David Riazanov's

An Introduction to Their Lives and Work



This study of the lives of Marx and Engels is in accordance with the scientific method they themselves developed and employed. Despite their genius, Marx and Engels were after all men of a definite historic moment. As both of them matured, that is, as both of them gradually emerged from their immediate home influence they were directly drawn into the vortex of the historic epoch which was characterised chiefly by the effects upon Germany of the July Revolution, by the forward strides of science and philosophy, by the growth of the labour and the revolutionary movements. Marx and Engels were not only the products of a definite historic period, but in their very origin they were men of a specific locality, the Rhine province, which of all parts of Germany was the most international, the most industrialised, and the most widely exposed to the influence of the French Revolution. During the first years of his life, Marx was subjected to different influences than Engels, while the Marx family was under the sway of the French materialists, Engels was brought up in a religious, almost sanctimonious, atmosphere. This was reflected in their later development. Questions pertaining to religion never touched Marx so painfully and so profoundly as they did Engels. Finally, both, though by different paths, one by an easier one the other by a more tortuous one, arrived at the same conclusions.

 We have now reached the point in the careers of these two men when they become the exponents of the most radical political and philosophical thought of the period. It was in the Deutsch-Französischen Jahrbücher that Marx formulated his new point of view. That we may grasp what was really new in the conception of the twenty-five-year-old Marx. Let us first hastily survey what Marx had found

 In a preface (Sept. 21,1882) to his Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Engels wrote: "We German socialists are proud that we trace our descent not only from Saint Simon, Fourier and Owen, but also from Kant, Fichte and Hegel." Engels does not mention Ludwig Feuerbach, though he later devoted a special work to this philosopher. We shall now proceed to study the philosophic origin of scientific socialism.

 One of the fundamental problems of metaphysics is the question of a first cause, a First Principle, a something antecedent to mundane existence -- that which we are in the habit of calling God. This Creator, this Omnipotent and Omnipresent One, may assume different forms in different religions. He may manifest Himself in the image of an almighty heavenly monarch, with countless angels as His messenger boys. He may relegate His power to popes, bishops and priests. Or, as an enlightened and good monarch, He may grant once for all a constitution, establish fundamental laws whereby everything human and natural shall be ruled and, without interfering in the affairs of government, or ever getting mixed up in any other business, be satisfied with the love and reverence of His children. He may, in short, reveal Himself in the greatest variety of forms. But once we recognise the existence of this God and these little gods, we thereby admit the existence of some divine being who, on waking one beautiful morning, uttered.

 "Let there be a world!" and a world sprung into being. Thus the thought, the will, the intention to create our world existed somewhere outside of it. We cannot be any more specific as to its whereabouts, for the secret has not yet been revealed to us by any philosopher.

 This primary entity creates all being. The idea creates matter; consciousness determines all being. In its essence, despite its philosophic wrappings, this new form of the manifestation of the First Principle is a recrudescence of the old theology. It is the same Lord of Sabaoth, or Father or Son or Holy Ghost. Some even call it Reason, or the Word, or Logos. "At the beginning was the Word." The Word created Being. The Word created the world.

 The conception that "At the beginning was the Word," aroused the opposition of the eighteenth-century materialists. Insofar as they attacked the old social order -- the feudal system -- these represented a new view, a new class -- the revolutionary bourgeoisie. The old philosophy did not provide an answer to the question as to how the new, which undoubtedly distinguished their time from the old time -- the new ages from the preceding ones -- originated.

 Mind, idea, reason -- these had one serious flaw, they were static, permanent, unalterable. But experience showed the mutability of everything earthly. Being was embodied in the most variegated forms. History as well as contemporary life, travel and discoveries, revealed a world so rich, so multiform and so fluid that in the face of all this a static philosophy could not survive.

 The crucial question therefore was: Wherefrom all this multifariousness? Where did this complexity arise? How did these subtle differentiations in time and space originate? How could one primary cause -- God the eternal and unalterable -- be the cause of these numberless changes? The naive supposition that all these were mere whims of God could satisfy no one any more.

 Beginning with the eighteenth century, though it was already strongly perceptible in the seventeenth, human relations were going through precipitous chances, and as these changes were themselves the result of human activity, Deity as the ultimate source of everything began to inspire ever graver doubts. For that which explains everything, in all its multifariousness, both in time and in space, does not really explain anything. It is not what is common to all things, but the differences between things that can be explained only by the presumption that things are different because they were created under different circumstances, under the influence of different causes. Every such difference must be explained by particular, specific causes, by particular influences which produced it.

 The English philosophers, having been exposed to the effects of a rapidly expanding capitalism and the experiences of two revolutions, boldly questioned the actual existence of a superhuman force responsible for all these events. Also the conception of man's innate ideas emanating from one First Principle appeared extremely dubious in view of the diversity of new and conflicting ideas which were crystallised during the period of revolution.

 The French materialists propounded the same question, but even more boldly. They denied the existence of an extra-mundane divine power which was constantly preoccupied with the affairs of the New Europe, and which was busy shaping the destinies of everything and everybody. To them everything observable in man's existence, in man's history, was the result of man's own activity.

 The French materialists could not point out or explain what determined human action. But they were firm in their knowledge that neither God nor any other external power made history. Herein lay a contradiction which they could not reconcile. They knew that men act differently because of different interests and different opinions. The cause of these differences in interests and opinions they could not discern. Of course, they ascribed these to differences in education and bring in a up; which was true. But what determined the type of education and bringing up? Here the French materialists failed. The nature of society, of education, etc., was in their opinion, determined by laws made by men, by legislators, by lawgivers. Thus the lawmaker is elevated into the position of an arbiter and director of human action. In his powers he is almost a God. And what determines the action of the lawgiver? This they did not know.

 One more question was being thrashed out at this time. Some of the philosophers of the early French Enlightenment were Deists. "Of course," they maintained, "our Deity does not in any way resemble the cruel Hebrew God, nor the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost of the Christian creed. Yet we feel that there is a spiritual principle, which impregnated matter with the very ability to think, a supreme power which antedated nature." The materialists' answer to this was that there was no need for postulating an external power, and that sensation is the natural attribute of matter.

 Science in general, and the natural sciences in particular, were not yet sufficiently advanced when the French materialists tried to work out their views. Without having positive proof they nevertheless arrived at the fundamental proposition mentioned above.

 Every materialist rejects the consciousness -- the mind -- as antecedent to matter and to nature. For thousands, nay millions, of years there was not an intimation of a living, organic being upon this planet, that is, there was not anything here of what is called mind or consciousness. Existence, nature, matter preceded consciousness, preceded spirit and mind.

 One must not think, however, that Matter is necessarily something crude, cumbrous, unclean, while the Idea is something delicate, ethereal and pure. Some, particularly the vulgar materialists and, at times, simply young people, unwittingly assert in the heat of argument and often to spite the Pharisees of idealism, who only prate of the "lofty and the beautiful" while adapting themselves most comfortably to the filth and meanness of their bourgeois surroundings, that matter is something ponderous and crude.

 This, of course, is a mistaken view. For a hundred and fifty years we have been learning that matter is incredibly ethereal and mobile. Ever since the Industrial Revolution has turned the abutments of the old and sluggish natural economy upside down, things began to move. The dormant was awakened; the motionless was stirred into activity. In hard, seemingly frozen matter new forces were discovered and new kinds of motion discerned.

 How inadequate was the knowledge of the French materialists, can be judged from the following. When d'Holbach, for instance, was writing his System of Nature, he knew less of the essential nature of phenomena than an elementary school graduate to-day. Air to him was a primary element. He knew as little about air as the Greeks had known two thousand years before him. Only a few years after d'Holbach had written his chief work, chemistry proved that air was a mixture of a variety of elements -- nitrogen, oxygen and others. A hundred years later, towards the end of the nineteenth century, chemistry discovered in the air the rare gases, argon, helium, etc. Matter, to be sure! But not so very crude.

 Another instance. Nowadays we all use the radio and wireless most diligently. It renders us great services. Without it we would literally be groping in the dark. Yet a study of its development shows us its comparatively recent origin -- about twenty-five years. It was only in 1897 or 1898 that matter revealed to us such unmaterial attributes that we had to turn to Hindoo theology to find terms to depict them. The radio transmits signs and sounds. One may be in Moscow and enjoy a concert broadcast a few thousand miles away. It is only very recently that we have learned that even photographs can be transmitted by radio. All these miracles are performed not through some "spiritual" agency, but by means of very ethereal, and, no doubt, very delicate, but none the less quite measurable and controllable matter.

 The above examples were adduced for the purpose of illustrating the obsoleteness of some conceptions of the material and the immaterial. They were even more obsolete in the eighteenth century. Had the materialists of those days had at their disposal all the recently disclosed facts, they would not have been so "crude," and they would not have offended the "sensibilities/index.htm" of some people.

 Immanuel Kant's (1724-1804) contemporaries among the German philosophers held to the orthodox point of view. They rejected materialism as godless and immoral. Kant, however, was not satisfied with such a simple solution. He knew full well the flimsiness of the traditional religious notions. But he had neither enough courage nor enough consistency definitely to break with the old.

 In 1781 he published his magnum opus the Critique of Pure Reason in which he established most conclusively that all knowledge was empirical, and that there were no proofs for the existence of a God, the immortality of the soul, absolute ideas, etc. We do not know things in themselves, their essences. We can know only the forms in which these essences manifest themselves to our sensory organs. The essence of things (noumenon) is concealed behind the form (phenomenon) and it will forever remain in the realm of the unknown. It appeared that the gulf between materialism and idealism, between science and religion was bridged. Kant did not deny the successes of science in the study and the explanation of phenomena. But he also found a place for theology. The essence was christened with the name of God.

 In his double-entry system of bookkeeping, in his determination to offend neither science nor religion, Kant went even further. In his next work, the Critique of Practical Reason, he proceeded to prove that though in theory the conceptions God, immortality of the soul, etc., are not indispensable, in practice one is forced to accept them, for without them human activity would be devoid of any moral basis.

 The poet Heine, who was a friend of Marx and upon whom the latter at one time had a great influence, depicted very vividly Kant's motives for treading the two paths. Kant had an old and faithful servant, Lampe, who had lived with, and attended to, his master for forty years. For Kant this Lampe was the personification of the average man who could not live without religion. After a brilliant exposition of the revolutionary import of the Critique of Pure Reason in the struggle with theology and with the belief in a Divine Principle, Heine explained why Kant found it necessary to write the Critique of Practical Reason in which the philosopher re-established everything he had torn down before. Here is what Heine wrote:

"After the tragedy comes the farce. Immanuel Kant has hitherto appeared as the grim, inexorable philosopher; he has stormed heaven, put all the garrison to the sword; the ruler of the world swims senseless in his blood; there is no more any mercy, or fatherly goodness, or future reward for present privations; the immortality of the soul is in its last agonies -- death rattles and groans. And old Lampe stands by with his umbrella under his arm as a sorrowing spectator, and the sweat of anguish and tears run down his cheeks. Then Immanuel Kant is moved to pity, and shows himself not only a great philosopher, but a good man. He reconsiders, and half good-naturedly and half ironically says, 'Old Lampe must have a God, or else the poor man cannot be happy, and people really ought to be happy in this world. Practical common sense declares that. Well, meinet wegen, for all I care, let practical reason guarantee the existence of a God.'" [Heinrich Heine, Collected Works. W. Heineman, London, 1906. Vol. 5, pp. 150-151.]

 Kant had a great influence on science, too. Together with the French astronomer Pierre Laplace (1749-1827), he maintained that the biblical account of the creation of the world was faulty, that the earth was the product of a prolonged development, of a continuous evolutionary process, that like all heavenly bodies it came about as the gradual congealment of a highly rarefied substance.

 Kant was essentially a mediator between the old and the new philosophies; he remained a compromiser in most practical fields of life. Though he was not able completely to break away from the old, he none the less made a considerable step forward. His more consistent disciples rejected the Critique of Practical Reason and made the most extreme deductions from his Critique of Pure Reason.

 The philosopher Johann Fichte (1762-1814) impressed Lassalle incomparably more than he did Marx or Engels. But there was one element in his philosophy which was absolutely neglected in the Kantian system and which had a tremendous influence upon the German revolutionary intelligentsia. Kant was a peaceful professor. Not once in a few decades was he even tempted to go beyond the boundaries of his beloved Konigsberg. Fichte, on the contrary, besides being a philosopher, was active in the practical pursuits of life. It was this element of action that Fichte carried over into his philosophy. To the old conception of an external power that directed the actions of men, he opposed the idea of the Absolute Ego, thus converting the human personality and its activity into the mainspring of all theory and practice.

 Yet it was G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) who, more than any other philosopher, exerted a powerful influence on Marx and Engels. His philosophy was based on a criticism of the Kantian and Fichtean systems. In his youth Hegel had been an ardent devotee of the French Revolution, while toward the end of his life he became a Prussian professor and official, and his philosophy was most graciously approved of by the "enlightened" rulers.

 The question then presents itself how was it that Hegel's philosophy became the source of inspiration for Marx, Engels and Lassalle. What was it in Hegel's philosophy that irresistibly drew to itself the most illustrious exponents of social and revolutionary thought?

 Kant's philosophy, in its main outlines, had taken shape previous to the French Revolution. He was sixty-five years old when the Revolution began. True, he, too, was moved sympathetically, still he never went further than his customary compromising and conciliatory deductions. Though with regard to the history of our planet, as we have seen, he had already adopted the idea of evolution, his philosophic system, nevertheless, reduced itself to an explanation of the universe as it was.

 With Hegel it was different. Having gone through the experiences of the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, that epoch of colossal economic and political changes, he viewed and explained the cosmos as a continuous process of unfoldment. There is nothing immobile. The Absolute Idea lives and manifests itself only in the process of uninterrupted movement -- development. Everything flows, changes and vanishes. The ceaseless movement, the eternal unfoldment of the Absolute Idea determines the evolution of the world in all its aspects. To comprehend the circumambient phenomena, one must not only study them as they exist, but one must understand how they have been developing; for everything about one is the result of a past development. Furthermore, a thing may appear at first glance as being in a state of immobility which on closer scrutiny, however, will disclose within itself incessant movement and conflict, numerous influences and forces, some tending to preserve it as it is, others tending to change it. In each phenomenon, in each object, there is the clash of two principles, the thesis and the antithesis, the conservative and the destructive. This struggle between the two opposing principles resolves itself into a final harmonious synthesis of the two.

 This is how it was expressed in the Hegelian idiom. The Reason, the Thought, the Idea, does not remain motionless; it does not remain frozen to one proposition; it does not remain on the same thesis. On the contrary, the thesis, the thought interposing itself breaks up into two contradictory ideas, a positive and a negative, a "yes/index.htm" idea, and a "no" idea. The conflict between the two contradictory elements included in the antithesis creates movement, which Hegel, in order to underline the element of conflict, styles dialectic. The result of this conflict, this dialectic, is reconciliation, or equilibrium. The fusion of the two opposite ideas forms a new idea, their synthesis. This in its turn divides into two contradictory ideas -- the thesis is converted into its antithesis, and these again are blended in a new synthesis.

 Hegel regarded every phenomenon as a process, as something that is forever changing, something that is forever developing. Every phenomenon is not only the result of previous changes, it also carries within itself the germ of future changes. It never halts at any stage. The equilibrium attained is disturbed by a new conflict, which leads to a higher reconciliation, to a higher synthesis, and to a still further dichotomy on a still higher plane. Thus, it is the struggle between opposites that is the source of all development.

 Herein lay the revolutionary potentialities of Hegel's philosophy. Though he was an idealist, though his system was based on the Spirit and not on Nature, on the Idea and not on Matter, he none the less exerted a great influence upon all historical and social sciences, and even upon natural science. He stimulated the study of reality. He inspired the study of the various forms which the Absolute Idea had assumed in the process of its unfoldment. And the more variegated were the forms through which the Idea manifested itself, the more variegated were the phenomena and the processes that had to be investigated.

 We shall not dwell on the other sides of the Hegelian philosophy which would make clear why it gave such a powerful impulse for a more careful study of reality. The more his disciples studied reality in the light of and guided by, the dialectic method evolved by their teacher, the more evident became the radical deficiency of his philosophy. For it was an idealistic philosophy; that is, the motivating force, the Creator, was, according to Hegel, the Absolute Idea, which determined existence. This weak point in the Hegelian System called forth criticism. The Absolute Idea seemed a new edition of the old God, the same bodiless God which such philosophers as Voltaire created for themselves and particularly for the masses.

 Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), one of the most talented disciples of Hegel, finally examined his master's philosophy from this point of view. He understood perfectly and mastered the revolutionary aspect of the Hegelian System. He propounded, however, the following question: Can the Absolute Idea in its development actually determine all being? To this question Feuerbach gave a negative answer. He upset Hegel's basic proposition by pointing out the converse to be the truth -- Being determines Consciousness. There was a time when there was being without consciousness. The Mind or the Idea is itself the product of Being. He regarded Hegel's philosophy as the latest theological system, for in place of a God, it conjured up another primary Being, the Absolute Idea. Feuerbach indicated that the various conceptions of God, Christianity included, were created by man himself. Not God had created man, but rather man created God, in his own image. It is merely necessary to dissipate this world of phantoms, occult objects, angels, witches and similar manifestations of the basically same Divine Essence, to have left a human world. Thus Man becomes the fundamental principle of Feuerbach's philosophy. The supreme law in this human world is not the law of God but the happiness of man. In opposition to the old theological Deistic principle, Feuerbach advanced a new anthropological or human principle.

 In his school composition, mentioned in an earlier chapter, Marx had claimed that by a chain of circumstances operative even before a man's birth, his future profession is predetermined. Thus the idea which followed logically from the materialist philosophy of the eighteenth century was familiar to Marx when he was yet at high school. Man is the product of his environment, and of conditions; he cannot therefore be free in the choice of his profession, he cannot be the maker of his own happiness. There was nothing new or original in this view. Marx was merely formulating in a unique manner, to be sure, what he had already read in the works of the philosophers to which he had been introduced by his father. When he entered the University and came in touch with the classical German philosophy that was reigning there, he began from the very first to expound a materialist philosophy in opposition to the then prevailing idealistic thought. This was why he so soon arrived at the most radical deductions from the Hegelian system. This was also why he greeted so warmly Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity. In his criticism of Christianity, Feuerbach came to the same conclusions to which the eighteenth-century materialists had come. But where they had seen only deceit and bigotry, he, who had gone through the Hegelian school, discerned a necessary phase of human culture. But even to Feuerbach, man was as much of an abstract figure as he was to the materialists of the eighteenth century.

 It was necessary to go only one step further in the analysis of man and his surroundings to discover that man was quite varied, existing in diverse sires, having a different status. The Prussian king, the Moselle peasant, as well as the factory worker, whom Marx had been meeting in the Rhine province, were all men. They all had the same organs -- heads, feet, hands, etc. Physiologically and anatomically there was not any great difference between the Moselle peasant and the Prussian landlord. Yet there was an overwhelming difference in their social position. Furthermore, men differed from each other not only in space but in time, those of the seventeenth century differing from those of the twelfth, and from those of the nineteenth. How did all these differences originate, if man himself was not changing, if he was exclusively a product of nature?

 Marx's thought began to work in this direction. To maintain that man is the product of his environment, that he is fashioned by his surroundings, is not enough. To breed such differences, environment itself must be a complex of contradictions. Environment is not a mere collection of people, it is rather a social milieu in which men are bound up in definite relations and belong to distinct social groups.

 This was why Marx could not be satisfied even with Feuerbach's critique of religion. Feuerbach explained the essence of religion by the essence of man. But the essence of man is not at all something abstract and belonging to man as a separate individual. Man himself represents an aggregate, a totality of definite social relations. There is no separated and isolated man. Even the natural ties existing among men recede before the significance of social ties that are established in the process of historical development. Therefore religious sentiment is not anything natural, but is itself a social product.

 The assertion that man is the source of a new weltanschauung seems inadequate. One must emphasise the social aspect in the concept of man. One must think of man as the product of a certain social development who is formed and brought up upon a definite social soil specifically stratified and differentiated. This stratification and differentiation of the environment into distinct classes is not anything primordial, but is the result of a long developmental process. An investigation of the manner in which this historical process was accomplished shows that it has always resulted from a struggle between opposites, between contradictions that had appeared at a certain definite stage of social development.

 Marx did not confine himself to this, he subjected to his criticism other propositions of Feuerbach's philosophy. Into the purely theoretical contemplative philosophy he injected a new revolutionary element which was based on a criticism of reality -- practical activity.

 Like the French materialists, Feuerbach taught that man was the product of circumstances and education, the product of existence acting upon consciousness. Thus man as he is, with his head, hands, feet, etc., and set apart from the animal kingdom, was viewed as a sort of sensitive apparatus subjected to the influences and the action of nature upon him. All his thoughts, his ideas, are reflections of nature. According to Feuerbach it seemed, therefore, that man was a purely passive element, an obedient recipient of impulses supplied by nature.

 To this proposition Marx opposed another. Everything, he insisted, that goes on within man, the changes of man himself, are the effects not only of the influence of nature upon man, but even more so of the reaction of man upon nature. It is this that constitutes the evolution of man. The primitive manlike animal in his eternal struggle for existence did not merely passively subject himself to the stimuli that came from nature, he reacted upon nature, he changed it. Having changed nature, he changed the conditions of his existence -- he also changed himself.

 Thus Marx introduced a revolutionary, active element into Feuerbach's passive philosophy. The business of philosophy, maintained Marx in contradistinction to Feuerbach, is not only to explain this world, but also to change it. Theory should be supplemented by practice. The critique of facts, of the world about us, the negation of them, should be supplemented by positive work and by practical activity. Thus had Marx converted Feuerbach's contemplative philosophy into an active one. By our whole activity must we prove the correctness of our thought and our programme. The more efficiently we introduce our ideas into practice, the sooner we embody them in actuality, the more indubitable is the proof that actuality had in it the elements that were needed for the solution of the problem we had confronted ourselves with, for the execution of the programme we had worked out.

 The general features of this criticism of Feuerbach were formulated by Marx at quite an early period. A thoughtful examination of the line of his thought shows how he arrived at his fundamental idea the elaboration of which led him to scientific communism.

 In his polemics with the German intelligentsia, from whose midst he had himself emerged, Marx tried to prove the bankruptcy of their old slogans.

 We all agree, he told them, that the German reality about us, the Prussia where life is so difficult, where there is neither freedom of thought nor teaching, presents in itself something utterly unattractive. There is not the slightest doubt that this world must be changed, if we do not wish the German people to sink to the bottom of this horrible morass.

 But how can this world be changed? inquired Marx. This change is contingent upon the presence within German society of some group, a category of people, who would with every fibre of their being be interested in bringing about the change.

 Marx examined successively the various groups existing within German society -- the nobility, the bureaucracy, the bourgeoisie. He came to the conclusion that even the last mentioned, unlike the French bourgeoisie which played such an important revolutionary part, was not capable of taking upon itself the role of the "liberator class/index.htm" which would completely change the social system.

 If not the bourgeoisie, which other class would measure up to the task? And Marx who was at that time steeped in the study of the histories and the prevailing condition of France and England, concluded that the proletariat was the only class that held out any real social promise.

 Thus even in 1844, Marx advanced his main thesis: The class that is capable and that should assume the mission of freeing the German, people and of changing the social order is the proletariat.... Why? Because it constitutes a class of people whose very conditions of existence are the embodiment of what is most pernicious in contemporary bourgeois society. No other class stands as low on the social ladder, feels as heavily the weight of the rest of society. While the existence of all the other classes of society is founded upon private property, the proletariat is devoid of this property and consequently not in the least interested in the preservation of the present order. The proletariat, however, lacks the consciousness of its mission, lacks knowledge and philosophy. It will become the propeller of the entire emancipation movement once it becomes imbued with this consciousness, this philosophy, once it understands the conditions requisite for its emancipation, once it conceives the exalted role that fell to its lot.

 This point of view is exclusively Marxian. The great Utopian Socialists -- Claude Saint-Simon (1760-1825), Charles Fourier (1772-1837), and particularly Robert Owen (1771-1858) -- had already directed their attention to the "most numerous and the neediest class/index.htm" -- the proletarians. But they worked on the assumptions that the proletariat was merely the most suffering class, the most indigent class, that it had to be taken care of, and that this care had to be exercised by the higher, cultured classes. In the poverty of the proletariat they saw only poverty, they did not fathom the revolutionary possibilities immanent in this poverty, the product of the decay of bourgeois society.

 Marx was the first to point out that the proletariat besides being merely the suffering class, was the active fighter against the bourgeois order; it was the class which in every condition of its existence was being converted into the sole revolutionary element in bourgeois society.

 This idea, advanced by Marx at the beginning of 1844, was further developed by him in collaboration with Engels in a work called The Holy Family. Though a bit obsolete, this book is not much more obsolete than some of the early works of Plekhanov or of Lenin. It is still full of interest to those who are aware of the intense intellectual and social struggles that were raging in Germany in the early forties. In this book Marx vehemently ridicules all the attempts of the German intelligentsia either to turn away from the proletariat, or to find satisfaction in philanthropic societies which were expected greatly to benefit the proletariat. Marx again tried to explain to the German intelligentsia the revolutionary significance of the proletariat, which only a few months before had shown, by the uprisings of the Silesian weavers, that when it came to a defence of its material interests the proletariat did not stop at insurrection.

 Marx was already adumbrating in this book the guideposts of his new philosophy. The proletariat is a distinct class, for the society in which it lives is constructed on class lines. The proletariat is opposed by the bourgeoisie. The worker is exploited by the capitalist. There is still another question. Where did the capitalists come from? What were the causes that engendered this exploitation of hired labour by capital?

 There was need for a scientific examination of the fundamental laws of this society, its evolution and its existence. In this book Marx already stressed the importance of a knowledge of the conditions of industry, of production, of the material conditions of life, of the relations established among people in the process of satisfying their material wants, for a thorough comprehension of the real forces working in any given historic period.

 From then on Marx began to work assiduously upon this problem. He threw himself into the study of political economy to clarify for himself the mechanism of economic relations in contemporary society. But Marx was not only a philosopher who wanted to explain the world, he was also a revolutionist who wanted to change it.


On to chapter 2  On to chapter 4 

Portrait of Marx 
Marxist writers'