Published: Workers Library Publishers, New York, 1935.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2006. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source.
TWENTY thousand workers march through the streets of Havana, Cuba. They protest against the murder of strikers by the Cuban government. They demand freedom for Cuba: freedom from Yankee imperialism that is dominating their beautiful and rich island, and freedom from native capitalists and landlords who are squeezing the life blood out of the workers and farmers. They march with red banners on which glows the legend: “Workers of the World, Unite!”
A secret meeting of workers in Germany under Nazi rule. They have gathered to perfect the organization of the workers in factories and plants. They are listening to reports about work of the shop committees carried on despite the watchful eyes of the Storm Troopers. They report progress. The brutal rule is being undermined. The workers are gaining confidence and courage. Soon the whole country will be shaken by great workers’ and peasants’ revolts. In the quiet of the night the assembled workers disperse one by one so as not to attract unwelcome eyes. The younger workers, on the way home, cannot forego the pleasure of painting on the pavements with large letters: “Down With Fascism! Workers of the World, Unite!“
A general strike in San Francisco. The harbor is tied up. Factories are at a standstill. Trolley cars do not run. Few taxis appear on the streets. Bankers, manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce men are nervous. Will the power plants walk out? Will the workers succeed in showing that they are the real live force of modern civilization? What if this movement spreads to every city in the Union? How can it be crushed? The owners of wealth have reason to worry. But there is rejoicing in the camp of the workers. They have begun to feel their strength. The halls where they meet to decide upon the further course of action are decorated with numerous slogans, chief among which is: “Workers of the World, Unite!“
A May Day demonstration in Moscow, the Red capital of a country where the workers have taken over the factories from the manufacturers and the land from the landlords and established their own rule, the Soviets. May Day to them is the great festival of labor’s freedom. There is a great review on the Red Square. On the steps of Lenin’s tomb stand the leaders of the Revolution — Stalin, Molotov, Kalinin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and many others — men that helped the workers carry through the seizure of state power and the expropriation of the former robbers and oppressors of the people. The great square is decorated with banners and slogans. Over the walls of the Kremlin the crimson banner of world revolution floats in the spring air. Red Army soldiers, Red Army commanders, detachments of armed workers, regiments of armed worker-students, troops of athletes, men and women — a whole nation free of the chains of wage slavery and exploitation is passing through the streets of Moscow and other cities of the great Soviet Union. And everywhere, inscribed in red upon the banners, is the great clarion call: “Workers of the World, Unite!”
This slogan, “Workers of the World, Unite!” was first advanced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. There are millions who know the slogan without knowing that it belongs to Marx and Engels. There are many millions of workers and farmers the world over who fight against their exploiters without knowing that the course and the task of their fight was outlined many decades ago by Marx and Engels. Therein lies the greatness of these two men. They have explained the reasons why workers must unite and fight: They made clear that such fights are inevitable. They foresaw the certain victory of the working class and other toilers. They mapped out the road to follow for the workers and for all the exploited and oppressed so that their fight may lead to their triumph, and exploitation may be abolished forever.
Marx died fifty-two years ago, and millions of people the world over commemorated in 1933 the fiftieth anniversary of his death, paying tribute both to him and to Engels. Friedrich Engels died on August 5, 1895, forty years ago. Marx and Engels were the authors of one of the greatest books in history, The Communist Manifesto, which ends with these marvelous words: “The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the World, Unite!”
It is necessary that workers the world over should know the work of Engels. It is particularly important that the workers of the United States should understand the teachings of Engels as founder, together with Marx, of the revolutionary labor movement (Communism). Our country is at the crossroads. The role of the capitalists, which for several decades seemed to create prosperity, and under which America had risen to the position of one of the greatest world powers, is unable to continue. It can produce no more prosperity for the country. It cannot even boast of satisfying the basic needs of the population. It can create only misery and degradation for scores of millions while accumulating mad profits for a few. Wall Street rule can no more direct the country on the road of progress. Power must be wrested by the workers in union with the oppressed farmers and with other elements of the toiling population. Factories, plants, railroads, mines, in short, all means of production, must pass into the hands of those who work. Land and buildings must be taken away from the large landlords and made the property of the people. This can be done only when the workers rise in a mighty revolution against the power of those who have brought the country to the verge of ruin.
In this they need the teachings of Marx and Engels, and of the two other great leaders who, after the death of Marx and Engels, continued their work in our epoch — Lenin and Stalin.
This little book will give a few of the most outstanding facts about Engels.
“They [Marx and Engels] taught the working class to know itself and become class conscious, and they substituted science for dreaming.”
This is how Lenin, the great revolutionary leader, summed up the work of these two men. What does Lenin mean when he says that they substituted science for dreaming? He means this. The working class existed before Marx and Engels. The working class existed ever since modern capitalism developed, first in England in the second half of the eighteenth century, then on the Continent of Europe in the nineteenth century. Exploitation existed before Marx and Engels. Workers’ struggles began early in the nineteenth century, before Marx and Engels started their activities. Dissatisfaction with existing conditions also developed early. Plans for a better society were being developed in the first decades of the nineteenth century by a number of great friends of the people. These thinkers, among whom the Englishman, Robert Owen, and the Frenchmen, Saint Simon and Charles Fourier, occupied the first ranks, harshly criticized the existing system. They saw the root evil of existing society in private property. They understood that because wealth is in the hands of the capitalists, which gives them power to use the labor of other at low wages and under bad conditions, poverty and suffering prevailed among great numbers of the people. These noble souls regretted the evil and they wished for a better society where evil would not exist. They wished for a society where the means of production would belong, not to the individual, but to the community. They eloquently preached such a society. But they never saw clearly the way a society without private property could be established. In fact, some of them thought that once the owners of wealth see the light, they gladly will give up their possessions. They believed, in other words, that exploitation is due to the ignorance of the exploiters. Once they have been shown the outlines of a better society they would help build it up. The preachers of the ideal society did not believe that the workers themselves could establish such a society. Quite the contrary; they believed that the workers should not fight against their exploiters.
We call such people utopians. A utopian is the same thing as a dreamer. He sees with the eyes of his mind a better system, but he does not see the road that leads to the promised land. A utopian can only wish. His wishes may be very sweet, but he cannot lead. Only those who see the correct road can lead.
Marx and Engels, says Lenin, substituted science for dreaming. They substituted science for utopia. They put the struggle of the workers on a scientific basis. Marx and Engels, in command of all the science of their times, made a scientific analysis of existing society. They saw that it was a society where capitalism rules, and is therefore a capitalist society. They examined the forces that operate in the capitalist society. They discovered the laws governing capitalist society. And they pointed out as clearly and accurately, as only science enables man to do, that the laws of development of capitalist society inevitably lead to the workers’ revolution which will establish Socialism.
Marx and Engels substituted science for dreaming. Their theory blazed a road as indicated and prepared by history itself among forests of misery and mountains of hunger and oppression. Marx and Engels showed the working class and all the oppressed what they must do to liberate themselves and the world. Both Marx and Engels personally entered the working class movement. Marx for forty years and Engels for fifty years after their discovery of the basic law of capitalist development participated in the revolutionary labor struggles, both as leaders active in the practical fights, and as theoreticians enabling the toilers of the world to understand their own role and their tasks. They taught the working class “to know itself and become class conscious.”
Because their science was the real science, the only true science, the road they pointed out was the correct road. And because the road was the correct road, the movement grew. In the last decades it has developed a hundredfold compared with what it was during their lifetime. Twenty-two years after the death of Engels the first Soviet Republic was established in Russia after the successful rising of the workers and peasants in November, 1917. Today a Socialist society has been established in the Soviet Union and millions of workers all over the world are fighting for Socialism. Millions are aware today that they have nothing to lose but their chains and have the world to win.
Engels was born in Barmen November 28, 1820, in the family of a German manufacturer. As a boy of seventeen, before finishing his studies, he was sent by his father to work for a commercial firm in Bremen. But such was the talent and the avidity of the man for knowledge that no matter how much he was occupied with commercial activities, he always managed to study, to enrich himself with knowledge. When you learn what fund of knowledge Engels possessed you are literally overawed. Philosophy, sociology, economics, history, natural sciences, military sciences, languages, including Russian, Persian, Celtic and a number of others besides, the major European languages — he felt at home in each of these fields. In each field be made great contributions. And all his knowledge he put at the disposal of the revolutionary movement of the workers in order to lead it in the right direction.
In 1839, at the age of nineteen, he joined the democratic movement of Germany. About that time he also started his literary activities. In 1841 he joined the army as a volunteer and, serving in the Guards Artillery, became acquainted with the fundamentals of military science, which he later continued to study assiduously because of “the great importance of military men in the corning revolutionary movement”, as he said. In 1842 he becomes a contributor to the revolutionary Rheinish Gazette, of which Marx was the editor-in-chief. In the same year he goes to Manchester, England, where he is employed in a textile factory of which his father is part owner. He does not confirf himself to his office or to his library, however; he visits working class quarters and becomes thoroughly familiar with the situation of the proletariat. He makes a study of the British industrial system — the most advanced of the age. Throughout all these years and later, during his entire lifetime, he keeps writing articles, essays, and tracts on the most diverse problems for a great number of periodicals. Not the least part of his literary work was the writing of thousands of letters on social problems to various friends, leaders of the labor movement in almost every country. Time and again he publishes a book which is epoch-making in clarifying the economic and political situation and in developing the theory of the revolutionary movement of the working class.
“He is a real encyclopedia,” said Marx about him in a letter to a common friend of theirs. “He can work at all hours of the day and night, after meals and on an empty stomach, and his thinking is devilishly fast.”
As a boy of 23 he publishes a series of essays which are later collected in book form under the title Outline of a Critique of Political Economy. At that time he is still working independently of Marx, yet he comes to the same conclusions that Marx reached in his own studies. In 1844 he finally meets Marx for the first time, although they had corresponded with one another before this time. From that day on, and during forty years, up to the very last day of Marx’s life, these two maintained a friendship the like of which history has not seen. In 1845 he publishes a book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, which not only showed the horrible conditions of the life of the workers under modern capitalism, but also pointed out that the condition of the workers irresistibly moves them to struggle against capitalism and for Socialism, and that Socialism would be accomplished when the workers have learned to think of themselves as a class and have organized their own political struggle. That first Communist book was not only a great indictment of capitalism. It was a book showing the workers the way to their liberation. It is one of the great landmarks of the theory of the revolutionary workers’ struggle of all time.
In 1845 Marx and Engels establish connections with the revolutionary movement of the English workers and with the revolutionary organizations of German and French workers living in England. In 1845-46 Marx and Engels jointly wrote the book, German Ideology, in which they expounded the philosophy of the revolutionary labor movement. At the same time they undertook the organization of the revolutionary workers into a Communist Party. With their aid the Communist League was organized in 1847. The two young revolutionists were commissioned to embody the fundamental principles of the organization in a document. They wrote The Communist Manifesto.
“This little book,” says Lenin, “is worth a whole number of volumes: its spirit gives life to the movement of the entire organized and fighting proletariat of the civilized world.”
The book points out the tactics of the working class and enumerates the measures that the workers will undertake as a transition from capitalism to Communism.
The year 1848 swept over Europe like a hurricane. People were rising in revolution against the old system which was a system of kings and aristocrats, ruling and oppressing the great masses of the people. The class of capitalists, which had grown strong in consequence of the development of modern industry, was interested in obtaining political power for itself, and in that measure it was against the old regime. The great masses of workers, working intellectuals, small city people, poor farmers, were interested in political freedom, in democracy, in abolishing all remnants of feudalism in order that they might be better enabled to fight against the capitalists and landlords. The masses went into the streets, built barricades, fought against the armed forces of the monarchs and aristocracy, won revolutionary battles, shook all of Europe to its foundation. It was a great year in the history of mankind.
Marx and Engels were among the fighters. They clearly understood and taught the workers that political democracy is not their final goal, that the workers are interested in abolishing exploitation altogether, which means abolishing capitalism. Nevertheless they recognized the great significance of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. They saw in it the clearing of the ground for the possibility of building the workers’ organizations, strengthening the working class, passing to the next stage — the social revolution.
Engels participates in the revolutionary movement both as writer and editor and as an active participant in the struggles. In 1849 he joined a revolutionary-democratic movement in the south of Germany which was fighting against the rising counter-revolution. Engels was an aide to the commander of a revolutionary army. He participated in a number of battles. When the army was defeated he, together with the fighters, crossed the frontier into Switzerland from where he proceeded to England. Marx also found his way into England. During the revolutionary years, 1848-1849, Engels was very active in the revolutionary paper, New Rhinish Gazette, of which Marx was the editor and leading spirit. The paper was closed in 1849 by the counter-revolution.
Reaction followed the stormy years. Marx and Engels are outlawed in Germany. Marx is a man without a country. Both are hounded on the Continent. Only in England is it possible for them to live more or less unmolested. Marx is without means. Engels takes upon himself to help support Marx, which he did to the very end of his friend’s life. Himself a genius, he thinks the genius of Marx greater than his. He is happy, he says, to play the second fiddle to Marx. He again enters the employ of the Manchester factory which partly belongs to his father. He hates this work. He considers himself in captivity; he calls it “a dog’s life”. But he is able to support Marx so that the latter may work on his monumental book, Capital. Part of his upkeep Marx earns through writing articles for the New York Tribune, of which he is the European correspondent. Nearly one-third of the more than five hundred articles written by Marx for that paper during a decade were written by Engels, who wrote them under Marx’s name. At the same time Engels continues his own studies. In connection with the Crimean War (1853-54) he studies the East, the history of Turkey, Arabian culture, the Persian language and culture. He writes articles on military problems for the Tribune and the Daily News and other publications. For the New American Cyclopaedia he writes about a hundred articles on military affairs and languages.
In the second half of the ’fifties there was a revival of the revolutionary movement. Engels increases his studies and writes a number of articles and pamphlets on the various problems of world affairs. He writes voluminously in connection with the Civil War in America.
In 1864 under the leadership of Marx the various revolutionary organizations in Europe and America formed the International Workingmen’s Association known as the First International. Engels not only joins the organization but later becomes one of its leaders. He participates in a number of its congresses. He is the secretary of the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Danish sections. He helps shape the policy of the International during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 in the spirit of true internationalism. At the same time he is in the closest touch with the various parties of the working class that are being founded in nearly every European country.
In 1869, after nearly twenty years of toil, he finally gives up his work in the factory. After the death of his father in 1864, he had become part owner. Now he sells his share and clears enough money to enable Marx and himself to continue their activities undisturbed. He moves to London where Marx had made his residence. The work of leading the world revolutionary movement is divided between these two in the following way: Marx devotes himself mostly to work on his Capital, while Engels develops the revolutionary theory of Marxism in the various other realms. There flows from Engels’ pen a broad stream of pamphlets and tracts in which he throws light on the various aspects of past and current history. In 1878 he writes his famous book, Anti-Duehring, a fighting book expounding the revolutionary philosophy of the working class, one of the greatest books of all ages. One section of this book, in the form of a special pamphlet entitled Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, has gained enormous popularity. He also wrote, by the end of the ’seventies, a book on the theory of nature, entitled Dialectics of Nature. Previous to that he had written a book on the Peasant War in Germany (in the early sixteenth century) and on the Housing Question.
The death of Marx in 1883 was a great blow and a tremendous friendship of these two giants loss to Engels. Here the lifelong finds a new expression. Marx had not finished Capital. He had published in 1867 only the first volume. After the death of Marx, Engels takes it upon himself to become the executor of Marx’s will, and the first task was to prepare for publication the other two volumes of Capital. Engels first publishes the third edition of the first volume, then he begins to work on Marx’s manuscript. It was no easy task. The manuscript was scribbled on sheets of paper in the form of notes. The handwriting was difficult to read. Engels worked as only such a genius can. In 1885 he published the second volume of Capital. The third volume took another ten years and was published only in 1894.
Work on Capital did not deter Engels from pursuing his own scientific and literary activities. At the same time he is the outstanding leader of the workers’ movement of the world. He is not only in the closest touch with the German Social-Democratic Party which was formed in 1875 and which he tries to lead in the proper direction, but he is also connected with the other Socialist Parties of Europe. In 1884 he publishes one of his outstanding books, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. In 1886 he publishes a book, Ludwig Feuerbach, in which he gives a splendid exposition of the foundation of Marxian philosophy. He also edits and publishes works by Marx other than Capital. (Most of his works were translated into all European languages. Now his works are distributed in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and many other oriental languages.)
With the growth of the Socialist movement Engels sees that the time had come to renew the International, or rather to build a new International. (The First International had ceased to exist in 1876.) Engels became the founder of the Second International, whose first congress took place in 1889 in Paris. A man of nearly seventy, he exhibits a youthful vigor in organizing and leading this new International organization, fighting against distortions of the true Marxian line, communicating with the Socialists in Germany, Austria, France, Russia, England. He follows the revolutionary movement at first hand, since he knew nearly all the European languages. He also supervises the translation of the fundamental works of Marx into various languages (Italian, Danish, Czech) and illuminates world affairs through numberless articles published in the press of various countries. When he appeared at the Congress of the Second International in Zurich in 1893 he was met with an ovation that showed how deeply the leaders of the revolutionary movement and the workers everywhere appreciated his work.
He died August 5, 1895, at the age of 75, from a cancer of the stomach. He continued to work almost to the last. Throughout his life he worked. But he found time to travel. He visited the United States, Canada, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark. He loved to go horseback riding and he hiked much. He never lost his military carriage acquired in the regiment. He was tall, slender, with good manners. He combined a practical sense with tremendous theoretical abilities. He was equally good as a scientist and as a business man. But he chafed under the necessity of giving too much of his attention to business. He combined a profundity of theoretical knowledge, a great depth of independent thinking, with the great art of a master of political movements. It is almost impossible to separate him from Marx. These two were so closely connected, they so often exchanged views, they helped each other so readily in their work that their contribution is practically one great whole.
“The great world-wide historical service of Marx and Engels lies in the fact that they proved by scientific analysis the inevitability of the downfall of capitalism and its transition to Communism, under which there will be no more exploitation of man by man.
“The great world-wide historical service of Marx and Engels lies in this, that they indicated to the proletarians of all countries their role, their task, their calling: to be the first to rise in the revolutionary fight against capital and unite around themselves in this struggle all the toilers and the exploited.” (Lenin.)
“Marx and Engels gave the main outlines of the idea of the [Communist] Party as being the vanguard of the proletariat, without which [the Party] the proletariat could not achieve its emancipation, i.e., could not capture power or reconstruct capitalist society.” (Stalin.)
The theory of the working class does not confine itself to the theory of society. It is much wider. It is a theory of the whole world, or what is known as Nature, which also includes society. The question of all questions which the working class has to decide is: What is the world? What is reality? How does man conceive the world? How is knowledge possible?
These questions seem to be abstract and remote. They seem to have no immediate relation to the life of the worker in his shop or in his organization. A little reasoning will prove that this is not so.
Let us take a very simple question: Shall there or shall there not be a strike in a certain industry? How often have you heard that a strike is wrong because it disturbs peace and disrupts cooperation between labor and management. Those who advance this idea proceed from the conception that peace between capital and labor is not only desirable but possible. This is based on the idea that conflict is wrong and absence of conflict is good. This in turn rests upon the assumption that the whole world is one continuous “conflictless” development. A development along smooth paths is if necessity preordained. And who can preordain a smooth and peaceful development if not some higher Reason? Reason, then, is assumed to be that which rules the world. Of necessity it is assumed to be the real reality. And here we have arrived at the conception of spirit being the origin of all things. From this it is not far to the idea of a God ruling our destinies. And when God has established a certain order and his will is supreme everywhere, what use is there for man to try and break his chains? Those chains are part of the great scheme of the Supreme Reason.
Or take another problem. A revolutionist comes to the workers and tells them that Socialism is the solution of their problems. Socialism means first of all collective ownership of the means of production. It means collective labor for the benefit of all. It means the impossibility for the individual to accumulate wealth as a means of dominating other people; to be specific, as a means to employ labor and to exploit their services for his own benefit. A silver-tongued preacher comes to the workers and tries to disprove this theory. He says Socialism is impossible. It is against human nature, he avers. Human nature is so constituted that acquisition and domination are part of its make-up. “You cannot change human nature. . . . ” There is a whole philosophy implied in this statement. The preacher means to say that human nature is something set, something which can never change. So it has been, he thinks, and so it shall be. No changes under any circumstances. No changes, no matter what outer influences may be exerted on man. That being the case, human nature becomes something fixed, something that has existed from time immemorial and shall exist forever. It becomes something like a deity. It is the one stable thing in an otherwise obviously shifting world. Where can it derive its constancy and continuity? Obviously from a source that is unchangeable in itself. And that is again — God.
It is obvious that all such theories tend to disarm the workers, to discourage them from struggle. This is why Marx and Engels say that there is no impartial philosophy, there is no philosophy good for all times and all classes. Philosophy, they say, is divided into schools and trends according to social classes fighting on the economic and political arena.
The philosophy that Engels helped to develop in all fields is known as Dialectical Materialism.
Let us first have a look at what Materialism means. Engels himself formulated this problem in the following way:
“The great fundamental problem of every philosophy, particularly modern philosophy, is the question of the relation of thought to reality, spirit to nature, the question as to what is primary: the spirit or nature . . . The philosophers have become divided into two great camps depending upon how they answer this question. Those who asserted that the spirit had existed before nature and who, consequently, recognized the creation of the world, formed the idealistic camp. Those, on the other hand, who considered nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism.”
Philosophic materialism, then, simply means this, that nature is the primary thing, nature exists by itself. There exists an objective world, an objective reality, outside and independent of any consciousness. The object is not anything secondary, dependent upon the subject, but it is independent, it is primary.
How do we know that? We know it from the life of man as a social being, we know it from the development of human society. Man acts in a world which exists outside of himself as a subject. Man comes into conflict with the outside world every day, every hour, every minute. The outside world is often, to man, a hostile force, demanding strenuous struggle. Man must overcome external difficulties, man must know how to overcome them. In order to do so, he must know the outside world. This is the best proof of the materiality of the world.
Matter in the philosophic sense is the outside world that exists independently of us. Everything that exists represents various kinds of matter. Matter exists by itself and is in continuous motion. The outside world is never at rest, it is ever changing, ever moving. Matter is moving matter. Engels expressed this thought in the following words:
“Matter without motion is just as unthinkable as motion without matter. Motion is the form of the existence of matter.”
Motion is a quality of matter inseparable from it.
This seems to be simple enough. Every man can understand this, especially every worker who has to cope with natural forces in his production activities as a worker. But just these plain truths are being denied by the representatives of the exploiting class. The philosophers of the idealistic school (the school of the exploiters) declare that the world does not exist by itself, that it is only a product of the human mind, that the mind is the primary thing, that motion therefore is possible without matter. What is common to all such assertions is that they all lead back to some all-powerful superhuman spirit. It is to the advantage of the ruling class that the masses believe in such a spirit. This would keep them from fighting to overthrow the existing system.
Granted, then, that we have an outside world, a world of matter which leads an independent existence and which is in continuous motion, it will not be difficult for us to understand that motion of matter takes place in time and space. Time and space, with which the philosophers deal so much, do not exist by themselves. There is no such thing as time independent of matter or space independent of matter. Matter itself exists in time and space; they are forms of existence of matter.
What, then, is thought or spirit or consciousness? Those things do not exist independently of matter. Consciousness depends upon matter; consciousness is secondary to matter. Consciousness arises when matter reaches a certain level of development. Consciousness is characteristic of organisms, of the organic world. Consciousness is a peculiarity of physical beings constituted as organisms. Consciousness does not exist without brain and a nervous system. There is no such thing as a spirit existing by itself. There is thinking matter. Our consciousness is a reflection of the world existing outside. Consciousness itself keeps on changing, developing with the change of the world and with the growth of our knowledge. Consciousness is a process. It follows that through our consciousness we can recognize the world, we can have knowledge of the world. That knowledge is unlimited. The more mankind lives, battles with nature, subdues the forces of nature, the greater the development of science, the clearer the picture we have about the world. Such a picture is not impossible. Truth, in other words, can be conquered. Those philosophers who say that man can never conceive the truth are only putting obstacles in the path of the workers; they are trying to keep them from understanding the world and their place in it.
Lenin, the great follower of Marx and Engels, said that man marches ahead to objective truth through his everyday practice, through the development of technique.
“Human thought,” said Lenin, “can give us, and does give as, absolute truth, which is composed of the sum total of relative truths. Every step in the development of science adds new grains to this sum total of absolute truth.”
We have said that the philosophy of Marx and Engels is dialectical materialism. We have so far spoken about materialism. But from the above it is quite clear that according to the philosophy of Marx and Engels the world is not something frozen, something final, unchangeable, but that it exists in continuous changes. This is exactly the meaning of dialectics. For dialectical philosophy, said Engels,
“. . . nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character, of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and passing away; of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher.”
The great fundamental thought of dialectical materialism, said Engels, is
“ . . that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable go through an uninterrupted change of coming into and passing out of being.”
This idea of everything changing, everything developing in the universe has great importance for the workers. From this thought follows the conception that human institutions are not constant, either.
“If all things develop,” said Lenin in 1895 right after Engels’ death in an article entitled “Frederick Engels”, “if one set of institutions is replaced by others, then why should the autocracy of the Prussian king or the Russian tsar — or the enrichment of an insignificant minority, or the domination of the bourgeoisie over the people — continue forever?”
You see how dialectical materialism is intimately connected with the class struggle of the workers against capitalism.
Engels developed in a number of books the laws of dialectics, which are the laws of the development of nature. We will mention only one of them, the law of quantity passing into quality.
This again seems like an abstruse idea. But it is very simple and very clear. Have you heard about the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Here is a bridge. It is made of steel and concrete. It can hold that much weight per square foot and no more. It is seemingly in repose but there is a continuous motion going on in the minutest particles that form the bridge. It is established that the bridge can hold, say, ten tons per square foot. You place five tons, six tons, seven, eight, nine, ten tons. The bridge holds. Everything is in order. You add one or two tons more. That means you have increased the quantity. Suddenly the bridge gives way. It breaks. It causes havoc. It may result in loss of life and property. This is something new. Something different from the weight of a ton or two. It is new in quantity. Quantity (weight increase to a certain degree) has turned into quality (a new thing, the collapse of a bridge).
Or take another example. Workers go on strike. The strikes are intended to be peaceful, but clashes are provoked by strikebreakers and police. Greater numbers of workers are involved in every strike. The number of strikes increases. The frequency of clashes with the police and scabs grows. Added are demonstrations, hunger riots, huge meetings. They increase in numbers. The changes are still changes in quantity; they are an accumulation of struggles. But then the strikes reach the stage of a general strike; workers march into the streets; demonstrators begin to build barricades; the clashes with the police assume the character of a clash with the government; the fights that were increasing in quantity assume the character of revolution. The revolution is something new in quality. Quantity passes into quality.
It is quite obvious that the theory of dialectical materialism and the law of quantity passing into quality are of prime importance for the workers.
Dialectical materialism applied to society is historical materialism. According to Marx and Engels there is no gulf between nature and society. Society is part of nature. Man, himself, is part of nature. He struggles with nature in order to produce the means of existence. In these struggles he comes into various connections and combinations with other human beings. Relations arising out of production and therefore called production relations are different in the various stages of development of society and are determined by the mode of production. The relation of a hunter to his fellow hunters in a primitive tribe is different from the relations of an independent peasant to his fellow peasants living in a backward agricultural community, and of course it is different from the relation of a modern farmer to the banker of his community or the relation of a modern industrial worker to his employer. Production relations are not anything mysterious. They arise from the way in which a man struggles against nature to force her to yield up her treasures for man’s consumption. Marx and Engels termed production relations the economic structure of society.
The economic structure of society is to social institutions and social ideas what matter is to consciousness in nature at large. The economic structure is the foundation of the whole social structure. If you want to know why a certain public authority exists in a certain epoch, examine the economic structure. Do you know why a thousand years ago the lord of the manor was the supreme power, both administrator and judge, to the serfs on his estate? Because the economic structure of society was based on agriculture and on primitive handicrafts. No great exchange of goods existed. The basic commodities were never moved far from the place where they were produced. Every community was in a way a world in itself. If all the other communities were to disappear, a single one could still exist. The political structure of society (power of the lord) was well fitted to the economic structure of society.
And do you know why about 500 years ago this basic political form of feudal society was superseded by the development of the absolute power of one central king? Do you know why the king finally became the supreme ruler of the whole country, crushing the independence of the individual feudal lords? Because in the meantime commercial capital had developed. A market embracing the whole country and even reaching beyond the limits of individual countries developed. The feudal lords with their local independence became an obstacle to commerce and to the development of industrial production on a mass scale. The economic structure of society, that is to say, had changed. Whereas formerly there existed outside of the lords, only serfs and city artisans divided into master craftsmen and apprentices and journeymen, there now appeared a new class — owners of commercial capital. New class relations had come into being. This is why the political structure had to change.
And do you know why by the end of the eighteenth century a revolution took place in France and by the middle of the nineteenth century revolutions took place in most European countries? Because the new modern bourgeoisie had come into being. It had developed and become a powerful class. The mode of production had become capitalist production. The economic structure of society had undergone a tremendous change. It was necessary to do away with the absolute rule of the old monarchs who based themselves on the nobility, and to establish the modern democratic government, which is a government of the bourgeoisie. The change in the economic structure necessitated a change in the political structure.
Proceeding from these ideas Engels, together with Marx, advanced the theory of basis and superstructure. Economic structure is the basis of society. The political organization is the superstructure. But not the political organization alone. Man’s ideas, concepts, ideals, are also determined by the economic structure. Marx and Engels expressed this in The Communist Manifesto in the following way:
“Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views, and conceptions, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?
“What else does the history of ideas prove than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.”
To take one example. In America today it is considered shameful to be unemployed and to live on relief. This is a conception characteristic of the ruling class. The ruling class has amassed wealth by exploiting others. He who does not possess wealth is, according to the prevailing idea, an inferior being. He is “no good”. The ruling ideas of the age are the ideas of the ruling class.
We can understand now the statement with which The Communist Manifesto begins, words like beacons illuminating the course of mankind and showing the way far into the future.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
“Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
The division of society into classes is inherent in the mode of production. The history of mankind is the history of the struggle between the classes arising in production. The political structure was the structure that helped the ruling class to exploit and oppress the other classes. The prevailing thoughts and conceptions were those of the ruling class. But as the struggle developed, the oppressed classes developed their own ideas and built their own organizations. Eventually they vanquished the formerly ruling class and established their own rule. In our times society at large is divided into the proletariat (working class) and the bourgeoisie. The basic proposition of Marx and Engels was formulated by Engels in the following way:
“That in every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind . . . has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolutions in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class — the proletariat — cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class — the bourgeoisie — without at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions and class struggles.”
The road to the emancipation of the workers, and with them, of mankind, is the social revolution and the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
“As far as I am concerned, the honor does not belong to me for having discovered the existence either of classes in modern society or of the struggle between the classes. . . . What was new on my part, was to prove the following: (1) that the existence of classes is connected only with- certain historical struggles which arise out of the development of production; (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) that this dictatorship is itself only a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”
How do Marx and Engels explain this fundamental discovery? With them it is not a mere wish. It is the law of social development. It is a scientific discovery of the greatest momentum.
Modern society is divided into classes. By and large there are two great classes: the class of capitalists and the class of workers (proletarians). The class of capitalists owns most of the wealth of the nation. That wealth consists to a small extent of readymade goods to be consumed. To a much greater extent it consists of buildings, tools, machinery and raw materials. The owners of wealth strive to increase their wealth by hiring workers whom they use to put the machines and materials into motion.
Long before Marx and Engels, the workers and the friends of the workers spoke of exploitation. But they could not explain the meaning and the driving force of exploitation. Engels and Marx discovered the law of surplus value.
Their theory reduces itself to these simple propositions. Wealth of modern times consists of commodities. Commodities are being exchanged in the market according to their value. The value of a commodity is determined by the amount of labor used up in producing the commodity. When we speak of labor in this sense we mean social-necessary labor, which is only another word for saying average labor used with the aid of average tools and with average speed. Socially necessary labor is that which determines the value of commodities. When a pair of shoes exchanges for twice as much as a shirt it is because the production of the pair of shoes has absorbed twice as much socially-necessary labor as the production of the shirt. Money is nothing but one of the commodities selected to facilitate the exchange of commodities. A chair worth $3.00 will exchange for $3.00 worth in gold or silver because that amount of gold and silver contains as much socially-necessary labor as the chair under consideration.
The activities of the manufacturer reduce themselves to buying in order to sell. He buys machinery, raw materials and labor power in order to produce commodities which he sells at a profit. His motive is profit. How does he come to get profit? He exchanges commodities according to their value, i.e., according to labor sunk in them. He may cheat here and there (no business without cheating) but on the whole the law of exchange is maintained. When he buys he pays the value of the goods he acquires. When he sells his products he receives according to their value. What then is the source of his profit? The source, say Marx and Engels, is labor which is producing surplus value.
Labor power is a commodity. Its owner is the worker. It is the only wealth he possesses. He is forced to sell it on the open market. He sells it to the manufacturer who applies it to the machines and raw materials. (Labor power, machines, raw materials together form the means of production.) When a merchant sells a commodity he does not have to be present while it is being consumed. When the worker sells his labor power he has to be present while the manufacturer consumes it, because the consumption of his labor power is the process of work. The worker has to work.
What is the value of the commodity called labor power? The value of the labor power is the value of the worker’s upkeep. It is the value of all the commodities necessary to maintain the worker in tolerable health and to insure the existence of future workers through the raising of a family. For simplicity’s sake let us say that the value of one day’s labor power is equal to the value of the worker’s necessities during a day plus a little addition for his family. Expressed in money, let us say that the value of the labor power for one day is $5.00. Let us assume that these $5.00 can be produced in five hours. Five hours of socially-necessary labor will produce value equal to the value of the labor power for one day.
But once the labor power is sold, it is used by the manufacturer. The manufacturer will use it not five hours but, let us say, eight hours. In five hours the workers will merely reproduce the value of his labor power. In the remaining three hours he will produce surplus value. That value is unpaid for. The manufacturer is using it because he is in possession of the means of production and because the worker cannot live unless he sells his labor power. If the worker insisted on working only five hours, the manufacturer would not be willing to purchase his labor power. He purchases it just because he can force the worker to work more than five hours. How much more that depends upon the relation of forces. Here it is where the class struggle comes into play.
The worker is interested in diminishing the surplus value. The capitalist is interested in increasing the surplus value. The worker is interested in receiving for his labor not only necessities but also comforts, security for old age and the possibility of bringing up a family in decency, which means higher wages. The capitalist is interested in paying the worker below the value of his labor power, which means, to cause the worker to starve, to deteriorate physically, to have to send his wife and children to the factory, to have to resort to charity while still on the job. The worker is interested in cutting the hours of work so as to save his own health and to have a little free time for recreation and culture. The capitalist is interested in lengthening the labor hours so as to have more surplus value. The worker is interested in less speed, which means less labor power consumed per unit of time. The capitalist is interested in squeezing into one hour as much labor power as possible.
The capitalist sells his commodities in the market not according to the value produced in his own factory but according to prevailing prices. The prevailing price expresses the value of the commodities not of a single factory but of the average for all the factories at a given time. If one manufacturer can succeed in producing cheaper than the others he can secure a greater profit. He can do so by speeding up the workers, which means forcing them to spend more labor power per hour; he can do so also by introducing labor-saving machinery and improving the methods of production. This is why the entire history of capitalism has been the history of the race to introduce labor-saving machinery and better methods of production. Why is labor-saving machinery useful? Because then the capitalist uses less labor power and naturally has to pay less to the producers. At the same time, however, he sells at the prevailing prices and garners an extra profit until the time when the other capitalists will also introduce the same labor-saving machinery and the same methods of production. But then there will begin a new race for still better machinery and still better means of production, while the workers will be continually pushed out of production into the ranks of the unemployed (they call it today “technological unemployment”).
In this mad race the bigger concern will “lick” the smaller concern. The bigger concern will be able to use better machinery and better equipment and to save on labor much more than the small concern. The big fellow will therefore eat up the small fellow. Accumulation of means of production will take place at an accelerated pace. This accumulation will proceed in two ways. The individual capitalist will keep on increasing his own business, using part of his surplus value for expansion. In due time his business may grow to gigantic proportions (outstanding example — Ford). This is called concentration of capital. The individual capitalist, on the other hand, may swallow up a number of other capitalists, or many capitalists may combine in partnerships or corporations or trusts. This is called centralization of capital. Concentration and centralization of capital are the law of capitalist society. The capitalists boast of having introduced mass production which is a boon for the people. But in truth they never thought of the people. They thought of their profits. Profit-seeking is the basic driving force of capitalist production and distribution.
Engels and Marx pointed out that these forces are beyond the control of the individual capitalist or even of the capitalists combined. As long as they are capitalists they cannot help producing for profit. Else they would not be capitalists. As long as the profit motive is moving them they must try to produce cheaper and that means to exploit the workers more and more. And that means to create all the contradictions of capitalism which must finally lead to the downfall of the capitalist system.
All the theoretical work of Engels was devoted to explaining this inevitable doom of the capitalist system.
Let us enumerate those contradictions as they were pointed out by Engels in his Socialism, Utopian and Scientific.
Engels points out that the products which are produced in modern industrial establishments are produced socially. They are not like the shoes or the coats or the furniture produced in feudal times by the independent tailor or shoemaker or cabinet maker where the individual producer possessed the tools, the material and the ready-made product. At that time the individual producer could point a finger to his product and call it “his”. Today an automobile or a Grand Rapids table or a Haverhill pair of shoes is the product of hundreds and even thousands of workers combined, working with a division of labor. The mode of production is social. But the products belong to one man or to a group of men who appropriate them for their own private purposes. The mode of appropriation is individualistic.
“This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalist character,” says Engels, “contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today.”
The higher the development of capitalism, the more glaring is this contradiction, this incompatibility between socialized production and capitalist appropriation.
The basic contradiction is that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Why is this the basic contradiction? Because the proletarian sees his labor appropriated by the bourgeoisie. Because he sees that all of capitalist society is maintained on his surplus value, which is another name for unpaid labor. Because the whole structure is based on the exploitation of those who work by those who do not work.
“The contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation manifested itself as the antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie,” says Engels.
The producer is entirely separated from the means of production. The owner of the means of production is entirely separated from production. He says he “manages”, but he does it through hired men: supervisors, technicians, accountants.
Production in the individual factory is socialized, which means it is run on the basis of a very detailed division of labor, which means, it is planned to the last man, the last rivet and the last ounce of work. But production as a whole is not organized. Each manufacturer, or each group of manufacturers, are producing according to their own lights, which means according to the expected profits. Nobody ever maps out a plan for the industry as a whole or for a branch of industry, for a year or for five years. This is done only in the Soviet Union because in the Soviet Union there is no private ownership of the means of production. In the capitalist world there is anarchy, chaos. Production is haphazard. The Roosevelt government tried to “regulate” production through the instrumentality of the “codes”, but it failed signally even before the voiding of the N.I.R.A. by the Supreme Court. This is creating another antagonism which Engels formulated as the “antagonism between the organization of production in the individual workshop and the anarchy of production in society generally”.
What follows is something known to every worker the world over; “industrial crises”, “economic crises”. There comes a time when, due to the rush of the capitalists to produce ever more in order to garner profits, there appears to be “over-production”. It is not really over-production, for the masses of the people could very well consume all the goods produced. The trouble is only that they cannot buy them because they lack what is known as “purchasing power”, and they do not possess that magic thing because their wages were cut in consequence of the desire of the capitalists to squeeze out more surplus value, and many of their: were dismissed altogether in consequence of the introduction of labor-saving machinery. What is the result?
This has been magnificently described in The Communist Manifesto.
“In these crises a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created production forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and no sooner do they overcome these fetters than they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois society. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them.”
Marx and Engels liken the capitalists to the sorcerer who no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. Engels formulated all this crisply and exhaustively in one phrase: “The mode of production is in rebellion against the mode of exchange.” What does he mean by this? He means that while production can be mass production, can increase enormously; the distribution of these goods among the people is lagging; quite often it sat a standstill. And why? Because the distribution of commodities can proceed only through the exchange for money and money can be gotten by the consumers only through selling their labor power, and their labor power may not be wanted by the capitalists. (“Your services are no longer needed.”) Mass production on the one hand, halting distribution on the other hand. The mode of production allows for great expansion. The mode of exchange is capitalistic and therefore a hindrance. The mode of production is in rebellion against the mode of exchange.
What is the solution? Engels says that this solution can only consist in recognizing the social nature of the modern forces of production, and therefore in harmonizing the mode of production, the mode of appropriation, and the mode of exchange with the social nature of the modern forces of production. There is no return to individualistic production. You cannot divide the automobile plant, which employs a hundred thousand workers, into a hundred thousand individual shops where each worker possesses his own means of production and uses his own labor power to produce commodities which he will sell on the basis of individual exchange. The only open way is to socialize the means of production and thus bring all forces of production into harmony.
“And this can only come about”, says Engels, “by society openly and directly taking possession of the productive forces which have outgrown all control except that of society as a whole.”
This means socialism.
Socialism, however, will not come without struggle. It will not fall like a ripe apple off a tree into the lap of society. Socialism will come as the result of the class struggle leading to the socialist revolution and to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Already in The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels said that “the Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations”. The theory of the Communists, they said, may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. The immediate aim of the Communists, they said, is: “Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” By formation of the proletariat into a class they understood organization of the proletariat generally and organization of the revolutionary proletarian party which today is the Communist Party. “In the political struggle of one class against another”, says Engels, “the most important instrument is organization”.
Both Engels and Marx devoted their lives to the creation of a strong party of the proletariat — united, class conscious, equipped with the Marxian theory — and to lead the class struggles of the workers which they conceived as political struggles, i.e., struggles for power. To do away with all the contradictions of capitalism, to make possible for the masses to live a decent, human life and to attain greater heights of production, both material and intellectual, Engels said, the proletariat “must take hold of the state power and transform the means of production at first into state property”. Having seized power, the proletariat establishes its own dictatorship. The class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie inevitably leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat. That dictatorship is the most important instrument for the continuation and completion of the proletarian revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat crushes the state machinery of the bourgeoisie, it liquidates the bourgeoisie and the landlords as a class, it establishes socialist production. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the period of the rule of the working class. The state is nothing but the organization of the power of the ruling class over the other classes. The state is an instrument of oppression. Under capitalism the capitalist state is a means of oppressing the overwhelming majority by a small minority. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the power for suppressing the minority of the former exploiters in favor of the overwhelming majority of toilers. There can be no freedom for the former exploiters.
“As long as the proletariat needs a state,” says Engels, “it needs it not in the interests of freedom (for all) but in the interests of suppressing its enemies (of the masses).”
Engels had no illusions about the nature of the capitalist state and bourgeois democracy. He fought in the revolutions of 1848 for democratic reforms because he understood that these reforms would help the proletariat become a greater power in order to pass over immediately to the socialist revolution. He advised the workers throughout his whole life to fight for democratic rights. But reforms were never to him an end in themselves. In a document composed by himself and Marx in 1850 he said this about a bourgeois-democratic revolution:
“While the democratic bourgeois wish to terminate the revolution as quickly as possible with the view to confine themselves at best to the realization of only these demands [the demands of the petty bourgeoisie], our interests and our tasks consist in making the revolution permanent until all more or less property-owning classes have been removed from power, until the proletariat has conquered State power, until the union of the proletarians, not only in one country, but in all leading countries of the world, has developed to such an extent, that competition between the proletarians of those countries has ceased and at least the decisive productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletarians. What we are concerned with is not a change in private property, but the abolition of private property, not softening class contradictions, but abolishing classes, not improving existing society, but founding a new society.”
All his life Engels fought against those socialist reformists who thought that it was possible by peaceful means to transform capitalist society into socialist society through the election of a socialist majority to the parliaments, i.e., through taking hold of the capitalist state machinery. The proletariat, said Engels, “cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes”. The proletariat must destroy the state machinery of capitalism, which is “the ideal personification of the total national capital”. The proletariat must buildup its own state machinery. The state machinery of the proletariat is known today as the Soviets.
The dictatorship of the proletariat builds up Socialism and gradually abolishes classes. In due time, classes will have disappeared. Humanity will find itself on a high level. Then the state itself will gradually disappear, it will “die off”. Engels explains this in the following way:
“As soon as there is no longer any social classes which have to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collision and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary . . . The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things. . . The State is not ‘abolished.’ It dies out.”
Classless society means freedom.
“The whole sphere of the condition of life which environs man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man, who for the first time, becomes the real, conscious lord of Nature, because he has now become master of his own social organization. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of Nature, foreign to and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man’s own social organization, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by Nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, more and more consciously, make his own history — only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him, have, in the main, and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.”
As theorists of the social revolution, Marx and Engels continually pointed to the necessity for the proletariat to have allies in the revolution. These allies, they said, were the other oppressed and exploited classes of society, particularly the poor and exploited peasants. Over and over again they emphasized the idea that when the workers have seized power they will expropriate the large landowners as well as the manufacturers, but they will have to leave the small peasants in possession of their small holdings, helping them to improve their production, teaching them the advantages of socialized production, and inducing them to organize in cooperatives. After the seizure of power, says Engels, it is necessary that workers
“. . . should secure to the small peasant association not only the advantages of large-scale economy and the use of agricultural machinery, but also furnish them with means to organize, side by side with agriculture, large-scale industry with the aid of steam and electricity, and this at the expense of the whole community.”
This organization of the peasants into cooperatives and the building of industries in the countryside is being carried out in the Soviet Union in the shape of collective farms.
As theorists of the proletarian revolution, Engels and Marx devoted their major attention to the tactics of the working class, both before, during, and after the revolution. They did not think that the revolution could come all at once. The revolution, to them, is the outcome of a long series of struggles of the workers, hand in hand with the other exploited masses, for their every-day demands. In these struggles, they said, the workers must never lose sight of their ultimate aim — the overthrow of the capitalist state and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The workers must have an international outlook, for their struggle is on a world scale against a world enemy and the workers of one country can strengthen the struggle of the workers in other countries.
When the Paris Commune was organized by the revolutionary workers in 1871, Marx and Engels greeted it as the first attempt at establishing the workers’ rule in a great metropolis. Engels saw in the Paris Commune the prototype of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Commune was a state which suppressed not the majority of the population, but the minority (the exploiters); it crushed the bourgeois state machinery; it armed the people and made them the power that suppresses the exploiters. Those who now find fault with the Soviet State because it deals harshly with the counter-revolutionists representing the former exploiting classes may well remember that, according to Engels, the state of the transitional period, which is the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is inevitably a state which is democratic in a new way — for the proletarians and the poor generally, but at the same time dictatorial also in a new way — against the exploiters.
Engels and Marx, as true internationalists, devoted much of their attention to the questions of oppressed nationalities and colonial peoples and to the question of war. They divided wars into progressive ones which they thought should be supported by the workers, and reactionary ones which were to be fought. Colonial wars, wars for national liberation, are, in their opinion, progressive wars which must be supported by the workers. Wars for national domination, wars of the capitalists for markets, raw materials, and spheres of influence they considered reactionary and advised the workers to fight against them with revolutionary means. Even during Engels’ lifetime, when capitalist contradictions had not yet reached the sharpness of our epoch, when the trusts had just begun to organize and to extend their domination over the production and distribution of commodities and over the life of the peoples, Engels foresaw the possibility of a world tear. He writes in 1887:
“No other war is now possible for Prussia-Germany than a world war. This would be a world war on an unprecedented scale and of unparalleled force. From eight to ten million soldiers would be at each other’s throats and would, at the same time, eat up the whole of Europe clean.... Starvation, epidemics, general lapse into savagery of both the troops and the masses of the people, in consequence of the extreme want; hopeless confusion of our artificial mechanism in commerce, industry and credit, ending in general bankruptcy, the crash of old states and their routine state wisdom — a crash with crowns rolling on the pavements by the dozen and no one to pick them up; the absolute impossibility to foresee how this will end and who will come out victorious in this struggle, but one result is absolutely certain, and that is general exhaustion and the creation of conditions for the final victory of the working class.”
Engels did not advise the workers to be patriotic and help the capitalists win the war. Engels advised the workers to seize the opportunity when the capitalist state is weakened in consequence of the war and to increase their revolutionary activity in order to overthrow the entire capitalist system. Thirty years after the above was written, the workers and peasants under the Communist (Bolshevik) Party headed by Lenin seized the opportunity of a world war which had weakened the capitalist state in Russia, and established the rule of the Soviets, which is the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the great beacon light illuminating the road for the workers of the world.
When we commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the death of Engels, we do so not only to pay homage to a great leader of the working class but to learn from his work, his theory and his practice how to act in our own struggles for liberation in the United States. In his lifetime Engels devoted a great deal of attention to affairs in the United States. During the Civil War in America he was an ardent supporter of the North against the South because he saw in the struggle of the North a struggle of the masses for the abolition of slavery, a struggle of progressive forces against reaction. Under the leadership of Marx and Engels the Executive Committee of the First International sent a message of greetings to Lincoln. Engels was in continuous correspondence with leaders of the working class movement in America to his very death.
There was a time when many theoreticians thought that the United States of America was exempt from the laws of social development discovered by Marx and Engels. They thought that America, with its unlimited natural resources, with its skill and energy, with the tremendous accumulation of its wealth, and with the high organization of its business, would be able to avoid the contradictions of capitalism, the antagonisms that lead to the overthrow of the entire system and to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the building of socialism. The last few years have opened the eyes of millions to the fact that “all is not well in the U.S.A.” What ails this great and powerful country? Just this — that the mode of appropriation is in irreconcilable conflict with the mode of production, to use the word of Engels. The economic crisis that is destroying this country shows, truly, that the well-organized capitalists of the U.S.A. with their powerful state apparatus, are like the sorcerers who cannot dominate the forces conjured up by them. The salvation of the masses of America lies in the way pointed out by Marx and Engels.
Marx died fifty-two years ago. Engels died forty years ago. But their work will live forever. Their teachings prove to be the greatest weapon in the hands of ever-growing masses of workers and oppressed toilers throughout the world. As time passes, the correctness of their theory becomes ever more apparent. The contradictions of capitalism so penetratingly pointed out by Marx and Engels are becoming ever sharper. The line of development of capitalism so prophetically forecast by these two giants has brought capitalism to the present epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, the epoch of the decay of capitalism, the epoch of war and fascism on the one hand, social revolutions on the other. The labor movement which Marx and Engels organized has now assumed gigantic proportions. The revolutions which Marx and Engels only predicted are now a fact. A victorious revolution established the dictatorship of the proletariat in former Russia and is now completing the building of the Socialist system. A revolution in China has resulted in the establishment of Soviets which march from victory to victory. Other revolutions took place in many countries, but although they were crushed, the workers’ movement is gathering momentum and new revolutions are looming. Leadership of the world movement of the workers was taken over first by Lenin, who started his activities about the time of Engels’ death. The work of Lenin is continued by his closest disciple and collaborator, the man who together with Lenin helped to bring about the November Revolution and who since Lenin’s death in 1924 has been leading the Socialist construction in the Soviet Union and the world revolutionary movement as represented in the Communist International — Comrade Joseph Stalin. These four titans of the world revolution, Marx—Engels—Lenin—Stalin, form one uninterrupted chain, one great unit combining profound theoretical knowledge with great practical sense, unlimited devotion to the exploited with tremendous courage, inexhaustible sources of energy with a colossal imagination and a world-wide vision.
The work of Marx and Engels lives on. Marx and Engels, a few years ago hardly known to great masses of American workers and intellectuals, are now read and studied in America with great avidity. The thinking elements of America are surprised to find that the analysis of Marx and Engels fits American conditions perfectly and that the solution advanced by them, the Socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the only way out for America — a way out of unemployment, misery, starvation, oppression of the Negro people, oppression of the colonial people, hopelessness, degradation, despair.
The Communist Party of the U.S.A., Section of the Communist International, is directing its work according to the teachings of Marx—Engels—Lenin—Stalin. It is leading the struggles of the workers for a Soviet system, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for Socialism. On its red banner blazes the slogan first put forward by Marx and Engels:
“Workers of the World, Unite.”