows, not that the objective method must be completely eliminated from this sphere of research, but that the supreme control must be exercised by the subjective method.” [36]

“This sphere of research” is precisely the “physiology” of the desired society, the sphere. of Utopia. Naturally the use of the “subjective method” in it very much facilitates the work of the “investigator.” But this use is based not at all on any “laws,” but on the “enchantment of charming fantasy” [23*]; whoever once has given way to it, will never revolt even against the use in one and the same “sphere” – true, with different rights – of both methods, subjective and objective, even though such a confusion of methods really does mean “adding up arshins and poods.” [37]


19. The writers of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century contradicted themselves in just the same way, although their contradiction displayed itself otherwise. They stood for non-interference by the state, and yet at times required the most petty regulation by the legislator. The connection of “politics” (which they considered a cause) with economy (which they considered a consequence) was also unclear to them.

20.Dans un temps plus ou mains long il faut, disent les sages, que toutes les possibilités se réalisent: pourquoi désespérer du bonheur futur de l’humanité?

21. N. Mikhailovsky, Works (Second ed.), Vol.II, pp.102-03.

22. Nikolai —on [N. Danielson], Outlines of Our Social Economy Since the Reform, St. Petersburg, 1893, pp.322-23.

23. Ibid., p.343.

24. Engels, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Ch.III. – Tr.

25. Correspondingly, Mr. N. —on’s practical plans also represent an almost literal repetition of those “demands” which long ago and, of course, quite fruitlessly were presented by our utopian Narodniks, like, for example, Mr. Prugavin. “The ultimate ends and tasks of social and state activity” (you see, neither society nor the state is forgotten) “in the sphere of factory economy must be: on the one hand, the purchase for the state of all implements of labour and the granting of the latter to the people for temporary use, for hire; on the other, the establishment of an organization of the conditions of production” (Mr. Prugavin wants to say simply “production,” but as is the custom of all Russian writers, headed by Mr. Mikhailovsky, he uses the expression “conditions of production,” without understanding what it means) “which would be founded upon the requirements of the people and the state, and not on the interests of the market, of disposal and of competition, which is the case in the commodity-capitalist organization of the economic forces of the country” (V.S. Prugavin, The Handicraftsman at the Exhibition, Moscow 1882, p.15). Let the reader compare this passage with the above quotation from the book of Mr. N. —on.

26. Le Producteur, Vol.1, p.140.

27. On this organization, see the Globe [20*] for 1831-32, where it is set forth in detail, with even the preparatory transitional reforms.

28. “Unsere Nationalökonomen streben mit allen Kräften, Deutschland auf die Stufe der Industrie zu heben, von welcher herab England jetzt die andern Länder noch beherrscht. England ist ihr Ideal. Gewiss: England sieht sich gern schon an; England hat seine Besitzungen in allen Weltteilen, es weiss seinen Einfluss aller Orten geltend zu machen, es hat die reichste Handels- und Kriegsflotte, es weiss bei allen Handelstraktaten die Gegenkontrahenten immer hinters Licht zu führen, es hat die spekulativsten Kaufleute, die bedeutendsten Kapitalisten, die erfindungsreichsten Kopfe, die prächtigsten Eisenbahnen, die grossartigsten Maschinenanlagen; gewiss, England ist, von dieser Seite betrachtet, ein glückliches Land, aber – es lässt sich auch ein anderer Gesichtspunkt bei der Schätzung Englands gewinnen und unter diesem mochte doch wohl das Glück desselben von seinem Unglück bedeutend überwogen werden. England ist auch das Land, in welchem das Elend auf die hochste Spitze getrieben ist, in welchem jährlich Hunderte notorisch Hungers sterben, in welchem die Arbeiter zu Fünfzigtausenden zu arbeiten verweigern, da sie trotz all ihrer Mühe und Leiden nicht so viel verdienen, dass sie notdürftig leben können. England ist das Land, in welchem die Wohltätigkeit durch die Armensteuer zum äusserlichen Gesetz gemacht werden musste. Seht doch ihr. Nationalökonomen, in den Fabriken die wankenden, gebückten und verwachsenen Gestalten, seht die bleichen, abgehärmten, schwindsüchtigen Gesichter, seht all das geistige und das leibliche Elend, und ihr wollt Deutschland noch zu einem zweiten England machen? England konnte nur durch Unglück und Jammer zu dem Höhepunkt der Industrie gelangen, auf dem es jetzt steht, und Deutschland künnte nur durch dieselben Opfer ähnliche Resultate erreichen, d.h. erreichen, dass die Reichen noch reicher und die Armen noch ärmer werden”. – “Our national economists strive with all their might to lift Germany on to that stage of industry from which England now still dominates other countries. England is their ideal. Of course, England likes to admire herself: she has her possessions in all parts of the world, she knows how to make her influence count everywhere, she has the richest mercantile marine and navy and knows in all trade agreements how to humbug her partner, she has the most speculative merchants, the most important capitalists, the most inventive heads, the most excellent railways, the most magnificent machine equipment. Of course, England when viewed from this aspect is a happy country, but another point of view might gain the upper hand in assessing England, and from this point of view her happiness might nevertheless be considerably outweighed by her unhappiness. England is also the country in which misery has been brought to its highest point, in which it is notorious that hundreds die of hunger every year, in which the workmen by the fifty thousand refuse to work because, in spite of all their toil and suffering, they do not earn enough to provide themselves with a bare livelihood. England is the country in which philanthropy through the poor rate had to be enacted by an extreme measure. Look then, national economists, at the swaying, bowed and deformed figures in the factories, look at the pale, languid, tubercular faces, look at all the spiritual and bodily misery – and you still wish to make Germany into a second England? England was only able through misfortune and misery to reach the high point of industry at which she now stands, and only through the same sacrifices could Germany achieve similar results, i.e., that the rich should become still richer and the poor still poorer.” Triersche Zeitung, May 4, 1846, reprinted in Vol.I of the review edited by M. Hess, under the title of Der Gesellschafts-Spiegel. Die Gesellschaftlichen Zustände der civilisierten Welt (The Social Mirror, Social Conditions of the Civilized World), Iserlohn and Elberfeld 1846.

29. “Sollte es den Constitutionellen gelingen,” said Büchner “die deutschen Regierungen zu stürzen und eine allgemeine Monarchie oder Republik einzuführen, so bekommen wir hier einen Geldaristokratismus, wie in Frankreich, and lieber soll es bleiben, wie es jetzt ist.” – “Should the Constitutionalists succeed,” said Büchner, “in overthrowing the German governments and introducing a universal monarchy or republic, we should get here an aristocracy of money as in France; and better it should remain as it now is” (Georg Büchner, Collected Works, ed. Franzos, p.122).

30. Considerations sur les sciences et les savants in Le Producteur, Vol.I, pp.355-56.

31. Ibid., Vol.I, p.304,

32. Literature and Life, in Russkaya Mysl [22*], 1891, Vol.IV, p.195,

33. N.K. Mikhailovsky, Works, Vol.IV (Second ed.), pp.265-66.

34. Ibid., pp.186-87.

35. The first is a measure of length, the second of weight: thus if is like saying that yards should be added to hundredweights. – Tr.

36. N.K. Mikhailovsky, Works, Vol.IV (Second ed.), p.185.

37. Incidentally, these very expressions – “objective method,” “subjective method” – represent a vast confusion, at the very least in terminology.



Editorial Notes

12*. The doctrinaires – a group of moderate bourgeois liberals who played a prominent role in the political life of France during the Restoration. They were bitter opponents of democracy and the Republic, they rejected the very principles of the revolution and its legitimacy, but they recognized the new civil order, i.e. the new bourgeois economic structure.

13*. Gogol’s Kostanjogio [I have been unable to track down this reference ” if you can help contact einde (at) marxists (dot) org]

14*. Quotation from N. Nekrasov’s poem Who Lives Well in Russia, Part 2, Chap.4.

15*. The Peasant Bank, in which the liberal Narodniks placed their hopes, was instituted by the Tsarist government in 1882, allegedly to help the peasants buy land. In actual fact, it favoured the nobility, inflated prices on the landed gentry’s estates and was a means of implanting and consolidating kulak elements in the countryside.

16*. The quoted words are from Nekrasov’s Knight for an Hour:

From the jubilant crowd of idlers
Whose hands are stained with blood
Lead me to the camp of fighters
For the great cause of love.

17*. Danielson, Nikolai Franzevich (pseudonym, Nikolai —on) (1844-1918), Russian writer, ideologist of liberal Narodism of eighties and nineties, translated Marx’s Capital Vol.I, in cooperation with H. Lopatin.

18*. Nikolai —on (Danielson), a Russian narodnimk, was the first to translate Marx’s Capital into Russian, as a result of which he got the undeserved reputation of being a Marxist. The first volume of Capital, which he translated with Hermann Lopatin, appeared in 1872, the second in 1885, and the third in 1896. In consequence a lively correspondence arose between Nikolai —on and Marx and Engels.

19*. Le Producteur (The Producer), the organ of the Saint-Simonists, was published in Paris in 1825-1826. It was founded by Saint-Simon not long before he died and was edited by his pupils Bazard, Enfantin, Rodriguez and others. the magazine had as epigraph:

“L’âge d’or, qu’une aveugle tradition a placé jusqu’ici dans le passé, est devant nous.”

20*. Globe, organ of the Saint-Simonists after 1831, was founded by Pierre Leroux in 1824.

21*. Nozhin, Nikolai Dmitriyevich (1843-1866), publicist, biologist, participated in revolutionary movement of teh 1860s in Russia

22*. Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought) – a monthly magazine of liberal Narodnik trend. Started publication in 1880.

23*. A line from the unfinished poem Ilya Muromets by N.M. Karamzin (1786-1826).


Last updated on 28.12.2004