The German Ideology by Marx and Engels

C. Humane Liberalism

After Saint Max has interpreted liberalism and communism as imperfect modes of existence of philosophical “man”, and thereby also of modern German philosophy in general (which he was justified in doing, since in Germany not only liberalism but communism as well was given a petty-bourgeois and at the same time high-flown ideological form), after this, it is easy for him to depict the latest forms of German philosophy, what he has called “humane liberalism”, as perfect liberalism and communism, and, at the same time, as criticism of both of them.

With the aid of this holy construction we now get the following three delightful transformations (cf. also “The Economy of the Old Testament”):

1. The individual is not man, therefore he is of no value — absence of personal will, ordinance — “whose name will be named": “masterless” — political liberalism, which we have already dealt with above.

2. The individual has nothing human, therefore no validity attaches to mine and thine or property: “propertyless” — communism, which we have also already dealt with.

3. In criticism the individual should give place to man, now found for the first time: “godless” = identity of “masterless” and “propertyless” — humane liberalism (pp. 180-81). — In a more detailed exposition of this last negative unity, the unshakeable orthodoxy of Jacques reaches the following climax (p. 189):

“The egoism of property loses its last possession if even the words ‘my God’ become meaningless, for” (a grand “for"!) “God only exists if he has at heart the salvation of each individual, just as the latter seeks his salvation in God.”

According to this, the French bourgeois would only “lose” his “last” “Property” if the word adieu were banished from the language. In complete accord with the preceding construction, property in God, holy property in heaven, the property of fantasy, the fantasy of property, are here declared to be supreme property and the last sheet-anchor of property.

From these three illusions about liberalism, communism and German philosophy, he now concocts his new — and, thanks be to the “holy”, this time the last — transition to the “ego”. Before following him in this, let us once more glance at his last “arduous life struggle” with “humane liberalism”.

After our worthy Sancho in his new role of caballero andante [knight-errant], and in fact as caballero de la tristisima figura, [knight of the most rueful countenance] has traversed the whole of history, everywhere battling and “blowing down” spirits and spectres, “dragons and ostriches, satyrs and hobgoblins, wild beasts of the desert and vultures, bitterns and hedgehogs” (cf. Isaiah, 34:11-14), how happy he must now be, after his wanderings through all these different lands, to come at last to his island of Barataria [74] to “the land” as such, where “Man” goes about in puris naturalibus [in the pure natural state]! Let us once more recall his great thesis, the dogma imposed on him, on which his whole construction of history rests, to the effect that:

“the truths which arise from the concept of man are revered as revelations of precisely this concept and regarded as holy”; “the revelations of this holy concept”, even “with the abolition of many a truth manifested by means of this concept, are not deprived of their holiness” (p. 51).

We need hardly repeat what we have already proved to our holy author in respect of all his examples, namely, that empirical relations, created by real people in their real intercourse and not at all by the holy concept of man, are afterwards interpreted, portrayed, imagined, consolidated and justified by people as a revelation of the concept “man”. One may also recall his hierarchy. And now on to humane liberalism.

On page 44, where Saint Max “in brief” “contrasts Feuerbach’s [theological] view with our view”, at first nothing but phrases are advanced against Feuerbach. As we already saw in regard to the manufacture of spirits, where “Stirner” places his stomach among the stars (the third Dioscuros, a patron saint and protector against seasickness [75]), because he and his stomach are “different names for totally different things” (p. 42), so, here, too, essence [Wesen] appears first of all as an existing thing, and “so it is now said” (p. 44):

“The supreme being is, indeed, the essence of man, but precisely because it is his essence, and not man himself, it makes absolutely no difference whether we see this essence outside man and perceive it as ‘God’ or find it in man and call it the ‘essence of man’ or ‘Man’. I am neither God nor Man, neither the supreme being nor my essence — and, therefore, in the main, it makes no difference whether I think of this essence as inside me or outside me.”

Hence, the “essence of man” is presupposed here as an existing thing, it is the “supreme being”, it is not the “ego”, and, instead of saying something about “essence”, Saint Max restricts himself to the simple statement that it makes “no difference” “whether I think of it as inside me or outside me”, in this locality or in that. That this indifference to essence is no mere carelessness of style is already evident from the fact that he himself makes the distinction between essential and inessential and that with him even “the noble essence of egoism” finds a place (p. 71). Incidentally everything the German theoreticians have said so far about essence and non-essence is to be found already far better said by Hegel in his Logik.

We found the boundless orthodoxy of “Stirner” with regard to the illusions of German philosophy expressed in concentrated form in the fact that he constantly foists “Man” on history as the sole dramatis persona and believes that “Man” has made history. Now we shall find the same thing recurring in connection with Feuerbach, whose illusions “Stirner” faithfully accepts in order to build further on their foundation.

Page 77: “In general Feuerbach only transposes subject and predicate, giving preference to the latter. But since he says himself: ‘Love is not holy because it is a predicate of God (nor have people ever held it to be holy for that reason) but it is a predicate of God because it is divine by and for itself,’ he was able to conclude that the struggle had to be begun against the predicates themselves, against love and everything holy. How could he hope to turn people away from God, once he had left them the divine? And if, as Feuerbach says, the main thing for people has never been God, but only his predicates, he could after all have allowed them to keep this tinsel, since the puppet, the real kernel, still remained.”

Since, therefore, Feuerbach “himself” says this, it is reason enough for Jacques le bonhomme to believe him that people have esteemed love because it is “divine by and for itself “. If precisely the opposite of what Feuerbach says took place — and we “make bold to say this” (Wigand, p. 157) — if neither God nor his predicates have ever been the main thing for people, if this itself is only a religious illusion of German theory — it means that the very same thing has happened to our Sancho as happened to him before in Cervantes, when four stumps were put under his saddle while he slept and his ass was led away from under him.

— Criticism of Religion —

Relying on these statements of Feuerbach, Sancho starts a battle which was likewise already anticipated by Cervantes in the nineteenth chapter, where the ingenioso hidalgo fights against the predicates, the mummers, while they are carrying the corpse of the world to the grave and who entangled in their robes and shrouds, are unable to move and so make it easy for our hidalgo to overturn them with his lance and give them a thorough thrashing. The last attempt to exploit further the criticism of religion as an independent sphere (a criticism which has been flogged to the point of exhaustion), to remain within the premises of German theory and yet to appear to be going beyond them, and to cook from this bone, gnawed away to the last fibres, a thin Rumford beggar’s broth [76] [for “the] book” — this last attempt consisted in attacking material relations, not in their actual form, and not even in the form of the mundane illusions of those who are practically involved in the present-day world, but in the heavenly extract of their mundane form as predicates, as emanations from God, as angels. Thus, the heavenly kingdom was now repopulated and abundant new material created for the old method of exploitation of this heavenly kingdom. Thus, the struggle against religious illusions, against God, was again substituted for the real struggle. Saint Bruno, who earns his bread by theology, in his “arduous life struggle” against substance makes the same attempt pro aris et focie [for home and hearth] as a theologian to go beyond the limits of theology. His “substance” is nothing but the predicates of God united under one name; with the exception of personality, which he reserves for himself — these predicates of God are again nothing but deified names for the ideas of people about their definite, empirical relations, ideas which subsequently they hypocritically retain because of practical considerations.

With the theoretical equipment inherited from Hegel it is, of course, not possible even to understand the empirical, material attitude of these people. Owing to the fact that Feuerbach showed the religious world as an illusion of the earthly world — a world which in his writing appears merely as a phrase — German theory too was confronted with the question which he left unanswered: how did it come about that people “got” these illusions “into their heads"? Even for the German theoreticians this question paved the way to the materialistic view of the world, a view which is not without premises, but which empirically observes the actual material premises as such and for that reason is, for the first time, actually a critical view of the world. This path was already indicated in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher — in the Einleitung zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie and Zur Judenfrage. But since at that time this was done in philosophical phraseology, the traditionally occurring philosophical expressions such as “human essence”, “species”, etc., gave the German theoreticians the desired reason for misunderstanding the real trend of thought and believing that here again it was a question merely of giving a new turn to their worn-out theoretical garment — just as Dr. Arnold Ruge, the Dottore Graziano of German philosophy, imagined that he could continue as before to wave his clumsy arms about and display his pedantic-farcical mask. One has to “leave philosophy aside” (Wigand, p. 187, cf. Hess, Die letzten Philosophen, p. 8), one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers. When, after that, one again encounters people like Krummacher or “Stirner”, one finds that one has long ago left them “behind” and below. Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relation to one another as onanism and sexual love. Saint Sancho, who in spite of his absence of thought — which was noted by us patiently and by him emphatically — remains within the world of pure thoughts, can, of course, save himself from it only by means of a moral postulate, the postulate of “thoughtlessness” (p. 196 of “the book”). He is a bourgeois who saves himself in the face of commerce by the banqueroute cochenne, [77] whereby, of course, he becomes not a proletarian, but an impecunious, bankrupt bourgeois. He does not become a man of the world, but a bankrupt philosopher without thoughts.

The predicates of God handed down from Feuerbach as real forces over people, as hierarchs, are the monstrosity which is substituted for the empirical world and which “Stirner” finds in existence. So heavily does Stirner’s entire “peculiarity” depend merely on “prompting”. If “Stirner” (see also p. 63) reproaches Feuerbach for reaching no result because he turns the predicate into the subject and vice versa, he himself is far less capable of arriving at anything, [for] he faithfully accepts these Feuerbachian predicates, transformed into subjects, as real personalities ruling [the world], he faithfully accepts these phrases about relations as actual relations, attaching the predicate “holy” to them, transforming this predicate into a subject, the “holy”, i.e., doing exactly the same as that for which he reproaches Feuerbach. And so, after he has thus completely got rid of the definite content that was the matter at issue, he begins his struggle — i.e., his “antipathy” — against this “holy”, which, of course, always remains the same. Feuerbach has still the consciousness “that for him it is ‘only a matter of destroying an illusion'” — and it is this with which Saint Max reproaches him (p. 77 of “the book”) — although Feuerbach still attaches much too great importance to the struggle against this illusion. In “Stirner” even this consciousness has “all gone”, he actually believes in the domination of the abstract ideas of ideology in the modern world; he believes that in his struggle against “predicates”, against concepts, he is no longer attacking an illusion, but the real forces that rule the world. Hence his manner of turning everything upside-down, hence the immense credulity with which he takes at their face value all the sanctimonious illusions, all the hypocritical asseverations of the bourgeoisie. How little, incidentally, the “puppet” is the “real kernel” of the “tinsel”, and how lame this beautiful analogy is, can best be seen from “Stirner’s” own “puppet” — “the book”, which contains no “kernel”, whether “real” or not “real”, and where even the little that there is in its 491 pages scarcely deserves the name “tinsel”. — If, however, we must find some sort of “kernel” in it, then that kernel is the German petty bourgeois.

Incidentally, as regards the source of Saint Max’s hatred of “predicates”, he himself gives an extremely naive disclosure in the “Apologetic Commentary”. He quotes the following passage from Das Wesen des Christenthums (p. 31): “A true atheist is only one for whom the predicates of the divine being, e.g., love, wisdom, justice are nothing, but not one for whom only the subject of these predicates is nothing” — and then he exclaims triumphantly: “Does this not hold good for Stirner?” — “Here is wisdom.” In the above passage Saint Max found a hint as to how one should start in order to go “farthest of all”. He believes Feuerbach that the above passage reveals the “essence” of the “true atheist”, and lets Feuerbach set him the “task” of becoming a “true atheist”. The “unique” is “the true atheist”.

Even more credulously than in relation to Feuerbach does he “handle” matters in relation to Saint Bruno or “criticism”. We shall gradually see all the things that he allows “criticism” to impose on him, how he puts himself under its police surveillance, how it dictates his mode of life, his “calling”. For the time being it suffices to mention as an example of his faith in criticism that on page 186 he treats “Criticism” and the “Mass” as two persons fighting against each other and “striving to free themselves from egoism”, and on page 187 he “accepts” both “for what they ... give themselves out to be”.

With the struggle against humane liberalism, the long struggle of the Old Testament, when man was a school-master of the unique, comes to an end; the time is fulfilled, and the gospel of grace and joy is ushered in for sinful humanity.

The struggle over “man” is the fulfilment of the word, as written in the twenty-first chapter of Cervantes, which deals with “the high adventure and rich prize of Mambrino’s helmet”. Our Sancho, who in everything imitates his former lord and present servant, “has sworn to win Mambrino’s helmet” — Man — for himself. After having during his various “campaigns”, sought in vain to find the longed-for helmet among the ancients and moderns, liberals and communists, “he caught sight of a man on a horse carrying something on his head which shone like gold”. And he said to Don Quixote-Szeliga: “If I am not mistaken, there is someone approaching us bearing on his head that helmet of Mambrino, about which I swore the oath you know of.” “Take good care of what you say, your worship, and even greater care of what you do,” replied Don Quixote, who by now has become wiser. “Tell me, can you not see that knight coming towards us on a dapple-grey steed with a gold helmet on his head?” — “What I see and perceive,” replies Don Quixote, “is nothing but a man on a grey ass like yours with something glittering on his head.” — “Why, that is Mambrino’s helmet,” says Sancho.

Meanwhile, at a gentle trot there approaches them Bruno, the holy barber, on his small ass, criticism, with his barber’s basis on his head; Saint Sancho sets on him lance in hand, Saint Bruno jumps from his ass, drops the basin (for which reason we saw him here at the Council without the basin) and rushes off across country, “for he’s the Critic himself”. Saint Sancho with great joy picks up the helmet of Mambrino, and to Don Quixote’s remark that it looks exactly like a barber’s basin he replies: “This famous, enchanted helmet, which has become ‘ghostly’, undoubtedly fell into the hands of a man who was unable to appreciate its worth, and so he melted down one half of it and hammered out the other half ‘n such a way that, as you say, it appears to be a barber’s basin; in any case, whatever it may look like to the vulgar eye, for me, since I know its value, that is a matter of indifference.”

“The second splendour, the second property, has now been won!” Now that he has gained his helmet, “man”, he puts himself in opposition to him, behaves towards him as towards his “most irreconcilable enemy” and declares outright to him (why, we shall see later) that he (Saint Sancho) is not “man”, but an “unhuman being, the inhuman”. In the guise of this “inhuman”, he now moves to Sierra-Morena, in order to prepare himself by acts of penitence for the splendour of the New Testament. There he strips himself “stark naked” (p. 184) in order to achieve his peculiarity and surpass what his predecessor in Cervantes does in chapter twenty-five:

“And hurriedly stripping off his breeches, he stood in his skin and his shirt. And then, without more ado, he took two goat leaps into the air burning head over heels, thereby revealing such things as caused his trusty armour-bearer to turn Rosinante aside, so as not to see them.”

The “inhuman” far surpasses its mundane prototype. It “resolutely turns its back on itself and thus also turns away from the disquieting critic,”, and “leaves him behind”. The “inhuman” then enters into an argument with criticism that has been “left behind”; it “despises itself”, it “conceives itself in comparison with another”, it “commands God”, it “seeks its better self outside itself”, it does penance for not yet being unique, it declares itself to be the unique, “the egoistical and the unique” — although it was hardly necessary for it to state this after having resolutely turned its back on itself. The “Inhuman” has accomplished all this by its own efforts (see Pfister, Geschichte der Teutschen) and now, purified and triumphant, it rides on its ass into the kingdom of the unique.

End of the Old Testament