The Logical Influence of Hegel on Marx. Rebecca Cooper 1925
Section 1. General Theory
The evolution of thought is found, says Hegel, in the history of philosophy, but only in an external way. It is surveyed intimately, “in its native medium” by the system of philosophy. Now, as he goes on to say, truly existing thought must be concrete, therefore, an idea. Viewed universally, it must be the Idea, or the Absolute. This is the type of reasoning by which Hegel reaches the conclusion that reality is fully expressed in the system of philosophy, and it is for Hegel but a characteristic and easy step to the further result that the system of philosophy is the Hegelian system. It is not to be wondered at, then, that Hegel’s general philosophy should have covered, more or less thoroughly, practically every phase of reality, not excepting the purely social phases of man’s existence.
The Absolute which is the inner, the fundamental, nature of the universe, is essentially a rational or an intellectual being, and is therefore designated by Hegel as the “Reason.” It is the Reason, then, which as the basis of reality, manifests itself in the world as it appears to us. A complete, though in some respects not a detailed, account of the processes of this revelation is supposed to be contained in the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, written by Hegel. The three parts of this work represent the three main stages of the manifestation of the Reason. The first book of the Encyclopedia is the Logic, which maybe described as the immediate, abstract, pure form of this manifestation. It is, naturally, the thesis, the affirmation, or in other words, the first member of the all-pervading Hegelian triad. The second book is the Philosophy o j Nature; it presents an account of nature, or the objective world, the world of the physical sciences. In the triad it is the antithesis, or the negation; for opposed to the abstract form of the Reason, as it is expressed in the system of logic, there must be a mediated, differentiated stage, in this case, the natural world. But as with all opposition, the two sides of the antagonism, the thesis and the anti-thesis, the affirmation and the negation, must be reconciled – there must be a synthesis or a negation of the negation. The third book of this series constitutes such a synthesis. It is called the Philosophy of Mind, or Spirit, and concerns itself with the realm of man and his institutions. The opposition between thought and nature is completely resolved in this sphere of the social ‘institutions of man.
The Philosophy of Mind is in its turn divided into three sections, or categories: “mind subjective,” that is, the development of the individual mind; “mind objective,” or the history of man, and the nature of his social institutions; “absolute mind,” or the supreme union or synthesis of the individual and the social as it is attained in the three highest spheres of man – art, religion, and philosophy. Now at last the Absolute has reached its great goal, which was self-realization – attained it through the reconciliation of its self-engendered op-position between abstract-universal and concrete-particular, between individual and social, and between subject and object. This is the end of the Hegelian systematic philosophy , for the highest goal the peculiar end of all philosophy, namely, Absolute Truth, that is, the Absolute, itself, has at last been achieved.
The Philosophy of History must be considered in some detail because of its quite evident influence on the Marxist doctrine of historical materialism. Though a separate work, the history is undoubtedly but an elaboration of one of the’ lesser categories of the complete system as it appears in the Encyclopedia, in other words, it is itself an integral part of the unified system. and, as such, is inseparable from it. Thus, universal history is found as a category of the state, which itself belongs to the third division, namely, social ethics, under the second of the three main categories, mind objective. Just as the Philosophy of Right is an elaboration of mind objective, so the Philosophy of History is an elaboration of the category of universal history.
Now, from the fundamental conception of Hegel’s philosophy, that Reason is the sovereign of the world, “the substance of the universe; to wit, that by which and in which all reality has its being and subsistence, the infinite complex or things, the entire Essence and Truth” it follows with inexorable certainty that the history of the world if a rational process. History, and the entire scheme of the development of the universe are rational and consequently fundamentally perfect.
Following the account of the metaphysical basis of Hegel’s philosophy of history it is necessary by way of introduction to present also a brief account of the method of historical research which Hegel professes to adopt. On this point, he makes a very significant statement, to the effect that history must be treated “historically,” that is, “empirically.” Laws are not to be concocted first, and then superimposed upon the facts of history; rather, history must be carefully studied and from it in this way must be derived the general laws which govern its movement. There must, of course, be a careful selection of important facts, but this is really what is meant by tracing out the general tendencies and discovering the laws of historical progress. It is apparent that Hegel does not deliberately do what so many of his critics accuse him of doing. It was not part of his theoretical system to fit into an a priori logical scheme, with whatever necessary distortion, the facts of human progress, even though in actual practice, this is exactly what he does. It must be recognized that Marx was an extraordinarily close and able student of Hegel, and that consequently he was cognizant of all phases of that philosopher’s work. In this case, it seems to me, he quite clearly adopted Hegel’s avowed theory of historical,
method, while erecting critically his application. Hegel’s bare intention is as important for purposes of this comparison as any other feature. It is necessary, too, to distinguish carefully between consequences which follow logically from the main Hegelian tenets, and claims made by Hegel. Thus, as McTaggart and Royce have both explicitly stated, and even Hegel himself hinted, it should be possible, theoretically, to deduce absolutely every fact of existence, whether important or trivial, from the essential principles of the logic, which are indubitable. However, inconsistent though it may be, this bare logical consequence is disregarded, and the ideal of the empirical method, as explained above, is stated, though not always followed.
Any account of Hegel’s method of historical research would be incomplete without mention of a certain point of view, and for that time it was a very radical one, namely, that “in the history of the world, the individuals we have to do with are peoples, totalities that are states.” In the Marxist scheme, this principle is fundamental.
Leading up to the main concepts of the philosophy of history, Hegel makes it quite clear that, though the world includes both nature and spirit, and nature does exert some influence on world history, still, it is primarily as the most concrete expression of spirit alone that history will be viewed. On one or two occasions only does Hegel make exceptions to this rule; they prove, however, to be very radical departures from the main trend of the system, and I shall refer to them later.
Since it is as the manifestation of Spirit that world history is to be studied, and interpreted, the first step in the investigation must be an analysis of the nature of Spirit itself. Hegel explains that its nature is the direct opposite of that of matter; therefore, just as the essence of matter is gravity, so the essence of Spirit is Freedom. Thus, while matter has its essence out of itself, Spirit is se f-contained existence, and this is what is meant by Freedom. For to be free, one’s existence must depend on one’s self. Now, the meaning of self- contained existence is further explained as self-consciousness,_ consciousness of one’s own being. In the case of Spirit, this means becoming actually that which it was potentially, or, “the History of the World is none other than the progress of the consciousness of Freedom.” The meaning of these rather cryptic phrases will become quite clear, I think, in the course of the further elaboration of the doctrine.
Though Freedom is the basis of world history, it cannot itself make that history. This is because the principle, the destiny of Freedom is but “an undeveloped Idea”; it is only general, or abstract, and requires, therefore, the opposition of a second element in order to produce actuality or realization. “The means it uses,” Hegel says, “are external and phenomenal presenting them-selves in history to sensuous vision.” Specifically this second element is composed of the needs, the passions, the interests of man. Such means must be employed, it is explained, because the making of history requires the activity of people, and people act only for some object in which they are interested.
The concrete unity of these two factors (there must be a unification or resolution of all such antagonistic elements) is Liberty under conditions of the morality of the state. The state is pure, powerful and well-established when the interests of the individual coincide with it exactly. At the beginning of history, such an idea exists only implicitly. It becomes more and more explicit or conscious during the process of historical development. Each stage of its , progress toward its goal is accomplished by the reconciliation of these fundamental polar opposites: formal Freedom, on one hand, as the general, implicit, universal Idea of Spirit (the an-sich), and, on the other hand, the differentiation, limitation, particular, explicit, or realizing activity of the individual (the für-sich). The objective reality, the liberty-insuring state, is the synthesis I brought about by mediation of this human activity, which, consequently, must be considered the middle term, or the dynamic element in historical progress. In a note Hegel explains that by the aims of individuals he does not mean the mere desire or caprice of these individuals, but rather such general considerations of duty, justice, and the like, as are established by the code of morals and state regulations.
Of the state, which is the grand result of all historical movement, Hegel says: “The end to be attained is the union of the subjective with the rational is the moral whole the state, which is that form of realm in which the individual has, and enjoys, his freedom, but on condition of his recognizing, believing in, and willing that which is common to the whole.” And again, “The state is the idea of the Spirit in the external manifestation of human will and freedom.”
Certain of the more fundamental aspects of this supreme human institution the end and aim of all historical development, should be described before the movement which produces it is analyzed more fully. In the first place, a general and important fact is proclaimed, namely, that all historical changes are inseparably bound up with changes in political forms; which means simply that by an historical change is meant an alteration in the social or political structure of any society. And from this it becomes apparent that constitutions are peculiar to certain peoples at certain times; consequently it is impossible and absurd to arbitrarily apply a particular constitution to a people to which it did not appear naturally, in the course of history.
Corresponding to these objective forms of the existence of Freedom in the state there is the subjective realization in art, law, morals, religion, science and philosophy. Expressed in the three highest branches of human learning and understanding, ranging from the comparatively ineffective to the most complete realization of fundamental truths the following great triad is formed: first, in art are represented sensuously the forms of the divine intuition; then, in religion, awareness is attained of infinite feeling and conception, and lastly, in philosophy, in the highest position of all, the knowing of truth, is thought experienced.
Having given as Hegel expresses it, “the Design of the World,” the next step is an account of the Progress of the World’s History.” In general, the principle of all development involves an inner capacity striving to realize itself.” In the case of organized natural objects of which it is also a property, this expansion is independent of external causes – due rather to an internal principle, a simple essence; the very opposite, however, is true of the growth and development of Spirit – no longer is it direct and unhindered, on the contrary, it is accomplished only through striving and opposition. “The realization of its idea is mediated by consciousness and will ... Thus Spirit is at war with itself; it has to overcome itself, as its most formidable obstacle ... What Spirit really strives for is the realization of its ideal being, but in doing so, it hides that goal from its own vision and is proud and well satisfied in this alienation from it.”
This tremendous struggle of universal history, for the ultimate goal which is absolute, or concrete Freedom, is accomplished through three stages: “... the first step in the process presents the immersion of Spirit in Nature”; the second shows it as advancing to the consciousness of Freedom – however, this step is partial and imperfect; the third step is the escape from this imperfect state of Freedom to its pure, completely-realized form.
The actual process of this development constitutes the dialectic of progress; it is essentially an advance from the less perfect to the more, perfect, “but the former must not be understood as only the imperfect, but as some-thin: which involves the opposite of itself, the so-called perfect, as a germ or an impulse.” It is this opposition between the perfect and the imperfect (the imperfect necessitates the perfect as its opposite) that results in the initiation of the entire process known as human history. This process begins only with the appearance of states, for it is here that for the first time some degree of consciousness of Freedom arises; “ ... the periods __that were passed by nations before history was written among them ... are ... destitute of objective history because they present no subjective history, no annals.”
The specific medium of change from one form of society to another, from one historical epoch to the next, is the body of ideals espoused by the enlightened and far-seeing portion of any community or nation. The old social system is foredoomed to dissolution as a transitory stage in the self-development of the World Spirit. Spirit must be in constant flux; it must continually erect against itself an antagonist which it as consistently overcomes. But in so doing it reaches a new and higher level, which rests not on the ruins of the past, but on the past which has been elevated and re-embodied in his own improved shape. In terms of its metaphysical basis, Hegel summarizes his position in perfectly clear and concise language, as follows: “But for Spirit, the highest attainment is self-knowledge, and advance, not only to the intuition but to the thought – the clear conception of itself. This it must, and is also destined to accomplish, but the accomplishment is at the same time its dissolution, and the rise of another Spirit, another world historical people, another epoch of Universal History.”
“The very essence of Spirit is activity; it realizes its potentiality – makes itself its own deed, its own work – and thus it becomes an object to itself; con-templates itself as an objective existence. Thus is it with the spirit of a people; it is a spirit having strictly defined characteristics which erects itself into an objective world, that exists and persists in a particular religious form of worship, customs, constitutions, and political laws – in the whole complex of its institutions – in the events and transactions that make up its history.”
The entire procedure may be summed up in a few words: The spirit of a people is the concrete realization of Universal Spirit; it is, however, but an imperfect form. In opposition to this its imperfect expression, Universal Spirit, posits the more perfect in the form of the thoughts and ideals of the people-at feast, of the more advanced portion of them. The imperfect and the more perfect confront each other in opposition, the society which has this contradiction between the real and.. the ideal is superseded by a new society, a new historical era. This new national spirit embodies within itself all of past history, but is subject to the same disintegrating process.
Though great men are significant in history it is not they who initiate and accomplish these changes. They do not bring about anything that would not have come to pass without them. Their greatness consists in the fact that they are aware of the aim of Spirit before ordinary people are. Their function is merely to accelerate the progress of history.
The section in Hegel’s Philosophy of History on the “Geographical Basis of History” is filled for the most part with facts which have no bearing on this discussion. But it contains also certain incidental passages so significant that they cannot be overlooked. In some degree, they amount to contradictions of the main theory, just stated. At the beginning of the treatise Hegel speaks of nature as the extrinsic, yet necessary, basis of the spirit of the people. It seems then to constitute the first obstacle to be overcome, and from this point of view, to be the first standpoint in the development of Freedom. This affords an explanation of the fact that history must find its beginnings in the temperate zone. Then, as an application of this general principle, appears an amazing passage, clearly opposed in spirit to the trend of Hegelianism, but closely parallel to fundamental Marxist tenets: “As to the political conditions of North America, the general object of the existence of this state, is not yet fixed and determined, and the necessity for a firm combination does not yet exist, for a real state and a real government arise only after a distinction of classes has arisen when wealth and poverty become extreme and when such a condition of things presents itself that a large portion of the people can no longer satisfy its necessities in the way in which it has been accustomed so to do. But America is hitherto exempt from this pressure, for it has the outlet of colonization, constantly and widely open, and multitudes are continually streaming into the plains of the Mississippi. By this means the chief source of discontent is removed, and the continuation of the existing civil conditions is guaranteed.” Another statement, which Hegel makes in the same section, sounds remarkably like an economic interpretation: “Had the woods of Germany been in existence, the French revolution would not have occurred.”
SECTION II. CLASSIFICATION OF HISTORIC DATA
Both Hegel and Marx carefully divide the course of history into main epochs from the beginning to modern times. No feature of the two systems brings out more clearly the vast gulf between them, the fundamentally different point of view; though, on the other hand, no feature shows better the striking resemblance, the close logical relationship.
Hegel begins his division with the broad generalization that “History moves from East to West.” The basic principle of its movement is succinctly stated as follows: “The East knew and to the present day knows only that One is Free; the Greek and Roman world, that Some are Free; the German world knows that All are Free. The first political form therefore which we observe in history is Despotism, the second, Democracy and Aristocracy, and the third, Monarchy.”
It is on this basis, then, of the degree and quality of Freedom attained, that history is divided into three stages. The first stage is that of Asiatic despotism – the stage at which “One is Free.” This division is first because Freedom appears in an elementary, abstract, and general form. It is objective, not subjective in the wide sense necessary to the concrete realization of Spirit. Whatever subjectivity there is, is concentrated in the “One,” in the individual ruler. The inferior form of subjectivity appearing in other individuals cannot function as the antithesis of the implicit, immediate form of objective Freedom, to. be resolved in the higher synthesis. It is not true Freedom, but a low order of caprice, which results in the unrestrained outrages of hordes. Therefore, this period may be justly designated as “unhistorical history,” for it precedes, rather than forms a part of, the development and progress of concrete Free-dom. Nor is this judgment confuted by the fact that changes do occur among these Oriental states, for the destruction of the old state involves the substitution of a new one, which in every respect is but a stupid repetition of the old.
The transition from this stage to the next is explained on the general, principle of the necessity for Spirit to evolve and change. More specifically, the explanation is to be found in the fact that sufficient subjectivity existed among the unhistorical states to permit of their destruction by each other, and eventually of their being completely subdued by a power higher in the scale of historical development, that is, by the Greeks. Thus, the transition began, when Egypt became a province of Persia, and Persia in its turn fell before the power of the Greeks because, like all other Asiatic states, it lacked the spirit of true unity.
The next stage, ushered in by the Greeks, includes first of all the Greeks themselves, and then in the same main era, but on a somewhat higher level, the Romans. Subjective freedom is a feature of the Greeks, expressing itself in the wonderful art of that people. However, the unity between the individual and objective Freedom at this stage is only immediate, in other words, essentially unconscious. Because of this defect, the Greek world gave way to the Roman. The transition came about practically because of the divided state of the Greeks. The country was composed of supposedly independent states, which in reality were not independent at all. They had little power, and no security. They were extremely individualistic, made war on each other, and were eventually all destroyed.
The Roman world, which overcame the Greek, was an improvement in that riotous individuality was replaced by a pronounced unity. There was a complete absorption by the state of all other individuals, who willingly gave over to it all the power. The reign of abstract universality became inaugurated.
The dialectical triad requires that this double period should be superseded by a newer and higher epoch, in which the second, the Greek and Roman characteristics, are merged with those of the first, the Oriental, form of society. This union, the fusion of the East and the West, was accomplished by the development of Christianity. Religion had come to take the place of art as the medium of Man’s communion with and knowledge of Reality, but religion, too, passed through a period of growth and development, chiefly the elimination of such defects as formalism, image-worship all sorts of bloody disputes,, and most important of all, the clash between Church and State, which appeared in both the Eastern and Western Roman empires.
The supreme result of the intervention of Christianity was the German Christian world, destined to stand as the realization of Spirit in complete unity with itself, its character fully developed as concrete Spirit. The early opposition between the first crude barbarous German state and Spirit as manifested in the Church is overcome by the secular becoming intellectual and realizing the rational unity of Church and State. The basis of the German nation is philosophy and it is through philosophy that Freedom has at last succeeded in the realization of its final goal, complete self-consciousness, which for it means true existence.
Engels has given a very acute and fairly comprehensive account of the evolution of the dialectic as this term is used by Hegel and the Marxists. He begins with an appreciative reference to Heraclitus, whom he considers the founder of the true conception, and all because Heraclitus viewed reality as in a constant state of “flux,” and drew the conclusion that being and not-being are not mutually exclusive, but that everything is both being and not-being, everything both is and is not, and in fact, that essential to reality are the opposites of which it is composed. All of this Engels considers true as far as it goes, but it is essential, he holds, to know not only the broad general truth, but also the detailed facts of the actual development. These necessary facts, he asserts, are supplied to the philosopher only by the efforts of the men of science; therefore, they come much later than these bare outlines of the dialectic.
Meanwhile, the dialectic as a mode of reasoning was discovered and used, he points out, by the greatest of the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle; and in modern times it has been used successfully by such philosophers as Descartes and Spinoza, and among other French intellectuals, by Diderot and Rousseau. The necessary scientific work, the observation and classification of facts was begun by the Greeks of Alexandria, carried further in the Middle Ages by the Arabs and finally, substantially advanced by the stupendous discoveries made by scientists in Engels’ own day. Three epoch-making modern discoveries are listed by him as follows: (a) the cell, (b) the metamorphosis of energy, and (c) the Darwinian theory of evolution.
But, unfortunately for the advancement of true knowledge, scientific investigations of this sort produce a “metaphysical” habit of mind, a tendency to view things artificially, separated, isolated from other things, or at what Hegel calls “the level of the understanding.” Even such astute scientific philosophers as Bacon and Locke made the mistake of employing this erroneous method. Their way of looking at things was according to rigid, fixed categories; every-thing must either be or not be; it must be either yes or no, positive or negative, form or content, cause or effect – nothing can be both. All their thoughts about reality were in terms of these absolutely irreconcilable antitheses. This way of regarding things also makes an unmistakably strong appeal to common sense. Nevertheless, a closer examination will show that such an attitude is not only inadequate, but results in a serious falsification of the facts.
According to the true, or dialectical view, all things merge gradually into each other and are in a continuous process of change; in other words, they both are and are not. For example, a body both is, and is not dead – dying is a gradual process. It follows, therefore, that the opposites listed above belong to an antithesis, each pole of which is as inseparably connected with the other as it is separate from it.
And to the dialectical philosophers must be given the credit of first viewing things truly “in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin and ending.” In Germany, this realization began with Kant, whose nebular hypo-thesis, which was verified later by La Place, did much to further the evolutionary interpretation of nature. The tendency, so established, reached its culmination in Hegel.
Hegel, however, made a most valuable contribution, when for the first time, he propounded an evolutionary view of history. Though he attempted a great thing and traveled far in the direction of accomplishment, he was too much hampered by certain unavoidable limitations to make a really successful philosophy of history possible for him.
Engels then expounds what he considers Hegel’s three decisive limitations: (a) Though Hegel probably knew more than any other ones man of his time, he couldn’t know everything – he was confined within the limits of his own knowledge. (b) He was confined within the limits attained by the science of his own particular age; to quote Engels from Landmarks, “It was self-evident that the old philosophies of Nature – in spite of all their actual value and fruitful suggestiveness – could be of no value to us. There was an error in the Hegelian form, as shown in this book, in that it recognized no progression of nature in time, no ‘one after another’ (nacheinander), but merely ‘one beside another’ (nebeneinander). This was due on the one hand to the Hegelian system itself, which ascribed to the Spirit (Geist) alone a progressive historical development, but on the other hand, the general attitude of the sciences was responsible.” (c) Hegel was an idealist. He taught that. Reason is the soul of the existing world. It manifests itself according to necessary laws of its being through the various stages and levels of the world as we know it, attaining at the end the Absolute Idea. We give Engels’ own exposition, “According to Hegel, the dialectic development apparent in nature and history, that is a causative, connected progression from the lower to the higher, in spite of all zigzag movements and momentary setbacks, is only the stereotype of the self-progression of the Idea from eternity, whither one does not know but independent of all events of the thought of any human brain. This topsy-turvy ideology had to be put aside. We conceived of ideas as materialistic, as pictures of real things, instead of real things as pictures of this or that stage of the Absolute Idea. Thereupon, the dialectic became reduced to knowledge of the universal laws of motion – as well of the outer world as of the thought of man – two sets of laws which are identical as far as matter is concerned but which differ as regards expression, in so far as the mind of man can em-ploy them consciously, while, in nature, and up to now, in human history, for the most part they accomplish themselves unconsciously in the form of external necessity, through an endless succession of apparent accidents.”
Engels then asserts that Hegel is guilty of a very grave inconsistency. Engels claims that, since the dialectical process is identified with reality as a whole, it is absurd for any one to claim to have attained the Absolute Truth, as Hegel does – for how can any individual, himself a member of this evolutionary process, conceivably know it in its entirety, especially when, as is probably the case, it has no end? Yet, there is no more important concept in Hegel’s system as it stands than that of the Absolute Idea, the complete Truth; and certainly no conception could be more flagrantly opposed to the general trend of the dialectical movement.
Engels’ criticism of Hegel’s philosophy may well be concluded with this sweeping judgment: “Correctly and ingenuously as many individual groups of facts were grasped by Hegel, yet ... there is much that is botched, artificial, labored, in a word, wrong in point of detail.”
The character of the Hegelian system made it easy and inevitable that there should appear many and varied interpretations of it, ranging from the extremely conservative to the extremely radical. Hegel himself must be classed with the conservatives.
The group representing the radical wing of Hegel’s followers has already been referred to, namely, the Young Hegelians. The organ of this faction was the Rheinische Zeitung. The leaders were concerned chiefly with anti-religious ideas. Many of them wrote treatises opposing the ordinary Christian doctrines, for example: Leben Jesu, by Strauss; Christianity, by Bruno Bauer, and Wesen des Christenthums, by Feuerbach.
But of the entire group, Feuerbach was the first frankly to reject the idealism of Hegel in favor of the materialistic view that “Nature exists independently of all your philosophy’” The material, sensible world, the world of ordinary experience is the only reality. “Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself – is only the highest product of matter.” In other words, as-Engels points out, this is nothing but materialism. It is, however, a material-ism which must not be confused with the special form of materialism which flourished in the Eighteenth Century and later, represented by such men as Buchner, Vogt, and Moleschott. These men held a rigid mechanical view, very different from the doctrine propounded by Feuerbach, and which later was to become an integral part of the Marxist system. The limitations of that earlier position may be accounted for by the phenomenal growth of the mechanical sciences during that period, a circumstance which would naturally lend sup-port to a crude mechanical materialism. Unfortunately, too, evolutionary science had not yet come into existence to be a counteracting influence to this tendency to a purely mechanistic view of things. Although Kant had helped somewhat to remedy this philosophical error, it remained for Hegel to effectually put such an attitude into the discard.
However, the new materialists, on rejecting the crude, atomistic doctrine of their predecessors, did not adopt the “positivistic” attitude of Kant and others. On the contrary, all such philosophies, systems which speak of a world beyond the world of our experience, about things-in-themselves – were equally opposed to the new conception.
It was this type of materialism, then, a non-mechanistic, non-static materialism, that Feuerbach combined with the dialectic of Hegel, divested, naturally, of all idealism, to produce as a result what Engels called a “dialectical materialism,” and which he and Marx adopted as the philosophical basis of their social scheme. But, while Feuerbach who had led them to this position re-ceded, saying, “Backwards I am in accord with the matter, but not forwards,” Marx and Engels continued firmly in the new direction.
This account of the development of the dialectic is by no means complete, nor is it entirely accurate. It is important to my comparison in that it throws considerable light on the Marxist conception of the meaning of the dialectic. It will be observed that Engels selects from the history of philosophy those doctrines tending to assert an evolutionary, as opposed to a static view of things, and to emphasize the material rather than the spiritual, or idealistic.
These two elements, the evolutionary and the material, together form the ground work of the Marxist theory of historical materialism. These particular interests are indicated as clearly by Engels’ omissions as by his selections. While any ordinary philosophical account of the dialectic, as that term has come to be applied to the Hegelian type of Logic, would include some mention of the scholastic method of presenting in parallel form opposite sides of any question, and more especially of Hegel’s immediate forerunners, Fichte and Schelling, Engels’ account leaves them unmentioned. It is true that he does credit Kant with having made a significant contribution to the dialectic, but he points, curiously, to Kant’s “nebular hypothesis” as being contributory in this connection because of its evolutionary implications. The doctrine of the antinomies which is usually considered in the direct line of development of the Hegelian dialectic through the philosophies of Fichte and Schelling is simply left out of Engels’ analysis.
The Marxist philosophy of history is based on a metaphysics which is the reverse of that underlying Hegel’s historical doctrine. In fact, the point of departure of the Marxist from the Hegelian system is this reversal of the Hegelian metaphysics. Hegel is an idealist; Marx is a materialist, and the social philosophy of each is intimately bound up with and dependent upon its own peculiar metaphysical basis.
However, the materialism of the Marxists, as Engels so painstakingly ex-plains, is not a crude mechanical view. It has a specific meaning which is very different, and may be broadly expressed in Engels’ words, as follows: “... now a materialistic treatment of history was propounded, and a method found of explaining man’s knowing by his being, not his being by his knowing.” Probably in the strict modern sense of the word, this doctrine should not he called materialism; for, though not incompatible with a materialistic view of the fundamental reality, it is entirely compatible also with practically all other metaphysical positions – though not, of course, with the Hegelian. Metaphysically, two important assertions, or rather, a denial and an assertion are made: firstly there is an emphatic rejection of the doctrine that Reason, as opposed to the phenomenal world, is the true reality, and instead, a somewhat positivistic position is held, since the existence of all such mysterious entities as the Kantian ding an sich is explicitly denied (though there is nothing to indicate that atoms, and other non-phenomenal entities of science are to be included in this class of rejected things); secondly, the assertion is made that thoughts are reflections of actual events of the real world, and that this is their only origin – therefore, ideas or thoughts do not engender historical progress (though they may accelerate it); on the contrary, the necessity for movement inherent in things accounts for all development, and the course of this development naturally appears reflected in the thoughts of men.
In this argument the Marxists seem to have been objecting especially to Hegel’s doctrine that since Reality is Reason and Reason expresses itself in its purest form in men’s minds, as the logic, then the fundamental nature of the world must be fully revealed by this long and complicated series of men’s ideas.
For the Marxists, this gives mere ideas a priority and general superiority to world events which manifestly they do not have. And for them this question, which on the surface seems to be a mere metaphysical quibble, looms very large, not only in social theory, but in a practical way as well. For it is necessary that men realize the relation of their ideas to reality in order that they may fully appreciate the extent of their powers while not over-estimating them, and thereby becoming completely and hopelessly impotent. Men’s ideas, according to the Marxists, correspond to the environment in which they live and the characteristics of this environment are determined by its basic, that is, its economic, structure. Decadent social systems produce within themselves the germs of a new society, and these in turn produce the advanced ideas of the people. These ideals naturally affect the behavior of the people who have them, often to the extent of producing a complete change in the social order.
After establishing in this manner the ability of human beings to describe – and analyze the world, the Marxists then proceed to give their account of it. The most important discovery ever made about reality is that of its dialectical or evolutionary nature. This characteristic belongs not only to natural, but to human history as well. The nature of this dialectical movement must be worked out in great detail, and for this purpose it is necessary to go to the facts of history, and from them, by the methods of scientific procedure derive in full the laws of its development. All natural and historical laws must’ be arrived at by this means; above all things, they must not, if they are to have validity, be conjured up in the human imagination, or intellect, and in a completed, a priori form superimposed upon the facts, which, in all probability, would require twisting and altering to make them fit in. Engels brings this out very well in answer to an objection by Herr Dühring: “Although Marx therefore shows the occurrence of this event as negation of the negation, he has no intention of proving by this means that it is a historical necessity. On the contrary, after he has shown that the actual fact has partially to declare itself, he shows it also as a fact which fulfills itself in accordance with a certain dialectic law. That is all. It is therefore again merely supposition on Herr Dühring’s part to assert that the negation of the negation must act as a midwife by whose means the future is brought out of the womb of the present, or that Marx wants to convince anyone of the necessity of social ownership of land and capital upon the theory of the negation of the negation.”
From a similar statement in the Philosophy of History it would seem at first sight that on this point at least Marx and Hegel are in complete agreement. For the Marxists, however, this is a general principle of all investigation; while for Hegel it seems to have been adopted inconsistently in the case of history because of the obvious impossibility of accomplishing that which follows logically from the fundamental principles of the system, namely, the deduction from these principles of every thing in this completely “rational” world.
Needless to say, the Marxists disagree too, with the doctrine that the dialectical form of development must be attributed to the Reason as the law of its growth. There can be, for the Marxists, no “pure logic” in the Hegelian sense of a system of a pro-categories representing abstractedly the exact and necessary forms, according to which every event in the world must occur.
That for Hegel and the Marxists the term “dialectic” had the ‘same meaning may be shown by simply selecting passages from their works. in ex-planation of this concept. The similarity is so close, that, except for the greater simplicity of the Marxist phraseology, and a characteristic difference in the choice of examples, the statements might be interchanged. Thus, the following passages may be given as typical of Hegel’s analysis of the meaning of the dialectic as such: “But by Dialectic is meant an indwelling tendency outwards and beyond; by which the one-sidedness and limitation of the formulae of understanding is seen in its true light, and shown to be the negation of these formulae. Things are finite, just because they involve their own dissolution. Thus understood, Dialectic is discovered to be the life and soul of scientific progress, the dynamic which alone gives an immanent connection and necessity to the subject-matter of science; ...
“(1) It is of the highest importance to apprehend and understand rightly the nature of Dialectic. Wherever there is movement, wherever there is life, wherever anything is carried into effect in the actual world, there Dialectic is at work. It is also the soul of all knowledge which is truly scientific. In the popular way of looking at things, the refusal to abide by any one abstract form of the understanding is reckoned mere equity when we look more closely, we find that the limitations of the finite do not merely come from without; that its own nature is the cause of its abrogation, and that by its own means it passes into its counterpart but the true view of the matter is, that life, as life, involves the germ of death, and that the finite, being at war within itself causes its own dissolution.” He further states, “Positive and negative are supposed to express an absolute difference. The two, how-ever, are at bottom the same; the name of either might be transferred to the other. Thus, for example, debts and assets are not two particular and self-subsisting species of property. What is negative to the debtor, is positive to the creditor. A way to the east is also a way to the west. Positive and negative are therefore intrinsically conditioned by one another, and have a being only when they are connectively referred to each other. The north pole of the magnet cannot be without the south pole, and vice versa. If we cut a magnet in two, we do not have a north pole in one place, and a south pole in another ... ’ and so forth for many more paragraphs.
And in Engels’ works appear the following surprisingly similar passages: “As long as we regard things as static and without life, each by itself, separately, we do not run against any contradictions in them. We find certain qualities sometimes common, sometimes distinctive, occasionally contradictory, but in this last case they belong to different objects and are hence not self-contradictory. While we follow this method we pursue the ordinary metaphysical method of thought. But it is quite different when we consider things in their movement, in their change, their life and their mutually reciprocal relations. Then we come at once upon contradictions. Motion is itself a contradiction since simple mechanical movement from place to place can only accomplish itself by a body being at one and the same moment in one place and simultaneously in another place by being in one and the same place and yet not there. And motion is just the continuous establishing and dissolving of the contradiction.”
“Further, we find upon closer investigation that the two poles of an anti-thesis, positive and negative, for instance, are as inseparable as they are op-posed, and that despite all their opposition, they mutually interpenetrate.”
“Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern science that it has furnished this proof with very rich materials increasing daily, and thus has shown that, in the last resort, Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically; that she does not move in the eternal oneness of a perpetually recurring circle, but goes through a real historical evolution ... “
Both schools of thought agree to the application to the progress of history of these essential principles of the dialectic. They both maintain, for example, that history presents itself, not as a series of separate events which follow each other in a contingent, unregulated fashion, subject only to accidental, chance causes, but rather as a movement, a development, a series, the members of which (in this case, stages of history) merge into each other, pass from one to the next in accordance with the underlying and necessary forces which govern reality.
According to both Hegel and Marx, the dialectic in history operates fundamentally in this fashion: any given state of society at its height and in its purity must logically be considered as the thesis or affirmation, that is, as the first member of the inevitable triad; but within the confines of this system there is engendered by it its own opposite, the “germ” of a new society by which it will be presently and necessarily replaced – this “germ” is then the second stage, the antithesis, or the negation. The contradiction between these two opposite elements must in some way be overcome. This is accomplished by a sort of resolution in which neither side succeeds in establishing itself as such, nor is either in any sense annihilated. Both the old society and the disrupting element, representing the new, are retained, and in a fused and elevated form, together they make up the new stage of history. This new historical era must therefore be regarded as the logical synthesis, the negation of the negation – in which, as Hegel puts it, the thesis and the antithesis are “aufgehoben.”
The agreement between the Hegelian philosophy of history, and the theory of historical materialism is by no means so complete with regard to the specific things which in real history fill in the steps of the bare, logical statement of the nature of development. Thus, in place of the Hegelian Freedom, the essence of Spirit, the Marxists regard economics, the means of production an exchange, as the force fundamentally responsible for the general character of all historical epochs, and for the transition of one to the next.
The farther details of the two systems differ as greatly in content, and are yet as parallel in form and position as are the two fundamental bases,’, freedom and economics. According to the Marxists, in all societies, and at all periods, the outward and complicated customs and institutions which sup-ply color and character to a people derive their essential nature from the economic structure, of which they are but the faithful reflections. The most immediate reflection of the means of production and exchange appears in the form of distribution and the appropriate economic classes. Around these is. built the entire political, religious, and social organization. And just so long as the character of these institutions remains appropriate to the prevailing economic system, they facilitate and strengthen it. However, economics structures are dialectic, or evolutionary, that is, they must change continually, develop, grow, and pass eventually into new and fitter forms. Unfortunately a though, while the machinery of production is developing constantly according to the laws peculiar to it, the forms of production, that is, the subsidiary institutions (which are the forms of distribution and the corresponding economic classes) fail to keep up with these changes, become then inappropriate, retard and hinder, and in general come into conflict with the new order of economics.
This conflict of the old and the new takes the form of an antagonism between the two classes of society which represent, respectively, the old form struggling to maintain itself, and the new form which is attempting to supersede it. Historical changes, then, are brought about by class struggles which terminate regularly in the oppressed class, which is destined in the economic order of things to institute the new social system, overthrowing by means of revolution the old ruling class, which has been defending obsolete relations of production. The result of such revolutions is a new arrangement of society in which the old oppressors have little place, and the former master class consequently goes out of existence, or remains as a vestige only. The warring classes, of course, are motivated each by its own economic interests; but this does- not prevent either of them from invoking the aid of attractive ideals as a spur to more zealous activity on the part of its supporters. It is perfectly natural that this should be done as proved by the fact that in the past it has been done on every such occasion.
Then, last of all, according to the Marxists, the new society is truly a synthesis of the antagonistic elements; for nothing can be really and completely destroyed; to all things there exist their opposites, and between them there is a struggle, yet in no instance is anything wiped out of existence by its opponent – instead, there appears a new element which contains in a modified and fused, but still existing form both sides of the antagonism. Thus embodied in the new economic system there appear on a higher level all the useful features of the old method of production. The old features in this sort of combination with the new features which the old have generated, and raised up against themselves, constitute the concrete material of any social system.
This general and rather abstract scheme of historical materialism seems at first sight to be quite different from Hegel’s philosophy of history, yet there is really a surprisingly close parallel between them. In pointing out this correspondence between the important features of the Marxist doctrine with those of the Hegelian, it is not intended that there should be implied a deliberate attempt by Marx and Engels to follow the order and method of Hegel’s interpretation, merely substituting for his working forces the quite different forces of their own conception. It is much more probable that the two socialist philosophers were so steeped in the general method of Hegelian dialectic that they implied it as naturally and freely to their social philosophy as did the original author himself.
As stated before, the Hegelian conception of Spirit corresponds with the Marxist notion of the economic forces of society since each is held to be basic to all historical progress. In each system there appear also corresponding conceptions of a complete society, a society as a whole, or a “concrete society.” According to Hegel, the general color of such a society depends upon its historical level, that is, the stage so far attained by Freedom, of which it is the concrete expression, in its progress toward complete realization. In marked contrast is the Marxist view that any society taken as a whole, with its religious, political, aesthetic, and intellectual institutions and opinions, owes its pat-tern and tone to the stage in the development of the “tool,” or, in other words, the degree of complication and effectiveness attained by the means through which economic goods are produced.
There is also a peculiar resemblance between the two very different instruments for affecting historical progress. For both Hegel and the Marxists the “germ” of the new society is generated within the “shell” of the old, or to use an expression employed first by Hegel and later by both Marx and Engels, the “germ” of the new society appears “in the womb of the old.” For Hegel, the “germ” consists of the ideals held and striven for by the more advanced and enlightened portion of the group who somehow gain a realization of a more developed Freedom. The “germ” in the Marxist system is more complicated. New and more efficient methods of production come to take the place of antiquated tools and organization; new methods of production involve an altered form of distribution, to which corresponds, of course, a new line-up of economic classes; the new methods with their classes and class ideologies are the “germ” of the new society. In both systems, ideals play a prominent part (more so in Hegel’s than in Marx’s) but, whereas, for Hegel, these ideals appear from the rational necessity that Freedom should become completely self-conscious through a gradual series of connected stages, passing from one to another by means of self-posited oppositions – in this case ideals of greater or less freedom – for the Marxists these “ideals” are induced with significant directness, and represent more or less frankly the economic interests of the classes concerned, and the function they serve, as explained above, is that of a weapon employed by them in their struggle against each other for economic supremacy. And finally, it is necessary only to mention that the, result of the conflict, for both, is a “higher synthesis” in which the antagonists, the thesis and the antithesis, have been aufgehoben.
It is interesting and important to note that both thinkers state explicitly that groups, peoples, classes, as they are variously designated, constitute the units of historical study, and that consequently, no claim of application to individuals is made for the general principles arrived at. In fact, it is necessary only to glance at the attempts of the two philosophers to apply their generalizations to become convinced that neither in theory nor in practice was such an absurdity maintained.
Another point of some importance is the fact that Marx incorporated almost without modification Hegel’s conclusions as to the role of the “great man” in history. For Hegel the “great man” is simply unusually wide-awake, intelligent, or capable, and as already explained, discovers before other people the next step in the development of Freedom, strides forward, leads the movement toward it, and, of course, sooner or later, succeeds; since the change he desires is destined to come anyway, all he can possibly accomplish j is a certain amount of acceleration. This view agrees essentially with that of Marx, who also holds that the great personage is made by favorable circumstances – that he is sufficiently clever and fortunate to be the leader of one or other of the warring classes, which exist independently of him. If the group of which he is the head is victorious he becomes a hero of history, and if it fails he may still be remembered.
It is necessary now to give in comparison with Hegel, the more concrete Marxist theory, that is, the theory as it is applied by Marx and Engels to the main divisions of history. While in Hegel probably the bare theoretical statement of the philosophy of history is more significant than his application of it, in the writings of the Marxists the practical application is undoubtedly of far more value, because much clearer and more precise than any of their scanty general statements.
After having decided that the material factor is dominant in history, Marx next concludes that the predominant element in the material basis is economic. In this he departs from such other materialistic philosophers of history as Buckle and Montesquieu on these grounds: history is fundamentally a changing process; therefore, a theory of history must above all things involve an explanation of the fact and the manner of this change; since it is obvious that what is in itself static cannot produce what is essentially a movement, an explanation of history exclusively in terms of physical environment must be rejected, and the more adequate interpretation accepted, that tools of production expand and develop through an inner necessity of their nature, and that each important alteration in the tools, or means of production, is accompanied by a corresponding change in the entire social organization.
Upon this economic basis, the Marxists divided history into three general stages, as follows : (1) pre-civilization, or the era of primitive communism, (2) civilization, or the reign of private proper property, (3) the stage of future communism. In this three-fold division there is more of a suggestion of the Hegelian triad than its mere figure three, for the future state of communism will be a combination in a very real sense of the two preceding stages. Its communistic features will be very similar to those of primitive communism, but they are to rest on a foundation very different from that of its primitive predecessor. Instead of the pre-civilized methods of gaining a living by hunting and fishing, the communism of the future will know all the advantages (without the flagrant disadvantages) of a highly matured machine industry, the product of the long years of development during the period of civilization.
The second member of the Marxist general historical triad corresponds to Hegel’s complete period of history. Hegel refuses to grant pre-state peoples a place in history proper; the Marxists begin their era of civilization with the introduction of private property, the maintenance of which requires the organization of the state. Thus the entire subject of Hegel’s philosophy of history coincides in time with only a portion of the range of human development included in the Marxist survey.
One further curious difference in this connection must be noted: for the Marxists a future and most desirable stage forms an integral part of their scheme; while Hegel seems to have considered the German world sufficiently exalted to represent the complete realization of Spirit. Though he did suggest, inconsistently, that America may be viewed as the state of the future – what this future is, or how Hegel reconciles this with previous and less incidental statements, it is difficult to see.
The middle period of the Marxists, the period of civilization, of private property and of the state, evolved out of the earlier stage because of certain economic changes, chiefly, the invention of the plow, which brought about a division of labor, making slavery profitable and thereby calling it into existence. With the establishment of private property, there appeared the state to function as its protector. This view is in contrast to the Hegelian concept in which the state marks the first beginning of the consciousness of Freedom, since the state and written laws go together, and Hegel does not recognize the possibility of the consciousness of Freedom until it has been expressed in some written record, such as a code of laws.
The three divisions within the period of civilization represent for the Marxists three different forms of society based on as many forms of private property. In each stage there are two main classes, the exploiters and the exploited, the owners of the means of production and the workers who operate them.
The Marxists have adopted the following names for these divisions of civilization: the first stage, known as Ancient Society, was based on slave ‘ labor; the second was called Feudal Society because resting on a foundation of serf labor; while the third, or present system of Capitalist Society is characterized by a peculiar form of bondage known as wage slavery.
Even more important than the explanation of an particular stare in history is the discovery of the causes of the downfall of one sort of society and its replacement by the next. In the Hegelian system this explanation is given almost wholly in terms of such non-material and glorified forces as the “degree of the consciousness of Freedom,” and the realization by the most complete representative of Spirit that not only One, but Many, or still better, All are Free. The Marxists, on the other hand, justify the title of their theory by attributing all historical changes to the operation of purely “material,’ that is, economic causes.
Thus it was held by the Marxists that Ancient Society fell because it was so weakened by the clash of classes, and because the slaves would no longer fight in the interests of their masters, that victory for the barbarians proved an easy matter. It was “the common ruin of the contending classes.” The serf took the place of the slave, because he was found more profitable to operate the very large holdings of land that had grown up, chiefly as a result of military victories on the continental territories now involved in the historical process. The serfs did not require supervision as slaves did. Thus feudalism began with only two main classes, the landlords and the serfs who worked for them.
This condition changed, however, with the appearance of certain inventions, especially the compass, ships, and some of the arts, for these new tools brought into existence a new class of merchants and artisans suitable to their use, thus paving the way for the transition to a new social system.
This transition period from feudalism to capitalism was the period of the. guilds, of petty, or handicraft industry, and of the free cities. The invention of powder and printing strengthened the merchant class and the new bourgeoisie at the expense of the landlords. Rivalries between the greater and the lesser nobility were intensified. All classes came in conflict; the monarch and the guilds, the monarch and the nobility, the nobility and the guilds, the guilds merchant and the guilds artisan, and the new capitalists and all the rest. Frequently these struggles took the form of religious wars – and in this category must be placed the Thirty Years War, the Huguenot wars in France, and the insurrection of the Puritans in England.
The economic transition from the one-man, hand production of the disappearing feudal system to full-fledged capitalism was gradual and complicated. Its analysis occupies a very significant part of the economics of Marx (covering a large and important section of the first volume of Capital), and it may, therefore, be viewed as sort of a connecting link between the philosophy of history and the economics proper. It is particularly significant in comparison with Hegel because it involves the use of the Hegelian categories of quantity and quality in a peculiarly Marxist manner.
Capitalism has been from its very beginning a process of the concentration of capital. The method of production from which it developed was that of the individual ownership and use of the tools, and, consequently, of the individual appropriation of the product. This comparatively equitable arrangement because of the use of fortunes amassed chiefly by merchants, gave way to the inequality which is necessary to capitalism. These fortunes were spent in the erection of factories which were, to begin with, but enlargements of the old guild workshop; in other words, they were the result of merely quantitative changes. But this grouping of many workers under one factory roof resulted in the production of certain qualitative changes which made the transition to capitalism definite and complete. These qualitative changes were (1) the division of labor, (2) the use by different men of the same tools, (3) work under supervision. The significant thing is that the important qualitative change from individual to social production had been accomplished.
The categories, of quantity and quality, occur in the first main division of the Hegelian Logic. (They will be more fully discussed in connection with the theory of value.) They form the thesis and the antithesis, respectively, of the triad, the synthesis of which is measure or Mass. Under the category of measure a peculiar relationship between quantity and quality is brought out of which Marx and Engels, and especially later Marxists (these last some-times uncritically) have made a great deal. Marxists speak of “quantitative changes becoming qualitative changes,” after the degree of quantitative change has reached a certain point. This relationship is expressed by Hegel, discussing measure, as follows : “The identity between quantity and quality, which is found in Measure, is at first only implicit, and not yet explicitly realized. In other words, these two categories, which unite in Measure, claim a certain independence and applicability of their own. On the one hand, the quantitative features of the definite Being may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change.” Then follows a long list of illustrations. In the Marxist system, this connection occurs not only in the case cited above, of the transition from the medieval workshop to the capitalist factory, but in a number of other instances as well. Engels, for example, in answer to a Dühring criticism brings out its application in connection with a somewhat different aspect of the transition, though it applies afterward as well: “One may remark the elevated and dignified fashion in which Dühring makes Marx say the exact opposite of what he did say. Marx says ‘The fact that a given amount of value can only transform itself into’ capital as soon as it has attained a definite minimum, varying with the circumstances, in each individual case – this fact is proof of the correctness of the law of Hegel.’ Herr Dühring makes him say ‘Because, according to the law of Hegel, quantity is transformed into quality therefore a sum of money when it has reached a certain amount becomes capital!’ He says just the opposite.”
This change from individual to social production brought about many far-reaching results. Its most immediate effect was to so cheapen goods produced by the more advanced methods that the older, individual producers found it impossible to compete and dropped out. But the method of owner-ship did not change. Just as under the handicraft system the owner of the tool became the owner of the product, so under the new scheme the owner of the factory and the machine made the same claim. Production had become social, but appropriation remained individual. Historically, this economic change meant the beginning of capitalism as a social system, for this fundamental contradiction is the basis of that system.
The essential economic features of capitalism constitute the main subject of the three volumes of Capital. It is necessary at this point only to enumerate them as a transition to the matter of the causes and process of the capitalist collapse. In the first place, the economics of capitalism must deal with the wealth of capitalism. This wealth consists of a certain class of material objects which are the products of human labor produced for exchange and not for use. Such objects are called by Marx, commodities. These commodities are produced by the class of workers called the proletariat; they are owned by the capitalist class by right of their ownership of the means of production. Capitalist society is composed essentially of these two classes, the capitalists who own all the wealth and hire the workers to produce more, and the workers who own nothing, but are dependent on the wages they receive from their employers, and who though theoretically free, are bound as securely to their jobs as any slave to his master, or serf to the soil. Surplus value, the difference between the value produced and the value received by the workers, is the only source of gain to the capitalists, and their sole reason for employing labor. The surplus goods on which capitalism is based, must ‘n order to yield profits, be disposed of in foreign markets. The old markets are soon flooded, and new ones are sought after. Thus capitalism is characterized by a continual and ever more desperate search for more markets. The later stages of capitalism find the organization of production very highly standardized, and on a vast scale. This social system is preserved and protected by the state, which may accurately be viewed as the special organ of the upper-classes to prevent any infringement of their property rights by the lower classes.
The capitalist system, composed of these various institutions, is fraught with many contradictions, of greater or less significance, which make its eventual collapse an historical necessity. As Marx succinctly puts it : “the capitalist system is so full of inherent contradictions that its own development, if the laws of its existence are permitted to freely work themselves out, will cause it to collapse.”
The most complete account of the factors and process of this collapse may be found in Engels’ book, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. The fundamental contradiction which is also the essence of capitalism has already been given. It is this basic antagonism (that is, between social production and individual ownership) which manifests itself through all the numerous other contradictions of the system. Thus “the contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation manifested itself as the antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie.”
In capitalist production there are certain economic laws which operate spite of, and even through, its characteristic anarchy or lack of organization. This confusion in production at large is in direct opposition to the compact organization within each workshop, but the law of competition underlies and operates through it. Its historical importance rests on the fact that the concentration of wealth is its direct consequence. For it is the very essence of competition to ring into use larger and more expensive machinery, with greater capacity for production Such changes, which involve the expenditure of more and more capital, naturally bring in their wake the elimination of the unfortunate, lesser capitalists who are not wealthy enough to make the increase. These ruined embers of the middle-class drop into the ranks of the unpropertied proletariat, helping to increase their numbers and make a more powerful opponent of the few successful industrial magnates who survive.
Meanwhile, due to the unemployment brought about by the installation of improved, labor-saving machinery, the distress of the proletariat is increasing. The misery thus endured (misery of inequality, even when material comforts increase, and relative misery due to sudden changes in the standard of living) brings about a revolutionary feeling, and the position of the capitalist becomes notably insecure.
These two features of the collapse of capitalism, namely, the replacement of old by new and more productive machinery, and the ever widening breach between the two economic classes, are given the characteristic Hegelian twist by both Marx and Engels in many interesting passages. For example, Marx says, referring to the enlargement of industry through competition : “The accumulation of capital though originally appearing as its quantitative extension only, is affected, as we have seen, under a progressive qualitative change in its composition, under a constant increase of its constant at the expense of its variable constituent.” Then, regarding the greater misery and discontent of the laboring class, Marx has this to say : “The law that always equilibrates the relative surplus population, or industrial reserve army, to the extent and energy of accumulation, this law rivets the laborer to capital more firmly than the wedges of Vulcan did Prometheus to the rock.
It establishes an accumulation of misery, corresponding to the accumulation of capital. Accumulation of capital, at one pole, is, therefore, at the same time, accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation at the opposite pole, that is, on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital.” This passage illustrates the application so frequently made by Marx of the Hegelian maxim of polar opposites. For Marx the capitalists and the workers are always “polar opposites,"’ “antagonistic forces,” absolutely necessary to each other, as such, yet the most deadly enemies, between whom, in the end, there can be no compromises.
The contradictions already mentioned bring about another, more directly indicative of the eventual collapse of the capitalist system, namely, the disorder known as the periodical crisis. The chief cause of these crises is the inability of the capitalists, resulting from the paucity of markets, to dispose of their surplus goods. “The enormous expansive force of modern industry,,” says Engels, “compared with which that of gases is mere child’s play, appears to us now as a necessity for expansion, both qualitative and quantitative, that laughs at all resistance.” But, “the extension of the markets cannot keep pace with the extension of production. The collision becomes inevitable, and as this cannot produce any real solution so long as it does not break in pieces the capitalist mode of production, the collisions become periodic. Capitalist production has begotten another ‘vicious circle’.” However, “in these crises, the contradiction between socialized production and capitalist appropriation ends in a violent explosion. The circulation of commodities is, for the time being, stopped. Money, the means of circulation, becomes a hindrance to circulation. All the laws of production and circulation of commodities are turned upside down. The economic collision has reached its apogee. The mode of production is in rebellion against the mode of exchange.
Whenever there are contradictions, something must occur to overcome them. In the case of history, each successive era is replaced by the next, which is but the resolution of the contradictions by which it was destroyed. Thus, in the present instance, it is manifest from the fact that capitalism is a bundle of contradictions that, “logically,” it must go out of existence. The, Marxists, however, do not rely on this abstract proof, but attempt to demonstrate from the nature of these economic and social contradictions that the continued existence of capitalism is an economic, a physical impossibility.
Having shown that such a system cannot continue long in existence, racked as it is by periodic crises which become increasingly severe and devastating and indicate a state of economic disintegration with its consequent weakening of ruling class power, and injured by an ever widening breach between. the social classes, with the bolder discontent over their inferior position displayed by the lower class, the Marxists then proceed to the practical solution of the problem. In a word, this solution lies in the overthrow of the capitalist system through whatever means may be necessary, by those to whom it is disadvantage, namely, the proletariat. Engels summarizes effectively as follows : “This solution can only consist in the practical recognition of the social nature of the modern forces of production, appropriation, and exchange with the socialized character of the means of production. And this can only corn about by society openly and directly taking possession of the productive fore which have outgrown all control except that of society as a whole. The social character of the means of production and of the products today reacts against the producers, periodically disrupts all production and exchange, acts only like a law-Of nature working blindly, forcibly, destructively. But with the taking over by society of the productive forces, the social character of the means of production and of the products will be utilized by the producers with a perfect understanding of its nature, and instead of being a source of disturbance and periodical collapse, will become the most powerful lever of production itself.” Thus, the one all important end to be attained is the resolution of the fundamental contradiction between social production and individual appropriation by instituting an organization of social ownership to correspond with the method of production. The method by which this is to be accomplished is necessarily that of revolution.
True to their Hegelian affiliation, the Marxists tend to refer not only the forces and factors in history, as shown in the outline of pure theory, but also the various historical epochs, to their proper positions in the logical triad. It is curious but not necessarily inconsistent that in these two aspects of the doctrine, the same period should occupy different positions in the triad. Thus from the point of view of the forces which brought about the transition, the capitalist system seems to be the synthesis of a triad the other two members of which are: thesis, the individual production and ownership of the handicraft period, and antithesis, the introduction of cooperation which meant the domination of social rather than individual production. Capitalism as the consummation of this cooperative tendency may be regarded as combining and reconciling these opposing tendencies. In fact, the system rests entirely – though unstably – on the abeyance for the time being of the antagonism between the social method of production and the limited, individual character of appropriation. On the other hand, in Engels’ Landmarks of Scientific Socialism there is a very clear statement to the effect that, though it is unnecessary for proof of a future communism to rely on pure abstract, logical deduction, it is worth observing that the conclusions arrived at by them on concrete material grounds conform with the pure outline of the dialectic. However, this should not be . surprising, for, from what source was the logic derived, but from the studied events of the material world? Consequently, it is perfectly well founded and somewhat clarify to regard capitalism as a negation of feudalism, and future communism as the negation of the negation of capitalism, this classification to be based on the same old qualities of social and individual production and ownership. The introduction with capitalism of socialized production was a negation of the individual ownership of feudal days. Future society based on the socialization of ownership as well as production, will be a negation of the impossible combination which forms the essence of capitalism. It may, therefore, be regarded, logically, as the negation of the negation.
There are several ways, it seems to me, of regarding the apparent divergence of this latest triad from the conventional dialectical form. It is easy to see that it does not fit in, at least not readily, with the abstract group the last member of which is a synthesis, or combination of the first and second, which are diametrically opposed, but parallel, and on an equal plane. The individual ownership of feudalism opposed by the individual ownership and social production of capitalism, and synthesized by the social production and ownership of communism offers no such symmetrical scheme. This fact re-quires interpretation.
The obvious, and probably the true explanation is that Marx and Engels make free and easy use of Hegel’s principles and terms, making no attempt to follow the Hegelian system in detail. There is plenty of evidence for this view, especially in Capital. To such expressions as “opposition,” “negation,” and “reconciliation,” which occur with some frequency, the Marxists do not, in practice at least, attach an obscure metaphysical meaning. Their use of these terms is certainly a little peculiar, but the meaning they intend to convey is perfectly acceptable, logically, to common sense. Engels attempts at some length to prove this point to the critic Herr Dühring : “But what is this dreadful negation of the negation which makes life so bitter to Herr Dühring . . ? It is a very simple process, and one, moreover, which fulfills itself every day, which any child can understand when it is deprived of mystery, under which the old idealistic philosophy found a refuge, ... Let us take a grain of barley ...let such a grain of barley fall on suitable soil under normal conditions; a complete individual change at once takes place in it; under the influence of heat and moisture, it germinates. The grain, as such disappears, is negated, in its place arises the plant, the negation of the grain ... But let us take a cultivated ornamental plant ...Let us consider the seed and the plants developed from it by the skill of the gardener, and we have in testimony of this negation of the negation, no longer the same seeds but qualitatively improved seed which produces more beautiful flowers... and every new negation of the negation, increases the tendency to perfection.” This habit of very free adaptation of Hegelian concepts is quite sufficient to explain all discrepancies between Marxist and Hegelian triads.
However, another possible, though much less probable explanation of this particular case must be investigated. A feature of the Hegelian dialectic which is overlooked by almost everyone, though referred to by Hegel himself in the introduction to the smaller Logic, and alluded to by McTaggart in his Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, is the fact that in the Logic itself there are three different types of triadic structure, a different one for each of the three main divisions – though the variation is continuous, rather than appearing abruptly at each point of division. In the first type of the triad peculiar to the first division, the thesis is absolutely, or diametrically opposed by the antithesis,
and the synthesis, therefore, is truly a synthesis of the two of them, since neither is more important than the other, and both have been elevated to the higher plane in which they occupy parallel positions. The second division is chiefly characterized by triads of another sort. In this division, the antithesis is not absolutely opposed to the thesis, for it appears as a development from it, and contains within itself, therefore, some portion of its logical partner. The synthesis is consequently the union and elevation of these two quite uneven elements. The third type but carries this process to its logical conclusion. In this case, the thesis develops into the antithesis, not partially, as in the previous case, but entirely, making it impossible for the antithesis to really negate the thesis, which it already embodies. Consequently, the synthesis is not a combination of the other two members of the triad, but a direct outgrowth of the antithesis alone.
Of these three possible types of the dialectical triad, the Marxist plan of historical epochs seems to conform most closely with the second. The similarity, of course, is not perfect, but in view of the fact. that the Marxists used dialectical terms in this connection, the type of triadic relation employed by them is of some interest. Capitalism, a system of individual production combined with social ownership has replaced, or negated, feudalism, a society characterized by both individual production and individual ownership. It seems manifest that the antithesis in this case is not merely the opposite of the thesis. It is rather a development, containing in a partial, incomplete way, its predecessor. That is, the individual ownership of feudalism has been taken up into capitalism, while the other aspect of feudalism, namely, individual production, has been dropped. In the same manner, the future stage of communism, as the synthesis of the two preceding systems, will be a development from the anti-thesis, for the social production of capitalism will be combined with the social ownership of the new society.