Georgi Plekhanov 1907

Fundamental Problems of Marxism

Source: Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 3, Progress Publishers (Moscow, 1976), pp. 117-83;
Transcribed: for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

According to the Soviet editors: ‘This work was written in November and December 1907 for the collection of articles which was being prepared for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Marx’s death. For a number of reasons this collection never came out, but the article was published in pamphlet form in 1908.’

Marxism is an integral world-outlook. Expressed in a nutshell, it is contemporary materialism, at present the highest stage in the development of that view upon the world whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece by Democritus, [1] and in part by the Ionian thinkers who preceded that philosopher. What was known as hylozoism was nothing but a naive materialism. It is to Karl Marx and his friend Frederick Engels that the main credit for the development of present-day materialism must no doubt go. The historical and economic aspects of this world-outlook, that is, what is known as historical materialism and the closely related sum of views on the tasks, method and categories of political economy, and on the economic development of society, especially capitalist society, are in their fundamentals almost entirely the work of Marx and Engels. That which was introduced into these fields by their precursors should be regarded merely as the preparatory work of amassing material, often copious and valuable, but not as yet systematised or illuminated by a single fundamental idea, and therefore not appraised or utilised in its real significance. What Marx and Engels’ followers in Europe and America have done in these fields is merely a more or less successful elaboration of specific problems, sometimes, it is true, of the utmost importance. That is why the term ‘Marxism’ is often used to signify only these two aspects of the present-day materialist world-outlook not only among the ‘general public’, who have not yet achieved a deep understanding of philosophical theories, but even among people, both in Russia and the entire civilised world, who consider themselves faithful followers of Marx and Engels. In such cases these two aspects are looked upon as something independent of ‘philosophical materialism’, and at times as something almost opposed to it. [2] And since these two aspects cannot but hang in mid-air when they are torn out of the general context of cognate views constituting their theoretical foundation, those who perform that tearing-out operation naturally feel an urge to ‘substantiate Marxism’ anew by joining it – again quite arbitrarily and most frequently under the influence of philosophical moods prevalent at the time among ideologists of the bourgeoisie – with some philosopher or another: with Kant, Mach, Avenarius or Ostwald, and of late with Joseph Dietzgen. [3] True, the philosophical views of J Dietzgen have arisen quite independently of bourgeois influences and are in considerable measure related to the philosophical views of Marx and Engels. The latter views, however, possess an incomparably more consistent and rich content, and for that reason alone cannot be supplemented by Dietzgen’s teachings but can only be popularised by them. No attempts have yet been made to ‘supplement Marx’ with Thomas Aquinas. It is however quite feasible that, despite the Pope’s recent encyclical against the Modernists, the Catholic world will at some time produce from its midst a thinker capable of performing this feat in the sphere of theory. [4]


Attempts to show that Marxism must be ‘supplemented’ by one philosopher or another are usually backed up with reference to the fact that Marx and Engels did not anywhere set forth their philosophical views. This reasoning is hardly convincing, however, apart from the consideration that, even if these views were indeed not set forth anywhere, that could provide no logical reason to have them replaced by the views of any random thinker who, in the main, holds an entirely different point of view. It should be remembered that we have sufficient literary material at our disposal to form a correct idea of the philosophical views of Marx and Engels. [5]

In their final shape, these views were fairly fully set forth, although in a polemical form, in the first part of Engels’ book Herrn Eugen Dühring’s Umwälzung der Wissenschaft (of which there are several Russian translations). Then there is a splendid booklet by the same author, Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie (which I have translated into Russian and supplied with a preface and explanatory notes; it has been published by Mr Lvovich), in which the views constituting the philosophical foundation of Marxism are expounded in a positive form. [6] A brief but vivid account of the same views, related to agnosticism, was given by Engels in his preface to the English translation of the pamphlet The Development of Scientific Socialism (translated into German, and published under the title of Über den historischen Materialismus in Neue Zeit, nos 1 and 2, 1892-93). As for Marx, I will mention as important for an understanding of the philosophical aspect of his teachings, in the first place, the characterisation of materialist dialectic – as distinct from Hegel’s idealist dialectic – given in the afterword to the Second German edition of Volume 1 of Capital, and, secondly, the numerous remarks made en passant in the same volume. Also significant in certain respects are some of the pages in La Misère de la philosophie (which has been translated into Russian). Finally, the process of the development of Marx and Engels’ philosophical views is revealed with sufficient clarity in their early writings, republished by F Mehring under the title of Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von Karl Marx, etc (Stuttgart, 1902).

In his dissertation Differenz der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie, as well as in several articles republished by Mehring in Volume 1 of the publication just mentioned, the young Marx appears before us as an idealist pur sang of the Hegelian school. However, in the articles which have now been included in the same volume and which first appeared in the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher, [7] Marx – like Engels, who also collaborated in the Jahrbücher – was a firm adherent of Feuerbachian ‘humanism’.[8] Die heilige Familie, order Kritik der kritischen Kritik, which appeared in 1845 and has been republished in Volume 2 of the Mehring publication, shows us our two authors, that is, both Marx and Engels, as having made several important steps in the further development of Feuerbach’s philosophy. The direction they gave to this elaboration can be seen from the eleven Theses on Feuerbach written by Marx in the spring of 1845, and published by Engels as an appendix to the aforementioned pamphlet Ludwig Feuerbach. In short, there is no lack of material here; the only thing needed is the ability to make use of it, that is, the need to have the proper training for its understanding. Present-day readers, however, do not have the training required for that understanding, and consequently do not know how to make use of it.

Why is that so? For a variety of reasons. One of the principal reasons is that nowadays there is, in the first place, little knowledge of Hegelian philosophy, without which it is difficult to learn Marx’s method, and, in the second place, little knowledge of the history of materialism, the absence of which does not permit present-day readers to form a clear idea of the doctrine of Feuerbach, who was Marx’s immediate precursor in the field of philosophy, and in considerable measure worked out the philosophical foundation of what can be called the world-outlook of Marx and Engels.

Nowadays Feuerbach’s ‘humanism’ is usually described as something very vague and indefinite. FA Lange, who has done so much to spread, both among the ‘general public’ and in the learned world, an absolutely false view of the essence of materialism and of its history, refused to recognise Feuerbach’s ‘humanism’ as a materialist teaching. FA Lange’s example is being followed, in this respect, by almost all who have written on Feuerbach in Russia and other countries. PA Berlin too seems to have been affected by this influence, since he depicts Feuerbach’s ‘humanism’ as a kind of materialism that is not quite ‘pure’. [9] I must admit that I do not know for certain how this question is regarded by Franz Mehring, whose knowledge of philosophy is the best, and probably unique, among German Social-Democrats. But it is perfectly clear to me that it was the materialist that Marx and Engels saw in Feuerbach. True, Engels speaks of Feuerbach’s inconsistency, but that does not in the least prevent him from recognising the fundamental propositions of his philosophy as purely materialist. [10] But then these propositions cannot be viewed otherwise by anybody who has gone to the trouble of making a study of them.


I am well aware that in saying all this I risk surprising very many of my readers. I am not afraid to do so; the ancient thinker was right in saying that astonishment is the mother of philosophy. For the reader not to remain at the stage, so to say, of astonishment, I shall first of all recommend that he ask himself what Feuerbach meant when, while giving a terse but vivid outline of his philosophical curriculum vitae, he wrote: ‘God was my first thought, Reason the second, and Man the third and last thought.’ I contend that this question is conclusively answered in the following meaningful words of Feuerbach himself:

In the controversy between materialism and spiritualism... the human head is under discussion... once we have learnt what kind of matter the brain is made up of, we shall soon arrive at a clear view upon all other matter as well, matter in general. [11]

Elsewhere he says that his ‘anthropology’, that is, his ‘humanism’, merely means that man takes for God that which is his own essence, his own spirit. [12] He goes on to say that Descartes did not eschew this ‘anthropological’ point of view. [13] How is all this to be understood? It means that Feuerbach made ‘Man’ the point of departure of his philosophical reasoning only because it was from that point of departure that he hoped the sooner to achieve his aim – to bring forth a correct view upon matter in general and its relation to the ‘spirit’. Consequently what we have here is a methodological device, whose value was conditioned by circumstances of time and place, that is, by the thinking habits of the learned, or simply educated, Germans of the time, [14] and not by any specificity of world-outlook.[15]

The above quotation from Feuerbach regarding the ‘human head’ shows that when he wrote these words the problem of ‘the kind of matter the brain is made up of’ was solved by him in a ‘purely’ materialistic sense. This solution was also accepted by Marx and Engels. It provided the foundation of their own philosophy, as can be seen with the utmost clarity from Engels’ works, so often quoted here – Ludwig Feuerbach and Anti-Dühring. That is why we must make a closer study of this solution; in doing so, we shall at the same time be studying the philosophical aspect of Marxism.

In an article entitled ‘Vorläufige Thesen zur Reform der Philosophie’, which came out in 1842 and, judging by the facts, had a strong influence on Marx, Feuerbach said that ‘the real relation of thinking to being is only as follows: being is the subject; thinking, the predicate. Thinking is conditioned by being, and not being by thinking. Being is conditioned by itself... has its foundation in itself.’ [16]

This view on the relation of being to thinking, which Marx and Engels made the foundation of the materialistic explanation of history, is a most important outcome of the criticism of Hegel’s idealism already completed in its main features by Feuerbach, a criticism whose conclusions can be set forth in a few words.

Feuerbach considered that Hegel’s philosophy had removed the contradiction between being and thinking, a contradiction that had expressed itself in particular relief in Kant. However, as Feuerbach thought, it removed that contradiction, while continuing to remain within the latter, that is, within one of its elements, namely, thinking. With Hegel, thinking is being:Thinking is the subject; being, the predicate.’ [17] It follows that Hegel, and idealism in general, eliminated the contradiction only by removing one of its component elements, that is, being, matter, nature. However, removing one of the component elements in a contradiction does not at all mean doing away with that contradiction. ‘Hegel’s doctrine that reality is “postulated” by the Idea is merely a translation into rationalistic terms of the theological doctrine that Nature was created by God – and reality, matter, by an abstract, non-material being.’ [18] This does not apply only to Hegel’s absolute idealism. Kant’s transcendental idealism, according to which the external world receives its laws from Reason instead of Reason receiving them from the external world, is closely akin to the theological concept that the world’s laws were dictated to it by divine Reason. [19] Idealism does not establish the unity of being and thinking, nor can it do so; it tears that unity asunder. Idealistic philosophy’s point of departure – the ‘I’ as the fundamental philosophical principle – is totally erroneous. It is not the ‘I’ that must be the starting-point of genuine philosophy, but the ‘I’ and the ‘you’. It is such a point of departure that makes it possible to arrive at a proper understanding of the relation between thinking and being, between the subject and the object. I am ‘I’ to myself, and at the same time I am ‘you’ to others. The ‘I’ is the subject, and at the same time the object. It must at the same time be noted that I am not the abstract being idealistic philosophy operates with. I am an actual being; my body belongs to my essence; moreover, my body, as a whole, is my I, my genuine essence. It is not an abstract being that thinks, but that actual being, that body. Thus, contrary to what the idealists assert, an actual and material being proves to be the subject, and thinking – the predicate. Herein lies the only possible solution of the contradiction between being and thinking, a contradiction that idealism sought so vainly to resolve. None of the elements in the contradiction is removed; both are preserved, revealing their real unity.That which to me, or subjectively, is a purely spiritual, non-material and non-sensuous act is in itself an objective, material and sensuous act.’ [20]

Note that in saying this, Feuerbach stands close to Spinoza, whose philosophy he was already setting forth with great sympathy at the time his own breakaway from idealism was taking shape, that is, when he was writing his history of modern philosophy. [21] In 1843 he made the subtle observation, in his Grundsätze, that pantheism is a theological materialism, a negation of theology but as yet on a theological standpoint. This confusion of materialism and theology constituted Spinoza’s inconsistency, which, however, did not prevent him from providing a ‘correct – at least for his time – philosophical expression for the materialist trend of modern times’. That was why Feuerbach called Spinoza ‘the Moses of the modern free-thinkers and materialists’. [22] In 1847 Feuerbach asked: ‘What then, under careful examination, is that which Spinoza calls Substance, in terms of logics or metaphysics, and God in terms of theology?’ To this question he replied categorically: ‘Nothing else but Nature.’ He saw Spinozism’s main shortcoming in the fact that ‘in it the sensible, anti-theological essence of Nature assumes the aspect of an abstract, metaphysical being’. Spinoza eliminated the dualism of God and Nature, since he declared that the acts of Nature were those of God. However, it was just because he regarded the acts of Nature to be those of God, that the latter remained, with Spinoza, a being distinct from Nature, but forming its foundation. He regarded God as the subject and Nature as the predicate. A philosophy that has completely liberated itself from theological traditions must remove this important shortcoming in Spinoza’s philosophy, which in its essence is sound. ‘Away with this contradiction!’, Feuerbach exclaimed. ‘Not Deus sive Natura but aut Deus aut Natura is the watchword of Truth.’ [23]

Thus, Feuerbach’s ‘humanism’ proved to be nothing else but Spinozism disencumbered of its theological pendant. And it was the standpoint of this kind of Spinozism, which Feuerbach had freed of its theological pendant, that Marx and Engels adopted when they broke with idealism.

However, disencumbering Spinozism of its theological appendage meant revealing its true and materialist content. Consequently, the Spinozism of Marx and Engels was indeed materialism brought up to date. [24]

Further. Thinking is not the cause of being, but its effect, or rather its property. Feuerbach says: Folge und Eigenschaft. I feel and think, not as a subject contraposed to an object, but as a subject-object, as an actual and material being. ‘For us the object is not merely the thing sensed, but also the basis, the indispensable condition of my sensation.’ The objective world is not only without me but also within me, inside my own skin. [25] Man is only a part of Nature, a part of being; there is therefore no room for any contradiction between his thinking and his being. Space and time do not exist only as forms of thinking. They are also forms of being, forms of my contemplation. They are such, solely because I myself am a creature that lives in time and space, and because I sense and feel as such a creature. In general, the laws of being are at the same time laws of thinking.

That is what Feuerbach said. [26] And the same thing, though in a different wording, was said by Engels in his polemic with Dühring. [27] This already shows what an important part of Feuerbach’s philosophy became an integral part of the philosophy of Marx and Engels.

If Marx began to elaborate his materialist explanation of history by criticising Hegel’s philosophy of law, he could do so only because Feuerbach had completed his criticism of Hegel’s speculative philosophy.

Even when criticising Feuerbach in his Theses, Marx often develops and augments the former’s ideas. Here is an instance from the sphere of ‘epistemology’. Before thinking of an object, man, according to Feuerbach, experiences its action on himself, contemplates and senses it.

It was this thought that Marx had in mind when he wrote:

The chief defect of all previous materialism (that of Feuerbach included) is that thing [Gegenstand], reality, sensuousness are conceived only in the form of the object [Objekt], or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. [28]

This shortcoming in materialism, Marx goes on to say, accounts for the circumstance that, in his Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach regards theoretical activity as the only genuine human activity. Expressed in other words, this means that, according to Feuerbach, our I cognises the object by coming under its action. [29] Marx, however, objects by saying: our I cognises the object, while at the same time acting upon that object. Marx’s thought is a perfectly correct one: as Faust already said, ‘Am Anfang war die Tat.’ It may of course be objected, in defence of Feuerbach, that, in the process of our acting upon objects, we cognise their properties only in the measure in which they, for their part, act upon us. In both cases sensation precedes thinking; in both cases we first sense their properties, and only then think of them. But that is something that Marx did not deny. For him the gist of the matter was not the indisputable fact that sensation precedes thinking, but the fact that man is induced to think chiefly by the sensations he experiences in the process of his acting upon the outer world. Since this action on the outer world is prescribed to man by the struggle for existence, the theory of knowledge is closely linked up by Marx with his materialist view of the history of human civilisation. It was not for nothing that the thinker who directed against Feuerbach the thesis we are here discussing wrote in Volume 1 of his Capital: ‘By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature.’ [30] This proposition fully reveals its profound meaning only in the light of Marx’s theory of knowledge. We shall see how well this theory is confirmed by the history of cultural development and, incidentally, even by the science of language. It must, however, be admitted that Marx’s epistemology stems directly from that of Feuerbach, or, if you will, it is, properly speaking, the epistemology of Feuerbach, only rendered more profound by the masterly correction brought into it by Marx.

I shall add, in passing, that this masterly correction was prompted by the ‘spirit of the times’. The striving to examine the interaction between object and subject precisely from the point of view in which the subject appears in an active role, derived from the public mood of the period in which the world-outlook of Marx and Engels was taking shape. [31] The revolution of 1848 was in the offing...


The doctrine of the unity of subject and object, thinking and being, which was shared in equal measure by Feuerbach, and by Marx and Engels, was also held by the most outstanding materialists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Elsewhere [32] I have shown that La Mettrie and Diderot – each after his own fashion – arrived at a world-outlook that was a ‘brand of Spinozism’, that is, a Spinozism without the theological appendage that distorted its true content. It would also be easy to show that, inasmuch as we are speaking of the unity of subject and object, Hobbes too stood very close to Spinoza. That, however, would be taking us too far afield, and, besides, there is no immediate need to do that. Probably of greater interest to the reader is the fact that today any naturalist who has delved even a little into the problem of the relation of thinking to being arrives at that doctrine of their unity which we have met in Feuerbach.

When Huxley wrote the following words: ‘Surely no one who is cognisant of the facts of the case, nowadays, doubts that the roots of psychology lie in the physiology of the nervous system’, and went on to say that the operations of the mind ‘are functions of the brain’, [33] he was expressing just what Feuerbach had said, only with these words he connected concepts that were far less clear. It was precisely because the concepts connected with these words were far less clear than with Feuerbach that he attempted to link up the view just quoted with Hume’s philosophical scepticism. [34]

In just the same way, Haeckel’s [35] ‘monism’, which created such a stir, is nothing else but a purely materialist doctrine – in essence close to that of Feuerbach – of the unity of subject and object. Haeckel, however, is poorly versed in the history of materialism, which is why he considers it necessary to struggle against its ‘one-sidedness’; he should have gone to the trouble of making a study of its theory of knowledge in the form it took with Feuerbach and Marx, something that would have preserved him from the many lapses and one-sided assumptions that have made it easier for his opponents to wage a struggle against him on philosophical grounds.

A very close approach to the most modern materialism – that of Feuerbach, Marx and Engels – has been made by August Forel in various of his writings, for instance in the paper Gehirn und Seele, which he read to the Sixty-Sixth Congress of German Naturalists and Physicians held in Vienna (26 September 1894). [36] In places Forel not only expresses ideas resembling Feuerbach’s but – and this is amazing – marshals his arguments just as Feuerbach did his. According to Forel, each new day brings us convincing proofs that the psychology and the physiology of the brain are merely two ways of looking at ‘one and the same thing’. The reader will not have forgotten Feuerbach’s identical view, which I have quoted above and which pertains to the same problem. This view can be supplemented here with the following statement: ‘I am the psychological object to myself’, Feuerbach says, ‘but a physiological object to others.’ [37] In the final analysis, Forel’s main idea boils down to the proposition that consciousness is the ‘inner reflex of cerebral activity’. [38] This view is already materialist.

Objecting to the materialists, the idealists and Kantians of all kinds and varieties claim that what we apprehend is only the mental aspect of the phenomena that Forel and Feuerbach deal with. This objection was excellently formulated by Schelling, who said that ‘the Spirit will always be an island which one cannot reach from the sphere of matter, otherwise than by a leap’. Forel is well aware of this, but he provides convincing proof that science would be an impossibility if we made up our minds in earnest not to leave the bounds of that island. ‘Every man’, he says, ‘would have only the psychology of his own subjectivism (hätte nur die Psychologie seines Subjectivismus)... and would positively be obliged to doubt the existence of the external world and of other people.’ [39] Such doubt is absurd, however. [40]

Conclusions arrived at by analogy, natural-scientific induction, a comparison of the evidence provided by our five senses, prove to us the existence of the external world, of other people, and the psychology of the latter. Likewise they prove to us that comparative psychology, animal psychology and, finally, our own psychology would be incomprehensible and full of contradictions if we considered it apart from the activities of our brain; first and foremost, it would seem a contradiction of the law of the conservation of energy. [41]

Feuerbach not only reveals the contradictions that inevitably beset those who reject the materialist standpoint, but also shows how the idealists reach their ‘island’.

I am I to myself [he says], and you to another. But I am such an I only as a sensible [that is, material – GP] being. The abstract intellect isolates this being-for-oneself as Substance, the atom, ego, God; that is why, to it, the connection between being-for-oneself and being-for-another is arbitrary. That which I think of as extra-sensuous (ohne Sinnlichkeit), I think of as without and outside any connection. [42]

This most significant consideration is accompanied by an analysis of that process of abstraction which led to the appearance of Hegelian logic as an ontological doctrine. [43]

Had Feuerbach possessed the information provided by present-day ethnology, he would have been able to add that philosophical idealism descends, in the historical sense, from the animism of primitive peoples. This was already pointed out by Edward Tylor, [44] and certain historians of philosophy are beginning to take it, in part, into consideration, though for the time being more as a curiosity than a fact from the history of culture, and of tremendous theoretical and cognitive significance. [45]

These ideas and arguments of Feuerbach’s were not only well known to Marx and Engels and given careful thought by them, but indubitably and in considerable measure helped in the evolution of their world-outlook. If Engels later had the greatest contempt for post-Feuerbachian German philosophy, it was because that philosophy, in his opinion, merely resuscitated the old philosophical errors already revealed by Feuerbach. That, indeed, was the case. Not one of the latest critics of materialism has brought forward a single argument that was not refuted either by Feuerbach himself or, before him, by the French materialists, [46] but to the ‘critics of Marx’ – to E Bernstein, C Schmidt, B Croce and the like – ‘the pauper’s broth of eclecticism’ [47] of the most up-to-date German so-called philosophy seems a perfectly new dish; they have fed on it, and, seeing that Engels did not see fit to address himself to it, they imagined that he was ‘evading’ any analysis of an argumentation he had long ago considered and found absolutely worthless. That is an old story, but one that is always new. Rats will never stop thinking that the cat is far stronger than the lion.

In recognising the striking similarity – and, in part, also the identity – in the views of Feuerbach and A Forel, we shall, however, note that while the latter is far better informed in natural science, Feuerbach had the advantage of a thorough knowledge of philosophy. That is why Forel makes mistakes we do not find in Feuerbach. Forel calls his theory the psycho-physiological theory of identity. [48] To this no objection of any significance can be raised, because all terminology is conventional. However, since the theory of identity once formed the foundation of an absolutely definite idealist philosophy, Forel would have done well to have straightforwardly, boldly and simply declared his theory to be materialist. He seems to have preserved certain prejudices against materialism, and therefore chose another name. That is why I think it necessary to note that identity in the Forelian sense has nothing in common with identity in the idealist sense.

The ‘critics of Marx’ do not know even this. In his polemic with me, C Schmidt ascribed to the materialists precisely the idealist doctrine of identity. In actual fact, materialism recognises the unity of subject and object, not their identity. This was well shown by the selfsame Feuerbach.

According to Feuerbach, the unity of subject and object, of thinking and being, makes sense only when man is taken as the basis of that unity. This has a special kind of ‘humanist’ sound to it, and most students of Feuerbach have not found it necessary to give deeper thought to how man serves as the basis of the unity of the opposites just mentioned. In actual fact, this is how Feuerbach understood the matter: ‘It is only when thinking is not a subject for itself, but the predicate of a real [that is, material – GP] being that thought is not something separated from being.’ [49] The question now is: where, in which philosophical systems, is thinking a ‘subject for itself’, that is to say, something independent of the bodily existence of a thinking individual? The answer is clear: in systems that are idealist. The idealists first convert thinking into a self-contained essence, independent of man (‘the subject for itself’), and then assert that it is in that essence that the contradiction between being and thinking is resolved, for the very reason that separate and independent being is a property of that independent-of-matter essence. [50] Indeed, the contradiction is resolved in that essence. In that case, what is that essence? It is thinking, and this thinking exists – is – independently of anything else. Such a resolution of the contradiction is a purely formal one, which, as we have already pointed out, is achieved only by eliminating one of its elements, namely, being, as something independent of thinking. Being proves to be a simple property of thinking, so that when we say that a given object exists, we mean that it exists only in our thinking. That is how the matter was understood by Schelling, for example. To him, thinking was the absolute principle from which the real world, that is, Nature and the ‘finite’ spirit, followed of necessity. But how did it follow? What was meant by the existence of the real world? Nothing but existence in thinking. To Schelling, the Universe was merely the self-contemplation of the Absolute Spirit. We see the same thing in Hegel. Feuerbach, however, was not satisfied with such a purely formal resolving of the contradiction between thinking and being. He pointed out that there is no – there can be no – thinking independent of man, that is, of an actual and material creature. Thinking is activity of the brain. To quote Feuerbach: ‘But the brain is the organ of thinking only as long as it is connected with the human head and body.’ [51]

We now see in what sense Feuerbach considers man the basis of the unity of being and thinking. Man is that basis in the sense that he is nothing but a material being that possesses the ability to think. If he is such a being, then it is clear that none of the elements of the contradiction is eliminated – neither being nor thinking, ‘matter’ or ‘spirit’, subject or object. They are all combined in him as the subject-object.I exist, and I think... only as a subject-object’, Feuerbach says.

To be does not mean to exist in thought. In this respect, Feuerbach’s philosophy is far clearer than that of J Dietzgen. As Feuerbach put it: ‘To prove that something exists means to prove that it is not something that exists only in thought.’ [52] This is perfectly true, but it means that the unity of thinking and being does not and cannot in any way mean their identity.

This is one of the most important features distinguishing materialism from idealism.


When people say that, for a certain period, Marx and Engels were followers of Feuerbach, it is often inferred that, when that period ended, Marx and Engels’ world-outlook changed considerably, and became quite different from Feuerbach’s. That is how the matter is viewed by Karl Diehl, who finds that Feuerbach’s influence on Marx is usually highly exaggerated. [53] This is a gross mistake. When they ceased from being followers of Feuerbach, Marx and Engels did not at all cease from sharing a very considerable part of his philosophical views. The best proof of this is the Theses which Marx wrote in criticism of Feuerbach. The Theses in no way eliminate the fundamental propositions in Feuerbach’s philosophy, but only correct them, and – what is most important – call for an application more consistent (than Feuerbach’s) in explaining the reality that surrounds man, and in particular his own activity. It is not thinking that determines being, but being that determines thinking. That is the fundamental thought in all of Feuerbach’s philosophy. Marx and Engels made that thought the foundation of the materialist explanation of history. The materialism of Marx and Engels is a far more developed doctrine than Feuerbach’s. The materialist views of Marx and Engels, however, developed in the direction indicated by the inner logic of Feuerbach’s philosophy. That is why these views will not always be fully clear – especially in their philosophical aspect – to those who will not go to the trouble of finding out just which part of the Feuerbachian philosophy became incorporated in the world-outlook of the founders of scientific socialism. And if the reader meets anyone who is much taken up with the problem of finding ‘philosophical substantiation’ for historical materialism, he may well be sure that this wise mortal is very much deficient in the respect I have just mentioned.

But let us return to the subject. Already in his Third Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx tackled the most difficult of all the problems he was to resolve in the sphere of social man’s historical ‘practice’, with the aid of the correct concept of the unity of subject and object, which Feuerbach had developed. The Thesis reads: ‘The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men, and that the educator must himself be educated.’ [54] Once this problem is solved, the ‘secret’ of the materialist explanation of history has been uncovered. But Feuerbach was unable to solve it. In history, he – like the French eighteenth-century materialists he had so much in common with – remained an idealist. [55] Here Marx and Engels had to start from scratch, making use of the theoretical material that had been accumulated by social science, chiefly by the French historians of the Restoration period. But even here, Feuerbach’s philosophy provided them with some valuable pointers. ‘Art, religion, philosophy and science’, Feuerbach says, ‘are but the manifestation or revelation of genuine human essence.’ [56] Hence it follows that the ‘human essence’ contains the explanation of all ideologies, that is, that the development of the latter is conditioned by the development of the ‘human essence’. What is that essence? ‘Man’s essence’, Feuerbach replies, ‘is only in community, in Man’s unity with Man.’ [57] This is very vague, and here we see a border line that Feuerbach did not cross. [58] However, it is beyond that border line that the region of the materialist explanation of history, a region discovered by Marx and Engels, begins; that explanation indicates the causes which in the course of history determine the ‘community..., Man’s unity with Man’, that is, the mutual relations that men enter into. This border line not only separates Marx from Feuerbach, but testifies to his closeness to the latter.

The sixth Thesis on Feuerbach says that human essence is the ensemble of the social relations. This is far more definite than what Feuerbach himself said, and the close genetic link between Marx’s world-outlook and Feuerbach’s philosophy is here revealed with probably greater clarity than anywhere else.

When Marx wrote this Thesis he already knew, not only the direction in which the solution of the problem should be sought, but the solution itself. In his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law he showed that no mutual relations of people in society:

... neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the human mind, but that on the contrary they originate in the material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the example of English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century, embraces within the term ‘civil society’; that the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in political economy. [59]

It now remained only to explain the origin and development of the economy to obtain a full solution of a problem that materialism had been unable to cope with for centuries on end. That explanation was provided by Marx and Engels.

It stands to reason that, when I speak of the full solution of that great problem, I am referring only to its general or algebraic solution, which materialism could not find in the course of centuries. It stands to reason that, when I speak of a full solution, I am referring, not to the arithmetic of social development, but to its algebra; not to the causes of individual phenomena, but to how the discovery of those causes should be approached. And that means that the materialist explanation of history was primarily of a methodological significance. Engels was fully aware of this when he wrote: ‘It is not the bare conclusions of which we are in such need, but rather study [das Studium]; the conclusions are nothing without the reasoning that has led up to them.’ [60] This, however, is sometimes not understood either by ‘critics’ of Marx, whom, as they say, may God forgive, or by some of his ‘followers’, which is much worse. Michelangelo once said of himself: ‘My knowledge will engender a multitude of ignoramuses.’ These words have regrettably proved prophetic. Today Marx’s knowledge is engendering ignoramuses. The fault lies, not with Marx, but with those who talk rubbish while invoking his name. For such rubbish to be avoided, an understanding of the methodological significance of historical materialism is necessary.


In general, one of the greatest services rendered to materialism by Marx and Engels lies in their elaboration of a correct method. Feuerbach, who concentrated his efforts on the struggle against the speculative element in Hegel’s philosophy, had little appreciation of its dialectical element, and made little use of it. ‘True dialectic’, he said, ‘is no more monologue by a solitary thinker with himself; it is a dialogue between the ego and the tu.’ [61] In the first place, however, Hegel’s dialectic did not signify a ‘monologue by a solitary thinker with himself’; and, secondly, Feuerbach’s remark gives a correct definition of the starting-point of philosophy, but not of its method. This gap was filled by Marx and Engels, who understood that it would be mistaken, in waging a struggle against Hegel’s speculative philosophy, to ignore his dialectic. Some critics have declared that, during the years immediately following his break with idealism, Marx was highly indifferent to dialectic too. Though this opinion may seem to have some semblance of plausibility, it is controverted by the aforementioned fact that, in the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher, Engels was already speaking of the method as the soul of the new system of views. [62]

In any case, the second part of La Misère de la philosophie leaves no room for doubt that, at the time of his polemic with Proudhon, Marx was very well aware of the significance of the dialectical method and knew how to make good use of it. Marx’s victory in this controversy was one by a man able to think dialectically, over one who had never been able to understand the nature of dialectic, but was trying to apply its method to an analysis of capitalist society. This same second part of La Misère de la philosophie shows that dialectic, which with Hegel was of a purely idealist nature and had remained so with Proudhon (so far as he had assimilated it), was placed on a materialist foundation by Marx. [63]

‘To Hegel [Marx wrote subsequently, describing his own materialist dialectic], the life-process of the human brain, that is, the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea’, he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea’. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.’ [64]

This description implies full agreement with Feuerbach, firstly in the attitude towards Hegel’s ‘Idea’, and, secondly, in the relation of thinking to being. The Hegelian dialectic could be ‘turned right side up’ only by one who was convinced of the soundness of the basic principle of Feuerbach’s philosophy, viz, that it is not thinking that determines being, but being that determines thinking.

Many people confuse dialectic with the doctrine of development; dialectic is, in fact, such a doctrine. However, it differs substantially from the vulgar ‘theory of evolution’, which is completely based on the principle that neither Nature nor history proceeds in leaps and that all changes in the world take place by degrees. Hegel had already shown that, understood in such a way, the doctrine of development was untenable and ridiculous.

When people want to understand the rise or disappearance of anything [he says in Volume 1 of his Wissenschaft der Logik], they usually imagine that they achieve comprehension through the medium of a conception of the gradual character of that rise or disappearance. However, changes in being take place, not only by a transition of one quantity into another, but also by a transition of qualitative differences into quantitative, and, on the contrary, by a transition that interrupts gradualness, and substitutes one phenomenon for another. [65]

And every time gradualness is interrupted, a leap takes place. Hegel goes on to show by a number of examples how often leaps take place both in Nature and in history, and he exposes the ridiculous logical error underlying the vulgar ‘theory of evolution’.

Underlying the doctrine of gradualness [he remarks] is the conception that what is arising already exists in reality, and remains unobserved only because of its small dimensions. In like manner, people, when they speak of gradual disappearance, imagine that the non-existence of the phenomenon in question, or the phenomenon that is to take its place, is an accomplished fact, although it is as yet imperceptible... But this can only suppress any notion of arising and destruction... To explain appearance or disappearance by the gradualness of the change means reducing the whole matter to absurd tautology and to imagining in an already complete state [that is, as already arisen or already gone – GP] that which is in the course of appearing or disappearing. [66]

This dialectical view of Hegel’s as to the inevitability of leaps in the process of development was adopted in full by Marx and Engels. It was developed in detail by Engels in his polemic with Dühring, and here he ‘turned it right side up’, that is to say, on a materialist foundation.

Thus he indicated that the transition from one form of energy to another cannot take place otherwise than by means of a leap. [67] Thus he sought, in modern chemistry, a confirmation of the dialectical theorem of the transformation of quantity into quality. Generally speaking, he found that the rights of dialectical thinking are confirmed by the dialectical properties of being. Here, too, being conditions thinking.

Without undertaking a more detailed characterisation of materialist dialectic (its relation to what, by a parallel with elementary mathematics, may be called elementary logic – see my preface to my translation of Ludwig Feuerbach), I shall remind the reader that, during the last two decades, the theory that sees only gradual changes in the process of development has begun to lose ground even in biology, where it used to be recognised almost universally. In this respect, the work of Armand Gautier and that of Hugo de Vries seem to show promise of epoch-making importance. Suffice it to say that de Vries’ theory of mutations is a doctrine that the development of species takes place by leaps (see his two-volume Die Mutations-Theorie, Leipzig, 1901-03, his paper Die Mutationen and die Mutations-Perioden bei der Entstehung der Arten, Leipzig, 1901, and the lectures he delivered at the University of California, which appeared in the German translation under the title of Arten und Varietäten und ihre Entstehung durch die Mutation, Berlin, 1906).

In the opinion of this outstanding naturalist, the weak point in Darwin’s theory of the origin of species is that this origin can be explained by gradual changes. [68] Also of interest, and most apt, is de Vries’ remark that the dominance of the theory of gradual changes in the doctrine of the origin of species has had an unfavourable influence on the experimental study of relevant problems. [69]

I may add that, in present-day natural science and especially among the neo-Lamarckians, there has been a fairly rapid spread of the theory of the so-called animism of matter, that is, that matter in general, and especially any organised matter, possesses a certain degree of sensibility. This theory, which many regard as being diametrically opposed to materialism (see, for instance, Der heutige Stand der Darwinschen Fragen, by RH Francé, Leipzig, 1907), is in fact, when properly understood, only a translation, into the language of present-day natural science, of Feuerbach’s materialist doctrine of the unity of being and thinking, of object and subject. [70] It may be confidently stated that Marx and Engels, who had assimilated this doctrine, would have been keenly interested in this trend in natural science, true, far too little elaborated as yet.

Herzen was right in saying that Hegel’s philosophy, which many considered conservative in the main, was a genuine algebra of revolution. [71] With Hegel, however, this algebra remained wholly unapplied to the burning problems of practical life. Of necessity, the speculative element brought a spirit of conservatism into the philosophy of this great absolute idealist. It is quite different with Marx’s materialist philosophy, in which revolutionary ‘algebra’ manifests itself with all the irresistible force of its dialectical method.

In its mystified form [Marx says] dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary. [72]

If we regard materialist dialectic from the viewpoint of the history of Russian literature, we may say that this dialectic was the first to supply a method necessary and competent to solve the problem of the rationality of all that exists, a problem that so greatly troubled our brilliant thinker Belinsky. [73] It was only Marx’s dialectical method, as applied to the study of Russian life, that has shown us how much reality and how much semblance of reality there was in it.


When we set out to explain history from the materialist standpoint, our first difficulty is, as we have seen, the question of the actual causes of the development of social relations. We already know that the ‘anatomy of civil society’ is determined by its economy. But what is the latter itself determined by?

Marx’s answer is as follows:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure... [74]

Marx’s reply thus reduces the whole question of the development of the economy to that of the causes determining the development of the productive forces at the disposal of society. In this, its final form, it is solved first and foremost by the reference to the nature of the geographic environment.

In his philosophy of history Hegel already speaks of the important role of ‘the geographic foundation of world history’. But since, in his view, the Idea is the ultimate cause of all development, and since it was only en passant and in instances of secondary importance, against his will as it were, that he had recourse to a materialist explanation of phenomena, the thoroughly sound view he expressed regarding the historic significance of geographic environment could not lead him to all the fruitful conclusions that follow therefrom. It was only by the materialist Marx that these conclusions were drawn in their fullness. [75]

The properties of the geographic environment determine the character both of the natural products that serve to satisfy man’s wants, and of those objects he himself produces with the same purpose. Where there were no metals, aboriginal tribes could not, unaided, emerge from what we call the Stone Age. In exactly the same way, for primitive fishers and hunters to go over to cattle-breeding and agriculture, the appropriate conditions of geographic environment were needed, that is, in this instance, suitable fauna and flora. Lewis Henry Morgan has shown that the absence, in the New World, of animals capable of being domesticated, and the specific differences between the flora of the two hemispheres, brought about the considerable difference in the course of their inhabitants’ social development. [76] Of the redskins of North America Waitz says: ‘... they have no domesticated animals. This is highly important, for in this circumstance lies the principal reason that forced them to remain at a low stage of development.’ [77] Schweinfurth reports that in Africa, when a given locality is overpopulated, part of the inhabitants emigrate and thereupon change their mode of life in accordance with the new geographic environment: ‘Tribes hitherto agricultural become hunters, while tribes that have lived from their flocks will turn to agriculture.’ [78] He also points out that the inhabitants of an area rich in iron, which seems to occupy a considerable part of Central Africa, ‘naturally began to smelt iron’. [79]

Nor is that all. Already at the lower stages of development, tribes enter into mutual intercourse and exchange some of their products. This expands the boundaries of the geographic environment, influencing the development of the productive forces of each of these tribes and accelerating the course of that development. It is clear, however, that the greater or lesser ease with which such intercourse arises and is maintained also depends on the properties of the geographic environment. Hegel said that seas and rivers bring men closer together, whereas mountains keep them apart. Incidentally, seas bring men closer together when the development of the productive forces has reached a relatively high level; at lower levels, as Ratzel rightly points out, the sea is a great hindrance to intercourse between the tribes it separates. [80] However that may be, it is certain that the more varied the properties of the geographic environment, the more they favour the development of the productive forces. Marx writes:

It is not the mere fertility of the soil, but the differentiation of the soil, the variety of its natural products, the changes of the seasons, which form the physical basis for the social division of labour, and which, by changes in the natural surroundings, spur man on to the multiplication of his wants, his capabilities, his means and modes of labour. [81]

Using almost the same terms as Marx, Ratzel says: ‘The main thing is not that there is the greatest ease in procuring food, but that certain inclinations, habits and finally wants are aroused in man.’ [82]

Thus, the properties of the geographical environment determine the development of the productive forces, which, in its turn, determines the development of the economic relations, and therefore of all other social relations. Marx explains this in the following words:

These social relations into which the producers enter with one another, the conditions under which they exchange their activities and participate in the whole act of production, will naturally vary according to the character of the means of production. With the invention of a new instrument of warfare, firearms, the whole internal organisation of the army necessarily changed; the relationships within which individuals can constitute an army and act as an army were transformed and the relations of different armies to one another also changed. [83]

To make this explanation still more graphic, I shall cite an instance. The Masai of East Africa give their captives no quarter, the reason being, as Ratzel points out, that this pastoral people have no technical possibility of making use of slave labour. But the neighbouring Wakamba, who are agriculturists, are able to make use of that labour, and therefore spare their captives’ lives and turn them into slaves. The appearance of slavery therefore presupposes the achievement of a definite degree in the development of the social forces, a degree that permits the exploitation of slave labour. [84] But slavery is a production relation whose appearance indicates the beginning of a division into classes in a society which has hitherto known no other divisions but those of sex and age. When slavery reaches full development, it puts its stamp on the entire economy of society, and, through the economy, on all other social relations, in the first place of the political structure. However much the states of antiquity differed in political structure, their chief distinctive feature was that every one of them was a political organisation expressing and protecting the interests of freemen alone.

We now know that the development of the productive forces, which in the final analysis determines the development of all social relations, is determined by the properties of the geographic environment. But as soon as they have arisen, the social relations themselves exercise a marked influence on the development of the productive forces. Thus that which is initially an effect becomes in its turn a cause; between the development of the productive forces and the social structure there arises an interaction which assumes the most varied forms in various epochs.

It should also be remembered that while the internal relations existing in a given society are determined by a given state of the productive forces, it is on the latter that, in the final analysis, that society’s external relations depend. To every stage in the development of the productive forces there corresponds a definite character of armaments, the art of war, and, finally, of international law, or, to be more precise, of inter-social, that is, inter alia, of inter-tribal law. Hunting tribes cannot form large political organisations precisely because the low level of their productive forces compels them to scatter in small social groups, in search of means of subsistence. But the more these social groups are scattered, the more inevitable it is that even such disputes that, in a civilised society, could easily be settled in a magistrate’s court, are settled by means of more or less sanguinary combats. Eyre says that when several Australian tribes join forces for certain purposes in a particular place such contacts are never lengthy; even before a shortage of food or the need to hunt game has obliged the Australians to part company, hostile clashes flare up among them, which very soon lead, as is well known, to pitched battles. [85]

It is obvious that such clashes may arise from a wide variety of causes. It is, however, noteworthy that most travellers ascribe them to economic causes. When Stanley asked several natives of Equatorial Africa how their wars against neighbouring tribes arose, the answer was: ‘Some of our young men go into the woods to hunt game and they are surprised by our neighbours; then we go to them, and they come to fight us until one party is tired, or one is beaten.’ [86] In much the same way Burton says: ‘All African wars... are for one of two objects, cattle-lifting or kidnapping.’ [87]

Ratzel considers it probable that in New Zealand wars among the natives were frequently caused simply by the desire to enjoy human flesh. [88] The natives’ inclination towards cannibalism is itself to be explained by the paucity of the New Zealand fauna.

All know to what great extent the outcome of a war depends on the weapons used by each of the belligerents. But those weapons are determined by the state of their productive forces, by their economy, and by their social relations, which have arisen on the basis of that economy. [89] To say that certain peoples or tribes have been subjugated by other peoples does not yet mean explaining why the social consequences of that subjugation have been exactly what they are, and no other. The social consequences of the Roman conquest of Gaul were not at all the same as those of the conquest of that country by the Germans. The social consequences of the Norman conquest of England were very different from those that resulted from the Mongol conquest of Russia. In all these cases, the difference depended ultimately on the difference between the economic structure of the subjugated society on the one hand, and that of the conquering society on the other. The more the productive forces of a given tribe or people are developed, the greater are at least its opportunities to arm itself better to carry on the struggle for existence.

There may, however, be many noteworthy exceptions to this general rule. At lower levels of the development of the productive forces, the difference in the weapons of tribes that are at very different stages of economic development – for instance, nomadic shepherds and settled agriculturists – cannot be so great as it subsequently becomes. Besides, an advance in economic development, which exerts a considerable influence on the character of a given people, sometimes reduces its warlikeness to such a degree that it proves incapable of resisting an enemy economically more backward but more accustomed to warfare. That is why peaceable tribes of agriculturists are not infrequently conquered by warrior peoples. Ratzel remarks that the most solid state organisations are formed by ‘semi-civilised peoples’ as a result of the unifying – by means of conquest – of both elements, the agricultural and the pastoral. [90] However correct this remark may be on the whole, it should, however, be remembered that even in such cases (China is a good example) economically backward conquerors gradually find themselves completely subjected to the influence of a conquered but economically more advanced people.

The geographic environment exerts a considerable influence, not only on primitive tribes, but also on so-called civilised peoples. As Marx wrote:

It is the necessity of bringing a natural force under the control of society, of economising, of appropriating or subduing it on a large scale by the work of man’s hand, that first plays the decisive part in the history of industry. Examples are the irrigation works in Egypt, Lombardy, Holland, or in India and Persia where irrigation by means of artificial canals, not only supplies the soil with the water indispensable to it, but also carries down to it, in the shape of sediment from the hills, mineral fertilisers. The secret of the flourishing state of industry in Spain and Sicily under the dominion of the Arabs lay in their irrigation works. [91]

The doctrine of the influence of the geographic environment on mankind’s historical development has often been reduced to a recognition of the direct influence of ‘climate’ on social man: it has been supposed that under the influence of ‘climate’ one ‘race’ becomes freedom-loving, another becomes inclined to submit patiently to the rule of a more or less despotic monarch, and yet another race becomes superstitious and therefore dependent upon a clergy, etc. This view already predominated, for instance, with Buckle. [92] According to Marx, the geographic environment affects man through the medium of relations of production, which arise in a given area on the basis of definite productive forces, whose primary condition of development lies in the properties of that environment. Modern ethnology is more and more going over to this point of view, and consequently attributes ever less importance to ‘race’ in the history of civilisation. ‘Race has nothing to do with cultural achievement’, says Ratzel. [93]

But as soon as a certain ‘cultural’ level has been reached, it indubitably influences the bodily and mental qualities of the ‘race’. [94]

The influence of geographic environment on social man is a variable magnitude. Conditioned by the properties of that environment, the development of the productive forces increases man’s power over Nature, and thereby places him in a new relation towards the geographic environment that surrounds him; thus, the English of today react to that environment in a manner which is not quite the same as that in which the tribes that inhabited England in Julius Caesar’s day reacted to it. This finally removes the objection that the character of the inhabitants of a given area can be substantially modified, although the geographic characteristics of that area remain unchanged.


The legal and political relations [95] engendered by a given economic structure exert a decisive influence on social man’s entire mentality. ‘Upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence’, says Marx, ‘rises an entire superstructure of distinct and peculiarly formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought and views of life.’ [96] Being determines thinking. It may be said that each new step made by science in explaining the process of historical development is a fresh argument in favour of this fundamental thesis of contemporary materialism.

Already in 1877, Ludwig Noiré wrote: ‘It was joint activity directed towards the achievement of a common aim, it was the primordial labour of our ancestors, that produced language and the reasoning.’ [97] Developing this notable thought, L Noiré pointed out that language originally indicated the things of the objective world, not as possessing a certain form, but as having received that form (nicht als ‘Gestalten’, sondern als ‘gestaltete’); not as active and exerting a definite action but as passive and subjected to that action.[98] He went on to explain this with the sound remark that ‘all things enter man’s field of vision, that is, become things to him, solely in the measure in which they are subjected to his action, and it is in conformity with this that they get their designations, that is, names.’ [99] In short, it is human activity that, in Noiré’s opinion, gives meaning to the initial roots of language. [100] It is noteworthy that Noiré found the first embryo of his theory in Feuerbach’s idea that man’s essence lies in the community, in man’s unity with man. He apparently knew nothing of Marx, for otherwise he would have seen that his view on the role of activity in the formation of language was closer to Marx, who, in his epistemology, laid stress on human activity, unlike Feuerbach, who spoke mostly of ‘contemplation’.

In this connection, it is hardly necessary to remind the reader, with reference to Noiré’s theory, that the nature of man’s activities in the process of production is determined by the state of the productive forces. That is obvious. It will be more useful to note that the decisive influence of being upon thinking is seen with particular clarity in primitive tribes, whose social and intellectual life is incomparably simpler than that of civilised peoples. Karl von den Steinen writes of the natives of Central Brazil that we shall understand them only when we consider them as the outcome (Erzeugnis) of their life as hunters.Animals have been the chief source of their experience’, he goes on to say, ‘and it is mainly with the aid of that experience that they have interpreted Nature and formed their world-outlook.’ [101] The condition of their life as hunters have determined not only the world-outlook of these tribes but also their moral concepts, their sentiments, and even, the writer goes on to say, their aesthetic tastes. We see exactly the same thing in pastoral tribes. Among those whom Ratzel terms exclusively herdsmen ‘the subject of at least 99 per cent of all conversations is cattle, their origin, habits, merits and defects’. [102] For instance, the unfortunate Hereros, whom the ‘civilised’ Germans recently ‘pacified’ with such brutality, were such ‘exclusively herdsmen’. [103]

If beasts are the primitive hunter’s foremost source of experience, and if his whole world-outlook was based on that experience, then it is not surprising that the mythology of hunting tribes, which at that stage takes the place of philosophy, theology and science, draws all its content from the same source. ‘The peculiarity of Bushman mythology’, Andrew Lang writes, ‘is the almost absolute predominance of animals. Except “an old woman” who appears now and then in these incoherent legends, their myths have scarcely one human figure to show.’ [104] According to Brough Smith, the Australian aborigines – like the Bushmen, who have not yet emerged from the hunting stage – have as their gods mostly birds and beasts. [105]

The religion of primitive tribes has not yet been adequately studied. However, what we already know fully confirms the correctness of the brief thesis of Feuerbach and Marx that ‘it is not religion that makes man, but man who makes religion’. As E Tylor says: ‘Among nation after nation it is still clear how, man being the type of deity, human society and government became the model on which divine society and government were shaped.’ [106] This is unquestionably a materialist view on religion: it is known that Saint-Simon held the opposite view, explaining the social and political system of the ancient Greeks through their religious beliefs. It is, however, far more important that science has already begun to discover the causal link between the technical level of primitive peoples and their world-outlook. [107] In this respect valuable discoveries evidently await science. [108]

In the sphere of the ideology of primitive society, art has been studied better than any other branch: an abundance of material has been collected, testifying in the most unambiguous and convincing manner to the soundness and, one might say, the inevitability of the materialist explanation of history. So copious is this material that I can here enumerate only the most important of the works dealing with the subject: Schweinfurth, Artes Africanae (Leipzig, 1875); R Andrée, Ethnographische Parallelen; the article entitled ‘Das Zeichnen bei den Naturvölkern’; Von den Steinen, Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral-Brasiliens (Berlin, 1894); G Mallery, Picture Writing of the American Indians, Tenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1893, reports for other years contain valuable material on the influence of the mechanical arts, especially weaving, on ornamental design); Hörnes, Urgeschichte der bildenden Kunst in Europa (Wien, 1898); Ernst Grosse, Die Anfänge der Kunst, also Kunstwissenschaftliche Studien (Tübingen, 1900); Yrjö Hirn, Der Ursprung der Kunst (Leipzig, 1904); Karl Bücher, Arbeit und Rhythmus (third edition, 1902); Gabriel et Adrien de Mortillet, Le préhistorique (Paris, 1900), pp 217-30; Hörnes, Der diluviale Mensch in Europa (Braunschweig, 1903); Sophus Müller, L’Europe préhistorique (trad du danois par E Philippot, Paris, 1907); Richard Wallaschek, Anfänge der Tonkunst (Leipzig, 1903). [109]

The conclusions arrived at by modern science as regards the question of the beginnings of art will be shown by the following quotations from the authors enumerated above.

‘Decorative design’, says Hörnes, ‘can develop only from industrial activity, which is its material precondition... Peoples without any industry... have no ornamental design either.’ [110]

Von den Steinen thinks that drawing (Zeichnen) developed from designation of the object (Zeichen), used with the practical aim.

Bücher has formed the conclusion that ‘at the primitive stage of their development, work, music and poetry were a fused whole, work being the chief element in this trinity, and music and poetry of secondary importance’. In his opinion, ‘the origin of poetry is to be sought in labour’, and he goes on to remark that no language arranges in a rhythmical pattern words making up a sentence. It is therefore improbable that men arrived at measured, poetical speech through the use of their everyday language – the inner logic of that language operates against that. How, then, is one to explain the origin of measured, poetical speech? Bücher is of the opinion that the measured and rhythmical movements of the body transmitted the laws of their coordination to figurative, poetical speech. This is all the more probable if one recalls that, at the lower stages of development, rhythmical movements of the body are usually accompanied by singing. But what is the explanation of the coordination of bodily movements? It lies in the nature of the processes of production. Thus, ‘the origin of poetry is to be sought in productive activities’. [111]

R Wallaschek formulates his view on the origin of dramatic performances among primitive tribes in the following way: [112]

The subjects of these dramatic performances were:

1. The chase, war, paddling (among hunters – the life and habits of animals; animal pantomimes; masks). [113]

2. The life and habits of cattle (among pastoral peoples).

3. Work (among agriculturists: sowing, threshing, vine-dressing).

The entire tribe took part in the performance, all of them singing (in chorus). The words sung were meaningless, the content being provided by the performance itself (pantomime). Only actions of everyday life were represented, such as were absolutely essential in the struggle for existence.

Wallaschek says that in many primitive tribes, during such performances, the chorus split into two opposite parts. ‘Such’, he adds, ‘was the origin of Greek drama, which was also an animal pantomime at the outset. The goat was the animal that played the most important part in the economy of the Greeks, which accounts for the word “tragedy” being derived from “tragos,” the Greek for “goat.”’

It would be difficult to give a more striking illustration of the proposition that it is not being that is determined by thinking, but thinking that is determined by being.


But economic life develops under the influence of a growth in the productive forces. Therefore the mutual relations of people engaged in the process of production undergo changes, and, together with them, changes take place in human mentality. As Marx puts it:

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure... No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society. [114] Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. [115]

Here we have before us a genuine ‘algebra’ – and purely materialist at that – of social development. This algebra has room both for ‘leaps’ (of the epoch of social revolutions) and for gradual changes. Gradual quantitative changes in the properties of a given order of things lead ultimately to a change in quality, that is, to the downfall of the old mode of production – or, as Marx expresses it here, of the old social order – and to its replacement by a new mode. As Marx remarks, in broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as successive epochs (‘marking progress’) in the economic development of society. [116] There is however reason to believe that later, when he had read Morgan’s book on primitive society, he modified his view as to the relation of the mode of production in antiquity to that of the East. Indeed, the logic of the economic development of the feudal mode of production led to a social revolution that marked the triumph of capitalism. But the logic of the economic development of China or ancient Egypt, for example, did not at all lead to the appearance of the antique mode of production. In the former instance we are speaking of two phases of development, one of which follows the other, and is engendered by it. The second instance, on the other hand, represents rather two coexisting types of economic development. The society of antiquity took the place of the clan social organisation, the latter also preceding the appearance of the oriental social system. Each of these two types of economic structure was the outcome of the growth in the productive forces within the clan organisation, a process that inevitably led to the latter’s ultimate disintegration. If these two types differed considerably from each other, their chief distinctive features were evolved under the influence of the geographic environment, which in one case prescribed one kind of aggregate production relations to a society that had achieved a certain degree of growth in the productive forces, and in the other case, another kind, greatly differing from the first.

The discovery of the clan type of social organisation is evidently destined to play the same part in social science as was played in biology by the discovery of the cell. While Marx and Engels were unfamiliar with this type of organisation, there could not but be considerable gaps in their theory of social development, as Engels himself subsequently acknowledged.

But the discovery of the clan type of organisation, which for the first time provided a key to an understanding of the lower stages of social development, was but a new and powerful argument in favour of the materialist explanation of history, not against that concept. It provided a closer insight into the way in which the first phases of social being take shape, and social being then determines social thinking. The discovery thereby gave amazing clarity to the truth that social thinking is determined by social being.

I mention all this only in passing. The main thing deserving of attention is Marx’s remark that the property relations existing when the productive forces reach a certain level encourage the further growth of those forces for a time, and then begin to hamper that growth. [117] This is a reminder of the fact that, though a certain state of the productive forces is the cause of the given production relations, and in particular of the property relations, the latter (once they have arisen as a consequence of the aforementioned cause) begin themselves to influence that cause. Thus there arises an interaction between the productive forces and the social economy. Since a whole superstructure of social relations, sentiments and concepts grows on the economic basis, that superstructure first fostering and then hindering the economic development, there arises between the superstructure and the basis an interaction which provides the key to an understanding of all those phenomena which at first glance seem to contradict the fundamental thesis of historical materialism.

Everything hitherto said by ‘critics’ of Marx concerning the supposed one-sidedness of Marxism and its alleged disregard of all other ‘factors’ of social development but the economic, has been prompted by a failure to understand the role assigned by Marx and Engels to the interaction between ‘basis’ and ‘superstructure’. To realise, for instance, how little Marx and Engels ignored the significance of the political factor, it is sufficient to read those pages of the Communist Manifesto which make reference to the liberation movement of the bourgeoisie. There we are told:

An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune; here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany), there taxable ‘third estate’ of the monarchy (as in France), afterwards, in the period of manufacture proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie. [118]

The importance of the political ‘factor’ is so clearly revealed here that some ‘critics’ consider it even unduly stressed. But the origin and the force of this ‘factor’, as well as the mode of its operation in each given period of the bourgeoisie’s development, are themselves explained in the Manifesto by the course of economic development, in consequence of which the variety of ‘factors’ in no way disturbs the unity of the fundamental cause.

Political relations indubitably influence the economic movement, but it is also indisputable that before they influence that movement they are created by it.

The same must be said of the mentality of man as a social being, of that which Stammler [119] has somewhat one-sidedly called social concepts. The Manifesto gives convincing proof that its authors were well aware of the importance of the ideological ‘factor’. However, in the same Manifesto we see that, even if the ideological ‘factor’ plays an important part in the development of society, it is itself previously created by that development.

When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the eighteenth century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie. [120]

In this connection, however, the concluding chapter of the Manifesto is even more convincing. Its authors tell us that the Communists never cease to instil into the minds of the workers the clearest possible recognition of the hostile antagonism between the interests of the bourgeoisie and of the proletariat. It is easy to understand that one who attaches no importance to the ideological ‘factor’ has no logical ground for trying to instil any such recognition whatsoever into the minds of any social group.


I have quoted from the Manifesto, in preference to other works by Marx and Engels, because it belongs to the early period of their activities when – as some of their critics assure us – they were especially ‘one-sided’ in their understanding of the relation between the ‘factors’ of social development. We see clearly, however, that in that period too they were distinguished, not by any ‘one-sidedness’, but only by a striving towards monism, an aversion for the eclecticism, so manifest in the remarks of their ‘critics’.

Reference is not infrequently made to two of Engels’ letters, both published in Sozialistischer Akademiker. One was written in 1890, the other in 1894. There was a time when Herr Bernstein made much of these letters which, he thought, contained plain testimony of the evolution that had taken place in the course of time in the views of Marx’s friend and collaborator. He made two extracts from them, which he thought most convincing in this respect, and which I consider necessary to reproduce here, inasmuch as they prove the reverse of what Herr Bernstein was out to prove.

Here is the first of these extracts:

Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant – the historical event. This may in its turn again be regarded as the product of a power which operates as a whole unconsciously and without volition. For what each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one intended. [Letter of 1890] [121]

Here is the second extract: ‘Political, legal, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic, etc, development is based on economic development. But all these react upon one another and also upon the economic basis.’ [Letter of 1894] [122] Herr Bernstein finds that ‘this sounds somewhat different’ than the preface to Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, which speaks of the links between the economic ‘basis’ and the ‘superstructure’ that rises above it. But in what way does it sound different? Precisely what is said in the preface, is repeated, viz, political and all other kinds of development rest on economic development. Herr Bernstein seems to have been misled by the following words, ‘but all these react upon one another and also on the economic basis’. Herr Bernstein himself seems to have understood the preface to Zur Kritik differently, that is, in the sense that the social and ideological ‘superstructure’ that grows on the economic ‘basis’ exerts no influence, in its turn, on that ‘basis’. We already know, however, that nothing can be more mistaken than such an understanding of Marx’s thought. Those who have observed Herr Bernstein’s ‘critical’ exercises can only shrug their shoulders when they see a man who once undertook to popularise Marxism failing to go to the trouble – or, to be more accurate, proving incapable – of first getting an understanding of that doctrine.

The second of the letters quoted by Herr Bernstein contains passages that are probably of greater importance for an understanding of the causal significance of the historical theory of Marx and Engels, than the lines I have quoted, which have been so poorly understood by Herr Bernstein. One of these passages reads as follows:

The economic situation therefore does not produce an automatic effect as people try here and there conveniently to imagine, but men make their history themselves, they do so however in a given environment, which conditions them, and on the basis of actual, already existing relations, among which, the economic relations – however much they may be influenced by other, political and ideological, relations – are still ultimately the decisive ones, forming the keynote which alone leads to understanding. [123]

As we see, Herr Bernstein himself, in the days of his ‘orthodox’ mood, was among the people ‘here and there’, who interpret the historical doctrine of Marx and Engels in the sense that in history ‘the economic situation produces an automatic effect’. These also include very many ‘critics’ of Marx who have switched into reverse ‘from Marxism to idealism’. These profound thinkers reveal great self-satisfaction when they confront and reproach the ‘one-sided’ Marx and Engels with the formula that history is made by men and not by the automatic movement of the economy. They offer Marx what he himself gave, and in their boundless simplicity of mind, do not even realise that the ‘Marx’ they are ‘criticising’ has nothing except the name in common with the real Marx, since he is the creation of their own and really many-sided non-understanding of the subject. It is natural that ‘critics’ of such calibre are utterly incapable of ‘supplementing’ or ‘amending’ anything in historical materialism. Consequently, I shall not deal with them any longer, and shall go over to the ‘founders’ of that theory.

It is of the utmost importance to note that when Engels, shortly before his death, denied the ‘automatic’ understanding of the historical operation of the economy, he was only repeating (almost in the same words) and explaining what Marx had written as far back as 1845, in the third Thesis on Feuerbach, quoted above. There Marx reproached the earlier materialists with having forgotten that if ‘men are products of circumstances... it is men who change circumstances’. [124] Consequently, the task of materialism in the sphere of history lay, as Marx understood it, precisely in explaining in what manner ‘circumstances’ can be changed by those who are themselves created by them. This problem was solved by the reference to the relations of production that develop under the influence of conditions independent of the human will. Production relations are the relations among human beings in the social process of production. Saying that production relations have changed means saying that the mutual relations have changed among people engaged in that process. A change in these relations cannot take place ‘automatically’, that is, independently of human activity, because they are relations established among men in the process of their activities.

But these relations may undergo changes – and indeed often do undergo changes – in a direction far from that in which people would like them to change. The character of the ‘economic structure’ and the direction in which that character changes depend, not upon human will but on the state of the productive forces and on the specific changes in production relations which take place and become necessary to society as a result of the further development of those forces. Engels explains this in the following words:

Men make their history themselves, but not as yet with a collective will according to a collective plan or even in a clearly defined given society. Their aspirations clash, and for that very reason all such societies are governed by necessity, whose complement and manifestation is accident. [125]

Here human activity is itself defined as being not free, but necessary, that is, as being in conformity with a law, and therefore capable of becoming an object of scientific study. Thus, while always pointing out that circumstances are changed by men, historical materialism at the same time enables us, for the first time, to examine the process of this change from the standpoint of science. That is why we have every right to say that the materialist explanation of history provides the necessary prolegomena to any doctrine on human society claiming to be a science.

This is so true that at present the study of any aspect of social life acquires scientific significance only in the measure in which it draws closer to a materialist explanation of that life. Despite the so vaunted ‘revival of idealism’ in the social sciences, that explanation is becoming more and more common wherever researchers refrain from indulging in edifying meditation and verbiage on the ‘ideal’, but set themselves the scientific task of discovering the causal links between phenomena. Today even people who not only do not adhere to the materialist view on history, but have not the slightest idea of it, are proving materialists in their historical researches. It is here that their ignorance of this view, or their prejudice against it, which hinders an understanding of all its aspects, does indeed lead to one-sidedness and narrowness of concepts.


Here is a good illustration. Ten years ago Alfred Espinas, [126] the French scholar (and incidentally a bitter enemy of the present-day socialists), published a highly interesting – at least in conception – ‘sociological study’ entitled Les origines de la technologie. In this book, the author, proceeding from the purely materialist proposition that practice always precedes theory in the history of mankind, examines the influence of technology on the development of ideology, or to be more precise, on the development of religion and philosophy in ancient Greece. He arrives at the conclusion that, in each period of that development, the ancient Greeks’ world-outlook was determined by the state of their productive forces. This is, of course, a highly interesting and important conclusion, but anyone accustomed consciously to applying materialism to an explanation of historical events may, on reading Espinas’ ‘study’, find that the view expressed therein is one-sided. That is so for the simple reason that the French scholar has paid practically no attention to other ‘factors’ in the development of ideology, such as, for example, the class struggle. Yet the latter ‘factor’ is of really exceptional importance.

In primitive society, which knows no division into classes, man’s productive activities exert a direct influence on his world-outlook and his aesthetic tastes. Decorative design draws its motifs from technology, and dancing – probably the most important of the arts in such a society – often merely imitates the process of production. That is particularly to be seen in hunting tribes, which stand at the lowest known level of economic development. [127] That is why I referred chiefly to them when I was discussing the dependence of primitive man’s mentality on his activities in the economy he conducts. However, in a society that is divided into classes the direct impact of those activities on ideology becomes far less discernible. That is understandable. If, for instance, one of the Australian aboriginal women’s dances reproduces the work of root-gathering, it goes without saying that none of the graceful dances with which, for instance, the fine ladies of eighteenth-century France amused themselves could depict those ladies’ productive work, since they did not engage in such work, preferring in the main to devote themselves to the ‘science of tender passion’. To understand the Australian native women’s dance it is sufficient to know the part played in the life of the Australian tribe by the gathering of wild roots by the womenfolk. But to understand the minuet, for instance, it is absolutely insufficient to have a knowledge of the economy of eighteenth-century France. Here we have to do with a dance expressive of the psychology of a non-productive class. A psychology of this kind accounts for the vast majority of the ‘customs and conventions’ of so-called good society. Consequently, in this case the economic ‘factor’ is second to the psychological. It should, however, not be forgotten that the appearance of non-productive classes in a society is a product of the latter’s economic development. Hence, the economic ‘factor’ preserves its predominant significance even when it is second to others. Moreover, it is then that this significance makes itself felt, for it is then that it determines the possibility and the limits of the influence of other ‘factors’. [128]

Nor is that all. Even when it participates in the productive process in the capacity of leader, the upper class looks upon the lower class with a disdain they do not trouble to conceal. This, too, is reflected in the ideologies of the two classes. The French medieval fabliaux, and particularly the chansons de gestes depict the peasant of the time in a most unattractive way. If we are to believe them, then:

Li vilains sont de laide forme
Ainc si très laide ne vit home;
Chaucuns a XV piez de granz;
En auques ressemblent jâianz,
Mais trop sont de laide manière
Boçu sont devant et derrière
... [129]

The peasants, of course, saw themselves in a different light. Indignant at the arrogance of the feudal seigneurs, they sang:

Nous sommes des hommes, tous comme eux,
Et capable de souffrir, tout autant qu’eux
. [130]

And they asked:

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

In a word, each of these two classes looked upon things from its own point of view, which was determined by its position in society. The psychology of the contending sides was coloured by the class struggle. Such, of course, was the case, not only in the Middle Ages and not only in France. The more acute the class struggle grew in a given country and at a given time, the stronger was its influence on the psychology of the conflicting classes. He who would study the history of ideologies in a society divided into classes must give close consideration to this influence; otherwise he will be all at sea. Try to give a bluntly economic explanation of the fact of the appearance of the David school of painting in eighteenth-century France: nothing will come of your attempt except ridiculous and dull nonsense. But if you regard that school as an ideological reflection of the class struggle in French society on the eve of the Great Revolution, the matter will at once assume an entirely different aspect: even such qualities in David’s art which, it would seem, were so far removed from the social economy that they can in no way be linked up with it, will become fully comprehensible.

The same has also to be said of the history of ideologies in ancient Greece, a history that most profoundly experienced the impact of the class struggle. That impact was insufficiently shown in Espinas’ interesting study, in consequence of which his important conclusions were marked by a certain bias. Such instances might be quoted today in no small number, and they would all show that the influence of Marx’s materialism on many present-day experts would be of the utmost value in the sense that it would teach them also to take into account ‘factors’ other than the technical and the economic. That sounds paradoxical, yet it is an undeniable truth, which will no longer surprise us if we remember that, though he explains any social movement as the outcome of the economic development of society, Marx very often thus explains that movement only as the ultimate outcome, that is, he takes it for granted that a number of various other ‘factors’ will operate in the interim.


Another trend, diametrically opposed to that which we have just seen in Espinas, is beginning to reveal itself in present-day science – a tendency to explain the history of ideas exclusively by the influence of the class struggle. This perfectly new and as yet inconspicuous trend has arisen under the direct influence of Marxist historical materialism. We see it in the writings of the Greek author A Eleutheropoulos, [131] whose principal work Wirtschaft und Philosophie, Volume 1: Die Philosophie und die Lebensauffassung des Griechentums auf Grund der gesellschaftlichen Zustände; and Volume 2: Die Philosophie und die Lebensauffassung der germanisch-romanischen Völker was published in Berlin in 1900. Eleutheropoulos is convinced that the philosophy of any given period expresses the latter’s specific ‘world-outlook and views on life’ (Lebens- and Weltanschauung). Properly speaking, there is nothing new about this. Hegel already said that every philosophy is merely the ideological expression of its time. With Hegel, however, the features of the various epochs, and, consequently, of the corresponding phases in the development of philosophy, were determined by the movement of Absolute Idea, whereas with Eleutheropoulos any given epoch is characterised primarily by its economic condition. The economy of any particular people determines its ‘life- and world-understanding’, which is expressed, among other things, in its philosophy. With a change in the economic basis of society, the ideological superstructure changes too. Inasmuch as economic development leads to the division of society into classes, and to a struggle between the latter, the ‘life- and world-understanding’ peculiar to a particular period is not uniform in character. It varies in the different classes and undergoes modification in accordance with their position, their needs and aspirations, and the course of their mutual struggle.

Such is the viewpoint from which Eleutheropoulos regards the entire history of philosophy. It is self-evident that this point of view deserves the closest attention and the utmost approval. For quite a considerable period there has been discernible in philosophical literature a dissatisfaction with the usual view on the history of philosophy as merely a filiation of philosophical systems. In a pamphlet published in the late 1880s and dealing with ways of studying the history of philosophy, the well-known French writer Picavet declared that, taken by itself, filiation of this kind can explain very little. [132] The appearance of Eleutheropoulos’ work might have been welcomed as a new step in the study of the history of philosophy, and as a victory of historical materialism in its application to an ideology far removed from economics. Alas, Eleutheropoulos has not displayed much skill in making use of the dialectical method of that materialism. He has oversimplified the problems confronting him, and for that reason alone has failed to bring forward any solutions other than the very one-sided and therefore most unsatisfactory. Let us cite his appraisal of Xenophanes. According to Eleutheropoulos, Xenophanes expressed, in the realm of philosophy, the aspirations of the Greek proletariat. He was the Rousseau of his time. [133] He wanted social reform in the meaning of the equality and unity of all citizens, and his doctrine of the unity of being was merely the theoretical foundation of his plans for reform. [134] It was from this theoretical foundation of Xenophanes’ reformational aspirations that all the details of his philosophy developed, beginning with his view on God, and ending with his doctrine of the illusoriness of representations received through our senses. [135]

The philosophy of Heraclitus, the ‘Dark Philosopher’, was engendered by the reaction of the aristocracy against the revolutionary aspirations of the Greek proletariat. According to that philosophy, universal equality is impossible, for Nature herself has made men unequal. Each man should be content with his lot. It is not the overthrow of the existing order that should be aspired towards in the state, but the elimination of the arbitrary use of power, which is possible both under the rule of a few and under the rule of the masses. Power should belong to Law, which is an expression of divine law. Unity is not precluded by divine law but unity that is in accord with the latter is a unity of opposites. The implementation of Xenophanes’ plans would be a breach of the divine law. Developing and substantiating this idea, Heraclitus created his dialectical doctrine of Becoming (Werden). [136]

That is what Eleutheropoulos says. Lack of space prevents me from quoting more samples of his analysis of the causes determining the development of philosophy. There is hardly any need to do so. The reader, I hope, will see for himself that this analysis must be found unsatisfactory. The process of the development of ideologies is, in general, incomparably more complex than Eleutheropoulos imagines. [137] When you read his oversimplified notions on the influence of the class struggle on the history of philosophy, you begin to regret that he seems quite ignorant of the aforementioned book by Espinas: the one-sidedness inherent in the latter work, if superimposed on his own one-sidedness, might perhaps have corrected a good deal in his analysis.

Nevertheless, Eleutheropoulos’ unsuccessful attempt testifies anew to the proposition – unexpected to many – that a more thorough assimilation of Marx’s historical materialism would be useful to many contemporary investigators, precisely because it will save them from one-sidedness. Eleutheropoulos is acquainted with that materialism, but poorly so. That is borne out by the ‘correction’ he has thought fit to introduce into it.

He remarks that the economic relations of a given people determine only ‘the necessity of its development’. The latter itself is a matter of individuality, so that this people’s ‘life- and world-understanding’ is determined in its content, firstly, by its character and the character of the country it inhabits; secondly, by its needs; and thirdly, by the personal qualities of those who come forward from its midst as reformers. It is only in this sense, according to Eleutheropoulos, that we can speak of the relation of philosophy towards the economy. Philosophy fulfils the demands of its time, and does so in conformity with the personality of the philosopher. [138]

Eleutheropoulos probably thinks that this view on the relation of philosophy to the economy differs from the materialist view of Marx and Engels. He deems it necessary to give a new name to his interpretation of history, calling it the Greek theory of Becoming (griechische Theorie des Werdens). [139] This is simply ridiculous, and all one can say in this connection is that ‘the Greek theory of Becoming’, which in fact is nothing but rather poorly digested and clumsily expounded historical materialism, nevertheless promises far more than is actually given by Eleutheropoulos when he proceeds from describing his method to applying it, for then he departs completely from Marx.

As for the ‘personality of the philosopher’ and, in general, of any person who leaves an impress on the history of mankind, those who imagine that the theory of Marx and Engels has no room for it are in gross error. It has left room for that, but at the same time it has been able to avoid the impermissible contraposing of the activities of any ‘personality’ to the course of events, which is determined by economic necessity. Anybody who resorts to such contraposing thereby proves that he has understood very little of the materialist explanation of history. The fundamental thesis of historical materialism, as I have repeated more than once, is that history is made by men. That being so, it is manifest that it is made also by ‘great men’. It only remains to establish what the activities of such men are determined by. Here is what Engels writes in this connection, in one of the two letters quoted above:

That such and such a man and precisely that man arises at a particular time in a particular country is, of course, pure chance. But if one eliminates him there is a demand for a substitute, and this substitute will be found, good or bad, but in the long run he will be found. That Napoleon, just that particular Corsican, should have been the military dictator whom the French Republic, exhausted by its own warfare, had rendered necessary, was chance; but that, if Napoleon had been lacking, another would have filled the place, is proved by the fact that a man was always found as soon as he became necessary: Caesar, Augustus, Cromwell, etc. While Marx discovered the materialist conception of history, Thierry, Mignet, Guizot and all the English historians up to 1850 are evidence that it was being striven for, and the discovery of the same conception by Morgan proves that the time was ripe for it and that it simply had to be discovered.

So with all the other contingencies, and apparent contingencies, of history. The further the particular sphere which we are investigating is removed from the economic sphere and approaches that of pure abstract ideology, the more shall we find it exhibiting accidents in its development, the more will its curve run zigzag. But if you plot the average axis of the curve, you will find that this axis will run more and more nearly parallel to the axis of economic development the longer the period considered and the wider the field dealt with. [140]

The ‘personality’ of anyone who has won distinction in the spiritual or social sphere is among those instances of accident whose appearance does not prevent the ‘average’ axis of mankind’s intellectual development running parallel to that of its economic development. [141] Eleutheropoulos would have understood that better had he given more careful thought to Marx’s historical theory and been less concerned with producing his own ‘Greek theory’. [142]

It need hardly be added that we are still far from being always capable of discovering the causal link between the appearance of a given philosophical view and the economic situation of the period in question. The reason is that we are only beginning to work in this direction; were we in a position already to answer all the questions – or at least most of the questions – that arise in this connection, that would mean that our work was already completed, or approaching completion. What is of decisive significance in this case is not the fact that we cannot yet cope with all the difficulties facing us in this field; there is not, neither can there be, such a method that can remove at one stroke all the difficulties appearing in a science. The important thing is that it is incomparably easier for the materialist explanation of history to cope with them than it is for the idealist or the eclectic explanations. That is borne out by the fact that scientific thought in the sphere of history has been most strongly attracted towards the materialist explanation of events, has, so to say, been persistently seeking for it, since the Restoration period. [143] To this day, it has not ceased from gravitating towards it and seeking it, despite the fine indignation that comes over any self-respecting ideologist of the bourgeoisie whenever he hears the word materialism.

A third illustration of the present inevitability of attempts to find a materialist explanation of all aspects of human culture is provided by Franz Feuerherd’s book Die Entstehung der Stile aus der politischen Oekonomie, Part 1 (Brunswick and Leipzig, 1902).

In conformity with the dominant mode of production and the form of state thereby conditioned [says Feuerherd], the human intelligence moves in certain directions, and is excluded from others. Therefore the existence of any style [in art – GP] presupposes the existence of people who live in quite definite political conditions, are engaged in production under quite definite production relations, and have quite definite ideals. Given these conditions, men create the appropriate style with the same natural necessity and inevitability as the way linen bleaches, as bromide of silver turns black, and a rainbow appears in the clouds as soon as the sun, as the cause, brings about all these effects. [144]

All this is true, of course, and the circumstance that this is acknowledged by an historian of art is of particular interest. When, however, Feuerherd goes on to ascribe the origins of the various Greek styles to economic conditions in ancient Greece, what he produces is something that is too schematic. I do not know whether the second part of his book has come out; I have not been interested in the matter, because it is clear to me how poorly he has learnt the modern materialist method. In their schematism, his arguments are reminiscent of those of our native-bred but second-rate Friche and Rozhkovs, [145] who, like Feuerherd, may be well advised, first and foremost, to make a study of modern materialism. Only Marxism can save all of them from falling into schematism.


In a controversy with me, the late Nikolai Mikhailovsky [146] once declared that Marx’s historical theory would never gain much acceptance in the scholarly world. We have just seen, and will again see from what follows below, that this statement is not quite correct. But first we must remove certain other misconceptions which prevent a proper understanding of historical materialism.

If we wanted to express in a nutshell the view held by Marx and Engels with regard to the relation between the now celebrated ‘basis’ and the no less celebrated ‘superstructure’, we would get something like the following:

1. The state of the productive forces.

2. The economic relations these forces condition.

3. The socio-political system that has developed on the given economic ‘basis’.

4. The mentality of social man, which is determined in part directly by the economic conditions obtaining, and in part by the entire socio-political system that has arisen on that foundation.

5. The various ideologies that reflect the properties of that mentality.

This formula is comprehensive enough to provide proper room for all ‘forms’ of historical development, and at the same time it contains absolutely nothing of the eclecticism that is incapable of going beyond the interaction between the various social forces, and does not even suspect that the fact that these forces do interact has provided no solution of the problem of their origin. This formula is a monist one, and this monist formula is thoroughly imbued with materialism. In his Philosophy of the Spirit, Hegel said that the Spirit is history’s only motive principle. It is impossible to think otherwise, if one accepts the viewpoint of the idealism which claims that being is determined by thinking. Marx’s materialism shows in what way the history of thinking is determined by the history of being. Hegel’s idealism, however, did not prevent him from recognising economic factors as a cause ‘conditioned by the development of the Spirit’. In exactly the same way, materialism did not prevent Marx from recognising the action, in history, of the ‘Spirit’ as a force whose direction is determined at any given time and in the final analysis by the course of economic development.

That all ideologies have one common root – the psychology of the epoch in question – is not hard to understand; anyone who makes even the slightest study of the facts will realise that. As an example, we might make reference to French romanticism. Victor Hugo, Eugène Delacroix and Hector Berlioz worked in three entirely different spheres of art. All three differed greatly from one another. Hugo, at least, did not like music, while Delacroix had little regard for romanticist musicians. Yet it is with good reason that these three outstanding men have been called the trinity of romanticism; their works are a reflection of one and the same psychology. It can be said that Delacroix’s painting ‘Dante and Vergil’ expresses the same temper as that which dictated his Hernani to Victor Hugo, and his Symphonie fantastique to Berlioz. This was sensed by their contemporaries, that is, by those of them who in general were not indifferent to literature and art. A classicist in his tastes, Ingres called Berlioz ‘the abominable musician, monster, bandit and antichrist’. [147] This is reminiscent of the flattering opinions voiced by the classicists regarding Delacroix whose brush they compared to a drunken besom. Like Hugo, Berlioz was the object of fierce attacks. [148] It is common knowledge, too, that he achieved victory with incomparably more effort and far later than Hugo did. Why was that so, despite the fact that his music expressed the same psychology as did romanticist poetry and drama? To answer this question, it would be necessary to understand many details in the comparative history of French music and literature, [149] details which may remain uninterpreted for long, if not for always. What is beyond doubt, however, is that the psychology of French romanticism will be understood by us only if we come to regard it as the psychology of a definite class that lives in definite social and historical conditions. [150] ‘The movement of the thirties in literature and art’, Jean-Baptiste Tiersot says, ‘was far from having the character of a people’s revolution.’ [151] That is perfectly true. The movement referred to was bourgeois in its essence. But that is not all. The movement did not enjoy universal sympathy among the bourgeoisie itself. In Tiersot’s opinion, it expressed the strivings of a small ‘élite’ sufficiently far-sighted to be able to discern genius wherever it lay in hiding. [152] These words are a superficial, that is, idealist, expression of the fact that the French bourgeoisie of the time did not understand much of what its own ideologists then aspired towards and felt in the sphere of literature and art. Such dissonance between ideologists and the class whose aspirations and tastes they express is by no means rare in history, and explains the highly numerous specific features in the intellectual and artistic development of mankind. In the case we are discussing, this dissonance was the cause, among other things, of the contemptuous attitude of the ‘refined’ élite towards the ‘obtuse bourgeois’ – an attitude which still misleads naive people, and wholly prevents them from realising the arch-bourgeois character of romanticism. [153] But here, as everywhere, the origin and the character of this dissonance can be ultimately explained only by the economic position, the economic role, of the social class in whose midst it has appeared. Here, as everywhere, only being sheds light on the ‘secrets’ of thinking. And that is why here – again as everywhere – it is only materialism that is capable of giving a scientific explanation of the ‘course of ideas’.


In their efforts to explain that course, the idealists have never proved able to watch from the standpoint of the ‘course of things’. Thus, Taine thinks that it is the properties of the artist’s environment that account for a work of art. But what properties is he referring to? To the psychological, that is to say, the general psychology of the period in question, whose properties themselves require explanation. [154] When it explains the psychology of a particular society or a particular class, materialism addresses itself to the social structure created by the economic development, and so on. But Taine, who was an idealist, attempted to explain the origin of a social system through the medium of social psychology, thereby getting himself entangled in irresolvable contradictions. Idealists in all lands show little liking for Taine nowadays. The reason is obvious: by environment he understood the general psychology of the masses, the psychology of the ‘man in the street’ at a particular time and in a particular class. To him, this psychology was the court of last instance to which the researcher could appeal. Consequently, he thought that a ‘great’ man always thinks and feels at the behest of the ‘man in the street’, at dictation from ‘mediocrities’. Now this is wrong in point of fact, and, besides, offends bourgeois ‘intellectuals’, who are always prone, at least in some small measure, to count themselves in the category of great men. Taine was a man who, after saying ‘A’, was unable to carry on and say ‘B’, thus ruining his own case. The only escape from the contradictions he got entangled in is through historical materialism, which finds the right place for both the ‘individual’ and the ‘environment’, for both ‘the man in the street’ and ‘the man of destiny’.

It is noteworthy that, in France, where, from the Middle Ages right down to 1871, the socio-political development and the struggle between social classes assumed a form most typical of Western Europe, it is easier than anywhere else to discover the causal nexus between that development and that struggle, on the one hand, and the history of ideologies on the other.

Speaking of the reason why, during the Restoration in France, the ideas of the theocratic school of philosophy of history were so widespread, Robert Flint has had the following to say:

The success of such a theory, indeed, would have been inexplicable, had not the way for it been prepared by the sensationalism of Condillac, and had it not been so obviously fitted to serve the interests of a party which represented the opinions of large classes of French society before and after the Restoration. [155]

This is true, of course, and it is easy to realise which class it was whose interests found ideological expression in the theocratic school. Let us, however, delve further into French history and ask ourselves: is it not also possible to discover the social causes of the success achieved by sensationalism in pre-revolutionary France? Was not the intellectual movement that produced the theoreticians of sensationalism in its turn an expression of the aspirations of a particular social class? It is known that this was the case: this movement expressed the emancipatory aspirations of the French tiers état. [156] Were we to proceed in the same direction we would see that, for instance, the philosophy of Descartes gave a clear reflection of the requirements of the economic development and the alignment of social forces of his time. [157] Finally, if we went back as far as the fourteenth century and turned our attention, for instance, to the romances of chivalry, which enjoyed such popularity at the French court and among the French aristocracy of the period, we would have no difficulty in discovering that these romances mirrored the life and the tastes of the état referred to. [158] In a word, the curve of the intellectual movement in this remarkable country, which but recently had every right to claim that it ‘marched at the head of the nations’, runs parallel to the curve of economic development, and that of the socio-political development conditioned by the latter. In view of this, the history of ideology in France is of particular interest to sociology.

This is something that those who have ‘criticised’ Marx in various tones and keys have not had the least idea of. They have never understood that, though criticism is of course a splendid thing, a certain prerequisite is needed when you undertake to criticise, that is, an understanding of what you are criticising. Criticising a given method of scientific investigation means determining in what measure it can help discover the causal links existing between phenomena. That is something that can be ascertained only through experience, that is, through the application of that method. Criticising historical materialism means making a trial of the method of Marx and Engels in a study of the historical movement of mankind. Only then can the strong and the weak points of the method be ascertained. ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’, as Engels said when explaining his theory of cognition. [159] This applies in full to historical materialism as well. To criticise this dish, you must first have a taste of it. To taste the method of Marx and Engels, you must first be able to use it. To use it properly presupposes a far higher degree of scientific grounding and far more sustained intellectual effort than are revealed in pseudo-critical verbiage on the theme of the ‘one-sidedness’ of Marxism.

The ‘critics’ of Marx declare, some with regret, some in reproach, and some with malice, that to this day no book has appeared, containing a theoretical substantiation of historical materialism. By a ‘book’ they usually understand something like a brief manual on world history written from the materialist viewpoint. At present, however, no such guide can be written either by an individual scholar, however extensive his knowledge, or by a whole group of scholars. A sufficiency of material for that does not yet exist, nor will it exist for a long time. Such material can be accumulated only by means of a lengthy series of investigations carried out in the respective fields of science, with the aid of the Marxist method. In other words, those ‘critics’ who demand a ‘book’ would like to have matters started from the end, that is, they want a preliminary explanation, from the materialist viewpoint, of that very historical process which is to be explained. In actual fact, a ‘book’ in defence of historical materialism is being written in the measure in which contemporary scholars – mostly, as I have said, without realising that they are doing so – are forced by the present-day state of social science to furnish a materialist explanation of the phenomena they are studying. That such scholars are not so few in number is shown convincingly enough by the examples I have quoted above.

It has been said by Laplace that about 50 years elapsed before Newton’s great discovery was supplemented in any significant degree. So long a period was required for this great truth to be generally understood and for those obstacles to be overcome which were placed in its way by the vortex theory and also perhaps by the wounded pride of mathematicians of Newton’s times. [160]

The obstacles met by present-day materialism as an harmonious and consistent theory are incomparably greater than those that Newton’s theory came up against, on its appearance. Against it are directly and decisively ranged the interests of the class now in power, to whose influence most scholars subordinate themselves of necessity. Materialist dialectic which ‘regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and... lets nothing impose upon it’, [161] cannot have the sympathy of the conservative class that the Western bourgeoisie today is. It stands in such contradiction to that class’ frame of mind that ideologists of that class naturally tend to look upon it as something impermissible, improper and unworthy of the attention both of ‘respectable’ people in general, and of ‘esteemed’ men of learning in particular. [162] It is not surprising that each of these pundits considers himself morally obliged to avert from himself any suspicion of sympathy with materialism. Often enough such pundits denounce materialism the more emphatically, the more insistently they adhere to a materialist viewpoint in their special research. [163] The result is a kind of semi-subconscious ‘conventional lie’, which, of course, can have only a most injurious effect on theoretical thinking.


The ‘conventional lie’ of a society divided into classes becomes ever more enhanced, the more the existing order of things is shaken by the impact of the economic development and the class struggle caused thereby. Marx very truly said that the greater the development of the contradiction between the growing productive forces and the existing social order, the more does the ideology of the master class become imbued with hypocrisy. The more the falseness of this ideology is revealed by life, the more elevated and virtuous does the language of that class become (Sankt Max: Dokumente des Sozialismus, August 1904, pp 370-71). [164] The truth of this remark is being brought home with particular force today, when, for instance, the spread of loose morals in Germany, as revealed by the Harden-Moltke trial, [165] goes hand in hand with a ‘renascence of idealism’ in social science. In our country, even among ‘theorists of the proletariat’, people are to be found who do not understand the social cause of this ‘renascence’, and have themselves succumbed to its influence, such as the Bogdanovs, the Bazarovs, and their like... [166]

Incidentally, so immensely great are the advantages any researcher is provided with by the Marxist method that even those who have willingly submitted to the ‘conventional lie’ of our time are beginning publicly to recognise them. Among such people, for instance, is the American Edwin Seligman, author of a book published in 1902 under the title of The Economic Interpretation of History. Seligman frankly admits that scholars have shied away from the theory of historical materialism because of the socialist conclusions drawn from it by Marx. However, he thinks that you can eat your cake and yet have it: ‘one can be an economic materialist’ and yet remain hostile to socialism. As he puts it: ‘The fact that Marx’s economics may be defective has no bearing on the truth or falsity of his philosophy of history.’ [167] In actual fact, Marx’s economic views were intimately bound up with his historical views. A proper understanding of Capital absolutely implies the necessity of previous and careful thought on the celebrated preface to Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. However, we are unable here either to set forth Marx’s economic views or to demonstrate the incontrovertible fact that they form merely an indispensable component of the doctrine known as historical materialism. [168] I shall add only that Seligman is sufficiently a ‘pundit’ also to be scared of materialism. This economic ‘materialist’ thinks it is going to intolerable extremes ‘to make religion itself depend on economic forces’ or to ‘seek the explanation of Christianity itself in economic facts alone’. [169] All this goes to show clearly how deep are the roots of those prejudices – and consequently of the obstacles – that Marxist theory has to fight against. Yet the very fact of the appearance of Seligman’s book and even the very nature of the reservations he makes give some reason to hope that historical materialism – even in a truncated or ‘purified’ form – will in the end achieve recognition by those ideologists of the bourgeoisie who have not given up the idea of bringing order into their historical views. [170]

But the struggle against socialism, materialism and other unpleasant extremes presupposes possession of a ‘spiritual weapon’. What is known as subjective political economy, and more or less adroitly falsified statistics at present constitute the spiritual weapon mainly used in the struggle against socialism. All possible brands of Kantianism form the main bulwark in the struggle against materialism. In the field of social science, Kantianism is utilised for this purpose as a dualist doctrine which tears asunder the tie between being and thinking. Since consideration of economic questions does not come within the province of this book, I shall confine myself to an appraisal of the philosophical spiritual weapon employed by bourgeois reaction in the ideological sphere.

Concluding his booklet, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels remarks that when the mighty means of production created by the capitalist epoch have become the property of society, and when production is organised in conformity with social needs, men will at last become masters of their social relations, and hence lords over nature, and their own masters. Only then will they begin consciously to make their own history; only then will the social causes they bring into play produce, in ever greater measure, effects that are desirable to them. ‘It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.’ [171]

These words of Engels’ have evoked objections from those who, unable in general to stomach the idea of ‘leaps’, have been either unable or unwilling to understand any such ‘leap’ from the kingdom of necessity into the kingdom of freedom. Such a ‘leap’ seemed to them to contradict that view on freedom which Engels himself voiced in the first part of his Anti-Dühring. Therefore, if we would see our way through the confusion in the minds of such people, we must recall exactly what Engels said in the book mentioned above.

And here is what he said. Explaining Hegel’s words that ‘necessity is blind only in so far as it is not understood’, Engels stated that freedom consists in exercising ‘control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity’. [172] This idea is set forth by Engels with a clarity quite sufficient for people familiar with the Hegelian doctrine referred to. The trouble is that present-day Kantians only ‘criticise’ Hegel, but do not study him. Since they have no knowledge of Hegel, they have been unable to understand Engels. To the author of Anti-Dühring they have made the objection that where there is submission to necessity, there is no freedom. This is quite consistent on the part of people whose philosophical views are imbued with a dualism that is incapable of uniting thinking with being. From the viewpoint of this dualism, the ‘leap’ from necessity to freedom remains absolutely incomprehensible. But Marx’s philosophy, like that of Feuerbach, proclaims the unity of being and thinking. Although, as we have already seen above, in the section on Feuerbach, Marxist philosophy understands that unity quite differently from the sense in which it is understood by absolute idealism, it (Marxist philosophy) does not at all disagree with Hegelian doctrine in the question we are concerned with; viz, the relation of freedom to necessity.

The gist of the whole matter is: precisely what should be understood by necessity. Aristotle [173] already pointed out that the concept of necessity contains many shades of meaning: medicine is necessary for a cure to be effected; breathing is necessary for life; a trip to Aegina is necessary for a debt to be collected. All these are, so to say, conditional necessities; we must breathe if we want to live; we must take medicine if we want to get rid of an illness, and so on. In the process of acting on the world about him, man has constantly to do with necessity of this kind: he must of necessity sow if he would reap, shoot an arrow if he would kill game, stock fuel if he would get a steam-engine operating, and so on. From the viewpoint of the neo-Kantian ‘criticism of Marx’, it has to be admitted that there is an element of submission in this conditional necessity. Man would be freer if he were able to satisfy his wants without expending any labour at all. He always submits to nature, even when he forces her to serve him. This submission, however, is a condition of his becoming free: by submitting to nature, he thereby increases his power over her, that is, his freedom. It would be the same under the planned organisation of social production. By submitting to certain demands of technical and economic necessity, men would put an end to that preposterous order of things under which they are dominated by the products of their own activities, that is to say, they would increase their freedom to a tremendous degree. Here, too, their submission would become a source of liberation to them.

Nor is that all. ‘Critics’ of Marx, who have become used to considering that a gulf separates thinking and being, know of only one shade of necessity; to use Aristotle’s wording, they imagine necessity only as a force that prevents us from acting according to our desires, and compels us to do that which is contrary to them. Necessity of this kind is indeed the opposite of freedom, and cannot but be irksome in greater or lesser degree. But we must not forget that a force seen by man as external coercion which is in conflict with his wishes may, in other circumstances, be seen by him in an entirely different light. As an illustration, let us take the agrarian question in Russia today. To the intelligent landowner who is a Constitutional-Democrat, the ‘forcible alienation of the land’ [174] may seem more or less sad historical necessity – sad, that is to say, in reverse proportion to the size of the ‘fair compensation’ given. But to the peasant who yearns for land, the reverse is true: the ‘fair compensation’ will present itself as a more or less sad necessity, while ‘forcible alienation’ is bound to be seen as an expression of his own unfettered will, and the most precious security of his freedom.

In saying this, I am touching upon what is perhaps the most important point in the doctrine of freedom – a point not mentioned by Engels only, of course, for its being self-evident to one who has gone through the Hegelian school.

In his philosophy of religion Hegel says, ‘Die Freiheit ist dies: nichts zu wollen als sich’, [175] that is:Freedom lies in willing nothing but oneself.’ [176] This observation sheds a strong light on the entire question of freedom, insofar as that question bears upon social psychology. The peasant who demands that the landowner’s land should be transferred to him wants ‘nothing but himself’; the Constitutional-Democratic landowner who agrees to give him land no longer wants ‘himself’ but that which history compels him to want. The former is free, while the latter wisely submits to necessity.

It would be the same, as with the peasant, for the proletariat, which converts the means of production into social property and organises social production on a new foundation. It would wish nothing ‘but itself’, and would feel quite free. As for the capitalists, they would, of course, at best feel that they were in the position of the landowner who has accepted the Constitutional-Democratic agrarian programme; they could not but think that freedom is one thing, and historical necessity, another.

As it seems to me, those ‘critics’ who have objected to Engels’ stand have failed to understand him also, incidentally, for the reason of their being able to imagine themselves in the position of the capitalist, but being totally unable to imagine themselves in the proletarian’s shoes. I hold the opinion that this, too, has its social – and ultimately economic – cause.


Dualism, to which ideologists of the bourgeoisie are now so prone, has another charge to make against historical materialism. Through Stammler, it imputes that historical materialism fails to take social teleology into account. This second imputation, which incidentally is highly akin to the first, is equally groundless.

Marx says: ‘In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations.’ [177] Stammler makes reference to this formula as proof that, despite his theory, Marx was unable to avoid teleological considerations; Marx’s words, in Stammler’s opinion, mean that men consciously enter into the mutual relations without which production is impossible. Consequently these relations are the outcome of expedient action. [178]

It is easy to see in which part of this argument Stammler makes a logical error which leaves its impress on all his further critical remarks.

Let us take an example. Savages who live by hunting are pursuing a quarry, an elephant, let us say. For this they gather together and organise their forces in a definite way. What is the aim of this, and the means? The aim is obviously to catch or to kill the elephant, and the means is to join forces to pursue the animal. By what is the aim prompted? By the wants of the human organism. Now by what are the means determined? By the conditions of the chase. Do the wants of the human body depend on man’s will? No, they do not; in general, that is the department of physiology, not of sociology. What then can we at present demand of sociology, in this connection? We can demand an explanation of the reason why men, in seeking to satisfy their wants – for instance, the need for food – sometimes enter into certain kinds of mutual relations, and sometimes into quite other kinds. Sociology – in the person of Marx – explains this circumstance as the outcome of the state of their productive forces. Now the question is: does the state of these forces depend on human will, or on the aims pursued by men? To this, sociology, again in the person of Marx, replies that it does not. If there is no such dependence, then that signifies that these forces are brought into being by virtue of a definite necessity, one that is determined by given conditions external to man.

What is the inference to be made? It is that if hunting is an expedient activity on the part of the savage, then this fact in no way detracts from the significance of Marx’s observation that the production relations arising among savages who are hunters come into being by virtue of conditions that do not fully depend on that expedient activity. In other words, if the primitive hunter consciously strives to kill as much game as possible, it does not follow therefrom that the communism characteristic of that hunter’s everyday life has evolved as the expedient outcome of his activities. No, this communism has arisen, or rather has been preserved of itself – seeing that it came into being long ago – as the unconscious, that is, necessary, result of an organisation of labour in a way quite independent of the will of men. [179] It is this that the Kantian Stammler has failed to grasp; it is here that he has lost his bearings, and led astray our Struves, Bulgakovs and other temporary Marxists, whose names are known to the Lord alone. [180]

Continuing his critical observations, Stammler says, that if social development were to take place exclusively in virtue of causal necessity, it would be patently senseless consciously to try to further it. The following is the alternative, in his opinion: either I consider a given phenomenon a necessity, that is, inevitable, in which case there is no need for me to help further it, or else my activity is essential for that phenomenon to take place, in which case it cannot be termed a necessity. Who would attempt to assist the necessary, that is, inevitable, rising of the sun? [181]

This is an amazingly vivid revelation of dualism characteristic of people steeped in Kantianism: with them, thinking is always divorced from being.

The rising of the sun is in no way connected with men’s social relations, either as cause or as effect. As a natural phenomenon, it can therefore be contraposed to men’s conscious aspirations, which, too, have no causal tie with it. But it is quite different when we have to deal with social phenomena, with history. We already know that history is made by men; therefore, human aspirations cannot but be a factor of the movement of history. But men make history in one way and not in another, in consequence of a particular necessity which we have already dealt with above. Once this necessity is given, then given too, as its effect, are those human aspirations which are an inevitable factor of social development. Men’s aspirations do not exclude necessity, but are themselves determined by it. It is therefore a grave logical error to contrapose them to necessity.

When a social revolution is brought about by a class striving for its liberation, that class acts in a way that is more or less expedient in achieving the aim desired; in any case its activities are the cause of that revolution. However, together with all the aspirations that have brought them about, these activities are themselves a consequence of a definite course of the economic development, and are therefore themselves determined by necessity.

Sociology becomes a science only in the measure in which it succeeds in understanding the appearance of aims in social man (social ‘teleology’), as a necessary consequence of a social process ultimately determined by the course of economic development.

Highly characteristic is the circumstance that consistent antagonists of the materialist explanation of history see themselves forced to prove the impossibility of sociology as a science. This means that the ‘critical approachis now becoming an obstacle to the further scientific development of our times. In this connection, an interesting problem arises for those who are trying to find a scientific explanation of the history of philosophical theories. That problem is: to determine in what way this role of the ‘critical approach’ is linked up with the struggle of the classes in present-day society.

If I endeavour to participate in a movement whose triumph I consider an historical necessity, then that means that I look upon my own activities as an indispensable link in the chain of conditions whose sum will necessarily ensure the triumph of a movement that I hold dear. It means nothing more nor less than that. A dualist will fail to understand, but all this will be perfectly clear to anybody who has assimilated the theory of the unity of subject and object, and has understood how that unity reveals itself in social phenomena.

Highly noteworthy is the fact that theoreticians of Protestantism in the United States of America seem unable to understand the contraposition of freedom and necessity that has been exciting the minds of so many ideologists of the European bourgeoisie. H Bargy says that ‘in America the most positive instructors in the field of energy (professeurs d’énergie) are little prone to recognise freedom of the will’. [182] He ascribes this to their preference, as men of action, for ‘fatalist solutions’. He is wrong, however, since fatalism has nothing to do with the matter. This is to be seen in his own remark about the moralist Jonathan Edwards: ‘Edwards’ point of view... is that of any man of action. To anyone who has had an aim once in his lifetime freedom is the faculty of putting all his soul in the service of that aim.’ [183] This is well put, and closely resembles Hegel’s ‘willing nothing but oneself’. But when a man ‘wills nothing but himself’, he is in no way a fatalist: it is then that he is precisely a man of action.

Kantianism is not a philosophy of struggle, or a philosophy of men of action. It is a philosophy of half-hearted people, a philosophy of compromise.

The means of removing the existing social evil, Engels says, must be discovered in the existing material conditions of production, not invented by one social reformer or another. [184] Stammler is in agreement with this, but accuses Engels of unclear thinking, since in Stammler’s opinion the gist of the matter lies in ascertaining ‘the method with the aid of which this discovery must be made’. [185] This objection, which merely reveals Stammler’s vague thinking, is eliminated by simply mentioning the fact that though the nature of the ‘method’ is in such cases determined by a great variety of ‘factors’, the latter can all be ultimately referred to the course of the economic development. The very fact of the appearance of Marx’s theory was determined by the development of the capitalist mode of production, whereas the predominance of utopianism in pre-Marxist socialism is quite understandable in a society suffering not only from the development of the aforementioned mode of production, but also (and in greater degree) from the insufficiency of that development.

It would be superfluous to dilate on the matter. The reader will perhaps not complain if, in concluding this article, I will draw his attention to the measure in which the tactical ‘method’ of Marx and Engels is intimately bound up with the fundamental theses of their historical theory.

This theory tells us, as we already know, that mankind always sets itself only such tasks that it can solve, for ‘the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation’. [186] Where these conditions already exist, the state of things is not quite the same as it is where they are still ‘in the course of formation’. In the former instance the time for a ‘leap’ has already arrived; in the latter instance the ‘leapis, for the time being, a matter of the more or less distant future,an ultimate aim’ whose approach is prepared by a series of ‘gradual changes’ in the mutual relations between social classes. What role should be played by innovators during the period in which a ‘leap’ is still impossible? It evidently remains for them to contribute to the ‘gradual changes’, that is, they must, in other words, try to bring about reforms. In this way, both the ‘ultimate aim’ and reforms find their place, and the very contraposition of reform and ‘ultimate aim’ loses all meaning, is relegated to the sphere of utopian legends. Those who would make such a contraposition – whether they are German ‘revisionists’ like Eduard Bernstein, or Italian ‘revolutionary syndicalists’ [187] like those who took part in the latest syndicalist congress in Ferrara – will show themselves equally incapable of understanding the spirit and the method of modern scientific socialism. This is a good thing to remember at present, when reformism and syndicalism permit themselves to speak for Marx.

And what healthy optimism breathes in the words that mankind always sets itself only such tasks that it can solve. They do not, of course, mean that any solution of mankind’s great problems, as suggested by the first utopian one meets, is a good one.

A utopian is one thing; mankind, or, more precisely, a social class representative of mankind’s highest interests in a given period, is something else. As Marx has very well said: ‘With the thoroughness of the historical action, the size of the mass whose action it is will therefore increase.’ [188] This is conclusive condemnation of a utopian attitude towards great historical problems. If Marx nevertheless thought that mankind never sets itself unachievable tasks, then his words are, from the viewpoint of theory, only a new way of expressing the idea of the unity of subject and object in its application to the process of historical development; from the viewpoint of practice they express that calm and courageous faith in the achievement of the ‘ultimate aim’ which once prompted our unforgettable NG Chernyshevsky to exclaim fervently: ‘Come what may, we shall win.’


Notes are by Plekhanov, except those by the Moscow editors of this edition of the work, which are noted ‘Editor’, or by the MIA, which are marked as such. The biographical notes are those included in the index to this volume.

1. Democritus (c460-370BC) – Greek materialist philosopher.

2. Note to the German edition of 1910: My friend Viktor Adler was perfectly right when, in an article he published on the day of Engels’ funeral, he observed that socialism, as understood by Marx and Engels, is not only an economic but a universal doctrine (I am quoting from the Italian edition): Frederico Engels, L’Economia politica. Primi lineamenti di una critica dell’economia politica. Con introduzione e notizia bio-bibliografiche di Filippo Turati, Vittorio Adler e Carlo Kautsky e con appendice. Prima edizione italiana, publicata in occasione della morte dell’autore (5 agosto 1895) (Milano, 1895), pp 12-17. However, the truer this appraisal of socialism ‘as understood by Marx and Engels’, the stranger the impression produced when Adler conceives it possible to replace the materialist foundation of this ‘universal doctrine’ by a Kantian foundation. What is one to think of a universal doctrine whose philosophical foundation is in no way connected with its entire structure? Engels wrote: ‘Marx and I were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics from German idealistic philosophy and apply it in the materialist conception of nature and history.’ (See the preface to the third edition of Anti-Dühring, p xiv.) [F Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow, 1975), p 15 – Editor] Thus, despite the assertions of certain of their present-day followers, the founders of scientific socialism were conscious materialists, not only in the field of history, but in natural science as well. [Viktor Adler (1852-1918) – reformist leader of the Austrian Social Democratic Party and the Second International.]

3. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) – German philosopher, founder of classical German idealism; Ernst Mach (1838-1916) – Austrian physicist and idealist philosopher, one of the founders of empirio-criticism; Richard Avenarius (1843-1896) – German idealist philosopher, formulated the basic principles of empirio-criticism; Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932) – German chemist and idealist philosopher; exponent of energism, a variety of Machism; Joseph Dietzgen (1828-1888) – German worker, social democrat, philosopher; arrived independently at the fundamentals of dialectical materialism.

4. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – Italian philosopher, objective idealist. On the Doctrine of the Modernists, Encyclical of Pope Pius X, 8 September 1907, a veritable broadside against the influence of Modernism both outwith and, especially, within the Church, available at < > – MIA.

5. The philosophy of Marx and Engels is the subject of W Weryho’s book Marx als Philosoph (Bern and Leipzig, 1894). It would, however, be difficult to imagine a less satisfactory work. Wladyslaw Weryho (1868-1916) – pioneer Polish philosopher, editor of Przeglad Filozoficzny (The Philosophical Review) during 1898-1916 [MIA].

6. Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1976), pp 64-83 – Editor.

7. Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher was published in Paris and edited by Karl Marx and Arnold Ruge. Only one double number, containing a number of works by Marx and Engels, was issued, in February 1844 – Editor.

8. Note to the German edition of 1910: Of considerable importance for a characterisation of the evolution of Marx’s philosophical views is his letter of 20 October 1843 to Feuerbach. Inviting Feuerbach to come out against Schelling, Marx wrote the following: ‘You are just the man for this because you are Schelling in reverse. The sincere thought – we may believe the best of our opponent – of the young Schelling for the realisation of which however he did not possess the necessary qualities except imagination, he had no energy but vanity, no driving force but opium, no organ but the irritability of a feminine perceptivity, this sincere thought of his youth, which in his case remained a fantastic youthful dream, has become truth, reality, manly seriousness in your case. Schelling is therefore an anticipated caricature of you, and as soon as reality confronts the caricature, the latter must dissolve into thin air. I therefore regard you as the necessary, natural – that is, nominated by Their Majesties Nature and History – opponent of Schelling. Your struggle with him is the struggle of the imagination of philosophy with philosophy itself.’ (K Grün, Ludwig Feuerbach in seinem Briefwechsel und Nachlass, Volume 1 (Leipzig and Heidelberg, 1874), p 361) [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Letter of 3 October 1843, Collected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1975), pp 350-51 – Editor] This seems to show that Marx understood Schelling’s youthful thought in the meaning of a materialist monism. Feuerbach, however, did not share this opinion of Marx’s, as will be seen from his reply to the latter. He considered that already in his first works Schelling ‘merely converts the idealism of thought into the idealism of the imagination, and attributes just as little reality to things as to the ‘Ich’, with the only difference that it had a different appearance, and that he replaced the determinate ‘Ich’ by the non-determinate Absolute, and gave idealism a pantheistic colouring’ (ibid, p 402). Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804-1872) – German materialist philosopher, atheist; Karl Grün (1817-1887) – German petit-bourgeois socialist, one of the theoreticians of ‘true socialism’; Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775-1854) – German idealist philosopher, representative of classical German philosophy.

9. See his interesting book Germany on the Eve of the Revolution of 1848 (St Petersburg, 1906), pp 228-29. Friedrich Albert Lange (1828-1875) – German philosopher, neo-Kantian; Pavel Abramovich Berlin (1877-?) – Russian publicist, social democrat, Menshevik.

10. Note to the German edition of 1910: F Engels wrote: ‘The course of evolution of Feuerbach is that of an Hegelian – a never quite orthodox Hegelian, it is true – into a materialist; an evolution which at a definite stage necessitates a complete rupture with the idealist system of his predecessor. With irresistible force Feuerbach is finally driven to the realisation that the Hegelian premundane existence of the “absolute idea,” the “pre-existence of the logical categories” before the world existed, is nothing more than the fantastic survival of the belief in the existence of an extramundane creator; that the material, sensuously perceptible world to which we ourselves belong is the only reality; and that our consciousness and thinking, however suprasensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter. This is, of course, pure materialism.’ (Ludwig Feuerbach (Stuttgart, 1907), pp 17-18) [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), p 348 – Editor]

11. Feuerbach, ‘Über Spiritualismus und Materialismus’, Werke, Volume 10, p 129.

12. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 4, p 249.

13. Ibid, p 249. René Descartes (1596-1650) – deist philosopher, mathematician and naturalist.

14. Feuerbach himself has very well said that the beginnings of any philosophy are determined by the prior state of philosophical thought (Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 193).

15. Note to the German edition of 1910: F Lange states: ‘A genuine materialist will always be prone to turn his glance to the totality of external Nature and consider Man merely as a wavelet in the ocean of the eternal movement of matter. To the materialist Man’s nature is merely a particular instance of general physiology, just as thinking is a special instance in the chain of physical processes of life.’ (Geschichte des Materialismus, Volume 2 (Leipzig, 1902), p 74). But Théodore Dézamy, too, in his Code de la Communauté (Paris, 1843) proceeds from the nature of Man (the human organism), yet no one will doubt that he shares the views of French eighteenth-century materialism. Incidentally, Lange makes no mention of Dézamy, whilst Marx counts him among the French Communists whose communism was more scientific than that of Cabet, for instance. ‘Like Owen... Dézamy, Gay and others, developed the teaching of materialism as the teaching of real humanism and the logical basis of communism.’ (Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle, Volume 2, p 240) [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), p 131 – Editor] At the time Marx and Engels were writing the work just quoted (The Holy Family), they as yet differed in their appraisal of Feuerbach’s philosophy. Marx called it ‘materialism coinciding with humanism’: ‘But just as Feuerbach is the representative of materialism coinciding with humanism in the theoretical domain, French and English socialism and communism represent materialism coinciding with humanism in the practical domain.’ In general Marx regarded materialism as the necessary theoretical foundation of communism and socialism. Engels, on the contrary, held the view that Feuerbach had once and for all put an end to the old contraposing of spiritualism and materialism (ibid, pp 232 and 196). [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), pp 125, 105 – Editor] As we have already seen, he, too, later took note of the evolution, in Feuerbach’s development, from idealism to materialism. Étienne Cabet (1788-1856) – French utopian communist; author of Voyage en Icarie; Théodore Dézamy (1803-1850) – French publicist, representative of the revolutionary trend of utopian communism; Jules Gay (1807-?) – French utopian communist; Robert Owen (1771-1858) – British utopian socialist.

16. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 263.

17. Ibid, p 261.

18. Ibid, p 262.

19. Ibid, p 295.

20. Ibid, p 350.

21. Note to the German edition of 1910: By that time Feuerbach had already written the following noteworthy lines: ‘Despite all the oppositeness of practical realism in the so-called sensualism and materialism of the English and the French – a realism that denies any speculation – and the spirit of all of Spinoza, they nevertheless have their ultimate foundation in the viewpoint on matter expressed by Spinoza, as a metaphysician, in the celebrated proposition: “Matter is an Attribute of God.”’ (K Grün, L Feuerbach, Volume 1, pp 324-25) Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) – Dutch materialist philosopher, rationalist, atheist.

22. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 2

23. Ibid, p 392.

24. Note to the German edition of 1910: In Die heilige Familie (Volume 2 of Nachlass) Marx remarks: ‘Hegel’s Geschichte der Philosophie presents French materialism as the realisation of the Substance of Spinoza’ (p 240). [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), p 131 – Editor]

25. Note to the German edition of 1910: ‘How do we cognise the external world? How do we cognise the inner world? For ourselves we have no other means than we have for others! Do I know anything about myself without the medium of my senses? Do I exist if I do not exist outside myself, that is, outside my Vorstellung? But how do I know that I exist? How do I know that I exist, not in my Vorstellung, but in my sensations, in actual fact, unless I perceive myself through my senses?’ (Feuerbach’s Nachgelassene Aphorismen in Grün’s book, Volume 2, p 311)

26. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 334, and Volume 10, pp 186-87.

27. Note to the German edition of 1910: I particularly recommend to the reader’s attention the thought expressed by Engels in Anti-Dühring, that the laws of external Nature and the laws governing man’s bodily and mental existence are ‘two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality’ (p 157). [F Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow, 1975), p 132 – Editor] This is the selfsame doctrine of the unity of being and thinking, of object and subject. Regarding space and time, see Chapter 5 of Part 1 of the work just mentioned. This chapter shows that to Engels, just as to Feuerbach, space and time are not only forms of contemplation, but also forms of being (pp 41-42). Eugen Dühring (1833-1921) – German eclectic philosopher and vulgar economist.

28. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 5 (Moscow, 1975), p 3 – Editor.

29. ‘Dem Denken’, he says, ‘geht das Sein voran; ehe du die Qualität denkst, fühlst du die Qualität’ (Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 253). [’Being comes before thinking, before you think about quality you feel it.’]

30. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p 173 – Editor.

31. Note to the German edition of 1910: Feuerbach said of his philosophy: ‘My philosophy cannot be dealt with exhaustively by the pen; it finds no room on paper.’ This statement, however, was only of theoretical significance to him. He went on to say: ‘Since for it [that is, his philosophy] the truth is not that which has been thought, but that which has been not only thought, but seen, heard and felt.’ (Nachgelassene Aphorismen in Grün’s book, Volume 2, p 306)

32. See my article ‘Bernstein and Materialism’ in the symposium A Critique of Our Critics. [Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1976), pp 326-39 – Editor] Dénis Diderot (1713-1784) – French materialist philosopher, an ideologist of the French Revolution of the eighteenth century; head of the Encyclopaedists; Julien La Mettrie (1709-1751) – French physician and materialist philosopher; Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) – English materialist philosopher.

33. Hume, sa vie, sa philosophie, p 108. [Plekhanov is quoting from the French translation of Huxley’s Hume: His Life and Philosophy. We are quoting from the original, p 80 – Editor.] David Hume (1711-1776) – Scottish philosopher, subjective idealist; Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) – British naturalist, follower of Darwin.

34. Hume, sa vie, sa philosophie, p 190 [p 82].

35. Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) – German naturalist; Darwinist.

36. Cf also Chapter Three in his book L’âme et le système nerveux. Hygiene et pathologie (Paris, 1906). August Forel (1848-1931) – Swiss neurologist, psychiatrist and entomologist.

37. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, pp 348-49.

38. Die psychischen Fähigkeiten der Ameisen, etc (München, 1901), p 7.

39. Ibid, pp 7-8,

40. Note to the German edition of 1910: Moreover, on his return from exile, Chernyshevsky published an article, ‘The Character of Human Knowledge’, in which he proves, very wittily, that a person who doubts the existence of the external world should also doubt the fact of his own existence. Chernyshevsky was always a faithful adherent of Feuerbach. The fundamental idea of his article can be expressed in the following words of Feuerbach: ‘I am not different from things and creatures without me because I distinguish myself from them; I distinguish myself because I am different from them physically, organically, and in fact. Consciousness presupposes being, is merely conscious being, that-which-is as realised and presented in the mind.’ (Nachgelassene Aphorismen in Grün’s book, Volume 2, p 306) Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) – Russian revolutionary democrat, philosopher, writer and literary critic.

41. Die psychischen Fähigkeiten, same page.

42. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 322. I highly recommend these words of Feuerbach’s to the attention of Mr Bogdanov. Cf also p 249. Alexander Alexandrovich Bogdanov (1873-1928) – Russian social democrat, philosopher and sociologist. Tried to create his own philosophical system – empiriomonism (a variant of Machism).

43. ‘Der absolute Geist Hegel’s ist nichts Anderes als der abstrakte, von sich selbst abgesonderte sogenannte endliche Geist, wie das unendliche Wesen der Theologie nichts Anderes ist, als das abstrakte endliche Wesen.’ (Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 263) [’the Hegelian Absolute Spirit is nothing other than the abstract, distinct from itself, so-called, finite Spirit in the same way as the infinite essence of theology is nothing other than the abstract finite essence.’]

44. La civilisation primitive, Volume 2 (Paris, 1876), p 143. It should, however, be observed that Feuerbach made a truly masterly surmise in this matter. He said: ‘Der Begriff des Objects ist ursprünglich gar nichts Anderes als der Begriff eines andern Ich – so fasst der Mensch in der Kindheit alle Dinge als freithätige, willkürliche Wesen auf, daher ist der Begriff des Objects überhaupt vermittelt durch den Begriff des Du des gegenständlichen Ich.’ (Volume 2, pp 321-22) [’the concept of the Object is originally nothing but the concept of another “Ego” – so man in his childhood apprehends all things as free-acting self-willed essences. Therefore the concept of the object is generally mediated through the concept of the Tu of the objective “Ego.”’] Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) – English anthropologist, student of primitive culture.

45. Note to the German edition of 1910: See Théodore Gomperz, Les penseurs de la Grèce, Volume 2 (Trad par Aug Reymond, Lausanne, 1905), pp 414-15. Theodor Gomperz (1832-1912) – German positivist philosopher and philologist, historian of ancient literature.

46. Note to the German edition of 1910: Feuerbach called ‘cud chewers’ (Wiederkäuer) those thinkers who tried to revive an obsolete philosophy. Unfortunately, such people are particularly numerous today, and have created an extensive literature in Germany, and partly in France. They are now beginning to multiply in Russia as well.

47. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), p 335 – Editor. Eduard Bernstein (1850-1932) – leader of the extreme opportunist wing of the German social democracy and the Second International, theoretician of revisionism and reformism; Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) – Italian philosopher, historian, literary critic and politician; was a critic of Marxism; Conrad Schmidt (1863-1932) – German social democrat, revisionist.

48. See his article ‘Die psychophysiologische Identitätstheorie als wissenschaftliches Postulat’, in the symposium Festschrift I Rosenthal, Part 1 (Leipzig, 1906), pp 119-32.

49. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 339.

50. Note to the German edition of 1910: Ernst Mach and his followers act in exactly the same way. First they transform sensation into an independent essence, non-contingent upon the sensing body – an essence which they call an element. Then they declare that this essence contains the resolution of the contradiction between being and thinking, subject and object. This reveals the grossness of the error committed by those who assert that Mach is close to Marx.

51. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, pp 362-63.

52. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 10, pp 308.

53. Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, Volume 5, p 708. Karl Diehl (1864-1943) – German economist and sociologist.

54. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 5 (Moscow, 1975), p 4 – Editor.

55. Note to the German edition of 1910: This accounts for the reservations always made by Feuerbach when speaking of materialism. For instance: ‘When I go backward from this point, I am in complete agreement with the materialists; when I go forward, I differ from them.’ (Nachgelassene Aphorismen in K Grün’s book, Volume 2, p 308) The meaning of this statement will be seen from the following words: ‘I, too, recognise the Idea, but only in the sphere of mankind, politics, morals and philosophy.’ (Grün, Volume 2, p 307) But whence Idea in politics and morals? This question is not answered by our ‘recognising’ the Idea.

56. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 343.

57. Ibid, p 344.

58. Note to the German edition of 1910: Incidentally, Feuerbach too thinks that the ‘human being’ is created by history. Thus he says: ‘I think only as a subject educated by history, generalised, united with the whole, with the genus, the spirit of world history. My thoughts do not have their beginning and basis directly in my particular subjectivity, but are the outcome; their beginning and their basis are those of world history itself.’ (K Grün, Volume 2, p 309). Thus we see in Feuerbach the embryo of a materialist understanding of history. In this respect, however, he does not go further than Hegel (see my article ‘For the Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel’s Death’, Neue Zeit, 1890 [Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), pp 401-26 – Editor]), and even lags behind him. Together with Hegel, he stresses the significance of what the great German idealist called the geographic basis of world history. ‘The course of the history of mankind’, he says, ‘is certainly prescribed to it, since man follows the course of Nature, the course taken by streams. Men go wherever they find room, and the kind of place that suits them best. Men settle in a particular locality, and are conditioned by the place they live in. The essence of India is the essence of the Hindu. What he is, what he had become, is merely the product of the East-Indian sun, the East-Indian air, the East-Indian water, the East-Indian animals and plants. How could man originally appear if not out of Nature? Men, who become acclimatised to any kind of nature, have sprung from Nature, which tolerates no extremes.’ (Nachgelassene Aphorismen, K Grün, Volume 2, p 330)

59. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow, 1971), p 20. The manuscript of the earlier version shows that, having written the words ‘In his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, he has shown that relations of people in society...’, Plekhanov intended to continue his thought. Then he crossed out this sentence and instead cited a passage from the preface to Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which began with the words: ‘Legal relations’ and added: ‘he wrote there’. So it strongly appeared as if the cited passage had been taken from the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law – Editor.

60. Nachlass..., Volume I, p 477. [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1975), p 457 – Editor]

61. Feuerbach, Werke, Volume 2, p 345.

62. Engels was not referring to himself but to all who shared his views. ‘Wir bedürfen...’, he said; there can be no doubt that Marx was one of those who shared his views.

63. See Part II of La Misère de la philosophie, Observations, First and Second. [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 6 (Moscow, 1976), pp 165-66 – Editor] Addendum to the German edition of 1910: It should however be noted that Feuerbach too criticised Hegelian dialectic from the materialist viewpoint. ‘What kind of dialectic is it’, he asked, ‘that contradicts natural origin and development? How do matters stand with its “necessity"? Where is the “objectivity” of a psychology, of a philosophy in general, which abstract itself from the only categorical and imperative, fundamental and solid objectivity, that of physical Nature, a philosophy which considers that its ultimate aim, absolute truth and fulfilment of the spirit lie in a full departure from that Nature, and in an absolute subjectiveness, unrestricted by any Fichtean non-ego, or Kantian thing-in-itself.’ (K Grün, Volume 1, p 399)

64. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p 29 – Editor.

65. Wissenschaft der Logik, Volume 1 (Nürnberg, 1812), pp 313-14.

66. Regarding the matter of ‘leaps’ see my pamphlet Mr Tikhomirov’s Grief (St Petersburg, M Malykh’s Publishing House), pp 6-14. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), pp 365-72 – Editor]

67. ‘Bei der Allmählichkeit bleibt der Übergang von einer Bewegungsform zur anderen immer ein Sprung, eine entscheidende Wendung. So der Übergang von der Mechanik der Weltkörper zu der kleineren Massen auf einem einzelnen Weltkörper; ebenso von der Mechanik der Massen zu der Mechanik der Moleküle – die Bewegungen umfassend, die wir in der eigentlich sogenannten Physik untersuchen’, etc (Anti-Dühring, p 57). [’In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules – including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper...’ (Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring, Moscow, 1975, p 80 – Editor]

68. Die Mutationen, pp 7-8. Emile Justin Armand Gautier (1837-1920) – French biological chemist [MIA]; Hugo de Vries (1848-1935) – Dutch botanist; introduced the mutation theory.

69. Arten, etc, p 421.

70. To say nothing of Spinoza, it should not be forgotten that many French eighteenth-century materialists were favourably inclined towards the theory of the ‘animism of matter’. Raoul Heinrich Francé (1874-1943) – German botanist, populariser of biology.

71. Note to the German edition of 1910: See Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, pp 1-5. [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), pp 337-42- Editor] Alexander Ivanovich Herzen (1812-1870) – Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, writer and publicist.

72. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p 29- Editor.

73. See my article ‘Belinsky and Rational Reality’ in the symposium Twenty Years. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1980), pp 387-434 – Editor] Vissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky (1811-1848) – Russian revolutionary democrat, literary critic and publicist, materialist philosopher.

74. See the introduction to Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. [Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow, 1971), p 20 – Editor]

75. Note to the German edition of 1910: In this case, Feuerbach, as I have already said, did not go further than Hegel.

76. Die Urgesellschaft (Stuttgart, 1891), pp 20-21. Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) – outstanding American scientist, archaeologist, ethnographer; engaged in the study of primitive society.

77. Die Indianer Nordamerikas (Leipzig, 1865), p 91. Theodor Waitz (1821-1864) – German anthropologist, philosopher and educationalist.

78. Au coeur de l’Afrique, Volume 1 (Paris, 1875), p 199. Georg August Schweinfurth (1836-1925) – German anthropologist and naturalist; explorer of Africa.

79. Au coeur de l’Afrique, Volume 2, p 94. Concerning the influence of climate on agriculture, see also Ratzel, Die Erde and das Leben, Volume 2 (Leipzig and Wien), 1902, pp 540-41.

80. Anthropogeographie (Stuttgart, 1882), p 92. Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904) – German geographer and ethnographer; regarded geographical environment as the chief factor in the development of human society.

81. Das Kapital, Volume 1, pp 524-26. [Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p 481 – Editor]

82. Völkerkunde, Volume 1 (Leipzig), 1887, p 56.

83. [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1973), p 159 – Editor] Napoleon I said: ‘La nature des armes décide de la composition des armées, des places de campagne, des marches, des positions, des ordres de bataille, du tracé et des profils des places fortes; ce que met une opposition constante entre le système de guerre des anciens et celui des modernes.’ (Précis des guerres de César (Paris, 1836), pp 87-88. [’the nature of arms decide the composition of the armies, the theatres of war, the marches, the positions, the battle array, the plan and profile of fortresses. This makes constant opposition between the old system of war and the modern one.’]

84. Völkerkunde, Volume 1, p 83. It must be noted that at the early stages of development the enslavement of captives is sometimes nothing more than their forcible incorporation in the conquerors’ social organisation, with equal rights being granted. Here there is no use of the surplus labour of the captive, but only the common advantage derived from collaboration with him. However, even this form of slavery presupposes the existence of definite productive forces, and a definite organisation of production.

85. EJ Eyre, Manners and Customs of the Aborigines of Australia (London, 1847), p 243. Edward John Eyre (1815-1901) – British colonial governor.

86. Plekhanov is quoting from the French translation of H Stanley’s In Darkest Africa, that is, Dans les ténèbres de l’Afrique, Volume 2 (Paris, 1890), p 91. We are quoting from the original, Volume 2 (London, 1890), p 92 – Editor. Henry Morton Stanley (real name John Rowlands, 1841-1904) – British geographer, traveller and explorer of Africa.

87. Plekhanov is quoting from the French translation of R Burton’s The Lake Regions of Central Africa, that is, Voyage aux grands lacs de l’Afrique orientale (Paris, 1862), p 666. We are quoting from the original, Volume 2 (London, 1860), p 368 – Editor. Richard Burton (1821-1890) – British geographer and traveller.

88. Völkerkunde, Volume 1, p 93.

89. This is admirably explained by Engels in the chapters of his Anti-Dühring that deal with an analysis of the ‘force theory’. See also the book Les maîtres de la guerre by Lieutenant-Colonel Rousset, professor at the École supérieure de guerre (Paris, 1901). Setting forth the views of General Bonnal, the author of this book writes: ‘The social conditions obtaining in each epoch of history exert a preponderant influence, not only on the military organisation of a nation but also on the character, the abilities, and the trends of its 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.’ (p 20). How do they do it? That is the most interesting part of the matter. It appears that, ‘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’ (ibid). Consequently, it remains for us to discover the causal link between ‘social evolution’ and society’s economic development for a materialist explanation to be given to the most unexpected successes in warfare. Rousset is himself very close to giving such an explanation. His historical outline of the latest in the military art, based on General Bonnal’s unpublished papers, closely resembles what we find set forth by Engels in the analysis mentioned above. At places the resemblance approaches complete identity. Guillaume Bonnal (1844-1917) – French general, military theoretician and historian; Léonce Rousset (1850-1938) – professor at the Ecole supérieure de la Guerre, author of works on the history of military affairs.

90. Völkerkunde, Volume 1, p 19.

91. Das Kapital Volume 1, pp 524-26. [Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p 481 – Editor]

92. See his History of Civilisation in England, Volume 1 (Leipzig, 1865), pp 36-37. According to Buckle, one of the four causes influencing the character of a people, viz, the general aspect of Nature, acts chiefly on the imagination, a highly-developed imagination engendering superstitions, which, in their turn, retard the development of knowledge. By acting on the imagination of the natives, the frequent earthquakes in Peru exercised an influence on the political structure. If Spaniards and Italians are superstitious, that too is the result of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (ibid, pp 112-13). This direct psychological influence is particularly strong at the early stages of the development of civilisation. Modern science, however, has, on the contrary, shown the striking similarity of the religious beliefs of primitive tribes standing at the same level of economic development. Buckle’s view, borrowed by him from eighteenth-century writers, dates back to Hippocrates. (See Des airs, des eaux et des lieux (traduction de Coray, Paris, 1800), paras 76, 85, 86, 88, etc.) Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862 – English historian and positivist sociologist; Hippocrates (c460-377BC) – outstanding physician of ancient Greece.

93. Völkerkunde, Volume 1, p 10. John Stuart Mill, repeating the words of ‘one of the greatest thinkers of our time’, said: ‘Of all vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influences on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences.’ (Principles of Political Economy, Volume 1, p 396) John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) – English bourgeois economist and positivist philosopher.

94. Regarding race, see J Finot’s interesting work Le préjugé des races (Paris, 1905). Addendum to the German edition of 1910: Waitz writes: ‘Certain Negro tribes are striking examples of the link between the main occupation and the national character.’ (Anthropologie der Naturvölker, Volume 2, p 107) Jean Finot (1858-1922) – French publicist.

95. Regarding the influence of the economy on the nature of the social relations, see Engels, Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats (eighth edition, Stuttgart, 1900); also R Hildebrand, Recht und Sitte auf den verschiedenen (wirtschaftlichen) Kulturstufen, Part 1 (Jena, 1896). Unfortunately, Hildebrand makes poor use of his economic data. Rechtsentstehung und Rechtsgeschichte, an interesting pamphlet by T Achelis (Leipzig, 1904), considers law as a product of the development of social life, without going deeply into the question of what the latter’s development is conditioned by. In MA Vaccaro’s book, Les bases sociologiques du droit et de l’état (Paris, 1898), many individual remarks are scattered which throw light on certain aspects of the subject; on the whole, however, Vaccaro himself does not seem fully at home with the problem. See also Teresa Labriola’s Revisione critica delle più recenti teoriche sulle origini del diritto (Rome, 1901). Thomas Achelis (1850-1909) – German philosopher and ethnologist; Richard Hildebrand (1840-?) – German economist, theoretician of money circulation; Antonio Labriola (1843-1904) Italian man of letters and Marxist philosopher; Michel Angelo Vaccaro (1854-1937) – Italian sociologist.

96. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1973), p 421 – Editor.

97. Der Ursprung der Sprache (Mainz, 1877), p 331. Ludwig Noiré (1829-1889) – German philosopher.

98. Ibid, p 341.

99. Ibid, p 347.

100. Ibid, p 369.

101. Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral-Brasiliens (Berlin, 1894), p 201. Karl von den Steinen (1855-1929) – German ethnographer and traveller.

102. Ibid, pp 205-06.

103. Regarding such ‘exclusively herdsmen’ see Gustav Fritsch’s book Die Eingeborenen Süd-Afrikas (Breslau, 1872). ‘The Kaffir’s ideal’, Fritsch says, ‘the object of his dreams, and that which he loves to sing of, is his cattle, the most valuable of his property. Songs lauding cattle, alternate with songs in honour of tribal chiefs, in which the latter’s cattle again play an important part.’ (Volume 1, p 50) With the Kaffirs, cattle-tending is the most honourable of occupations (ibid, p 85), and even war pleases the Kaffir chiefly because it holds the promise of booty in the shape of cattle (ibid, p 79). ‘Law-suits among the Kaffirs are the result of conflicts over cattle.’ (Ibid, p 322) Fritsch gives a highly interesting description of the life of Bushman hunters (ibid, pp 424ff). Gustav Fritsch (1838-1927) – German traveller and scientist.

104. Plekhanov is quoting from the French translation of Lang’s Myth, Ritual and Religion, that is, Mythes, cultes et religion (trad par L Mirillier, Paris, 1896), p 332. We are quoting from the original, Volume 2 (London, 1887), p 151 – Editor. Andrew Lang (1844-1912) – Scottish scholar, dealt with the origins of religion and mythology, and the history of literature.

105. Worth recalling in this connection is R Andreé’s remark that man originally imagined his gods in the shape of animals. ‘When man later anthropomorphised animals, there arose the mythical transformation of men into animals.’ (Ethnographische Parallelen und Vergleiche, new series, Leipzig, 1889, p 116) The anthropomorphisation of animals presupposes a relatively high level of the development of the productive forces. Cf also Leo Frobenius, Die Weltanschauung der Naturvölker (Weimar, 1898), p 24. Robert Brough Smyth (1830-1889) – British-born engineer, in Australia from 1852, honorary secretary to the Board for the Protection of Aborigines from 1860 [MIA]. Richard Andreé (1835-1912) – German ethnographer, author of works on comparative ethnography; Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) – German ethnographer and archaeologist, explorer of Africa.

106. La civilisation primitive, Volume 2 (Paris, 1876), p 322.

107. Cf H Schurtz, Vorgeschichte der Kultur (Leipzig and Wien, 1900), pp 559-64. I shall return to this matter later, apropos of another question. Claude Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825) – great French utopian socialist; Heinrich Schurtz (1863-1903) – German ethnographer and historian of culture.

108. Note to the German edition of 1910: I shall permit myself to refer the reader to my article in the journal Sovremenny Mir entitled ‘On the So-Called Religious Seekings in Russia’ (September 1909). In it, I also discussed the significance of the mechanical arts for the development of religious concepts. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1976), pp 306-413 – Editor]

109. Karl Bücher (1847-1930) – German economist and statistician; Ernst Grosse (1862-1927) – German sociologist, ethnographer, historian of art; positivist; Yrjö Hirn (1870-?) – Finnish aesthetician and historian of literature; Moritz Hörnes (1852-1917) – Austrian archaeologist and historian of primitive culture; Garrick Mallery (1834-1894) – American ethnographer and historian; Gabriel de Mortillet (1821-1898) – French anthropologist and archaeologist; Sophus Müller (1846-1934) – Danish archaeologist; Richard Wallaschek (1860-1917) – Austrian scholar in the fields of linguistics and musical ethnology, specialist in primitive art.

110. Urgeschichte, etc, p 38.

111. Arbeit und Rhythmus, p 342.

112. Anfänge der Tonkunst, p 257.

113. Usually depicting animals too – GP.

114. Note to the German edition of 1910: Certain Marxists in our country are known to have thought otherwise in the autumn of 1905. They considered a socialist revolution possible in Russia, since, they claimed, the country’s productive forces were sufficiently developed for such a revolution. [This passage is characteristic of Plekhanov’s Menshevik stand concerning the character of and the driving forces behind the Russian revolution. Convinced that the revolution in Russia was to follow the bourgeois revolutions in the West, Plekhanov held the erroneous view that a whole historic epoch must separate the socialist from the bourgeois revolution. Plekhanov thought that in Russia, where industrial development began later than in the West, and where peasant population predominated, no conflict had as yet matured between the productive forces and capitalist relations of production, and so the objective conditions for a socialist revolution in Russia were lacking – Editor.]

115. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow, 1971), p 21- Editor.

116. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow, 1971), p 21- Editor.

117. Let us take slavery as an instance. At a certain level of development it fosters the growth of the productive forces, and then begins to hamper that growth. Its disappearance among the civilised peoples of the West was due to their economic development. (Concerning slavery in the ancient word, see Professor E Ciccotti’s interesting work Il tramonto della schiavitú (Turin, 1899).) In his book Journal of the Discovery of the Sources of the Nile (1865), JH Speke says that, among the Negroes, slaves consider it dishonest and disgraceful to run away from a master who has paid money for them. To this it might be added that these same slaves consider their condition more honourable than that of the hired labourer. Such an outlook corresponds to the phase ‘when slavery is still a progressive phenomenon’. Ettore Ciccotti (1863-1939) – Italian politician, professor of Roman history; John Hanning Speke (1827-1864) – English traveller and African explorer.

118. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 6 (Moscow, 1976), p 486 – Editor.

119. Rudolf Stammler (1859-1939) – German jurist and neo-Kantian philosopher.

120. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 6 (Moscow, 1976), p 503 – Editor.

121. Letter to Joseph Bloch, 21 [-22] September 1890. See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1975), p 395 – Editor.

122. Letter to W Borgius, 25 January 1894. See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1975), pp 441-42 – Editor.

123. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1975), p 442 – Editor.

124. See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 5 (Moscow, 1976), p 4 – Editor.

125. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1975), p 442 – Editor.

126. Alfred Espinas (1844-1922) – French sociologist and psychologist.

127. The hunters were preceded by the gatherers or sammelvölker, as German scholars now term them. But all the savage tribes we know have already passed that stage. Note to the German edition of 2010: In his work on the origin of the family, Engels says that purely hunting peoples exist only in the imagination of scholars. Hunting tribes are ‘gatherers’ at the same time. However, as we have seen, hunting has a most profound influence on the development of the views and tastes of such peoples.

128. Here is an example from another field. The ‘population factor’, as it is called by A Coste (see his Les facteurs de population dans l’évolution sociale, Paris, 1901), undoubtedly has a very big influence on social development. But Marx is absolutely right in saying that the abstract laws of propagation exist only for animals and plants. In human society the increase (or decline) of population depends on that society’s organisation, which is determined by its economic structure. No abstract ‘law of propagation’ will explain anything in the fact that the population of present-day France hardly grows at all. Those sociologists and economists who see in the growth of population the primary cause of social development are profoundly mistaken (see A Loria, La legge di populazione ed il sistema sociale, Siena, 1882). Adolphe Coste (1842-1901) – French positivist sociologist; Achille Loria (1857-1943) – Italian sociologist and economist, representative of vulgar political economy, falsifier of Marxism.

129. ‘The villeins are ugly in shape, No man has seen uglier. Each of them is 15 feet in stature, Some resemble giants, But much too ugly, With humps both in front and behind.’ Cf Henri Sée, Les classes rurales et le régime domanial en France au moyen âge (Paris, 1901), p 554. Cf also Fr Meyer, Die Stände, ihr Leben und Treiben (Marburg, 1882), p 8. Fritz Meyer (1864-?) – German historian and ethnographer; Henri Sée (1864-1936) – French historian.

130. ‘We are men, just as they are, And capable of suffering, just like they.’

131. Abroteles Eleutheropoulos (1873-?) – Greek bourgeois sociologist; assistant professor of philosophy at the Zürich University.

132. L’histoire de la philosophie, ce qu’elle a été, ce qu’elle peut être (Paris, 1888). François Joseph Picavet (1851-1921) – French historian of philosophy.

133. Wirtschaft und Philosophie..., Volume 1, p 98. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) – outstanding French enlightener and democrat; ideologist of the petit-bourgeoisie; Xenophanes – Greek philosopher of the sixth century BC.

134. Ibid, p 99.

135. Ibid, pp 99-101.

136. Ibid, pp 103-07. Heraclitus (c530-470BC) – Greek materialist philosopher, one of the founders of dialectics.

137. To say nothing of the fact that, in his references to the economy of ancient Greece, Eleutheropoulos gives no concrete presentation of it, confining himself to general statements which here, as everywhere else, explain nothing.

138. Wirtschaft und Philosophie..., Volume 1, pp 16-17.

139. Ibid, p 17.

140. Der sozialistische Akademiker, no 20 (Berlin, 1895), p 374. [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1975), pp 442-43 – Editor] François Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787-1874) – French bourgeois statesman and historian; François Auguste Mignet (1796-1884) – French liberal historian; Augustin Thierry (1795-1856) – French historian, in his works came close to an understanding of the role of material factors and class struggle in the development of feudal society and the formation of bourgeois society.

141. See my article ‘On the Role of Personality in History’ in my book Twenty Years. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1976), pp 283-315 – Editor]

142. He called it Greek because, as he put it, ‘its fundamental theses had been expressed by the Greek Thales, and later further developed by another Greek’ (Wirtschaft und Philosophie..., Volume 1, p 17), that is, by Eleutheropoulos.

143. See my preface to the second edition of my Russian translation of the Communist Manifesto. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1976), pp 427-73 – Editor]

144. Die Entstehung der Stile aus der politischen Oekonomie, Part 1 (Brunswick and Leipzig, 1902), pp 19-20.

145. Vladimir Maximovich Friche (1870-1929) – Soviet literary and art critic; before the revolution contributed to social democratic publications; Nikolai Alexandrovich Rozhkov (1868-1927) – Russian historian and publicist; representative of ‘Legal Marxism’.

146. Nikolai Konstantinovich Mikhailovsky (1842-1902) – Russian sociologist, publicist and literary critic. Waged a struggle against Marxism in the legally published magazines which he edited.

147. See Souvenirs d’un hugolâtre by Augustin Challamel (Paris, 1885), p 259. In this case, Ingres revealed more consistency than Delacroix, who, while he was a romanticist in painting, retained a predilection for classical music. Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) – French composer; Augustin Challamel (1818-1894) – French man of letters; author of a number of books on the history of art; Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) – French painter of the Romantic school; Victor Hugo (1802-1885) – French writer and poet; Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) – French painter.

148. Cf Challamel, op cit, p 258.

149. And especially in the history of the part each of them played therein, in expressing the temper of the times. As we know, various ideologies and various branches of ideology come to the fore at various times. For instance, in the Middle Ages theology played far more important a part than at present; in primitive society dancing is the most important art, whilst it is far from that nowadays, and so on.

150. E Chesneau’s book Les chefs d’école (Paris, 1883), pp 378-79, contains the following subtle observation regarding the romanticists’ psychology. The author points out that romanticism made its appearance after the Revolution and the Empire. ‘In literature and in art, there was a crisis similar to that which occurred in morals after the Terror – a veritable orgy of the senses. People had been living in fear, and that fear had gone. They gave themselves up to the pleasures of life. Their attention was taken up exclusively with external appearances and forms. Blue skies, brilliant lights, the beauty of women, sumptuous velvet, iridescent silk, the sheen of gold, and the sparkle of diamonds filled them with delight. People lived only with the eyes... they had ceased from thinking.’ This has much in common with the psychology of the times we are living through in Russia. In both cases, however, the course of events leading up to this state of mind was itself the outcome of the course of economic development. Ernest Alfred Chesneau (1833-1890) – French art critic.

151. Hector Berlioz et la société de son temps (Paris, 1904), p 190. Jean-Baptiste Tiersot (1857-1936) – French musicologist, author of works on Berlioz, Gluck and others.

152. Ibid.

153. Here we have the same qui pro quo as that which makes the adherents of the arch-bourgeois Nietzsche look truly ridiculous when they attack the bourgeoisie. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) – reactionary German philosopher, voluntarist and irrationalist.

154. ‘L’ouvre d’art’, he writes, ‘est déterminée par un ensemble qui est l’état général de l’esprit et des mours environnantes.’ [’the work of art is determined by the ensemble which is the general state of mind and the surrounding morals.’] Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (1828-1893) – French literary and art critic, philosopher and historian.

155. The Philosophy of History in France and Germany (Edinburgh and London, 1874), p 149. Robert Flint (1838-1910) – Scottish sociologist.

156. Note to the German edition of 1910: In his polemic against the Bauer brothers, Marx wrote: ‘The French Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and in particular French materialism, was not only a struggle against the existing political institutions and the existing religion and theology; it was just as much an open, clearly expressed struggle against the metaphysics of the seventeenth century, and against all metaphysics, in particular that of Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza and Leibnitz.’ (Nachlass, Volume 2, p 232). [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Holy Family, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), pp 124-25 – Editor] This is now common knowledge. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716) – German scientist and rationalist philosopher, objective idealist; Nicholas Malebranche (1638-1715) – French idealist philosopher.

157. See G Lanson’s Histoire de la littérature française (Paris, 1896), pp 394-97, which gives a lucid explanation of the links between certain aspects of the Cartesian philosophy and the psychology of the ruling class in France during the first half of the seventeenth century. Gustave Lanson (1857-1934) – French historian of literature.

158. Sismondi, Histoire des Français, Volume 10, p 59, has voiced an interesting opinion of the significance of these romances, an opinion that provides material for a sociological study of imitation. Jean Charles Leonard de Sismondi (1773-1842) – Swiss economist, petit-bourgeois critic of capitalism.

159. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), p 101 – Editor.

160. Exposition du système du monde (Paris), Year 4, Volume 2, pp 291-92. Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827) – French astronomer, mathematician and physicist; Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – English physicist, astronomer and mathematician, founder of classical mechanics.

161. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), p 29 – Editor.

162. Regarding this, see, inter alia, Engels’ above-mentioned article ‘Über den historischen Materialismus’.

163. The reader will remember how vehemently Lamprecht justified himself when he was accused of materialism, and also how Ratzel defended himself against the same accusation, in his Die Erde und das Leben, Volume 2, p 631. Nevertheless, he wrote the following words: ‘The sum total of the cultural acquirements of each people at every stage of its development is made up of material and spiritual elements... They are acquired, not with identical means, or with equal facility, or simultaneously... Spiritual acquirements are based on the material. Spiritual activity appears as a luxury only after material needs have been satisfied. Therefore all questions of the origin of culture boil down to the question of what it is that promotes the development of the material foundations of culture’ (Völkerkunde, Volume 1, first edition, p 17). This is unmitigated historical materialism, only far less considered, and therefore not of such sterling quality as the materialism of Marx and Engels. Karl Lamprecht (1856-1915) – German liberal historian, a positivist in his philosophical views.

164. ‘Saint Max’ – a chapter from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology. Plekhanov quotes from the journal Documents of Socialism, see Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 5 (Moscow, 1976), pp 292-94 – Editor.

165. Maximilian Harden (Felix Ernst Witkowski, 1861-1927) was an influential German journalist and editor; he attacked Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1907 by publicising allegations about the homosexual activities of Lieutenant General Kuno Graf von Moltke (1847-1923), the Kaiser’s adjutant. Further exposés of homosexual activity in the Kaiser’s cabinet and entourage led to a series of trials, dismissals and suicides of various senior military officers – MIA.

166. V Bazarov (VA Rudnev, 1874-1939) – Russian social democrat; in 1905-07 contributed to a number of Bolshevik publications. In the period of reaction (1907-10) deviated from Bolshevism; was one of the main representatives of the Machist deviation from Marxism.

167. The Economic Interpretation of History, pp 24 and 109. Edwin Seligman (1861-1939) – American bourgeois economist, Columbia University professor.

168. A few incidental words in explanation of what has been said. According to Marx, ‘economic categories are only the theoretical expressions, the abstractions of the social relations of production’ (The Poverty of Philosophy, Chapter 2, Second Observation). [Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 6 (Moscow, 1976), p 165 – Editor] This means that Marx regards the categories of political economy likewise from the viewpoint of the mutual relations among men in the social process of production, relations whose development provides him with the basic explanation of mankind’s historical movement.

169. The Economic Interpretation of History, p 137. Note to the German edition of 1910: Kautsky’s Origin of Christianity, as an ‘extremist’ book, is of course reprehensible from Seligman’s point of view.

170. The following parallel is highly instructive. Marx says that materialist dialectic, while explaining that which exists, at the same time explains its inevitable destruction. In this he saw its value, its progressive significance. But here is what Seligman says: ‘Socialism is a theory of what ought to be; historical materialism is a theory of what has been.’ (Ibid, p 108) For that reason alone, he considers it possible for himself to defend historical materialism. This means, in other words, that this materialism may be ignored when it comes to explaining the inevitable destruction of that which is and may be used to explain that which has been in the past. This is one of the numerous instances of the use of a double standard in the field of ideology, a phenomenon also engendered by economic causes.

171. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), p 150 – Editor.

172. Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, fifth edition, p 113. [Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow, 1975), pp 136-37 – Editor]

173. Metaphysics, Book 5, Chapter 5. Aristotle (384-322BC) – Greek philosopher and scientist. In philosophy wavered between materialism and idealism.

174. Cadets – members of the Constitutional-Democratic Party which was the party of the liberal monarchical bourgeoisie, founded in October 1905. In an attempt to win over the peasantry, the Cadets included in their agrarian programme a clause on the possibility of extending peasant-owned lands through purchasing of lands at a ‘fair’ price from the state, monasteries and private owners. The programme also mentioned ‘compulsory alienation’ of landowners’ estates for this purpose. ‘The Cadets’, wrote Lenin, ‘want to preserve the landlord system of agriculture by means of concessions. They propose redemption payments by the peasants which already once before in 1861 ruined the peasants.’ (VI Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 11, p 328) – Editor.

175. Hegel’s Werke, Volume 12, p 98.

176. Note to the German edition of 1910: Spinoza already said (Ethics, Part 3, Proposition 2, Scholium) that many people think they act freely because they know their actions but not the causes of those actions. ‘Thus an infant thinks that it freely desires milk, an angry child thinks that it freely desires vengeance, or a timid child thinks it freely chooses flight.’ The same idea was expressed by Diderot, whose materialist doctrine was, on the whole, Spinozism liberated from its theological setting.

177. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow, 1971), p 20 – Editor.

178. Wirtschaft und Recht, second edition, p 421.

179. ‘Necessity, in its contraposition to liberty, is nothing else but the unconscious.’ (Schelling, System des transzendentalen idealismus (1800), p 424)

180. This aspect of the matter is discussed in fairly great detail in various parts of my book on historical monism. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1974), pp 480-697 – Editor] Sergei Nikolayevich Bulgakov (1871-1944) – Russian bourgeois economist and idealist philosopher, sought to revise Marx’s teaching on the agrarian question; Pyotr Bernardovich Struve (1870-1944) – Russian bourgeois economist and publicist; one of the most prominent representatives of ‘Legal Marxism’.

181. Wirtschaft und Recht, pp 421ff. Cf also Stammler’s article entitled ‘Materialistische Geschichtsauffassung’ in Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, 2 Auflage, Volume 5, pp 735-37.

182. H Bargy, La religion dans la société aux États-Unis (Paris, 1902), pp 88-89.

183. Ibid, pp 97-98. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) – American theologian whose teachings became the official philosophy of American Puritanism.

184. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1973), p 133 – Editor.

185. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow, 1971), p 21 – Editor.

186. Revolutionary syndicalism – a petit-bourgeois semi-anarchist trend in the working-class movement in Western Europe at the turn of the century. Syndicalists denied the necessity of the political struggle of the working class, considering the trade unions capable of overthrowing capitalism and taking management of production into their own hands without a revolution, simply by organising a general strike – Editor.

187. Handwörterbuch, Volume 5, p 736.

188. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Holy Family, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), p 82 – Editor.