Plekhanov 1902

Preface to the Third Edition of Engels’
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Source: Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 3, Progress Publishers (Moscow, 1976), pp.31-55;
Transcribed: for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

According to the Soviet editors: ‘The preface was published in Geneva in 1902. In 1906, it was published in Russia in the Odessa Burevestnik edition, together with E Bernstein’s article “Wie ist wissenschaftlicher Sozialismus möglich?” (“Is Scientific Socialism Possible?”), to which it was in fact an answer. It was headed “G Plekhanov’s Answer.”’

The Russian translation of Engels’ brochure Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is now appearing in its third edition. The second edition was published in 1892. [1] At that time, opinion that socialist theory in general could not be described as scientific did not yet find expression in international socialist literature. Today such opinions are being proclaimed very loudly and are not remaining without influence among some readers. Therefore, we consider it timely to examine the question: what is scientific socialism and in what does it differ from utopian socialism?

But to begin with, let us listen to one of the ‘critics’.

In a paper read on 17 May 1901 to the Berlin Student Union for the Study of Social Science (Sozialwissenschaftlicher Studentenverein zu Berlin), Mr Bernstein posed the selfsame question, although he formulated it differently: ‘How is scientific socialism possible?’ (‘Wie ist wissenschaftlicher Sozialismus möglich?’) His investigations brought him to a negative reply. To use his own words, no ‘ism’ can ‘be scientific’:

‘Ism’ designates system of outlooks, tendencies, systems of ideas or demands, but not science. The basis of every true science is experience. Science builds its edifice on accumulated knowledge. Socialism, however, is the teaching on a future social system and for that reason its most characteristic feature cannot be established scientifically. [2]

Is that right? We shall see.

First of all, let us discuss the relationship between ‘isms’ and science. If Mr Bernstein were right in saying that no ‘ism’ can be a science, then it is clear, for instance, that Darwinism too is not a ‘science’. Let us accept that for the moment. But, what is Darwinism? If we are to go on accepting Mr Bernstein’s theory as correct we must include Darwinism in the ‘systems of ideas’. But cannot a system of ideas be a science, or is not a science a system of ideas? Mr Bernstein evidently thinks not but he is labouring under a misapprehension and all because there is an astonishing and dreadful confusion in his own ‘system of ideas’.

Every intelligent schoolchild now knows that science builds upon the basis of experience. But that is not the question. The question is: what exactly does science build on the basis of experience? And there is only one answer to this question: science builds on the basis of experience certain generalisations (’systems of ideas’) which, in turn, underlie certain previsions of phenomena. But this refers to the future. Therefore, not every consideration regarding the future is devoid of scientific basis.

What kind of conclusion is it that says socialism is a world-outlook and is therefore unscientific? Evidently Mr Bernstein seems to think this is indisputable. But before it could indeed be indisputable, it would be necessary to prove from the beginning that no and nobody’s world-outlook can be scientific. Mr Bernstein has not done and will never do so; therefore, we take exception to him and say: parlez pour vous, cher monsieur!

Further. A trend is not a science. But science can discover and daily does discover trends peculiar to phenomena under investigation. Scientific socialism, in particular, establishes a certain trend (the trend to social revolution) prevailing in the present capitalist society: socialism was a teaching on the future social order even before it emerged from the utopian stage.

One would have to be a Bernstein in order to imagine that science is not a ‘system of ideas’. It is a truly monstrous suggestion. Science is precisely knowledge worked up into a system. Bernstein, as usual, confuses matters. He heard about the appearance in contemporary natural science of a ‘trend’ to free science completely from hypotheses, and decided that science had nothing in common with any ‘systems of ideas’. In fact, this same scientific ‘trend’ which led Mr Bernstein to his monstrous thesis, is groundless. Haeckel was quite right when, in criticising this mistaken ‘trend’, he said: ‘ohne Hypothese ist Erkenntnis nicht möglich’ (Die Lebenswunder (Stuttgart, 1904), p.97).

If the proposition is true that the present is pregnant with the future, a scientific study of the present must give us the opportunity of foreseeing some phenomena – in this case, socialisation of the means of production – of the future, not on the basis of some kind of mysterious prophecies or arbitrary and abstract reasoning, but precisely on the basis of ‘experience’, on the basis of knowledge accumulated by science.

If Mr Bernstein wished seriously to ponder over the question he himself posed about the possibility of scientific socialism, he should first of all have decided whether the proposition we have indicated above was true or untrue in application to social phenomena. Even a moment’s thought would have shown him that in this case it was no less true than in all others. Being then sure of this, he ought to have considered whether contemporary social science possessed such a store of information about present-day social relations as, when put to use, would enable science to foresee an impending replacement of these social relations by others – the capitalist mode of production by the socialist. If he had observed that there was not and never could be such a store of information, the question of the possibility of scientific socialism would have solved itself negatively. But if he had been convinced that this information already existed, or could be accumulated with time, he would then have come inevitably to a positive decision on the question. But no matter how he resolved this question, one thing would have become perfectly clear to him, that which – because of his erroneous method of investigation – still remains for him wrapped in the mist of an ill-balanced and ill-considered ‘system of ideas’. He would have seen that the impossibility of the existence of scientific socialism could be proved only if it became obvious that prevision of social phenomena was impossible, in other words, that before resolving the question of the possibility of scientific socialism it was essential to resolve the question of the possibility of any social science at all. If Mr Bernstein had perceived all this, he might perhaps have observed also that the subject he had selected for his paper was ‘of enormous dimensions’, [3] and that he who has no other means of analysis than the muddleheaded contrasting of science and ‘isms’, of experience and a ‘ system of ideas’ can do very little to elucidate such a subject.

Incidentally, we are being unjust to our author. The means of analysis at his disposal were not really restricted to such contrasts. Here, for instance, on pages 33-34 of his paper we also come across the idea that science has no other aim than knowledge, whereas ‘political and social doctrines’ strive to resolve certain practical tasks. During the discussion which followed the reading of Mr Bernstein’s paper, a member of the audience pointed out to him in connection with this idea that medicine had the practical aim of healing, and yet it must be regarded as a science. But our lecturer replied to this by saying that healing was the task of medical art, which, in any case, presupposed a basic knowledge of medical science; but that medical science itself aims not at healing, but at the study of the means and conditions of healing. To this Mr Bernstein added: ‘If we take this distinguishing of conceptions as a typical example [als typisches Muster], we shall have no trouble in defining, in the most complex cases, where science ends and where art or doctrine begins.’ [4]

We take as our ‘example’ the ‘distinguishing of conceptions’ recommended by Mr Bernstein and argue thus: in socialism, as in medicine, we have to distinguish two sides: the science and the art. Socialism as a science studies the means and conditions of the socialist revolution, while socialism as a ‘doctrine’, or as a political art, tries to bring about this revolution with the help of acquired knowledge. And we add that if Mr Bernstein takes as a ‘typical example’ the distinction we have made in accordance with his own example, he will readily understand exactly where in the socialist system science ends and doctrine or art begins.

Robert Owen, addressing the ‘British public’ in one of his appeals serving as a preface to his book A New View of Society, or Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, wrote:

Friends and Countrymen,

I address myself to you, because your primary and most essential interests are deeply involved in the subjects treated in the following Essays.

You will find existing evils described and remedies proposed... Beneficial changes can only take place by well-digested and well-arranged plans...

It is, however, an important step gained when the cause of evil is ascertained. The next step is to devise a remedy... To discover that remedy, and try its efficacy in practice, have been the employments of my life; and having found a remedy which experience proves to be safe in its application, and certain in its effects, I am now anxious that you should all partake of its benefits.

But be satisfied, fully and completely satisfied, that the principles on which the New View of Society is founded are true; that no specious error lurks within them, and that no sinister motive gives rise to their publicity. [5]

We are now in a position to follow this great British socialist’s train of thought from the angle of Mr Bernstein’s ‘distinguishing of conceptions’; it is clear that Robert Owen began with a study of the prevailing evils and the revelation of their causes. This part of his work corresponds to what is known in medicine as aetiology. Then he went on to study the means and conditions of the treatment of the social diseases in which he was interested. Having found the remedy, which seemed to him to be quite effective, he proceeded to put it to a practical test. We might call this his therapeutics. Only after his experiments had given entirely satisfactory results did he decide to offer his treatment to the ‘British public’, in other words to begin medical practice. Previously he had been engaged in medical science, now he had to begin practising medical art. Here is a complete parallel: once Mr Bernstein admits that it is possible to have a science of medicine, it is obvious he must admit that it is possible to have a science of socialism, if he wishes to be true to his own ‘distinguishing of conceptions’. Those same lines of investigation which we discerned in Robert Owen according to his own words may be just as easily noted among the French socialists, his contemporaries. As an example, we shall take Fourier. He said that he had brought to the people the art of being rich and happy. This part of his teaching corresponds to medical art. On what did he base this practical part of his teaching? On the laws of moral attraction, which he said had remained unknown until he finally discovered them after long and intensive research. Here we are no longer dealing with art, but with theory, with ‘knowledge worked up into a system’, that is to say, with science. And Fourier insistently repeated that his art was based on his scientific discoveries. [6] It goes without saying that Mr Bernstein is in no way bound to attach to these discoveries the same great significance that Fourier and his school did. This, however, does not affect the point at issue. Of course, Mr Bernstein did not consider himself obliged to believe in the infallibility of all the medical theories of our time. But that did not prevent him from coming to the conviction that medical art is one thing and medical science is another, and that the existence of medical art, far from precluding the existence of medical science, presumes it as a necessary condition of its own existence. Why, then, is such a correlation between art and science not possible also in socialism? Why should the existence of socialism as a socio-political ‘doctrine’ preclude the existence of socialism as a science?

Mr Bernstein does not reply to these questions. Until he does his proposed ‘distinguishing of conceptions’ will not corroborate but refute his contention that scientific socialism is impossible. And he cannot reply to these questions for the very simple reason that he has nothing to answer. Of course, there can and must be doubts about the theoretical justification of comparing medical art to socialism. But precisely on this matter our author had no doubts, and could not have had any, since his point of view on social life in no way precludes such comparisons.

Thus, Mr Bernstein’s ‘distinguishing of conceptions’ not only leaves us unconvinced about the impossibility of scientific socialism, but, on the contrary, encourages us to believe that even the socialism of Robert Owen, Fourier and other utopians was, at least partly, scientific socialism. As a consequence of this, we have begun to see less clearly that ‘distinguishing of conceptions’, in virtue of which, until now, we had considered that the socialist theory of Marx and Engels had marked an epoch in the history of socialism. Indeed, this ‘distinguishing’ is unclear not to us alone. With Mr Bernstein it also turns out that, although the teaching of Marx and Engels has a great deal more of the scientific element than the teachings of Fourier, Owen and Saint-Simon, yet, like these, though to a lesser degree, it contains elements of utopianism alongside elements of science and therefore the difference between them has more of a quantitative than a qualitative character. [7]

This opinion fitted naturally in the context of Mr Bernstein’s paper: if scientific socialism generally is impossible, Marxism is obviously one of the unscientific ‘isms’ that contain some admixture of utopianism. Mr Bernstein’s belief in the impossibility of scientific socialism is based on premises which, when correctly interpreted, lead to diametrically opposite conclusions, that is to say, oblige us to acknowledge that scientific socialism, like scientific medicine, is fully possible. Since this is the case and as we have no desire to entangle ourselves forever in the logical contradictions of Mr ‘Critic’, we shall break the thread of this argument and instead ask ourselves the question: how, ultimately, is scientific socialism distinguished from utopian socialism?

In order to answer this question, we shall have to define the distinguishing features of both types of socialism.

On page 14 of the pamphlet in question, Engels says:

The Utopians’ mode of thought has for a long time governed the socialist ideas of the nineteenth century, and still governs some of them. Until very recently all French and English socialists did homage to it. The earlier German communism, including that of Weitling, was of the same school. To all these socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice, and has only to be discovered to conquer all the world by virtue of its own power. And as absolute truth is independent of time, space and of the historical development of man, it is a mere accident when and where it is discovered. [8]

Mr Bernstein reproaches Engels with having exaggerated in this passage. He says:

I cannot agree with him when he says that they [the utopian socialists] regarded as a matter of chance, independent of historical development, in terms of place and time, the truths revealed by them to the world. This generalisation misrepresents their views on history. [9]

If Mr Bernstein had only taken the trouble to get better acquainted with the literature of utopian socialism and to ponder more deeply over the fundamental historical views of the utopian socialists, he would have seen that there is not the least shade of exaggeration in Engels’ statement.

Fourier was firmly convinced that he had succeeded in discovering the laws of moral attraction, but he was never able at any time to see his theory as the fruit of France’s social development. He had often wondered why hundreds, even thousands of years ago people had not made the discoveries which he had finally made. And he could answer this only by referring to man’s lack of vision as well as the force of chance. He even wrote a very characteristic dissertation on the ‘tyranny of chance’, in which he argued ‘that this colossal and despicable force presides almost alone all discoveries’. [10] He said that he paid it tribute in his ‘discovery of the calculus of attraction’ (‘dans la découverte du calcul de l’attraction’). As with Newton, the idea was suggested to him by an apple:

A fellow traveller who dined with me in Février’s restaurant in Paris paid 14 sous for this famous apple. I had just come in from a part of the country where apples equal or even superior in quality were selling at half a liard each, or less than 14 sous per hundred. I was so struck by the difference in the price of apples in two places with the same climate that I began to suspect a basic defect in the industrial mechanism; out of this came those investigations which after four years led me to discover the theory of series of industrial groups and then the laws of general movement which Newton had missed... Since then I found that one could count four famous apples, two of them noted for the trouble they caused (Adam’s apple and the apple of Paris) and two for the services they rendered to science. Do not these four apples deserve a special page in history? [11]

This would seem to be sufficiently expressive; but it is not yet all. In Fourier’s theory, chance plays a much greater role than might appear from his ingenuous reflections on the four apples. In this theory, the whole historical development of man’s views, the whole destiny of human prejudice are determined by chance.

If people have persisted so long in their admiration for civilisation [said Fourier], this was because none of them took Bacon’s advice and made a critical analysis of the flaws and shortcomings of each profession. [12]

Why did no one take Bacon’s advice? Very simply, because the chance that might have inspired them to follow his advice did not occur. The present order of things, which itself is only an exception to the general rule, only a digression from the true destiny of mankind, proved to be more prolonged than it need have been, thanks to ‘the thoughtlessness of the sophists, who forgot that they ought to enquire into the universal aims of Providence (‘oublièrent de spéculer sur l’universalité de la Providence’) and discover that code of laws which it had to compile for human relations’. [13]

Now the reader may judge for himself whether there is even the slightest exaggeration in Engels’ statement which we quoted above.

Faith in the historical omnipotence of chance was not so clearly expressed and was perhaps not so great among other eminent utopians as it was with Fourier. But to what extent it affected even the most sober of them, Robert Owen, may be seen from the simple fact that he addressed his socialist appeals to the potentates of the earth, to those who had a substantial interest in maintaining the exploitation of man by man. Such appeals were sadly out of tune with all Robert Owen’s teaching on the formation of the human character. In the literal and clear meaning of this teaching, the potentates of the earth were wholly incapable of initiating the elimination of that same social order which influenced the formation of their own views and the existence of which was so closely connected with their own vital interests. Nevertheless, Robert Owen, [14] tirelessly and solicitously, with the help of detailed calculations, exact plans and excellent drawings, explained to the monarchs of Europe what constituted a ‘rational’ social system. In this respect, Owen, like all the other utopian socialists, was closely akin to the great French Enlighteners from whom (mainly Helvétius) he borrowed almost all of his teaching on the formation of the human character, and who, like him, and with a persistence fully deserving a better fate, explained to the crowned ‘legislators’ how and in what manner human happiness could be assured. They fulminated eloquently against the ‘despots’ and just as tenaciously placed their hopes in enlightened despotism. This was an obvious contradiction and, of course, it could not escape their own notice. They all realised it, some more clearly than others, but all of them consoled themselves precisely with a trust in chance. Suppose you have a large urn in which there are very many black balls and two or three white ones and that you take one ball after the other. It need hardly be said that in each separate instance you have less chance of removing a white ball than a black one. But if you continue taking out the balls you will inevitably pull out a white one at last. The same applies to crowned ‘legislators’. In each separate instance there is a much greater chance of finding a bad ‘legislator’ on the throne than a good one. But a good one will eventually appear. He will do everything prescribed by ‘philosophy’ and then reason will triumph.

This was how the French Enlighteners saw matters and this essentially deeply pessimistic view, tantamount to the admission of the utter helplessness of their ‘philosophy’, had a close causal connection with their general historical outlook. It is known that even those of the eighteenth-century French Enlighteners who were convinced materialists held idealist views on history. They believed that the development of knowledge, and man’s mental development generally, was the basic cause of historical progress. In this regard, the utopian socialists were completely at one with them. Thus, for example, Robert Owen said that

... these false notions have ever produced evil and misery in the world, and that they still disseminate them in every direction. That the soled cause of their existence hitherto has been man’s ignorance of human nature. [15]

In accordance with this, the elimination of social evil, too, was to be expected solely from the dissemination among the people of a correct understanding of their own nature. Robert Owen was firmly convinced that such understanding would spread inevitably among the people. Only a few months before his death he wrote that man was ‘created to acquire knowledge by experience, and happiness by obeying the laws of his nature’. [16] But experience is knowledge. What determines its more or less rapid accumulation? Why is it that in the course of one historical epoch mankind acquires an enormous treasure-house of knowledge, and during another, often incomparably longer period, adds only completely insignificant crumbs of knowledge to its previous stores and sometimes loses even the stores themselves? Owen did not and could not answer this question, an extremely important one for a scientific explanation of historical phenomena. In general people who hold idealist views on history do not and cannot answer this question. And that is understandable. To be able to answer it, they would have to explain what it is that determines man’s mental development, that is to say, they would have to perceive this development not as the basic cause of the historical process, but as the outcome of another, more deep-seated cause. And this would be tantamount to acknowledging the bankruptcy of the idealist conception of history. He who does not yet acknowledge this must inevitably give chance a very large place in his interpretation of historical events and in his consideration of the future. Chance furnishes him with an explanation of all that he cannot explain by the conscious activity of historical persons. Reference to chance is the first unconscious and involuntary step towards recognising that the development of man’s consciousness is conditioned by causes that are independent of him. That is why the Enlighteners of the eighteenth century and the utopian socialists alluded so often to the element of chance. Fourier’s ‘four apples’ are as absurd now as the French Enlighteners’ ‘urn’ full of balls. But both the ‘urn’ and the ‘apples’ had their adequate basis in the deep-seated qualities of the idealist conception of history; and the political and social reformers and revolutionaries who held such views had to appeal, more often than other philistines, to the ‘urn’, the ‘apples’ and much more of the unexpected. Indeed, if the historical process of accumulation of knowledge is determined in the last analysis by a series of chance phenomena which have no necessary connection with the course of social life and the development of social relations, then each individual contribution to the general treasure-house of knowledge, every discovery made by this or that thinker, including the author of this or that plan of social reconstruction, must inevitably be a gift of chance. And if the discovery of truth is dependent upon chance, then the dissemination of this truth and its embodiment, more or less rapidly, in social life, must also be subordinated to that same ‘colossal and despicable force’. Hence that coquetting of the French Enlighteners and the utopian socialists with the potentates of the earth which excites so much wonder today. With them, practice corresponded to theory, ‘art’ to ‘science’.

True, at times there was a marked dissatisfaction among the utopian socialists with the theory they had inherited from the Enlighteners, an endeavour to escape from the narrow circle of idealism and stand on more real ground. They were striving to create a social science. Hence all their ‘discoveries’. Some of these were remarkable, in the full sense of the word. They threw a vivid light on many paramount aspects of the historical process, for instance, the role of the class struggle in the modern history of West European societies, [17] and thus prepared the way for the scientific explanation of social phenomena. But they only prepared the way for it. Historical idealism, which was the standpoint of all socialists in the first half of the nineteenth century, made much more difficult the final elaboration of a scientific view of social life. Only phenomena which conform to objective laws can be subjected to scientific explanation. This conformity to laws presupposes the subordination of phenomena to the law of necessity, whereas historical idealism considers historical progress almost exclusively as the product of the conscious and consequently the free activity of men. So long as this contradiction existed, a scientific explanation of social life was impossible. Not only were the socialists of that time unable to resolve this contradiction; they could not even formulate it with the necessary precision, although it had already been clearly grasped and precisely formulated by German philosophy in the person of Schelling.

Schelling demonstrated that the freedom of human activity not only did not preclude necessity, but, on the contrary, presupposed necessity as its own condition. [18] Schilling’s profound thought was developed fundamentally and in detail by Hegel. To put it into everyday language, it means that man’s activity may be considered from two sides. First, man appears before us as the cause of some or other social phenomena. In so far as man realises that he himself is such a cause, he believes that the question of whether these social phenomena should or should not be produced depends on him. And to that extent he believes that his activity is conscious and free. But the man who acts as the cause of a given social phenomenon can and must also be seen as the effect of those social phenomena which fashioned his personality and the trend of his volition. When considered as an effect, social man cannot be regarded as a free agent, since the circumstances that determine the trend of his volition are independent of him. Thus, his activity appears to us as subject to the law of necessity, that is to say, as activity conforming to law. We may conclude from this that freedom does not in any way preclude necessity. It is very important to know this truth because it – and it alone – opens the way to a scientific explanation of social life. We already know that only those phenomena which are subject to the law of necessity are open to scientific explanation. If we knew social man only as the cause of social phenomena, we would understand his activity only from the point of view of freedom, and therefore it would always be inaccessible to scientific explanation. The Enlighteners of the eighteenth century, and the utopian socialists of the nineteenth century, in their judgements on history, saw social man only as the cause of social phenomena. This was because of their idealist view of history: whoever considers mental development to be the most basic cause of historical progress will take account only of the conscious activity of men, and conscious activity is precisely that activity which we call free. [19]

Necessity does not preclude freedom. Moreover, the conscious and, in this sense, the free activity of men is possible only because their actions are necessary. This may seem paradoxical, but it is an irrefutable truth. If men’s actions were not necessary, it would be impossible to foresee them, and where that is impossible, there is no place for free activity in the sense of conscious influence on surrounding life. [20] Thus, necessity proves to be the guarantee of freedom.

This was all very well elucidated already by the German idealists, and in so far as they held to this standpoint in their opinions of social life, they were on the firm ground of science. But just because they were idealists, they could not put their own brilliant ideas to proper use. True, their philosophical idealism was not necessarily connected with the idealist view of history. Hegel remarks in his Lectures on the Philosophy of History that although, of course, reason governs the world, it does so in the same sense as it governs the motion of the celestial bodies, that is, in the sense of conformity to law. The motion of the celestial bodies conforms to definite laws, but their motion is unconscious motion. According to Hegel, the historical progress of mankind is accomplished in the same way; human progress is subject to certain laws, but men are not conscious of these laws and one may say, therefore, that historical progress is unconscious. Men err when they think that their ideas are the principal factors in historical progress. The ideas of any given epoch are themselves determined by the character of that epoch. Moreover, the owl of Minerva flies out only at night.

When men begin to study their own social relations, it may be said with certainty that these relations have outlived their day and are preparing to yield place to a new social order, the true character of which will again become clear to mankind only when its turn, too, has come to leave the historical scene. [21]

These arguments of Hegel’s are very far removed from the naive notion, representing the essence of the idealist explanation of history, that historical progress is determined, in the final analysis, by the development of ideas, or, as the French Enlighteners sometimes expressed it, that ‘opinion’ governs the world. Hegel did, at least, point out correctly how historical progress cannot be explained. But his arguments likewise contain nothing to indicate the true cause. And it could not be otherwise. If Hegel was far from the naive historical idealism of the French Enlighteners and the utopian socialists, this did not in the least disturb the idealist foundation of his own system, but this foundation could not but hinder the elaboration of an entirely scientific explanation of the social and historical process. According to Hegel, the basis of all world development is the development of the Absolute Idea. With him it is the development of this idea which, in the final analysis, explains all human history. But what is this Absolute Idea? It is – as Feuerbach [22] explained very well – only the personification of the process of thinking. Thus, world development generally and historical development in particular are to be explained by the laws of human thought, or, in other words, history is explained by logic. Just how unsatisfactory this explanation is may be seen from many of Hegel’s own works. With him historical progress is comprehensible only when it is interpreted not by logic but by the development of social – and predominantly economic – relations. When he says, for instance, that Lacedaemon fell mainly as a consequence of economic inequality, this is quite understandable in itself and is fully in accord with the conclusions of modern historical science. But the Absolute Idea has definitely nothing to do with this, and when Hegel turns to it for a final elucidation of the fate of Greece and Lacedaemon, he has literally nothing to add to what he has already explained by referring to economics. [23]

Hegel was fond of repeating that idealism reveals itself as the truth of materialism. But his Philosophy of History proves the exact opposite. It makes clear that in application to history materialism must be acknowledged as the truth of idealism. In order finally to find the straight and true road to a scientific explanation of the social-historical process, investigators had to lay aside all varieties of idealism and adopt the materialist standpoint. This was done by Marx and Engels. Their materialist conception of history is characterised as follows in the present pamphlet:

The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason and right wrong (Vernunft Unsinn, Wohlthat Plage geworden), is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principle, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production. [24]

If the growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust is itself a consequence of socio-economic development it is clear that a certain conformity to law may also be found in the conscious activity of men, which is conditioned by their conceptions of reason and justice. Since this activity is determined, in the last analysis, by the development of economic relations, now, having ascertained the trend of the economic development of society, we thereby acquire the possibility to foresee in which direction the conscious activity of its members must proceed. Thus, here as with Schelling, freedom flows from necessity and necessity is transformed into freedom. But whereas Schelling, because of the idealist nature of his philosophy, could not get beyond general – though extremely profound – considerations in this respect, the materialist conception of history allows us to use these general considerations for the investigation of ‘living’ life, for the scientific explanation of all the activity of social man.

In providing the possibility to observe the conscious activity of social man from the point of view of its necessity, the materialist conception of history thus paves the way for socialism on a scientific basis. In the passage we quoted from Engels, he says that the means of getting rid of the social incongruities cannot be invented, that is to say, devised by some brilliant thinker, but must be discovered in the changed economic relations of the particular epoch. And to the extent that such discoveries are possible, so also is scientific socialism possible. We now have, therefore, a very definite answer to the question raised by Mr Bernstein regarding the possibility of scientific socialism. True, it looks as though Mr Bernstein himself does not suspect that such an answer exists. But that only goes to show that he has understood nothing at all of the basic teaching of the people he has professed to follow for the last twenty years.

One may devise something that is completely non-existent; a discovery applies only to that which already exists in reality. What is, therefore, to discover in economic reality the means of getting rid of social incongruities? It is to demonstrate that the very development of this reality has already created and continues to create the economic basis of the future social order.

Utopian socialism proceeded from abstract principles; scientific socialism takes as its starting point the objective course of economic development of bourgeois society.

Utopian socialism readily worked out plans for the future social structure. Scientific socialism, notwithstanding Mr Bernstein’s assertion quoted earlier, occupies itself not with the future society, but with defining that tendency which is peculiar to the present social order. It does not paint the future in glowing colours: it studies the present. A vivid example: on the one side, Fourier’s image of the future life of mankind in the Phalansteries; on the other side, Marx’s analysis of the present capitalist mode of production.

If the means of getting rid of the present social incongruities cannot be devised on the basis of general considerations about human nature, but must be discovered in the economic conditions of our time, it is patent that their discovery likewise cannot be a matter of chance, independent of these conditions. No, the discovery itself is a process conforming to law and accessible to scientific study.

The basic principle of the materialist explanation of history is that men’s thinking is conditioned by their being, or that in the historical process, the course of the development of ideas is determined, in the final analysis, by the course of development of economic relations. If this is the case, it is plain that the formation of new economic relations must necessarily bring with it the appearance of new ideas corresponding to the changed conditions of life. And should a new socio-political idea enter the head of some brilliant man and should he realise, for example, that the old social order cannot last, but must be replaced by a new one, then this happens not ‘by chance’, as the utopian socialists believed, but by the force of quite comprehensible historical necessity. Similarly, the dissemination of this new socio-political idea, its assimilation by the brilliant man’s supporters, cannot be attributed to chance; it gains ground precisely because it corresponds to the new economic conditions, and pervades precisely that class or strata of the population which more than any other feels the disadvantages of the obsolete social system. The process of the dissemination of the new idea also turns out to be in conformity to law. And since the dissemination of the idea corresponding to the new economic relations must sooner or later be followed by its realisation, that is to say, the elimination of the old and the triumph of the new social order, it follows that the whole course of social development, all social evolution – with its various aspects and the revolutionary features peculiar to it – is now perceived from the point of view of necessity. Here, then, we have in full view the main feature which distinguishes scientific socialism from utopian. The scientific socialist envisages the realisation of his ideal as a matter of historical necessity, whereas the utopian socialist pins his hopes on chance. This brings a corresponding change in methods of propaganda for socialism. The utopians worked at random, today addressing themselves to enlightened monarchs, tomorrow to enterprising and profit-hungry capitalists and on the following day to disinterested friends of humanity and so on. [25] The scientific socialists, on the other hand, have a well-balanced and consistent programme based on the materialist understanding of history. They do not expect all classes of society to sympathise with socialism, being aware that the ability of a given class to be amenable to a given revolutionary idea is determined by the economic position of that class, and that of all classes in contemporary society only the proletariat finds itself in an economic position inevitably pushing it into revolutionary struggle against the prevailing social order. Here, too, as everywhere, the scientific socialists are not content to view the activity of social man as the cause of social phenomena; they look more deeply and perceive this cause itself as the consequence of economic development. Here as everywhere they examine the conscious activity of men from the point of view of its necessity:

If for the impending overthrow of the present mode of distribution of the products of labour, with its crying contrasts of want and luxury, starvation and surfeit, we had no better guarantee than the consciousness that this mode of distribution is unjust, and that justice must eventually triumph, we should be in a pretty bad way, and we might have a long time to wait. The mystics of the Middle Ages who dreamed of the coming millennium were already conscious of the injustice of class antagonisms. On the threshold of modern history, 350 years ago, Thomas Münzer proclaimed it to the world. In the English and French bourgeois revolutions the same call resounded – and died away. And if today the same call for the abolition of class antagonisms and class distinctions, which up to 1830 had left the working and suffering classes cold, if today this call is re-echoed a million-fold, if it takes hold of one country after another in the same order and in the same degree of intensity that modern industry develops in each country, if in one generation it has gained a strength that enables it to defy all the forces combined against it and to be confident of victory in the near future – what is the reason for this? The reason is that modern large-scale industry has called into being on the one hand a proletariat, a class which for the first time in history can demand the abolition, not of this or that particular class organisation, or of this or that particular class privilege, but of classes themselves, and which is in such a position that it must carry through this demand on pain of sinking to the level of the Chinese coolie. On the other hand this same large-scale industry has brought into being, in the bourgeoisie, a class which has the monopoly of all the instruments of production and means of subsistence, but which in each speculative boom period and in each crash that follows it proves that it has become incapable of any longer controlling the productive forces, which have grown beyond its power; a class under whose leadership society is racing to ruin like a locomotive whose jammed safety-valve the driver is too weak to open. In other words, the reason is that both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established by it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place, a revolution which will put an end to all class distinctions. On this tangible, material fact, which is impressing itself in a more or less clear form, but with insuperable necessity, on the minds of the exploited proletarians – on this fact, and not on the conceptions of justice and injustice held by any armchair philosopher, is modern socialism’s confidence in victory founded. [26]

That is what Engels said in his dispute with Dühring, and his words portray in full clarity the distinguishing features of scientific socialism with which we are now familiar: the view that the emancipation movement of the proletariat is a law-regulated social process; the conviction that only necessity can ensure the triumph of freedom. [27]

Taine says somewhere that perfect science reproduces with great accuracy in ideas the nature and consistency of phenomena. Such a science can make accurate forecasts about each separate phenomenon. And there is nothing easier than to show that social science does not and cannot have such accuracy. But neither has scientific socialism ever claimed such accuracy. When its opponents object that sociological prediction is impossible, they confuse two quite distinct concepts; the concept of the direction and general outcome of a particular social process, and the concept of separate phenomena (events) out of which the process is composed. Sociological prediction is distinguished, and always will be distinguished, by its having very little accuracy in everything that concerns the forecast of separate events, whereas it possesses quite considerable accuracy where it has to define the general character and trend of social processes. Let us take an example. Statistics prove that the mortality rate fluctuates according to the time of the year. Knowing how it fluctuates in a particular country or locality, it is easy to forecast to what extent the number of deaths will go up or down from one period of the year to another. Here we are speaking about the general character and trend of a particular social process, so it is possible to make a very exact forecast. But if we should wish to know the particular phenomena in which will be expressed, say, the increase in mortality with the coming of autumn, or if we should wish to ask ourselves which particular persons will not survive the autumn and what will be the concrete circumstances which will bring about their demise, we should not expect an answer from social science; and if we still hoped to get one we should have to resort to the services of a magician or a fortune-teller. Another example. Suppose that in the parliament of a given country there are representatives of the big landowners whose income is being seriously reduced by competition from neighbouring countries; of the industrial employers who market their products in the same neighbouring countries; and lastly of the proletarians who exist solely by selling their labour power. A bill to impose a high tariff on grain imports has been brought before this parliament. What do you think? Will the sociologist be able to foretell how the parliamentary representatives of the various social classes will react to this bill? We think that in this case the sociologist (and not only the sociologist, the man of science, but anyone who has any political experience and common sense) has every possibility to make an accurate forecast.

The representatives of the landowners [he will say] will support the proposal with all their energy; the representatives of the proletariat will just as energetically reject it, and in this respect the employers’ representatives will not lag behind them in opposition, unless the landowners’ representatives have bought their agreement not to oppose the bill by making some kind of really important economic concession to them in some other field.

This forecast will be made on the basis of analysing the economic interests of the different social classes and it will have the definiteness and accuracy of a mathematical deduction, at least as far as the landowners and the proletariat are concerned. Further, knowing the voting strength of the representatives of each of these classes in parliament, our sociologist will be able easily and accurately to forecast the fate of the bill. Here again his forecast can have a very large measure of accuracy and reliability. But since you may not be satisfied with having a general forecast of the nature and trend of this particular social process – the process of struggle over the bill – and wish to know in advance who exactly will speak on the bill, and exactly what kind of scenes their speeches will give rise to in the parliament, the sociologist will reply to such questions, not by scientific prediction, but with more or less witty conjectures; and if you are still dissatisfied, your only remaining hope is again the fortune-teller. A third example: if you take the works of the great French Enlighteners of the eighteenth century – say, for instance, Holbach – you will find in them the whole social programme of the Great French Revolution. But what you will not find in them is one single forecast about the historical events which later constituted the process by which the demands advanced by the French Enlighteners on behalf of the entire third estate were put into effect. Whence this difference? It is clear where it comes from. The nature and trend of a given social process is one thing; the separate events which go to make up the whole process are quite another matter. If I understand the nature and trend of the process, I can foretell its outcome. But no matter how profound my comprehension of this process may be, it will not enable me to foretell separate events and their particular features. When people say that sociological prediction is impossible, or, at least, extremely difficult, they almost always have in mind the impossibility of foretelling particular events, completely forgetting that this is not the business of sociology. Sociological prediction has as its object, not isolated events, but the general results of that social process which – as, for example, the process of development of bourgeois society – is already being accomplished at the given time. That these general results can be determined beforehand is well illustrated by the above-mentioned example of the French Revolution, the entire social programme of which was formulated, as we have said, by the advanced literary representatives of the bourgeoisie. [28]

Scientific socialism says, first of all, that the victory of socialist ideals presupposes as its essential condition, a certain course of economic development of bourgeois society, taking place independently of the will of the socialists; secondly, that this essential condition is already at hand, determined by the nature and development of the relations of production peculiar to that society; thirdly, that the very dissemination of socialist ideals among the working class of the contemporary capitalist countries is caused by the economic structure and development of these countries. Such is the general idea of scientific socialism. And this general idea is not invalidated in any way by the completely correct proposition that sociology will never be a perfect science in the sense meant by Taine. Well, and what of it? Although sociology is not a perfect science, the general conception of scientific socialism is nonetheless indisputable, rendering all doubts of the possibility of such socialism groundless.

The bourgeois theoreticians and the ‘critics’ of Marx often advance also the following argument in discussions on the possibility of scientific socialism.

If scientific socialism is possible [they say], then bourgeois social science is also possible, which is self-contradictory nonsense, since science can be neither socialist nor bourgeois. Science is integral. Bourgeois political economy is as unthinkable as socialist mathematics.

This argument, too, is based on a confusion of ideas. Mathematics can be neither socialist nor bourgeois – that is true. But what is true in application to mathematics is untrue when applied to social science.

What is the sum of the squares of the shorter sides of a right-angled triangle equal to? To the square of the hypotenuse. Is that right? It is. Is it always right? Always. The relation of the square of the hypotenuse to the sum of the squares of the other two sides cannot vary, since the properties of mathematical figures are invariable. And what do we find in sociology? Does the subject of its investigation remain invariable? It does not. The subject of sociological investigation is society and society develops and, consequently, changes. It is just this change, this development, that provides the possibility of bourgeois social science and, in like manner, of scientific socialism. In its development, society passes through certain phases to which the phases of development of social science correspond; for example, that which we call bourgeois economics is one phase in the development of economic science, and that which we call socialist economics is another phase, following directly after the first. What is surprising about this? Where is the self-contradictory nonsense here?

It would be wrong to think that bourgeois economics consists of errors alone. Nothing of the kind. In so far as bourgeois economics corresponds to a definite phase of social development it will contain irrefutable scientific truth. [29] But this truth is relative precisely because it corresponds only to a certain phase of social development. However, the bourgeois theoreticians, who imagine that society must always remain at the bourgeois phase, attribute absolute significance to their relative truths. This is their basic error, one that is being set right by scientific socialism which has come into being owing to the fact that the bourgeois epoch of social development is drawing to a close. Scientific socialism may by likened to the same Minerva’s owl which Hegel spoke about and which, he said, flies out only when the sun of the prevailing social order – in this case, the capitalist – is selling. Once again: where is the contradiction here? Where is the nonsense? Here there is neither contradiction nor nonsense; here, on the contrary, we have the opportunity to glance at the very process of the development of science as a process conforming to law.

Be that as it may, the main distinguishing feature of scientific socialism is now quite clear to us. Its adherents are not satisfied with the hope that socialist ideals, because of their lofty nature, will attract general sympathy and will therefore triumph. No, they require the assurance that this very attraction of general sympathy to socialist ideals is a necessary social process, and they derive this assurance from the analysis of contemporary economic relations and the course of their development. [30] The apologists of the existing social order feel well enough, although they do not always clearly realise it, that this main distinguishing feature is just what constitutes the main strength of socialist theory. Therefore, their ‘criticism’ is directed at this point. They usually begin with the argument that economics cannot be regarded as the mainspring of social development, since man is not fashioned of stomach alone, but has also a soul, a heart and other imperishable treasures. However, these sentimental arguments, which are evidence of the utter inability of present-day bourgeois theoreticians to understand what is the most important, fundamental task of social science, play only a secondary role with them. The main force of their arguments is concentrated on the question of the trend of contemporary economic development. Here they try to refute, one by one, every tenet of scientific socialism. [31] Even though their attempts come to nothing, they constantly renew them and cannot help doing so since the question at issue is the very existence of a social order so dear to their hearts. They realise that, if economic development actually proceeds along the lines indicated by the scientific socialists, the social revolution is inevitable. And this is equivalent to admitting that scientific socialism is possible.

We have indicated one distinguishing feature of scientific socialism; Engels indicates another in his controversy with Dühring when he says that this socialism dates only from the discovery of the nature and origin of surplus value, and that all of it has been ‘built up’ around this discovery. (The reader will understand in what sense this is said.) As the aim of the socialist movement is the abolition of exploitation of one social class by another – the proletariat by the bourgeoisie – scientific socialism became possible only from the time when science succeeded in defining the nature of class exploitation generally and, in particular, that form which it assumes in present-day society. Prior to this, socialism could not go beyond more or less vague strivings, and in its criticism of the prevailing system lacked the most important ingredient: an understanding of where lay the economic kernel of this system. The discovery of surplus value gave it this understanding. How great is the importance of this discovery is evidenced by the mere fact that the defenders of the existing order of things try with all their might to disprove its truth. The theory of marginal utility [32] is now meeting with a very cordial welcome from the bourgeois economists precisely because it envelops in a dense cloud the question of the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist and even throws doubt upon the very fact of this exploitation. [33] (Therein lies the whole ‘scientific’ meaning of this theory, the uselessness of which is far from marginal.)

But no matter how important the discovery of surplus value was in the history of socialism, scientific socialism would, nevertheless, have remained impossible if the abolition of the bourgeois relations of production and, consequently, the abolition of the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, had not been conceived as an historical necessity, conditioned by the whole process of contemporary economic development.

A few words more. Three chapters of the celebrated book, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft [Anti-Dühring], devoted to a criticism of the Dühring ‘force theory’ are, as in previous editions of this hook, published as an appendix to the present edition. These chapters contain, by the way, an outline of history of the art of war in the civilised states of modern times as well as an analysis of the causal connection of the development of this art with the economic development of society. These chapters may appear ‘one-sided’ to people inclined to eclecticism. Such people will retort: ‘Not everything can be explained by economy.’ We consider it useful, therefore, to draw their attention to one book which owes its origin to experts in military affairs. It is entitled Les maîtres de la guerre. Frédéric IINapoléon – Moltke (Essai critique d’après des travaux inédits de M le général Bonnal par le Lt-Colonel Rousset, professeur à l’Ecole supérieure de Guerre). This interesting book deals with the same subject as that examined by Engels in the chapters mentioned above and it draws almost exactly the same conclusions:

The social conditions obtaining in each epoch of history [we read on page four] exert a preponderant influence, not only on the military organisation of a nation but also on the character, the abilities, and the trends of the military men. Generals of the ordinary stamp make use of the familiar and accepted methods, and march on towards successes or reverses according to whether attendant circumstances are more or less favourable to them... As for the great captains, these subordinate to their genius the means and procedures of warfare, or, to be more exact, guided by a kind of divinatory instinct, they transform the means and procedures in accordance with the parallel laws of a social evolution, whose decisive effect (and repercussion) on the technique of their art they alone understand in their day.

This is by no means far from the materialist explanation of history, although the author has probably not got the slightest notion what that is. Surely if the development of the art of war is determined by social development and social development by economic development, it must follow that military technique, and not technique alone, but also the ‘character, the abilities and the aspirations of military men’ are determined, in the last analysis, by economic development. This conclusion, which has astonished so many, many ‘intellectuals’ of every nationality by its ‘one-sidedness’, would scarcely have frightened our military author, who, recognising that the development of military technique is determined by social development, also recognises at the same time that this development, in turn, is conditioned by ‘the progress of science, arts and industry’ (page 2). If he is not lacking in the ability to think consistently, and evidently he is not, it would be easy for him to understand the historical theory according to which social development is accomplished on the basis of economic development and economic development is determined by the course of development of the productive forces.

The historical essay on the art of war written by the same author from the unpublished materials of General Bonnal is extremely reminiscent of the essay on the same subject which Engels wrote in Anti-Dühring. Here and there the resemblance is so great, indeed, that one could presume that it had been borrowed, were this not precluded by the simple chronological fact that Engels’ Anti-Dühring was published twenty-three years before Lt-Colonel Rousset’s book. It is just as unthinkable to imagine that Rousset (or General Bonnal) had borrowed from Engels. We may be sure that the works of the great German socialist were completely unknown to these learned French officers. The matter is very simply explained by the fact that Engels was an expert on military matters and a consistent thinker, able to apply the fundamental principles of his historical theory to the study of the most varied aspects of social life. Guided by these fundamental principles, he discerned that which, to quote Rousset, was discerned only by the greatest generals: the decisive impact of social evolution on the technique of war. This particular case proves convincingly that the materialist explanation of history, when correctly understood, does not lead to ‘one-sidedness’, but broadens and sharpens the investigator’s vision as nothing else could.

We should have liked to say something, too, about dialectics and its relation to formal logic. But lack of space compels us to put this off to another, more favourable, occasion. (That it would be useful to carry out this intention may be seen from those extremely vague conceptions of dialectics with which far too often even orthodox Marxists are satisfied. It must be admitted that in the polemics aroused by the ‘critical’ efforts of Mr Bernstein and Co, the majority of the orthodox Marxists proved to be weakest precisely in the defence of dialectics. This weakness must be eliminated; we are in duty bound to repulse decisively all the attacks of our enemies on our logical stronghold.)


Notes are by Plekhanov, except those by the Moscow editors of this edition of the work, which are noted ‘Editor’.

1. The first Russian edition of Engels’ pamphlet Socialism: Utopian and Scientific appeared in Geneva in 1884 – Editor.

2. E Bernstein, Wie ist wissenschaftlicher Sozialismus möglich? (Berlin, 1901), p.35.

3. These are the words of Skalozub, a character from Griboyedov’s Wit Works Woe – Editor.

4. Bernstein, p.34, note.

5. Not having the English original at hand I quote from the German edition, translated by Professor Oswald Kollmann and published in Leipzig in 1900, entitled: Eine neue Auffassung der Gesellschaft. Vier Aufsätze über die Bildung des menschlichen Charakters, als Einleitung zu der Entwicklung eines Planes, die Lage der Menschheit allmählich zu verbessern. The extract cited is on page 6. [We are quoting from the original (London, 1817), pp.11-12 – Editor.]

6. See, for example, Manuscrits de Fourier (Paris, 1851), p.4, where he compares himself with Kepler and Newton. Cf also any of the expositions of his teaching made by his followers. In each of them, the practical plans of social reconstruction are founded on Fourier’s theoretical discoveries.

7. On this point read especially pages 21, 22, 28, 29 and 30.

8. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), p.126 – Editor.

9. Bernstein, p.30, note.

10. Les Manuscrits de Fourier, p.14. Cf also Oeuvres complètes, Volume 4 (Paris, 1841), pp.3, 4, 5.

11. Les Manuscrits de Fourier, p.17.

12. Oeuvres complètes, Volume 4, p.121.

13. Manuscrits de Fourier, p.78.

14. See, for example, his work A Development of the Principles and Plans on Which to Establish Self-Supporting Home-Colonies, etc (London, 1841), and especially the introduction to his autobiography, The Life of Robert Owen Written by Himself, Volume 1 (London, 1857).

15. See Neue Auffassung, etc, pp.65 – 66. Incidentally, this thought is repeated in all his works. [We are quoting from Robert Owen, op cit, pp.114 – 15 – Editor.]

16. See his extremely interesting article, headed: ‘On the absolute necessity, in the nature of things, for the attainment of Happiness, that the system of Falsehood and Evil should precede the system of Truth and Good’, in the appendix to the first volume of his autobiography, issued as a separate book;

17. See my Preface to the Russian edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1976), pp.427 – 73 – Editor.]

18. System des Transcendentalen Idealismus (Tübingen, 1800), p.422. Cf N Beltov’s The Development of the Monist View of History, pp.105 et seq. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), pp.565ff – Editor.]

19. ‘Necessity in opposition to freedom, is nothing else than the unconscious’, Schelling rightly observes (op cit, p.424).

20. ‘I might hope to foresee them [the acts of my fellow-citizens] only on the condition that I could examine them as I examine all other phenomena of the world surrounding me, that is, as the necessary consequences of definite causes which are already known, or may become known, to me. In other words, my freedom would not be an empty phrase only if consciousness of it could be accompanied by understanding the reasons which give rise to the free acts of my neighbours, that is, if I could examine them from the aspect of their necessity. Exactly the same can my neighbours say about my own acts. But what does this mean? This means that the possibility of the free (conscious) historical activity of any particular person is reduced to zero, if at the very foundation of free human actions there does not lie necessity which is accessible to the understanding of the doer.’ (N Beltov, The Development of the Monist View of History, p.106). [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p.566 – Editor.]

21. See N Beltov, op cit, p.101. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p.562 – Editor.]

22. See his Grundsätze der Philosophie der Zukunft, p.23.

23. For more detail see my article ‘Zu Hegel’s sechzigstem Todestag’ in Neue Zeit, November 1891. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), pp.401-26 – Editor.]

24. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), pp.133-34 – Editor.

25. ‘Le seul baume à notre servitude, c’est, de temps en temps, un prince vertueux et éclairé; alors les malheureux oublient pour un moment leurs calamités.’ [’the sole consolation in our servitude is the appearance from time to time of a virtuous and enlightened sovereign; then the unfortunate forget their misfortunes for a moment.’] So said the well-known Grimm in the eighteenth century (quoted from L Ducros, Les Encyclopédistes (Paris, 1900), p.160). It is plain to anyone that the hopes of Grimm and his followers were really adjusted to chance. We know by now that the utopian socialists differed very little in this respect from the Enlighteners of the eighteenth century. True, the Enlighteners put their trust only in monarchs, while the utopian socialists also expected miracles from the goodwill of simple mortals among the propertied classes. This difference is to be explained by changed social relations, but it does not erase the fundamental resemblance resulting from identical views on history.

26. Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, third edition, pp.161 – 62. [Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow, 1975), pp.180-81 – Editor.]

27. When our Belinsky – on his being first attracted to Hegel – resolutely abandoned for a time his aspirations to freedom, he gave a striking and incontestable proof of the depth of his theoretical understanding. His renunciation of freedom-loving aspirations was inspired precisely by the consciousness that the triumph of freedom could be assured only by objective necessity. But since he saw nothing in Russian reality to indicate the objective necessity of such a triumph he gave up all hope of it as being theoretically unsound. Later he said of himself that he had been unable to ‘develop the idea of negation’. This concept, in its application to bourgeois society, was developed by the founders of scientific socialism.

28. In his recently published book, Les classes sociales, analyse de la vie sociale, the Paris Professor Bauer expresses a similar view regarding sociological prediction. His book is interesting in many respects. It is a pity that the learned Professor is very badly informed on the history of the views he is developing. Evidently it does not enter his head that among his ‘predecessors’ he should have included the philosophers Schelling and Hegel, and the socialists Marx and Engels.

29. This is why the class bourgeois point of view in its time not only did not impede the progress of science, but was its essential condition. In my preface to the Manifesto of the Communist Party I have shown this by the example of the French bourgeois historians at the time of the Restoration.

30. Some writers, for example Stammler, contend that if the triumph of socialism is an historical necessity, the practical activity of Social-Democracy is completely superfluous. Why promote the occurrence of something which is certain to happen? That is, of course, a pitiful and ridiculous sophism. Social-Democracy, in analysing historical development from the point of view of necessity, looks on its own activity as an essential link in the chain of those necessary conditions, the totality of which makes the victory of socialism inevitable. An essential link cannot be superfluous: its elimination would break the whole chain of events. The logical weakness of this sophism is clear to anybody who understands what we have said above about freedom and necessity.

31. See my article ‘A Critique of Our Critics’, published in the second and third issues of Zarya. [Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1976), pp.513 – 66. Zarya (Dawn) – a Marxist scientific and political journal published legally in Stuttgart in 1901 – 02 with Lenin, Plekhanov and Zasulich as its contributors. The journal criticised international and Russian revisionism and came out in defence of the theoretical principles of Marxism – Editor.]

32. The theory of ‘marginal utility’ was a vulgar economic theory which came to the fore in the 1870s in opposition to Marx’s labour theory of value. According to the theory of ‘marginal utility’, the source of value is not socially-necessary labour, but the so-called marginal utility of a commodity, reflecting the subjective estimation of the utility of a commodity which satisfies the least pressing demand – Editor.

33. When the English translation of Böhm-Bawerk’s Positive Theorie des Kapitals was issued, the biggest of the British bourgeois newspapers, The Times, welcomed it as ‘the best antidote to the exploitation theories of the Marxist school’. The bourgeois social system is in a state of decay. Parallel with this there is a decline in bourgeois science. In defending bourgeois social relations, the bourgeois theoreticians degrade themselves to the level of lower-grade sophists. (We may note the following in passing: when Engels said that Marx discovered surplus value he did not mean that, in his opinion, no economist before Marx had had any idea on the subject. Not at all. Marx himself remarked in his Zur Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie that even the physiocrats had tried to determine in which particular sphere of production surplus value was created. [Physiocrats – representatives of a trend in bourgeois classical political economy which arose in France in the 1750s. They proclaimed unrestricted rule of private ownership, rejected protectionism and demanded freedom of trade and competition. They advocated a ‘Laissez faire, laissez passer’ economic policy – Editor.] Marx collected much extremely valuable material for a history of the theories of surplus value. Part of this material has only just been published by Kautsky in a special book. [This reference is to Volume 4 of Capital (Theories of Surplus-Value), published by Karl Kautsky from 1905 to 1910 – Editor.] Marx discovered surplus value in the sense that the long history of the theories of this value was finally completed in his economic theory, freed from all unclarity and contradictions.)