A New Platform
The enthusiasm with which Marx had devoted himself to his work on the staff of the “Rheinische Zeitung” had speedily evaporated. A mood of depression and disillusionment had ensued. In the end, he had withdrawn from the editorship with a sigh of relief. Yet there was no obvious cause for his feelings.
He had wielded a vigorous pen, had given his best energies to his task, had done yeoman’s service to the opposition of the day, using all his knowledge and all his talents in the cause. His period of activity had been brief, but it had been brilliant and fruitful.
No doubt his wranglings with the censorship and with the publisher had been wearisome and dispiriting. But such occurrences were a necessary part of a journalist’s life in those days, and things were no worse in Cologne than elsewhere. Besides, what could these trifles matter to a born fighter? Marx had only been in harness for five months. Some champions have to endure worse troubles for decades, and even for a long lifetime. This was no reason for discouragement.
The root of the trouble lay elsewhere. Marx had sustained a discomfiture in the dispute with the “Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung.” As editor-in-chief of a great modern newspaper, he had had no definite opinion and had been able to express no definite views regarding a topical political matter of outstanding importance, the ideas of the French socialists. Not an overwhelming misfortune, perhaps, for who can know everything? But Marx had been shamed by the need to avow his ignorance, and his activities had been damped down. He was a man of masterful, not to say dictatorial temperament his vanity was mortified, his sensitive vanity, which hid a subconscious feeling of inadequacy. That was why he hastened to evacuate the field; no longer to him a field of brilliant journalistic successes, but one in which he had sustained a defeat.
Marx was “greedy” for time and opportunity in which to undertake “enduring and profound studies” of the contentious matter. He hurled himself into the new theatre of war, and sought a new platform. Here he would redeem his losses! Not again should he have to renounce a combat, not for a second time should he have to avow himself incompetent. Perhaps in the rivalry for the mastery of the thought world of socialism, he would one day outdo all competitors!
He had decided to go to Paris, where he could study socialism at the source. He would join forces with Ruge, for whom the German censorship was making the issue of the “Jahrbücher” increasingly difficult. They would publish in Paris. “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher,” he enthusiastically exclaimed, “that would be a notable principle, a remarkable event, an undertaking to which one could devote oneself with all one’s heart.”
He married, and thus freed Jenny von Westphalen from a crossfire which had been going on for seven years, a crossfire of intrigue which her bigoted and blue-blooded relatives had been directing, in the hope of bringing about a rupture. The young couple spent a few months of honeymoon in the house of the elder Frau Marx, who had removed to Kreuznach after her husband’s death. In September, Ruge settled in Paris, whither Karl and Jenny Marx followed him in November.
Moses Hess, who had accompanied Ruge to Paris, gave the young men their first introduction into the circle of French socialists. Sprung from a family of prosperous Jewish manufacturers in Rhineland, Hess was in a mood of vigorous protest against his father, and was filled with ruminating unrest. A perpetual seeker after truth, he was trying to scale all the heights and to plumb all the depths of our spiritual life. He had taken a considerable part in the foundation of the “Rheinische Zeitung,” and in that connexion had made Marx’s acquaintance. He was well informed concerning the philosophical development of Germany, the economic development of England, and the political development of France. Thus he was eminently fitted to play the part of interpreter between the Young Hegelians, who had been led to the world of politics and to socialism through the study of Feuerbach, and the French socialists, who were to be guided to Hegel, and to the “logical insight” of the Germans, by way of their political experiences. Moses Hess had been the first to draw his friend Engels’ attention to the internal logical necessity thanks to which the Hegelian way of thinking must inevitably culminate in communism. Now he made himself useful to Ruge and to Marx by bringing them into touch with the representatives of French socialism.
In truth, the result of his labours was nothing to boast of. No doubt Ruge and Marx became personally acquainted with a number of prominent socialists: Louis Blanc, Dézamy, Considérant, Leroux, Proudhon, and others. One and all, however, they were of jealous disposition; or disputatious, narrow-minded, lacking knowledge of German philosophy, and with no inclination to weigh the pros and cons of any other theories or systems than those with which they were already familiar. Thus there was little scope in Paris for the establishment of a “Gallo-German” alliance. Still less promising were the prospects of the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.” When Marx wanted to realize the programme of the new annual, wanted “to make an end of the celestial policy of the Middle Kingdom, and to replace it by the real science of human affairs,” he found that he would have to depend exclusively upon German collaborators.
Not until the end of February 1844 was it possible to issue the first and second parts of the new “Jahrbücher,” combined in a single slender volume. The design had been to publish twelve parts in a year, but this double part was all that ever went through the press.
From a business standpoint, the undertaking was stillborn. From the strandpoint [sic] of socialist evolution, it was a bold onrush into a new world, a world whose first need was self-knowledge!
The “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher”
Arnold Ruge opened the ball with a “Plan of the ‘Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.’”
He began by speaking of Prusso-German conditions, and the stifling atmosphere which the periodical had to breathe.
“In Germany, hypocrisy seems invincible, as if science were indifferent towards life; or, if not so, as if at least the heaven of science were unattainable for the masses of mankind. In reasonable circumstances, the kernel of science will become the property of all in the form of practice, will be part of the universal consciousness. A practical thought, however, a word that would fain move the world, is in Germany a direct onslaught on everything that is regarded as sacred and uplifted above the mob. German science, like the German State, is sacred and respectable, not human and free; and it is regarded as treason to both to make science the common property of mankind. Yet this act of treason must now be committed.”
To say truth, not now first committed, but only continued. Events in Germany had shown that philosophy had already become of political importance. “If, for the nonce, the German movement has taken refuge in a bookish world, which has seemingly, no concern with actual history and with the revolution in which we live, it will be our business to make an end of such hypocrisy and indifference, and deliberately to pursue political aims. We shall stake everything upon freedom. Indifferent learning does not exist for the philosopher. Philosophy is freedom, and wishes to create freedom. By freedom we mean genuinely human freedom, that is to say political freedom, not some sort of metaphysical blue vapour which a man can conjure up in his study, and even in a prison.
The purpose of the “Jahrbücher” was “to make known to the general consciousness, in as pregnant a way as possible and in an artistic manner, everything going on in the old world relating to the great transformation.” The carrying out of this undertaking led to France, which by its glorious revolution and the conquest of the rights of man had fought its way to the acquisition of a “cosmopolitan mission” which applied to the whole world. A hatred for France was always equivalent to a blind hostility for political liberty. “In Germany, we can appraise in every one his intelligence and his moral enfranchisement when we know what opinion he holds regarding France. The more cloudy a German’s intelligence, the more servile his way of thinking, the more unjust and ignorant will be his opinion of France. He will stigmatize as immorality the greatness and moral energy of a nation which on its own behalf and that of Europe has conquered all the freedom which the world now enjoys; he will say that the French are unfeeling because they have made short work of his own favourite principle of philistinism; and he will not admit that the godless French have any conception of family happiness. One who in Germany understands the French and recognizes their merits, is by that fact alone a cultured man, a free spirit.”
Germany is put to shame by the French. “They study us, they respect us, indeed they prize us and our transcendental science too highly; and even if they are not yet acquainted with the mundane trend of the most recent epoch, it will soon become plain that here for the first time they are really on a common ground with us.” The interchange of their cultures is the true bond of union between the two nations, and will bring about the victory of freedom. “We Germans have wasted a great deal of time upon furbishing up our old ways in religion and politics. While doing this, we have injured our eyesight, and have become romanticists. None the less, we have thereby gained a sense of order, and have acquired a faculty of logical insight which gives us a safe guide in the metaphysical domain and in the imaginative world, whereas here the French scud rudderless before the wind.” The Hegelian system has done good service in this way, that it has freed us from arbitrary fancies; and in like manner it will safeguard the French spirit from the dangerous illusions and seductions of a “genius that has taken the bit between its teeth and of an unbridled fantasy.” Thanks to the freedom of the press in France, it will be possible to demonstrate to all and sundry “that we in the womb of German obscurantism have become strong enough to bear, of a sudden, the light of the world.” This is a new epoch, in which there is occurring a “fraternization of principles, and in which the nations will be able to foregather.”
The formal introduction is followed by an arranged correspondence between Marx, Ruge, Feuerbach, and Bakunin. Marx is supposed to be writing from Holland, and describes the shame inspired by conditions in Prussia. “The splendid cloak of liberalism has been dropped, and the most repulsive despotism is exposed in all its nakedness to the eyes of the whole world. This is also a revelation, though a perverted one. It is a revelation of the truth, a revelation that certainly enables us to learn the emptiness of our patriotism, the unnatural character of our State system; a revelation which discloses our true visage. You smile at me, and ask what is gained thereby. You say that shame cannot make a revolution. I answer that shame is itself already a revolution. ... If a whole nation were really ashamed, the lion crouching for a spring would refrain.” The comedy of despotism will necessarily lead to a revolution, but “the State is too serious a thing to be made into a harlequinade. A ship manned by fools might drive before the wind for a good long time; but it would drive onwards to its fate for the very reason that the fools did not believe that such a fate was in store for them. That fate is the impending revolution.”
Ruge begins his reply with a quotation from Hölderlin, as a motto to signify his profound depression. “Do you expect a political revolution? Do you think that we, the contemporaries of such Germans as live today, can expect anything of the kind? My friend, the wish is father to the thought ... More courage is needed for despair than for hope. But the courage of despair is a reasonable courage, and we have reached a point when we can no longer delude ourselves.” Tearfully, and at great length, he describes the impression produced upon him by the “despotic maxims” of the reaction, and by the “eternal submissiveness” of the ordinary Germans. “Had we not better console ourselves with the thought that these things are inevitable, that man is not born to be free?” Marx had said that the ship of fools would not escape its revolutionary destiny; but he had failed to add that this revolution would only be the convalescence of the fools. “Your image does no more than lead us to the idea of destruction, but I will not even concede you this destruction.” In profound resignation, he concludes by saying: “You may reproach me with being no better than the others; you may challenge me to promote the coming of a new age with the assistance of the new principle; you may ask me why I do not show myself to be one of those authors whom a free century follows. You may say as many bitter things as you please, but my withers will be unwrung. Our nation has no future, so what is the use of summoning it to the fray?”
To this “elegy,” to this “funeral lay,” Marx rejoins that he finds it utterly unpolitical. “It is true that the old world belongs to the philistine, but we must not regard him as a spectre before which we flee in terror. We must face up to him boldly.” What does this philistine look like? “The philistine world is the political world of lower animal life. ... Centuries of barbarism have created and evolved it, and now it exists as a consistent system, whose ruling principle is the dehumanization of the world ... The only idea of despotism is contempt for man, the dehumanized man. ... The principle of monarchy in general is man despised, man despicable, man dehumanized. ... Where the monarchical principle is in the majority, human beings are in the minority; where no one challenges the monarchical principle, there are no men at all. ... The philistine is the substance of the monarchy, and the monarch is never anything more than the king of the philistines. ... Why should not such a man as the king of Prussia follow his caprices unhesitatingly? So long as caprice stands its ground, caprice is in the right. ... I maintain that the king of Prussia will be a man of his time for just so long as our perverted world is the real world.” Marx sets forth how the king, in his own manner, had tried to effect a reform; “but the servants of the ancient despotism soon made an end of this un-German activity.” Besides, the lord of all the farther Russians had been made uneasy by the restless movement in the heads of the hither Russians, and had insisted upon the restoration of the good old quiet times. “Such was the unsuccessful attempt to uplift the philistine State upon its own foundation. ... A brutal system can only be maintained by brutality.” The extant methods of industry and commerce, property, and the exploitation of man by man, would speedily lead to a rupture within society, and under the old regime there could be no cure. “From our side, the old world must be brought fully into the daylight, and the new world must be developed in a positive sense. The longer the time that events leave for thoughtful humanity to reflect, and for suffering humanity to collect its forces, the more finished, when born, will be the product which the present bears in its womb.”
The letters of Bakunin and Feuerbach are likewise full of encouragement. “This is not the moment for folding our arms, for cowardly despair,” exclaims Bakunin. “If such men as you no longer believe in Germany’s future, no longer wish to work for the coming of that future, who will believe, and who will act? We must scourge our metaphysical arrogance, which does not make the world warm; we must learn; we must work day and night that we may be able to live like men with men, that we may be free and may make others free; we must (I always come back to this) enter into possession of our time by entering into possession of our own ideas.” Feuerbach writes in a similar tone. Thereupon Ruge writes to Marx: “It is true, Poland has been destroyed, but Poland is not yet lost. ... The ‘Jahrbücher’ have been destroyed, the Hegelian philosophy belongs to the past. Here in Paris we will found an organ in which we can judge ourselves and the whole of Germany with perfect freedom and with inexorable uprightness.”
In his concluding epistle, Marx acclaims Ruge’s decision for action, and sketches the programme of the new periodical: “We shall not dogmatically anticipate the coming world, but shall begin by discovering the new world through criticism of the old one. Hitherto the philosophers had had schemes for the solution of all riddles lying ready in their desks, and the stupid exoteric world had merely to open its mouth wide that the roast pigeons of absolute science might fly into its mouth. Philosophy has been secularized, the most striking proof of this being that the philosophical consciousness has itself rushed into the fray, not only outwardly, but inwardly as well. ... We are developing the principles of the new world. We do not say to the world: ‘Cease your struggles, which are foolish, for we will give you the true battle-cry.’ We merely show the world for what it is really fighting, and the world must become self-conscious whether it will or no. ... Our motto must therefore be: ‘Reform of the consciousness, not by dogmas, but by analysis of the mystical consciousness, of the consciousness which is not fully clarified, whether it be religious or political.’” In conclusion, summarizing the trends and the aims of the periodical, he writes: “To make the time fully understand its struggles and its wishes.” Thus the flag was hoisted. Brief, alas, was to be the period in which it fluttered in the breeze. The “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher” had very few readers. As a business undertaking, it was unsuccessful. A great many of the copies were intercepted when the attempt was made to smuggle them into Germany. Through the instrumentality of Guizot, the Prussian government took action against the editors. Meanwhile the editors were quarrelling. They broke away from one another, moving in opposite directions, Ruge to the right, Marx more and more to the left. Ruge, being unable to free his mind from personal animus in a dispute about ideas, cherished a grievance against Marx. As for Marx, he recked little henceforward of Ruge’s personality, and devoted his attention to matters of greater importance.
Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie
Rather less than a year elapsed between the suppression of the “Rheinische Zeitung” and the publication of the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.”
Marx had devoted this brief period to intensive culture of the soil of his own mind. He had made a giant stride forward in his development towards socialism.
He had criticized Hegel unsparingly, had advanced upon Feuerbach, and had adopted a position of his own towards the French socialists. He had put history upon the throne from which he had unseated religion. In his hands, secularized philosophy had become politics. His world was spinning on a new axis.
Positively amazing was the amount of scientific literature perused by Marx in the summer and autumn of 1843. In his notebooks of this year we find an enormous quantity of extracts from books on the history of France (Schmidt, Wachsmuth, Chateaubriand, Lacretelle); England (Lappenberg, Russell); Germany (Ranke); and the United States: also from Möser’s Patriotische Phantasien, Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. He had studied the history of political systems; had read the economic works of Ricardo and McCulloch; and had even entertained plans of writing a history of the Convention. In Paris, where he had access to great libraries, he immersed himself in the relevant literature. A precipitate from all these studies forms his Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie [Introduction to a Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right], which appeared in the first section of the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.”
In this article, Marx, with the boldness of the man of genius, sketches the elements of his later system of thought. Daringly, and in letters of flame, he writes the watchwords of the manifesto of proletarian enfranchisement on the firmament of the epoch.
Setting out from Feuerbach, briefly and clearly summarizing the results of that philosopher’s criticism of religion, he makes history the fulcrum of future developments, and therewith comes to politics.
“Man makes religion; religion does not make man. Religion, indeed, is the self-consciousness and the self-feeling of the man who either has not yet found himself, or else (having found himself) has lost himself once more. But man is not an abstract being, squatting down somewhere outside the world. Man is the world of men, the State, society. This State, this society, produce religion, produce a perverted world consciousness, because they are a perverted world. Religion is the generalized theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compend, its logic in a popular form. ... The fight against religion is, therefore, a direct campaign against the world whose spiritual aroma is religion.”
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
“The people cannot be really happy until it has been deprived of illusory happiness by the abolition of religion. The demand that the people should shake itself free of illusion as to its own condition is the demand that it should abandon a condition which needs illusion.”
“Thus it is the mission of history, after the other-worldly truth has disappeared, to establish the truth of this world. In the next place, it is the mission of philosophy, having entered into the service of history after the true nature of the reputed sainthood of human self-estrangement has been disclosed, to disclose all the unsaintliness of this self-estrangement. Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into a criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into a criticism of law, the criticism of theology into a criticism of politics.”
“German history plumes itself upon a movement which no other nation in the historical firmament has ever made before it, and which no other nation will ever make after it. We have shared the restorations of the modern nations without sharing their revolutions. We experienced a restoration, first of all because other nations ventured a revolution, and secondly because other nations had to suffer a counterrevolution; the first was because our lords and masters were afraid, and the second was because our lords and masters were not afraid. Led by our shepherds, we found ourselves in the company of freedom only on the day of its funeral.”
“It behoves us that the Germans should not be allowed a moment for self-deception and resignation. Rather should the actual pressure be intensified, so that the consciousness of pressure should be superadded, the smart being increased by publication. ... These petrified conditions must be made to dance by having their own tune sung to them.”
“Just as in ancient days the nations knew their primal history in the world of imagination, in mythology, so have we Germans experienced our history of days to come in thoughts, in philosophy. We are the contemporaries of the present in philosophy, without being its contemporaries in history. German philosophy is the continuation of German history in the world of the ideal.”
“That which, among more advanced nations, is a practical quarrel with modern political conditions, is in Germany, where these conditions have not even yet come into existence, a critical quarrel with the philosophical mirroring of these conditions.”
“In the world of politics, the Germans have thought that which other nations have done. Germany has been their theoretical conscience. The abstractness and exaggeration of Germany’s thought has always kept pace with the one-sidedness and the inadequacy of the realities of German life.”
“The German people, therefore, must bring its dreamland history into harmony with extant conditions, and must subject to criticism, not only these extant conditions, but also their continuation in the abstract world!”
“The weapon of criticism cannot replace the criticism of weapons. Physical force must be overthrown by physical force; but theory, too, becomes a physical force as soon as it takes possession of the masses.”
“The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the highest being for man; it ends, that is to say, with the categorical imperative that all conditions must be revolutionized in which man is a debased, an enslaved, an abandoned, a contemptible being. ... A radical is one who cuts at the roots of things. Now, for man, the root of things is man himself.”
“A radical revolution, the general emancipation of mankind, is not a utopian dream for Germany; what is utopian is the idea of a partial, an exclusively political revolution, which would leave the pillars of the house standing. Upon what does a partial, an exclusively political revolution rest? Upon this, that a part of civil society emancipates itself, and attains to general dominion; upon this, that a particular class, from a position peculiar to itself, should undertake to effect the general emancipation of society. That class can free the whole of society, but only on the proviso that the whole of society is in the position of that class.”
“Only in the name of the general rights of society is a particular class entitled to claim universal dominion. Abundant revolutionary energy and mental self-confidence will not be enough to enable it to take this emancipatory position by storm, and thus to effect the political utilization of all spheres of society in the interests of its own sphere. If the revolution of a nation is to coincide with the emancipation of a particular class of civil society, if one particular estate is to be an estate tantamount to the whole of society, then, conversely, all the defects of society must be concentrated in another class, one particular estate must sustain the general attack, must be the incorporation of the general restrictions; one particular social sphere must be the scapegoat for all the sins of society, so that the enfranchisement of this sphere will be equivalent to a universal self-enfranchisement. If one estate is to be preeminently the estate of liberation, then, conversely, another estate must manifestly be the estate of subjugation.”
“What, then, are the practical possibilities of German emancipation? Here is the answer. They are to be found in the formation of a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society; of an estate which is the dissolution of all estates; of a sphere which is endowed with a universal character by the universality of its sufferings; one which does not lay claim to any particular rights, the reason being that it does not suffer any one specific injustice, but suffers injustice unqualified; one which can no longer put forward a historically grounded title, but only a general human title; one which is not in any sort of one-sided opposition to the consequences, but only in a general opposition to the presuppositions of the German political system; and, finally, a sphere which cannot emancipate itself, without emancipating itself from all the other spheres of society—one which, in a word, has been completely deprived of its human privileges, so that it can only regain itself by fully regaining these human privileges. This dissolution of society as a particular estate—is the proletariat.”
“If the proletariat heralds the dissolution of the world order as hitherto extant, it is merely, thereby, expressing the mystery of its own existence, for it is the actual dissolution of this previous world order. If the proletariat demands the negation of private property, it is only raising to the level of a principle of society that which society has made the principle of the proletariat, that which is incorporated in the proletariat as the negative result of history without any cooperation on the part of the proletariat.”
“The only practically possible liberation of Germany is liberation upon the standpoint of the theory which declares man to be the highest being for man. ... The emancipation of the German is the emancipation of mankind.”
“Philosophy cannot be realized without the uprising of the proletariat; and the proletariat cannot rise without the realization of philosophy.”
The foregoing extracts will give the reader a general idea of the thought process of the essay from which they are taken; but they serve very inadequately to convey the originality and momentum of the ideas, the elemental force of the logic, the compactness of the argumentation, and the creative imagery of the phrasing, which combine to make a masterpiece of this pioneer revolutionary document, and thanks to which its general conclusions form a brilliant prophecy of the proletarian revolution.
In later years, Marx summarized the contents of the article in the following terms: “My investigation culminated in the recognition that legal and political forms are not comprehensible of themselves, nor yet explicable in terms of the so-called evolution of the human mind, but are rooted in the material conditions of life, whose totality Hegel, following the example of English and French eighteenth-century writers, subsumed under the name of ‘civil society’; and in the recognition that the anatomy of civil society is to be sought for in political economy.”
With this recognition, Marx had laid the foundation stone and built in the corner stone of the monumental edifice of his future social theory.
The Jewish Question
Another of Marx’s contributions to the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher” dealt with the Jewish question. He took as his theme an article on the same topic which had been contributed by Bruno Bauer to the “Deutsche Jahrbücher,” and had subsequently been published as a pamphlet.
The Jewish question was a topical one. Those who then used the phrase, had in mind the political and civic liberation of the Jews from their exceptional position before the law, a position which was a relic of the Middle Ages. The reactionaries, naturally, had done nothing to bring about this emancipation. Nay more, they had deprived the Jews of certain advantages gained in Germany under the stimulus of French advocacy of the rights of man. In Prussia alone, says Mehring, there were no less than eighteen laws dealing with the Jews.
On the other hand, the Jews had themselves shown little inclination to come into close contact with the intellectual life of the German nation. Thanks to the conservatism of their Old Testament ideology, they could not but seem foreign bodies in the community during a period of growing enlightenment and emancipatory movement. In so far as they had become objects of political attention, it was because their most notable representatives (moneylenders who kept the princes and other feudal magnates in funds, farmers of the taxes, debasers of the currency, financiers of one kind and another) were regarded with detestation as being the secret and last but powerful props of the feudal system.
The general economic progress of the times was advantageous to Jews as well as Gentiles. Jews had become of economic importance, and in proportion to this development there was a tendency towards the growth of their civic and political importance. But whereas in the actual world they had already acquired a better position, their legal and ideological positions lagged behind. Such was the content of the Jewish question. Amid the chorus of the voices of the day, Jewish voices were raised ever more insistently in criticism of the injustices from which the Jews suffered. Thus Jews made common cause with liberals and even with revolutionists, turning the mental and moral sciences, and philosophy itself, to account in the struggle for Jewish emancipation. The Young Hegelians’ fierce attack on Christianity and religion brought grist, here, to the Jewish mill.
Bruno Bauer, like Feuerbach, had taken a definite line upon the Jewish question. But neither of these champions had freed the problem from its entanglement in the web of theological, religious, and philosophical criticism.
Marx tore the meshes of this speculative net in sunder, envisaged the question from a clear outlook, and discussed it upon the concrete basis of its secular determinants. What had been a theological problem became in his hands a mundane one.
Then he turned upon his old friend and opponent with the challenging technique of a fighter who is sure of his own ground. His training had been one which gave him enormous advantages over Bauer, and disclosed to him the weaknesses of his adversary. He was victor from the first thrust of his lance.
If the German Jews, he said, covet political, civic emancipation, they must be told that the State cannot emancipate itself as long as it is Christian, any more than the Jew can be emancipated so long as he remains a Jew. “Upon what title do you Jews ground your claim for emancipation? On your religion? It is the mortal foe of the State religion. As citizens? In Germany there are no citizens. As human beings? You are not human beings, any more than those to whom you are appealing.”
In Bauer’s view, the Jew, if he wished to become free, must first become a Christian, and must then transcend Christianity with the aid of the Hegelian philosophy.
Things must go the other way about, said Marx. If, as Feuerbach had proved, the existence of religion was the outcome of the existence of a lack, and if the source of this lack were to be found in the nature of the extant State, then it logically followed, not that it was incumbent upon the Jews to rid themselves of their “religious limitations” in order that they might thereafter free themselves of their secular limitations; but, conversely, that their religious limitations would spontaneously disappear as soon they had freed themselves from their secular limitations.
In this way the question of the relation of political emancipation to religion had become the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation.
The modern bourgeois State represents the result and the reservoir of political emancipation. A man need not, because he is a citizen, cease to be a Christian, a Jew, an adherent of one creed or another. As citizen, he is a member of a species, but as Christian or Jew he is a private individual. “The State can free itself from a limitation without the individual human being having really freed himself from that limitation; the State can be a free State although the individual is not yet a free man.”
Marx goes on to say, in illustration of his argument, that the religious question finds an analogy in the question of property. Politically, the State abolishes private property when it abolishes the property qualification for the exercise of the suffrage. After its own manner, it abolishes distinctions of birth, standing, education, and occupation, when it declares birth, standing, education, etc., to be differences devoid of political significance, and when it allows every member of the community to participate equally in the exercise of popular sovereignty regardless of such distinctions. Yet at the same time, property, education, standing, birth, and so on, remain intact as concrete distinctions between private individuals. Indeed, the State “only exists on the proviso that these differences exist, and only makes its universality valid in contrast with these elements of itself.”
Thus the individual human being leads a double life: one life politically, in the State, as a member of the species; and another life as a private individual in civil society. “The conflict in which a man is involved between his position as one who professes a particular religion and as one endowed with citizenship in a State (wherein he is related to his fellowmen inasmuch as he and they are all members of a community), reduces itself to the secular cleavage between the political State and civil society.” It is thus an outcome of the contradiction between the State and its presuppositions; or, to put the matter yet more simply, of the contradiction between general interest and private interest. In the bourgeois State, this contradiction is illimitable; and in that State, therefore, the Jewish question, as an expression of this contradiction, can find no solution. “If you Jews desire political emancipation before you have emancipated yourselves humanly, the halfheartedness and the contradiction do not exist only in you, for they are also to be found in the nature and the category of political emancipation. If you are yourselves entangled in this category, you share in its general entanglement. If the State proselytizes, in so far as it, although a State, assumes a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so, likewise, does the Jew enter the field of politics when he, although a Jew, demands civil rights.”
But how should human emancipation be realized?
If the political revolution has reduced civic life into its constituents without revolutionizing it, so that the egoistic individual is the passive, unrevolutionized result of this process of dissolution, is a constituent of the dissolved society—then human emancipation, or the social revolution, will be characterized by “the leading back of the human world, of relations, to the human being himself.”
“Not until the concrete individual human being takes back into himself the abstract citizen of the State, and, as an individual human being, has become a member of the species in his empirical life, in his individual work, in his individual relations; not until the human being has recognized and organized his own forces as social forces, so that social force is no longer severed from itself in the form of political force not until then will human emancipation be completed.”
The splendid conclusion of the argument therefore runs as follows. Man is for man the highest being, and as such—as individual and as member of the species rolled into one—has to mount the throne of human history.
The gods have been dethroned. Their existence has been shown to be the outcome of men’s attempts to find compensation for their own defects and weaknesses. Ideas are but reflexions of the soul’s anxiety.
Nor can matter, unaided, achieve anything. It needs man as fulfiller of its dynamic conformity to law, which finds expression as the necessity of interests.
The political revolution has cloven man in twain, into the member of the species, who leads an abstract life, and the private individual, who is a slave to his own egoism.
The member of the species belongs to the State, which is not (as Hegel thought) the realization of the moral idea, the manifestation of the absolutely rational, but only the framework for the anarchical conflict of individualities, the fight between individual interests. The private individual belongs to civil society, which makes him pay for his apparent freedom and independence by depriving him of his power to be a real human being.
Mankind will only be able to pursue its emancipatory ascent successfully, when it becomes competent to make every individual willing and able to bring his subjective scheme of life into harmony with the objective evolutionary scheme of society—when the private individual is wholly merged in the member of the species.
Only the objectively socialized and subjectively communalized human being will be able to effect the emancipation of mankind, thus becoming master of his own fate.
In September 1844, Marx had an encounter which was to exercise a decisive influence upon his career.
He made the acquaintance of the man whose activities were thenceforward to be indissolubly associated with his own, so closely intertwined that the name of one can never be mentioned without calling up the name of the other.
This man was Friedrich Engels. On his way from Manchester to Barmen, he spent ten days in Paris, met Bakunin for the first time, and sought out Marx.
The two had corresponded before, and had even had a brief interview, when Marx was still editor of the “Rheinische Zeitung.” Engels had contributed to the paper. Later he had sent from England two articles for the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher,” Die Lage Englands [The Position of England], and Umrisse zu einer Krtik der Nationalökonomie [Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy]. Now, at length, he and Karl Marx came into close contact.
Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen on November 28, 1820. His father was a well-to-do manufacturer, partner in the great textile firm of Ermen and Engels, which had a lucrative cotton-spinning enterprise in Manchester in addition to its German plants. Friedrich’s mother was a woman of culture, daughter of the headmaster of the high school in Hamm. She had eight children, of whom Friedrich was the eldest. He had had the advantages of a prosperous bourgeois upbringing, in a household governed by strict principles—but one where intellectual development was crippled by the restrictions of a Calvinistic pietism. Outside the immediate family circle, the life of a manufacturing town of the day, where the workers were badly housed, where proletarian misery in all its forms was rife, where alcoholism flourished, and where children were ruthlessly exploited, formed the environment of his early years, and supplied the leading impressions of his childhood.
Up to the age of fourteen, he attended the middle school at Barmen, subsequently going to the high school in Elberfeld. He made good progress in the natural sciences, and was especially distinguished by his talent for languages. To his father, his character trends gave rise to considerable anxiety, for as the years passed young Friedrich manifested an unmistakable, if not unduly aggressive, attitude of protest against the sanctimonious atmosphere of the home and against all orthodox and conservative dogmatism. Quitting the Wuppertal when he was eighteen, he went to Bremen, to enter as a mercantile pupil the business house of one of his father’s friends. In his eagerness for knowledge, he read all the books he could get hold of. At length, one day, Strauss’s Life of Jesus fell into his hands, and a breach with orthodoxy was the result. Although young Engels did not escape a period of religious struggle, he pursued to their logical conclusion the new ideas he had absorbed. In this way he was led to Hegel, whose writings were a revelation to him. “These colossal ideas,” he wrote to a friend, “exercised a formidable influence upon me.”
Simultaneously, Engels discovered the existence of Young Germany, the bold disrespect and swashbuckling onslaughts of the members of that militant group arousing his enthusiasm. To this offshoot from pietist circles, such exuberant tones were most alluring, and he tells us that he could not sleep of nights because his head was filled with “the ideas of the century.” An additional step forward was taken when he became acquainted with the writings of Börne, whose Paris Letters made known to him the political conceptions of western European radicalism. He got into personal touch with the leading spirits of Young Germany. When his period of apprenticeship in Bremen was finished, he travelled in Switzerland and Italy. Then came his year of military service in Berlin, and, under an alias necessitated by his position in the army, he entered the circle of the Young Hegelians. As “Dr. Oswald,” he played his part in the Doctors’ Club, the only oasis in the intellectual desert of the Prussian capital prior to the March revolution, joining in the attempts of the energetic but unsystematic group of talented youths who were setting themselves to solve the riddle of the universe. While this was going on, he was attending lectures at the university, which had then entered upon a reactionary phase.
Schelling, now well on in years, had been summoned to Berlin by the reaction, and was to deliver a course of lectures on the philosophy of revelation. The first of these lectures was a bitter disappointment to Engels, being full of “invectives over Hegel’s grave.” Engels, enraged at this, was moved to action, and penned a fierce polemic, published anonymously, entitled Schelling and the Revelation, a Criticism of the Reaction’s Latest Onslaught upon the Freedom of Philosophy. This had so striking a success that the authorship was actually ascribed to Bakunin. From this time onwards Engels, equipped with the reputation of being a philosophical and literary force, was numbered with Bruno and Edgar Bauer, Köppen and Buhl, Stirner and Meyen, Rutenberg and Jung, among the champions who rallied to the support of Ruge and the “Jahrbücher,” of Marx and the “Rheinische Zeitung.” Returning to Barmen by way of Cologne, when his year of military service was finished, Engels met Moses Hess, who pointed out to him the political implications of the Hegelian philosophy, and made him acquainted with the ideas of the French socialists. Writing in 1843, Hess said: “Last year, when I was about to start for Paris, Engels came to see me on his way from Berlin. We discussed the questions of the day, and he, a revolutionist of the Year One, parted from me a convinced communist. Thus did I spread devastation.” At the end of 1842, Engels went to England.
In the model land of capitalism, his attention was primarily attracted by economic developments and problems. No less interesting, however, was the Chartist movement, the first of the great political mass movements, which had begun in 1837, and in 1842 had attained its climax in imposing strikes and self-sacrificing struggles. He met Feargus O’Connor, the great Chartist leader, whose eloquence was able from time to time to infuse new vigour into a movement that was already decaying; and he wrote for the “Northern Star,” the central organ of the Chartists. He also became involved in Cobden’s Anti-Corn-Law movement. Finally, he was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Robert Owen, whose long life had been devoted to the cause of utopian socialism. He frequently attended the Owenite meetings held on Sundays in the Manchester Hall of Science, but did not play an active part in this movement, whose primitive, utopian, and obsolete character was at once plain to him. Nevertheless, he contributed to Owen’s newspaper, the “New Moral World,” writing an article on the progress of social reform on the Continent.
But the most important of the new relationships entered into by Engels in the year 1843 was that he came into touch with the Communist Workers’ Educational Society, which had been founded in London by refugees from Paris in the year 1840. “Three real men,” says Engels, “Schapper, Moll, and Bauer, were the leaders of this organization. ... In Manchester, it had been borne in on me that economic phenomena, to which historians had hitherto ascribed little or no importance, are unquestionably a decisive historical power in the modern world; that they form the groundwork for the development of contemporary class oppositions in the countries where such class oppositions have been intensified by the growth of large-scale industry—especially in England; that they also form the groundwork for the development of political parties, of party struggles, and therewith of political history as a whole. Marx had not only come to the same conclusion, but had already, in the ‘Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher,’ given utterance to the generalization that the State does not condition bourgeois society, but that, on the contrary, bourgeois society conditions and rules the State; this meaning that political life and its history are to be explained as the outcome of economic conditions and their development, instead of the converse being true. When I visited Marx in Paris during the summer of 1844, our complete agreement upon all theoretical matters became manifest, and from that time onwards we joined hands in our work.”
The first outcome of Engels’ studies and observations in England was the Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, which appeared in the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher,” and which Marx described as a work of genius. In this essay we discern, glowing like tongues of flame, the same thoughts as those which had flashed up in Marx’s mind as the outcome of his analytical study of the French revolution and his critical examination of French socialism.
To Engels, eager for knowledge, England had seemed a unique and well-stored repository of economic and commercial facts, demanding political appraisement. In like manner Marx discerned in Paris, in addition to a past of immense interest, a political present which was no less momentous, and was ripe for a revolutionary solution.
The July revolution had set up the bourgeois monarchy. Since then, capital had enjoyed complete freedom of initiative, had had full opportunity for the development of its impulses and instincts, for expansion, for the practice of unlimited exploitation. “Enrich yourselves!” Guizot had exclaimed to the bankers, stockjobbers, railway kings, mine-owners, contractors for State supplies, and financial aristocrats. Taking him at his word, they had unhesitatingly engaged in all possible methods of plunder, corruption, robbery on a gigantic scale. But while the stock exchange was wallowing in money, while vast fortunes were being made, while millionaires were being conjured up out of the ground, the masses were sinking into an abyss of poverty and despair.
The instinct of self-preservation, in conjunction with vestiges of the revolutionary tradition, drove them, if they were not to abandon themselves to utter hopelessness, to form combinations which, under the pressure of the police and the terrors of the law, could only be secret. Thus it was that great underground organizations had come into being one after another, and had spread an invisible network over the country. Paris was their nodal point. Bernard, Barbès, and Blanqui, were the most notable among the leaders. In the Friends of the People, the Champions of the Rights of Man, the Society of Families, and the Society of the Seasons, the opposition was kept alive, republicanism flourished, preparations were made for revolution, and the dictatorship of the proletariat was advocated. The accumulated energy was discharged from time to time in conspiracies and abortive risings.
In the underworld of the revolutionary movement there was a German element at work. It consisted of intellectuals, petty bourgeois, manual workers, and craftsmen, many of whom were enrolled in the Exiles’ League, founded in the year 1834, which issued a small periodical, the “Exile.” Although this league had not freed itself from utopian ideas, it had made considerable advances in the theoretical field, its members being familiar with the notions of the class struggle, the concentration of capital, continually increasing proletarianization, the need for a social revolution as well as a political one, and the theory of national workshops. As far as practice was concerned, it was opposed to the use of force. In 1836, the Federation of the Just came into existence as an offshoot from the Exiles’ League. The two most noted leaders of the parent body were the sometime instructor Schuster from Göttingen and Venedey from Heidelberg. Among the leaders of the Federation of the Just were Schapper, who had at one time been a student of forestry in Nassau, Bauer, a bootmaker from Franconia, and Wilhelm Weitling, a tailor from Magdeburg. “The aims were those of the coexistent secret societies in Paris. It was half a propaganda society, half a conspiracy, Paris being regarded as the focus of revolutionary action, although the preparation of occasional risings in Germany was not excluded. Since, however, Paris was to be the main centre of action, the federation was, in reality, little more than a German branch of the French secret societies, and especially of the Society of the Seasons led by Blanqui and Barbès. ... The French took action on May 13, 1839. The sections of the federation joined in the fray, and were thus involved in the general defeat.” Schapper and Bauer, who had taken part in the affair, and had spent a considerable time under arrest, had to leave France, and removed to London, whither they transferred the central committee of the Federation of the Just. Marx got into touch with those of the members who remained in Paris, and they produced both on him and on Engels a “considerable impression.” Marx and Engels continued, therefore, to keep an eye on the sometime members of the federation.
In the days when Marx was there, Paris was a great crucible full of socialist and revolutionary ideas. There were relics of Saint-Simonism; vestiges of Fourierism, cherished by Considérant; Christian socialism of the Lamennais type; petty-bourgeois socialism such as was advocated by Sismondi, Buret, Pecqueur, Leroux, Vidal, etc. In the early forties, Étienne Cabet had reappeared in Paris, after making in England the acquaintance of Thomas More’s Utopia and of the practical activities of Robert Owen. Out of his impressions and experiences he had woven his utopian romance Voyage en Icarie, which had attracted widespread attention, and had led to a vigorous propaganda on behalf of utopian socialism. Cabet professed a communist faith, which was adopted by vast numbers of the workers. His Icarian Almanac sold to the extent of 8000 copies in 1843 and of 10,000 copies in 1844. His paper the “Populaire” and his numerous pamphlets found their way into the hands of an ever-widening circle of readers; but Dézamy, who in 1842 had published his Code de la Communauté, in which he attacked Fourier, Lamennais, and Cabet, and demanded that socialism should be purged from religious admixture, had also a considerable number of adherents.
Another movement, characteristically petty bourgeois, was associated with the names of Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, and Flocon. For them, the organization of labour and the right to work were the fulcra of their system, which was expounded in Louis Blanc’s book Organisation du travail published in 1842.
The kaleidoscopic picture of socialist ideas had assumed a dominant tint since 1840, through the influence of J. P. Proudhon, a talented compositor from Besançon, whose book Qu’est-ce que la pro propriété? had speedily become famous. Marx thought highly of Proudhon, whom he regarded as the embodiment of his own speculative gifts. Even at a considerably later date, when the two men’s paths had diverged, Marx described Proudhon’s book as “epoch-making in its new and bold way of saying everything”; and expressed himself as having been enraptured by the “vigorous musculature” of Proudhon’s style. While staying in Paris, Marx took all possible opportunities of making Proudhon acquainted with the Hegelian philosophy and with the means for its critical supersession. “During prolonged discussions, which often lasted far into the night, I infected him (to his misfortune) with Hegelianism, which his ignorance of the German language made it impossible for him to study properly.”
Whereas this acquaintanceship ended in an inevitable breach, the friendship between Marx and Heinrich Heine established on both sides strong feelings of mutual esteem. Heine, whose mere name was enough to arouse a terrified commotion in the Prussian reactionaries he delighted to stigmatize, was (if only because he was an enemy of the Prussian reaction) a man after Marx’s own heart. Furthermore, a year earlier, Heine had unreservedly avowed his support of communism. Writing under date June 15, 1843, he said: “The communists are the only party in France that is worthy of respect. I might, indeed claim respect for the vestiges of Saint-Simonism, whose champions still linger on under strange devices, and also for the Fourierists, who are alive and kicking; but these worthy persons are moved only by words, by the social problem as a problem, by traditional ideas; they are not urged onward by elemental necessity, they are not the predestined servants through whose instrumentality the supreme world-will carries its titanic resolves into effect. Sooner or later, the scattered family of Saint-Simon and the whole general staff of the Fourierists will go over to the growing army of communism, and, equipping crude necessity with the formative word, will, as it were, play the part of the Fathers of the Church.” Thus what brought Marx and Heine together, and made their union enduring, was an inner conformity of ideas. The respect they inspired in one another, as philosopher and as poet, could not fail to strengthen their alliance. Marx urged Heine to devote himself to singing the sufferings of the oppressed instead of the sufferings of passionate lovers, to exchange the lyrical flute for the satirist’s scourge. The advice bore fruit, and thenceforward Heine was indefatigable in his satires upon reaction, sanctimoniousness, and philistinism.
Marx and Heine had common sympathies, not only because they were fighters in the same cause, but also because they shared in the afflictions of the persecution to which they were exposed. When leaving Cologne, Marx had thought to escape from the spies by whom he was surrounded, to break through the network of hostile machinations. But here in Paris he was once more under the observation of men whose mode of livelihood was, to say the least of it, ambiguous. Now Arnim, the Prussian ambassador in Paris, reported to Berlin that, in the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher,” Heine had published “base and scandalous” Lobgesänge auf König Ludwig [Odes to King Louis of Bavaria], while, in the same publication, Marx had openly advocated a revolution in Germany. Thereupon the Prussian minister of police arranged that Marx, Heine, and Bernays (the last-named had published, also in the “Jahrbücher,” the concluding minute of the Viennese Ministerial Conference of 1834) were, in the event of their return to Germany, to be promptly arrested on a charge of high treason and lese-majesty.
In Paris there lived a man named Börnstein, at one time an actor, and now picking up a livelihood as a theatrical agent and advertisement tout. With the aid of funds supplied by Meyerbeer, kapellmeister to the king of Prussia, and with the collaboration of Bornstedt, a provocative agent in the service of the king of Prussia, he had founded a German newspaper called “Vorwärts.” In its first incarnation, as a patriotic journal, this had no success. Changing its tone, it became ultra-revolutionary, and the editor asked Marx and Heine to contribute to its columns. Heine, who was in Hamburg upon a short visit to his mother, wrote to Marx: “People ascribe to me a more important participation in ‘Vorwärts’ than I can really boast of. To say truth, the paper shows itself to be a master in the art of incitation, and in the publication of compromising matter. I wonder what’s afoot. Perhaps a web of perfidy is being spun in Paris!”
Marx sent a few articles to “Vorwärts.” Heine contributed, among other things, the gruesome strophes of the Weberlied [Weavers’ Song]. Bernays, who was editor, being a young hothead, saw to it that when this stimulating diet came to table there should be no lack of pepper and salt. Thus the spy-directors in the Prussian government were given the pretext of which they were in search, and were at length able to complain to the French government on the ground that journalistic attacks on Prussia emanating from Paris were “increasing in impudence and coarseness.” Guizot hesitated to take action, for he had no wish to burn his fingers, and he knew that the suppression of the offending periodical and the expulsion of Marx and Heine from Paris would be a public scandal and would arouse heated expostulations. In the interplay of intrigue and negotiation, Arnold Ruge (who had in the meanwhile been completely estranged from Marx) played a remarkable part. He was “the Prussian” against whom the first of Marx’s unmistakably communist articles, a contribution to “Vorwärts,” was directed. In the end Guizot was persuaded, by no less a man than Alexander von Humboldt, to take measures against the offenders. Bernays was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and had to pay a fine of three hundred francs. On January 11, 1845, it was decreed that Marx, Ruge, Bakunin, Börnstein, and Bernays were to be expelled. Börnstein and Ruge, being able to pull strings, secured the cancelling of the expulsion order as far as they were concerned. The order did not cover Heine, for the authorities feared that undesirable comment would be aroused if they were to proceed to extremities against him. Marx removed to Brussels.
Paris had been hospitable to him for a season only. Though he must have quitted it with regret, after a year’s sojourn, he could console himself with the knowledge that while there he had gained riper insight, had gathered experience, and had equipped himself for the fray. From his visit to Paris dates his career as a socialist.
Die heilige Familie
When Marx and Engels met in Paris, one of the chief topics of conversation was the question how the criticism of the Hegelian philosophy could be most consistently and fruitfully given a political trend.
It occurred to them that an excellent plan would be to make an unsparing onslaught upon the extravagances of speculative idealism, especially in the form that doctrine had assumed in the hands of the brothers Bauer.
The friendship between Marx and Bruno Bauer had been broken off since Marx, writing in the “Rheinische Zeitung,” had issued an unambiguous challenge to the “Berliner Freien.” The personal dispute between the two men had eventuated in increasingly marked differences of opinion. Bruno Bauer was annoyed that Marx should have developed independently, without his patronage and friendly assistance. He looked askance at the activities of Marx in 1842, and at the political legacy of the “‘Rheinische Zeitung’ of blessed memory.” Asked to collaborate in the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher,” he had ignored the invitation. On the other hand, in conjunction with his brother Edgar, he had founded the “Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung,” an organ which was to “expose all the halfheartedness and inflated phraseology of the liberalism and radicalism of the year 1842.” He announced that the “pretentious, malicious, petty, envious” political criticism of the “Rheinische Zeitung” was to be replaced by “free human criticism.” The new journal was designed, not to join in the movement towards socialism (which, he said, was only a helpless gesture of philosophical incompetence); it was to inaugurate a return to pure philosophical theory, to the “idea of infinite self-consciousness.”
Marx and Engels were not slow to accept the gage of battle. They decided to deliver thrust upon thrust, so promptly that their adversary would be unseated before he had time to recover. They were sturdy fighters, equipped with all the weapons of the intellect, full of power, courage, and lust for battle; and, now that they had joined hands for the fray, almost overbold. Their philosophical training had been identical, and they had shared an enthusiasm for Feuerbach; they had both of them passed on from philosophical radicalism into the field of practical politics, taking this step independently of one another, but both of them with the same logical consistency and the same inevitability. Now they were united by the same interest in the problem of socialism and communism, and by the same sense of responsibility towards the questions of the day. At the present juncture, they considered, the most important thing was to make a clean sweep of vestiges from earlier phases of development, to put an end to everything which barred advance or rendered it difficult to see the goal.
Taking as his text an article by Ruge about the rising of the Silesian weavers in 1844, Marx, writing in “Vorwärts,” had had a controversy with Ruge, and therein had taken a notable step forward. Renouncing State socialism, and declaring the State to be “an institution of society,” he had come to hold that the State was subordinate to society. In view of his rejection of utopian socialism, the socialism of those who hoped to attain their aims without revolution, he arrived at the definition of revolution as a social phenomenon, in so far as it effected the breakup of the old society, and as a political phenomenon, in so far as it overthrew the old State authority. A logical inference from this was that politics must be made subordinate to socialism, that politics could only be a means, an instrument, for the realization of socialism. Thus the path taken from philosophical radicalism to politics led consistently to an end that lay beyond politics. Marx’s frank recognition of socialism in his article came as the appropriate climax of his previous recognition of politics.
In view of his own rapid development, it was inevitable that Marx’s critical zeal should be whetted by the arrogantly reactionary attitude of Bauer, who was still content with the old wisdom of the professorial chairs. Engels, who was never backward when the call to arms sounded, was delighted. While still in Paris, he sat down to write what he had to say, providing matter for twenty or thirty printed pages. The remainder was written by Marx, the remainder of a volume of three hundred and fifty pages. It may be that the book was deliberately spun out to this length because volumes containing more than three hundred pages were immune from censorship; it may be, however, that there was no deliberate policy in the matter, and that Marx, enjoying the opportunity of letting himself go, had given no thought to limitations of space.
Engels was alarmed at first sight of the ponderous tome, published by Rütten and Löning, in Frankfort-on-the-Main. He was still more startled to find that, although he had contributed so small a share of the contents, his name was given precedence of Marx’s on the title-page. Most of all, however, he was aghast at the title. Marx had wanted to call the book Kritik der kritischen Kritik [Criticism of Critical Criticism], but the publisher had recommended, as “more incisive and more epigrammatic,” the title Die heilige Familie [The Holy Family]. Kritik der kritischen Kritik had remained as subtitle, with the addition of the words gegen Bruno Bauer und Konsorten [against Bruno Bauer and his consorts]. Engels wrote to Marx: “The new title will certainly involve me in a family rumpus with my pious parents, who are already much out of humour with me; though of course you could not be expected to know this. ... But certainly the book is too big. The sovereign contempt with which we profess to regard the ‘Literatur-Zeitung’ is in sharp contrast with the three hundred and fifty pages we devote to the criticism of that periodical. Furthermore, most of the criticism of speculation and of abstract matters will be incomprehensible to the general public, and will not prove of interest to many. In other respects, however, the book is brilliantly written, and makes one burst one’s sides with laughing.”
Engels was right. The book was too big, too heavy; it was neither popular nor topical. No one had time or patience to read it until he should reach the passages which would make him burst his sides with laughing—and these, in truth, were only amusing to the connoisseur. Worst of all, the “Literatur-Zeitung” had gone the way of all flesh long before the book appeared. Even as gravedigger, The Holy Family came too late.
The significance of The Holy Family, therefore, does not depend so much upon the critical matter the book contains, upon criticism which is often intricate and wearisome, as upon the elaboration of profound thoughts, fundamental concepts, basic formulas, which were subsequently to be built into a splendid intellectual edifice destined to endure for centuries.
In especial, the vigorous aphorisms concerning the proletariat, concerning idea and mass, concerning the role of the active individual in the fulfilment of history, are as precious as finely cut and highly polished jewels.
Consider the following extracts regarding the proletariat.
“Proletariat and wealth are opposites. As such, they form a whole. They are two configurations of the world of private property. We are concerned with the definite position which the two assume in the contrast. It does not suffice to describe them as two aspects of one whole.”
“Private property as private property, as wealth, is compelled to maintain its own existence, and therewith the existence of its opposite, the proletariat. It is the positive side of the contrast, private property satisfied with itself. The proletariat, on the other hand, is compelled as proletariat to abolish itself, and therewith to abolish private property, the opposite that has determined its own existence, that has made it into a proletariat. It is the negative side of the contrast, its discontent with itself, private property dissolved and dissolving itself. The possessing class and the class of the proletariat represent an identical human self-alienation. But the former class feels itself comfortable and assured in this self-alienation, recognizes the alienation as its own power, and possesses in it the semblance of a human existence; the latter feels itself annihilated in the alienation, regards in it its own impotence, and perceives in it the reality of an unhuman existence.”
“Beyond question, private property, in its economic movement, advances towards its own dissolution, but only through a development of an independent and unconscious character, which it undergoes without the exercise of its own will, and impelled by the nature of things; only inasmuch as it generates the proletariat as proletariat, creates poverty that is conscious of its own mental and physical poverty, creates dehumanization that is conscious of itself and therefore abolishes itself. The proletariat fulfils the judgment which private property has brought upon itself by the creation of the proletariat, just as it fulfils the judgment which wage labour has brought upon itself by creating the wealth of others and its own poverty. When the proletariat is victorious, it has not thereby in any way become the absolute aspect of society, for it is only victorious inasmuch as it abolishes itself and its opposite. Then both the proletariat and its conditioning opposite, private property, disappear.”
“When socialist writers ascribe this role in universal history to the proletariat, they are far from doing so because they regard proletarians as gods. It is very much the other way. Because, in the fully developed proletariat, the withdrawal of all humanity, and even of the semblance of humanity, has been practically completed; because, in the living conditions of the proletariat, all the living conditions of contemporary society are comprised in their unhuman climax; because, in the proletariat, the human being has lost himself, but has gained something more than the theoretical awareness of this loss, for he has gained this in addition, that it has become an imperious necessity for him to revolt against unhumanity—for all these reasons, the proletariat can and must liberate itself. Yet it cannot liberate itself without abolishing its own living conditions, without abolishing all the unhuman living conditions of contemporary society, the conditions that comprise the situation of the proletariat.”
“We are not concerned, therefore, with what this or that proletarian, or even the proletariat as a whole, may regard as an aim. What we are concerned with is, what the proletariat actually is; and what the proletariat will, in accordance with the nature of its own being, be historically compelled to do. Its goal and its historical action are obvious, are irrevocably indicated, in the vital situation of the proletariat, and also in the whole organization of contemporary bourgeois society.”
Now consider what is said about the questions, idea and mass:
“Hegel’s interpretation of history is nothing other than the speculative expression of the Christo-Germanic dogma of the opposition between spirit and matter, between God and the world. This opposition finds expression, according to Hegel, within history, within the human world itself, in such a way that a small number of select individuals stand contrasted as active spirit with the rest of mankind as a spiritless mass, as matter.”
“Hegel’s interpretation of history presupposes an abstract or absolute spirit, which evolves in such a way that mankind is only a mass which bears it up unconsciously or consciously. Within empirical, exoteric history, he therefore assumes that there is in progress a speculative, esoteric history. The history of mankind is transformed into the history of the abstract spirit of mankind, which, because it is abstract, is something beyond real human beings.”
“Hegel is thus guilty of a twofold halfheartedness: first of all, because he declares philosophy to be the existence of absolute spirit and is at the same time careful to guard against declaring the real philosophical individual to be absolute spirit; in the second place, because he makes the absolute spirit, as absolute spirit, only the semblance of history. For, inasmuch as the absolute spirit comes into the philosopher’s consciousness as creative world spirit post festum, his fabrication of history exists only in the consciousness, the opinion, the idea of the philosopher only in the speculative imagination.”
“Speculative philosophy, and the Hegelian philosophy in especial, must translate all questions out of the form of the healthy human understanding into the form of the speculative reason, and must transform all real questions into speculative questions, before it can answer them. After speculation had twisted my question in my mouth, and had, like the catechism, thrust its own question into my mouth, it was naturally able, like the catechism, to supply its own answers to all my questions.” “Just as, according to earlier theologians, plants exist in order to be eaten by animals, and animals in order to be eaten by human beings, so history exists as fodder in the theoretical field, to serve as means for demonstration. Man is there that there may be history, and history is there that there may be demonstration of truth. In this critical and trivialized form recurs the speculative wisdom, that man is there, and that history is there, that truth may become self-conscious.”
“The ‘idea’ has always made itself ridiculous in so far as it has been detached from ‘interest.’ On the other hand it is easy to understand that every widespread ‘interest,’ every ‘interest’ that is historically valid, diffuses itself, when it first appears on the world stage, into the ‘idea,’ and thus greatly transcends its concrete limits and coalesces with the general human interest. Illusion constitutes what Fourier termed the ‘tone’ of every historical epoch.”
“Speaking generally, mass is an indefinite object, which therefore cannot perform a definite action, and cannot enter into a definite relation. Mass, as object of critical criticism, has nothing in common with real masses, which, for their part, form their massive oppositions among themselves. Their mass is ‘made’ by itself, as if an investigator, instead of talking of definite classes, should contrast class with itself.”
“As soon as man has been recognized as the essence, as the foundation, of all human activities and conditions, criticism can only discover new categories, and transform man himself, as it has just done, into a category once more, and into the principle of a whole series of categories, thus discovering the last way of retreat open to intimidated and persecuted theological unhumanity. History does nothing; ‘has no overwhelming wealth’; ‘fights no battles.’ Man, the real, living man, does all things, owns, and fights. ‘History’ does not use man as an instrument to fulfil its own purposes, as if it were a person apart. History is nothing else than the activity of man pursuing his own aims.”
“No great perspicacity is needed—setting out from the teachings of materialism regarding the primitive goodness and the equal intellectual endowments of men; regarding the omnipotence of experience, habit, education, environing conditions over man; regarding the great importance of industry, the right to enjoyment, etc., etc. to deduce the necessary connexion of materialism with communism and socialism. If man derives all his knowledge, and his perceptions, etc., from the world of the senses and from experience in the world of the senses, it is our business to order the empirical world in such a way that man shall have truly human experiences in it, shall experience himself to be a human being. If self-interest rightly understood is the basic principle of morality, it behoves us to make sure that the private interest of the individual shall coincide with the general human interest. If man is unfree in the materialist sense (this meaning that he is free, not through the negative power of avoiding this or that, but through the positive power of fulfilling his own true individuality), it behoves us, not to punish individual offences, but to destroy the antisocial foci of crime, and to give every one social space for the manifestation of his life activities. If man is formed by circumstances, we must make the circumstances human. If man is social by nature, he can only develop his true nature in society, and we must measure the power of his nature, not by the power of the isolated individual, but by the power of society.”
With the publication of The Holy Family, Marx and Engels broke away entirely and on general principles from utopism and from the philanthropic tendencies of the utopists, which had long since become the mere ornamental trappings of bourgeois charity. What the utopists had never grasped, namely that socialism must be the outcome of a historical evolution, and that this evolution must be brought to pass by a self-conscious and independent movement on the part of the working class, secured lucid and cogent expression for the first time.
The young tree of historical materialism, though not yet fully cleared from encumbering tendrils of speculative philosophy, was already growing vigorously. Its foliage was spreading so lustily, that it could not fail ere long to occupy the leading place in the garden of the intellect.
The expulsion from Paris and the removal to Brussels involved Marx in financial difficulties, from which, however, he was speedily extricated by the prompt and generous help of his new friend and companion-at-arms Friedrich Engels. From the first day of their friendship, Engels, self-sacrificing and loyal, was Marx’s chief pillar of support alike in mental and in material affairs.
Writing from Barmen under date February 22, 1845, Engels says: “After inquiring all over the place, I have at length learned your address from Cologne, and immediately take up my pen to write to you. As soon as the news of your expulsion arrived, I thought it expedient to open a subscription without delay, so that the extra expense in which you are involved could be shared by us all in communist fashion. The whip-round met with a ready response. Still, I am not sure whether the sum we have collected will suffice to give you a fresh start in Brussels, so please take it as a matter of course that it will be the greatest pleasure in the world to place at your disposal the fee I hope shortly to receive for my English literary venture. I can get along without the money just now, for my governor will have to keep me in funds. We cannot allow the dogs to enjoy having involved you in pecuniary embarrassment by their infamous behaviour.”
Not long afterwards, Engels went to Brussels. Since meeting Marx in Paris, he had been busily at work. He had brought back from England materials concerning the development of capitalist production in that country, concerning the forms and methods of exploitation, concerning the conditions under which the British proletariat lived, concerning the miseries caused by the ruthless employment of children, etc. From these he had compiled a noteworthy book, Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England The Condition of the Working Class in England]. Published at Leipzig in the summer of 1845, it attracted wide-spread attention. It was designed as the first installment of an extensive work upon the social history of England. He had also planned the issue of a socialist monthly, in producing which Moses Hess, with whom he was again in close touch, was to help him. On January 20, 1845, he wrote to Marx: “The latest news is that on April 1st Hess and I are going to publish the first number of a new monthly, ‘Gesellschaftsspiegel,’ which will deal with the social wretchedness of the day and with the bourgeois regime.” In actual fact, publication was postponed until July 1st, when the magazine appeared as an “organ to represent the non-possessing classes, and to throw light on the social conditions of the present day.” It had a short life; but, just as Hess was the first communist, so this monthly was the first consistent attempt to establish a communist press, the first attempt to run a periodical in which attention should be concentrated upon the criticism of economic conditions. Engels, indeed, had little more to do with the matter, for he was soon fully occupied in other plans, such as the issue of a German library of the works of foreign socialist authors, the writing of a critique of Friedrich List, etc. Furthermore, he had set the whole Wuppertal buzzing by holding numerous meetings for the propaganda of communism. “Wonders have come to pass here in Elberfeld,” he wrote to Marx. “Yesterday, in the largest hall and the leading hotel of the town, we held our third communist meeting. At the first the attendance had been been 40, at the second it was 130, and at the third it was at least 200. The whole of Elberfeld and Barmen, from the financial aristocracy down to the shopkeepers, was represented every one except the proletariat. Hess made a speech; some of Shelley’s poetry and prose was read; also the article about the extant communist colonies in Püttmann’s ‘Deutsches Bürgerbuch.’ Afterwards discussion went on till one in the morning. The movement has caught on. Every one is talking about communism, and adherents flock to join us from day to day.” Still, the movement was speedily suppressed. Engels was now seriously at variance with his family, and was glad to seize the opportunity of getting away to Brussels.
He settled down in the Belgian capital for the next few months, living next door to Marx, and remaining in constant companionship with him. In the summer, the two men paid a visit to England, where they spent six weeks. Engels had some private affairs to attend to in Manchester, to arrange for the transport of his books, and to resume his collaboration on the staff of various periodicals. His main object, however, was that Marx should become personally acquainted with England, with British conditions, with English literature, and with the notable personalities of the British labour movement. This visit was of considerable value to Marx, who hunted up literature concerning the history of political economy and social theories, and got into touch with the leading Chartists.
Having returned to Brussels, Marx and Engels promptly set to work once more. In the preface to The Holy Family they had announced: “This polemical work is a prelude to the independent writings in which we (each of us, of course, on his own account) shall expound our positive outlook, and therewith our positive attitude towards the more recent philosophical and social doctrines.” They now set themselves to fulfil this undertaking, their aim being to settle accounts with the whole body of post-Hegelian philosophy. At the same time they wished to explain their present position as contrasted with their own “earlier philosophical attitude.”
Directly he came to Brussels, Engels became aware that Marx had outstripped and abandoned the “realist humanism” which he had still advocated in the preface to The Holy Family. Marx, a man of fiery spirit, hastened to slough one philosophical skin after another, so that Engels, though of a more elastic and sympathetic disposition than Marx, often found it hard to keep pace with his companion.
It had become clear to Marx that there was “no possibility of understanding historical reality without a knowledge of industry.” For him, philosophy was no longer the crown and sum of all human knowledge, and it had therefore become superfluous. In especial he had been led to this radicalism of insight and judgment by his criticism of Feuerbach. By the time he had finished writing The Holy Family, he had broken away altogether from Feuerbach.
In the last resort, Feuerbach could not come to terms with the sensible world. Though he “detested” the realm of abstractions, he could not find his way out of it. His sensible world was an abstract entity, a phenomenon that had existed from all eternity, unchanging. He never understood that this sensible world is the outcome of an interminable evolution, is the product of innumerable generations, each of which stands on the shoulders of its predecessor. For him, likewise, man was an abstract conception. “He clings desperately to nature and man,” wrote Engels, “but for him nature and man are words, and nothing more. He cannot tell us anything definite either about real nature or about the real man.” The abstract man was the uttermost thing philosophy could reach after turning away from the idea. It had, indeed, replaced the idea by man, but at bottom had done nothing more than substitute one abstraction for another. This was in accordance with the very nature of philosophy; but when reaching abstract man, philosophy had got no nearer to the world of reality. Philosophy, then, must be abandoned, if the real man were to be reached. Now for Marx this real man was man active, man at work, man engaged in the process of production, man leading a social life, pushed forward and pulled onward by interests, acting in history, and thus fulfilling evolution.
The discovery of man, of real, living man, of man making history, was the pioneer stride taken by Marx beyond Hegel, Bauer, and Feuerbach.
In one of Marx’s notebooks dating from this period, among extracts and annotations in an almost illegible handwriting, have been found the famous Theses on Feuerbach—a formidable boundary stone, as it were, to indicate the enormous magnitude of the new discovery, and to mark the advance in the development of Marx’s investigations. Engels has described them as the “splendid germ of a new outlook on the universe.”
Here are the theses.
“1. The main defect of all earlier materialism (Feuerbach’s included) is that the object, reality, the sensible, is conceived only under the form of the object or of contemplation, not as human sensory activity, not as practice, not subjectively. Hence, in opposition to materialism, the active side is developed abstractly from idealism, which naturally knows nothing of actual sensory activity as such. Feuerbach is in search of sensible objects, really distinguished from the objects of thought; but he does not grasp human activity itself as objective activity. Consequently, in the Essence of Christianity, he regards only theoretical behaviour as truly human, whereas practice is only conceived and fixed in its contaminated Jewish phenomenal form. Hence he does not understand the importance of revolutionary activity, of practical-critical activity.
“2. The question whether human thought has circumstantial truth, is not a theoretical but a practical question. In practice, a man must prove the truth of his thought, that is to say its reality and power, its mundaneness. The dispute concerning the reality or unreality of thought isolated from practice, is a purely scholastic problem.
“3. The materialist doctrine of the transformation of circumstances and education forgets that circumstances must be altered by men and that the educator must himself be educated. It therefore has to divide society into two parts, one of which is elevated above it.
“The coincidence of the changing of circumstances, and human activity or self-alteration, can only be grasped and rationally understood as revolutionary practice.
“4. Feuerbach sets out from the fact of religious self-alienation, and the duplication of the world into a religious world and a mundane one. His work consists in reducing the religious world to its mundane foundation. If the mundane foundation lifts itself above itself and establishes itself in an independent realm in the clouds, that is only to be explained as an outcome of the dismemberment and self-contradictoriness of this mundane foundation. The mundane foundation must, therefore, be understood as practically revolutionized both in itself and in its contradiction. Thus as soon as the earthly family has been revealed as the mystery of the holy family, the former must itself be annihilated both theoretically and practically.
“5. Feuerbach, not content with abstract thinking, wants contemplation; but he does not conceive the sensible as practical sensory-human activity.
“6. Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the human essence. But the human essence is not an abstraction in reality, it is the totality of social relations.
“Feuerbach, who does not enter into the criticism of this real essence, is therefore compelled:
“(a) To ignore the historical process, to establish the religious sentiment per se, and to postulate an abstract isolated human individual.
“(b) The essence, therefore, can only be grasped as a ‘species,’ as an inward, dumb generality naturally uniting numerous individuals.
“7. Feuerbach, therefore, does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual he analyses belongs to a determinate social form.
“8. All social life is essentially practical. All the mysteries which drive theory into the realm of mysticism, find their rational solution in human practice and in the understanding of this practice.
“9. The highest to which contemplative materialism attains (the materialism which does not grasp the sensible as practical activity), is the contemplation of isolated individuals and of bourgeois society.
“10. The standpoint of the old materialism is bourgeois society; the standpoint of the new materialism is human society or social humanity.
“11. Philosophers have done nothing more than interpret the world in various ways; our business is to change it.”
These Theses on Feuerbach were penned only as a prelude for the great settlement of accounts between Marx and Engels, on the one hand, and Feuerbach, Bauer, Stirner, and all the post-Hegelian philosophers, on the other.