The Holy Family Chapter VI
As the result of its first campaign, Absolute Criticism can regard “philosophy” as having been dealt with and term it outright an ally of the “Mass”.
“Philosophy were predestined to fulfil the heart’s desires of the ‘Mass'”. For “the Mass wants simple concepts, in order to have nothing to do with the thing itself, shibboleths, so as to have finished with everything from the start, phrases by which Criticism can be done away with “
And “philosophy” fulfils this longing of the “Mass”!
Dizzy after its victories, Absolute Criticism breaks out in Pythian frenzy against philosophy. Feuerbach’s Philosophie der Zukunft [L. Feuerbach, Grundsätze der Philosophie der Zukunft] is the concealed cauldron [Engels here makes a pun on “Feuerbach” (literally stream of fire) and ‘Feuerkesser’ (boiler)] whose fumes inspire the frenzy of Absolute Criticism’s victory-intoxicated head. It read Feuerbach’s work in March. The fruit of that reading, and at the same time the criterion of the earnestness with which it was undertaken, is Article No. 2 against Professor Hinrichs.
In this article Absolute Criticism, which has never freed itself from the cage of the Hegelian way of viewing things, storms at the iron bars and walls of its prison. The “simple concept”, the terminology, the whole mode of thought of philosophy, indeed, the whole of philosophy, is rejected with disgust. In its place we suddenly find the “real wealth of human relations”, the “immense content of history”, the “significance of man”, etc. “The mystery of the system” is declared “revealed”.
But who, then, revealed the mystery of the “system”? Feuerbach. Who annihilated the dialectics of concepts, the war of the gods that was known to the philosophers alone? Feuerbach. Who substituted for the old lumber and for “infinite self-consciousness” if not, indeed, “the significance of man” — as though man had another significance than that of being man! — at any rate “Man"? Feuerbach, and only Feuerbach. And he did more. Long ago he did away with the very categories with which “Criticism” now operates — the “real wealth of human relations, the immense content of history, the struggle of history, the fight of the Mass against the Spirit”, etc., etc.
Once man is recognised as the essence, the basis of all human activity and situations, only “Criticism” can invent new categories and transform man himself into a category and into the principle of a whole series of categories, as it is doing now. It is true that in so doing it takes the only road to salvation that has remained for frightened and persecuted theological inhumanity. History does nothing, it “possesses no immense wealth”, it “wages no battles”. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; “history” is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims. If Absolute Criticism, after Feuerbach’s brilliant expositions, still dares to reproduce all the old trash in a new form, at the same time abusing it as “mass-type” trash — which it has all the less right to do as it never stirred a finger to dissolve philosophy — that fact alone is sufficient to bring the “mystery” of Criticism to light and to assess the Critical naivety with which it says the following to Professor Hinrichs, whose “exhaustion” once did it such a great service:
“The damage is to those who have not gone through any development and therefore could not alter themselves even if they wished to, and at most to the new principle — but no! The new cannot be made into a phrase, separate turn of speech cannot be borrowed from it.”
Absolute Criticism prides itself that, in contrast to Professor Hinrichs, it has solved “the mystery of the faculty sciences”. Has it then solved the “mystery” of philosophy, jurisprudence, politics, medicine, political economy and so forth? Not at all! It has — be it noted! — shown in Die gute Sache der Freiheit that science as a source of livelihood and free science, freedom of teaching and faculty statutes, contradict each other.
If “Absolute Criticism” were honest it would have admitted where its pretended illumination on the “Mystery of Philosophy” Comes from. It is a good thing all the same that it does not put into Feuerbach’s mouth such nonsense as the misunderstood and distorted propositions that it borrowed from him, as it has done with other people. By the way, it is characteristic of “Absolute Criticism’s” theological viewpoint that, whereas the German philistines are now beginning to understand Feuerbach and to adopt his conclusions, it is unable to grasp a single sentence of his correctly or to use it properly.
Criticism achieves a real advance over its feats of the first campaign when it “defines” the struggle of “the Mass” against the “Spirit” as “the aim” of all previous history, when it declares that “the Mass” is the “pure nothing” of “misery”; when it calls the Mass purely and simply “Matter” and contrasts “the Spirit” as truth to “Matter”. Is not Absolute Criticism therefore genuinely Christian-Germanic? After the old antithesis between spiritualism and materialism has been fought out on all sides and overcome once for all by Feuerbach, “Criticism” again makes a basic dogma of it in its most loathsome form and gives the victory to the “Christian-Germanic spirit”.
Finally, it must be considered as a development of Criticism’s mystery concealed in its first campaign when it now identifies the antithesis between Spirit and Mass with the antithesis between “Criticism” and the Mass. Later it will go on to identify itself with “Criticism” and therefore to represent itself as “the Spirit”, the Absolute and Infinite, and the Mass, on the other hand, as finite, coarse, brutal, dead and inorganic — for that is what “Criticism” understands by matter.
How immense is the wealth of history that is exhausted in the relationship of humanity to Herr Bauer!
To the material, mass-type Jews is preached the Christian doctrine of freedom of the Spirit, freedom in theory, that spiritualistic freedom which imagines itself to be free even in chains, and whose soul is satisfied with “the idea” and only embarrassed by any mass-type existence.
“The Jews are emancipated to the extent they have now reached in theory, they are free to the extent that they wish to be free.”
From this proposition one can immediately measure the Critical gap which separates mass-type, profane communism and socialism from absolute socialism. The first proposition of profane socialism rejects emancipation in mere theory as an illusion and for real freedom it demands besides the idealistic “will” very tangible, very material conditions. How low “the Mass” is in comparison with holy Criticism, the Mass which considers material, practical Upheavals necessary even to win the time and means required merely to occupy itself with “theory"!
Let us leave purely spiritual socialism an instant for politics!
Herr Riesser maintains against Bruno Bauer that his state (i.e., the Critical state) must exclude “Jews” and “Christians”. Herr Riesser is right. Since Herr Bauer confuses political emancipation with human emancipation, since the state can react to antagonistic elements — and Christianity and Judaism are described as treasonable elements in Die Judenfrage — only by forcible exclusion of the persons representing them (as the Terror, for instance, wished to do away with hoarding by guillotining the hoarders), Herr Bauer must have both Jews and Christians hanged in his “Critical state”. Having confused political emancipation with human emancipation, he had to be consistent and confuse the political means of emancipation with the human means. But as soon as Absolute Criticism is told the definite meaning of its deductions, it gives the answer that Schelling once gave to all his opponents who substituted real thoughts for his phrases:
“Criticism’s opponents are its opponents because they not only measure it with their dogmatic yardstick but regard Criticism itself as dogmatic; they oppose Criticism because it does not recognise their dogmatic distinctions, definitions and evasions.”
It is, of course, to adopt a dogmatic attitude to Absolute Criticism, as also to Herr Schelling, if one assumes it to have definite, real meaning, thoughts and views. In order to be accommodating and to prove to Herr Riesser its humanity, “Criticism”, however, decides to resort to dogmatic distinctions, definitions and especially to “evasions”.
Thus we read:
“Had I in that work” (Die Judenfrage) “had the will or the right to go beyond, criticism, I ought’ (!) .’to have spoken” (!) “not of the state, but of ‘society’, which excludes no one but from which only those exclude themselves who do not wish to take part in its development.”
Here Absolute Criticism makes a dogmatic distinction between what it ought to have done, if it had not done the contrary, and what it actually did. It explains the narrowness of its work Die Judenfrage by the “dogmatic evasions” of having the will and the right which prohibited it from going “beyond criticism”. What? “Criticism” should go beyond “criticism"? This quite mass-type notion occurs to Absolute Criticism because of the dogmatic necessity for, on the one hand, asserting its conception of the Jewish question as absolute, as “Criticism”, and on the other hand, admitting the possibility of a more comprehensive conception.
The mystery of its “not having the will” and “not having the right” will later be revealed as the Critical dogma according to which all apparent limitations of “Criticism” are nothing but necessary adaptations to the powers of comprehension of the Mass.
It had not the will! It had not the right to go beyond its narrow conception of the Jewish question! But what would it have done had it had the will or the right? — It would have given a dogmatic definition. It would have spoken of “society” instead of the “state”, that is to say, it would not have studied the real relation of Jewry to present-day civil society! It would have given a dogmatic definition of “society” as distinct from the “state”, in the sense that if the state excludes, on the other hand they exclude themselves from society who do not wish to take part in its development!
Society behaves just as exclusively as the state, only in a more polite form: it does not throw you out, but it makes it so uncomfortable for you that you go out of your own will.
Basically, the state does not behave otherwise, for it does not exclude anybody who complies with all its demands and orders and its development. In its perfection it even closes its eyes and declares real contradictions to be non-political contradictions which do not disturb it. Besides, Absolute Criticism itself has argued that the state excludes Jew.. because and in so far as the Jews exclude the state and hence exclude themselves from the state. If this reciprocal relationship has a more polite, a more hypocritical, a more insidious form in Critical “society”, this only proves that “Critical” “society” is more hypocritical and less developed.
Let us follow Absolute Criticism deeper in its “dogmatic distinctions” and “definitions”, and, in particular, in its “evasions”.
Herr Riesser, for example, demands of the critic “that he distinguish what belongs to the domain of law” from “what is beyond its sphere”.
The Critic is indignant at the impertinence of this juridical demand.
“So far, however,” he retorts, “both feeling and conscience have interfered in law, always supplemented it, and because of its character, based on its dogmatic form” (not, therefore, on its dogmatic essence?), “have always had to supplement it.”
The Critic forgets only that law, on the other hand, distinguishes itself quite explicitly from “feeling and conscience”, that this distinction is based on the one-sided essence of law as well as on its dogmatic form, and is even one of the main dogmas of law; that, finally, the practical implementation of that distinction is just as much the peak of the development of law as the separation of religion from all profane content makes it abstract, absolute religion. The fact that “feeling and conscience” interfere in law is sufficient reason for the “Critic” to speak of feeling and conscience when it is a matter of law, and of theological dogmatism when it is a matter of juridical dogmatism.
The “definitions and distinctions of Absolute Criticism” have prepared us sufficiently to hear its latest “discoveries” on “society” and “law”.
“The world form that Criticism is preparing, and the thought of which it is even only just preparing, is not a merely legal form but” (collect yourself, reader) “a social one, about which at least this much” (this little?) “can he said: whoever has not made his contribution to its development and does not live with his conscience and feeling in it. cannot feel at home in it or take part in its history.”
The world form that “Criticism” is preparing is defined as not merely legal, but social. This definition can be interpreted in two ways. The sentence quoted may be taken as “not legal but social” or as “not merely legal, but also social”. Let us consider its content according to both readings, beginning with the first. Earlier, Absolute Criticism defined the new “world form” distinct from the “state” as “society”. Now it defines the noun “society” by the adjective “social”. If Herr Hinrichs was three times given the word “social” in contrast to his “political”, Herr Riesser is now given social society in contrast to his “legal” society. If the Critical explanations for Herr Hinrichs reduced themselves to the formula “social” + “social” + “social” = 3a, Absolute Criticism in its second campaign passes from addition to multiplication and Herr Riesser is referred to society multiplied by itself, society to the second power, Social society = a2. In order to complete its deductions on society, all that now remains for Absolute Criticism to do is to go On to fractions, to extract the square root of society, and so forth.
If, on the other hand, we take the second reading: the “not merely legal, but also social” world form, this hybrid world form is nothing but the world form existing today, the world form of present-day society. It is a great, a meritorious Critical miracle that “Criticism” in its pre-world thinking is only just preparing the future existence of the world form which exists today. But however matters stand with “not merely legal but social society”, Criticism can for the time being say no more about it than “fabula docet”,[the fable teaches] the moral application. Those who do not live in that society with their feeling and their conscience will “not feel at home” in it. In the end, no one will live in that society except “pure feeling” and “pure conscience”, that is, “the Spirit”, “Criticism” and its supporters. The Mass will be excluded from it in one way or another so that “mass-type society” will exist outside “social society”.
In a word, this society is nothing but the Critical heaven from which the real world is excluded as being the un-Critical hell. In its pure thinking, Absolute Criticism is preparing this transfigured world form of the contradiction between “Mass” and “Spirit”.
Of the same Critical depth as these explanations on “society” are the explanations Herr Riesser is given on the destiny of nations.
The Jews’ desire for emancipation and the desire of the Christian states to “classify” the Jews in “their government scheme” — as though the Jews had not long ago been classified in the Christian government scheme! — lead Absolute Criticism to prophecies on the decay of nationalities. See by what a complicated detour Absolute Criticism arrives at the present historical movement — namely, by the detour of theology. The following illuminating oracle shows us what great results Criticism achieves in this way:
“The future of all nationalities — is — very — obscure!”
But let the future of nationalities be as obscure as it may be, for Criticism’s sake. The one essential thing is clear: the future is the work of Criticism.
“Destiny,” it exclaims, “may decide as it will: we now know that it is our work.”
As God leaves his creation, man, his own will, so Criticism leaves destiny, which is its creation, its own will. Criticism, of which destiny is the work, is, like God, almighty. Even the “resistance” which it “finds” outside itself is its own work. “Criticism makes its adversaries.” The “mass indignation” against it is therefore “dangerous” only for “the Mass” itself.
But if Criticism, like God, is almighty, it is also, like God, all-wise and is capable of combining its almightiness with the freedom, the will and the natural determination of human individuals.
“It would not be the epoch-making force if it did not have the effect of making each one what he wills to be and showing each one irrevocably the standpoint corresponding to his nature and his will.”
Leibniz could not have given a happier presentation of the re-established harmony between the almightiness of God and the p freedom and natural determination of man.
If “Criticism” seems to clash with psychology by not distinguishing between the will to be something and the ability to be something, it must be borne in mind that it has decisive grounds to declare this “distinction” “dogmatic”.
Let us steel ourselves for the third campaign! Let us recall once more that “Criticism makes its adversary"! But how could it make its adversary, the. “phrase”, if it were not a phrase-monger?