XVII. SCIENTIFIC SOCIALISM
THE ceaseless clash of contradictions which formed the foundation of economic life in the middle of the nineteenth century was bound to find theoretical expression, especially from members of those classes victimized by those contradictory forces and which had an interest in changing the direction of society. In the works of Karl Marx and of Frederick Engels the interests of the working class found their best expression. In their life activities they symbolize the best of German philosophy, French politics, and British economics, synthesizing all three elements to bring forth “Scientific Socialism.”
Scientific Socialism has three principal divisions, namely, philosophy, economics, and politics. In philosophy, Marx took the theory of dialectics which he found in Hegel, and, casting out its idealism, placed it on its feet as a theory of dialectical materialism which, when applied to human society, became a theory of historical materialism. In the field of economics Marx based himself upon the theory of value as labor which had already been suggested by the Classical School of British economists before him, and thereby worked out a theory of surplus value and the laws of accumulation of capital, analyzing adequately for the first time both the structure and evolutionary functioning of the capitalist system. In politics, both Marx and Engels grasped the principles of the class struggle which already had been stated by working class elements, and developed them into a thesis leading to a new system of society, Socialism or Communism, through the institution of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
As Marx put it: “And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society nor yet the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular, historic phases in the development of production; (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the Proletariat; (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. (*1)
To sum up, Scientific Socialism was both a method as well as a content or body of scientific conclusions, later becoming both a theory and a practice. Just as it is impossible to separate program from strategy, and both from tactics, so it is impossible to divide the philosophical from the political and economic, or the method from the data. All are bound up together by the monist materialism of life. We turn first to the philosophy.
From the days of ancient society, two principal camps have existed in philosophy, the camp of the materialist and that of the idealist. To the materialist, nature is primary, spirit secondary; thinking is a process of the brain and thought, basically, is but a reflection of the action of matter which exists outside and independent of man. The universality of all things consists in their materiality; that is, outside of the philosophic category of “matter” there is nothing.
The opposite to this is the position of the idealist, whose Right Wing consists of religionists of all sorts and whose Left is made up of the pure metaphysicians. Stripping aside theosophical aspects, both religion and metaphysical idealism agree, contrary to the materialists, that things are but a collection of images, matter is only the realization of an idea. It is the idea, the spirit, that is primary and real, and nature is but a reflection of the spirit.
From the earliest times the battle has raged fiercely. In ancient Greek society, the materialists were represented by Democritus and Heraclitus. The idealist position was represented principally by Plato and Socrates. According to Democritus and the early Atomists, nothing could be destroyed, nor could anything arise from nothing. All change was but a combination and separation of atoms. No change occurred of itself, but only through cause and necessity. Both teleology and religion had to be explained by efficient causes. Nothing existed save atoms and empty space. All else was but opinion.
The philosophy of these Greek materialists who lived in a stagnant slave society could not but take on a static character. The fact that matter could not be destroyed meant for them that all becoming and perishing was denied (Parmanides), or that all motion was denied, change being considered as phenomenal only (the Eleatics), or finally, where change did occur, it was believed the changing world would return to its old position (Heraclitus). (*2)
With Epicurus and the development of the Roman State, materialism took on a sensationalist guise. The sensationalist school accorded well with the Hedonists, who affirmed that desire is the moving principle of all human action, and that the true aim of life is not happiness but sensual pleasure alone; physical pleasure is better than mental, just as physical pain is worse.
There was no consciousness without sensation. However, this sort of sensationalism could be a bridge to idealism also; since sensations are the basis of knowledge and depend on the individual, it is easy to reach the conclusion that man is the measure of all change, and thus, that contradictory assertions are equally true. In this way, the material reality is forgotten in the stress on the sensations to which it gives rise.
The opposing idealism of Socrates and Plato took the form of insisting that name and thing are identical and that whatever proposition is most general is the most nearly correct. Like the materialists, all these idealists also built their closed systems.
In the Middle Ages, the fight between materialism and idealism assumed the nature of a conflict between nominalists and realists, and also, within the Catholic Church, of a struggle against various heresies. The theologians of the day argued the question regarding the creation of the world—whether God created the world from nothing, or whether the matter had existed for God to create it into a world. They also argued about the relation of God to the world—whether God existed in every particle of matter and thus was pantheistic, etc. The question of how many angels can stand on the point of a pin was important precisely from the point of view of materialism or idealism.
The eighteenth-century development of the factory system and of science led to the creation of a new school of mechanical materialists who were non-historical and non-dialectical, and who regarded human nature abstractly. These materialists theorized on how to interpret the world; they made no efforts to change it. They belonged to the upper aristocratic classes rather than to the rebellious lower orders. (*3)
Nineteenth-century reaction returned to idealism. As it idealized the past and bemoaned the changes that the revolutions had brought from the age of the romantic, it elaborated the dialectic method of which the best exponent was the German, Hegel.
With Hegel, “in the beginning was the word.” Analyzing the working of his own mind, Hegel found that thesis constantly gave way to antithesis and both were resolved in a synthesis. No sooner did we have one than we had the other, and the whole, only to start all over again. The same process occurred in nature, which apparently was but the realization of the idea unfolded in history. The start was logic, the thesis; nature was the reflection of this logic, or the antithesis; the synthesis lay in the philosophy of Hegel, the acme of world’s thought. (*4) Thus Hegel, whose dialectic method of incessant contradiction might have led to a revolutionary attitude, ends his theory with the conservatism of a closed system. To Hegel, all that was real was reasonable, that is, necessary; thus could the status quo eternally be justified.
At the same time Hegel also could say, all that was reasonable was real. Therefore if the masses found it reasonable to protest against a given system, the reasonableness would compel them to realize their aim. In this way, in spite of the fact that Hegel himself created a closed system, his really implied method was eternal and perpetual flux. For the reactionary idealistic dialectic of Hegel, Marx substituted his own materialistic dialectic.
Dialectic materialism is at least materialism, and materialism to the Marxist is the texture of all science. Testing the positions of materialism and science through an examination of the basic questions of philosophy, he finds them identical. This is the reason why the Marxist boasts that he is scientific.
The first philosophical question is one of ontology-the nature of being. Does matter exist independently and outside us, or is it but a reflection of our ideas? This question is put by the Scientific Socialists in another way; did nature exist prior to man? Science of course answers, yes. The whole theory of evolution is evidence of the opinion of the scientist that nature, the earth, existed before man and before the ideas of man came into being. Man is but a part of nature, a product of natural forces, of the material elements.
The second basic philosophical question is one of epistomology-the nature of ratiocination, of the cognitive process. What is the relation of thinking to flesh? The Scientific Socialist puts the question in another way: Does man think with the help of his brain? Here, too, of course, science answers, yes. Thinking is a process of the material brain, just as the light from the electric lamp is the result of a material process.
The third basic philosophic question has to do with whether causation, the relation of cause and effect, really exists in nature, or whether the laws of science which have to do with the analysis of cause and effect are merely ideas of man. To this question is related another. Is there a necessity in nature? Must things happen? Can we predict them? Again, in answer to these questions, science supports materialism and affirms that the laws of science are really the expressions of actual relations in nature. Furthermore, the objectivity of scientific law applies not only to causality but to the laws of space and time. Space and time are not mere ideas of man, but are a real part of the dimensional materiality of the universe.
Of course, our ideas about things are approximate. We are always learning more and more about the qualities and functions of this or that form of matter. All science, dealing as it does with a becoming, deals with constant change. To the scientist there is no line to be drawn between matter and its functions. In proportion as we know more about the functions of a particular object it loses its mysterious character of being a “thing-in-itself” and becomes increasingly a “thing-for-us.” (*5) In that sense, all of the laws of science are relative. Nevertheless, these relative laws are absolute within the definite framework of relationships that may be under consideration. What is true today may be false tomorrow, but only when the frame of conditions has changed.
The idea of relativity early was expressed by the Scientific Socialists and became a part of the basic understanding of the dialectical process of nature. To the dialectician, all unity is the combination of contradictions, the result of diverse strains. Society, rocks, cabbages, ether waves, chemical solutions, buildings, and the macrocosm itself, all these, large and small, are the resultant of opposing forces. Each unity is composed of opposites and will break up into opposites. To view things in constant movement, to see them as the result of constant movement, to mark the movements as contrary and conflicting, this is the dialectic method. The dialectician tries to see the relation of each part to every other part, and of each part to the whole, as their mutual relations evolve from moment to moment.
The Scientific Socialist adopted the dialectic manner of approaching things in nature, not because of his willfulness, but solely because this method of approach accurately reflects the actual contradictory processes of nature where everything is eternally posed, opposed, and composed.
However, it is not enough to say that the only thing changeless is change. The materialist must also add that the materiality of the universe is absolute. Here, then, is the dogma of the Scientific Socialists, their “absolute truth” so to speak. While the Marxist materialists are constantly on the alert for changes, trying to find out within what patterns a proposition is correct and where it becomes error, they are at the same time persistently resisting the spiritualists and bewildered idealists of all kinds who insist that the idea of change and relativity includes the concept of the materiality of the universe itself and that we must bow to the possibility that the universe might be made up of “accidental varia,” God, luck, chance, spirits, etc., which have nothing to do with materiality. (*6) This dogma of the materialists, incidentally, forms the axiom of all scientific work.
When applied to history, the dialectical method of approach becomes historical materialism attempting to obviate the two chief defects in early historical theories, namely, their idealism and their neglect of the activities of masses. “… historical materialism first made it possible to study with scientific accuracy the social conditions of the life of the masses and the changes in these conditions.” (*7)
The materialistic conception of history starts with the proposition that the mode of production, which itself is based upon the given level of technique prevailing at the time, is the prime mover of all social forces. (*8) In trying to understand the laws of motion of a given society, its evolution and its direction, the Marxist begins first of all with a study of the technique of that society, the level of its productive forces. These productive forces include not merely the means of production, the instruments and subject of labor, but the laborer as well. The whole is to be analyzed concretely. Such a concretization does not overlook national, racial, or psychological traits or other secondary features of society. (*9) On the contrary, an adequate study must also trace the interconnection between these factors and their mutual development from the primary sources.
Starting from this foundation, the Marxist examines those economic relations between persons which have been rendered necessary by the technical plane of production. Upon these economic relations which constitute the given mode of production, there is erected the whole texture of political and social relations. Politics, family life, customs, ideology, thus flow fundamentally from the relations of the production and distribution of wealth.
In other terms, one must never lose sight of the reciprocal action of economics to politics and social life. A careful study of this interaction led Marx to the conclusion that the laws of motion involved in the capitalist mode of production would lead to the throttling of the forces of production by the social relations inherent in capitalism.
As Marx put it, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or,—what is but a legal expression for the same thing—with the property relationships within which they have been at work before. From forms of development of the productive forces, these relationships turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.” (*10)
The fetters of capitalism could be broken only by the class representing the new technique; such a class was the proletariat. It was the destiny of this class to erect a new system of production, Communism, of which the first transitional phase was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Between the two camps of materialism and idealism lies agnosticism. The groups adhering to this last are as variegated as the rainbow. Some of these middle-of-the-road elements are closer to the Right Wing idealists, others to the Left Wing materialists. Like the petty bourgeois who hesitates to take sides between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, like the Liberal who tries to harmonize the class struggle and to bring together both the conservative-reactionary and the revolutionary elements, the agnostic camp borrows now from one group, now from the other, feels itself superior to either, but in reality is inferior to both. Its ultimate wisdom consists in the phrase, “I don’t know.”
Modern agnosticism has had several principal schools: the classic school of the English sensationalists starting with Locke and Hume, the German continental school of Kant and the neo-Kantians of all varieties, and the American school of pragmatism, to which we may connect the French school of voluntarism. As we have dealt somewhat, with the European schools, we pause here to deal with pragmatism and its relation to dialectical materialism.
If dialectical materialism is Marxism, pragmatism is Americanism. While it has become a trite matter to contrast Marxism with Americanism, few have endeavored to show the full relationship between the two. At one time it certainly appeared as though the Liberalism of unlimited American opportunity would prove an effective substitute for orthodox Socialism. Certainly if Socialism stood for permanent prosperity, peace and plenty for all, and for the largest individual liberty, coupled with the absence of State and classes, then America has been the nearest approach to that land of milk and honey yet discovered. Americanism could pose as the sure way to defeat European methods of class warfare embraced by Marxism.
The relationship of pragmatism to Marxist philosophy is all the more important since, of all significant industrial countries, America alone has not yet entered into its full political life of conscious class struggles. At the present moment, America is at a transition point from classlessness to open classfulness; it is precisely now that Americanism can foist itself as a substitute for revolutionary Socialism, and pragmatism appears as efficacious as dialectical materialism. That pragmatism is not materialism can be well illustrated by contrasting America and Soviet Russia. Both are young countries, but how different are their youths! America is but the newest edition of the old. It has provided the glands to rejuvenate Europe. It itself fosters a cult of youth. The men go clean shaven; the women make up like girls; the youth are told they are the best and most important part of the race; comics furnish the universal entertainment; there are no more popular film artists than children who draw fabulous salaries; and so forth.
But the Fountain of Youth is rapidly drying up and America will find herself suddenly old. There will be no prolonged period of maturity for her. Childhood will turn into the childish senility associated with dementia praecox. Pragmatism can start out with jazzing up God; it will end up with the table rappings of spiritualism.
The youth of “old Russia” is on an entirely different plane. It is not the latest edition of the old but the first edition of the new. Not the luck or chance of pragmatism is its belief, but its trust lies in the hard materiality of its superior technique.
Yet a close historical connection does exist between Americanism and Marxism as the comparison with Soviet Russia shows. If it is true that the Soviet Union is the lowest socialistic country and the United States is the highest developed capitalist country, and if it is also true that Socialism begins where capitalism ends, then it would naturally follow that much in common exists between the two, one leading into the other. In Russia today there is a craze for American experts, for American goods and machinery, jazz and chewing gum. At least industrially, and perhaps even politically, Russia is becoming Americanized with the object of overtaking and surpassing its teacher. In America there is a growing appreciation of Russian achievements.
Both America and Russia stress action, the creative faculty in man, practical activity. Both stand for a philosophy catering to humanitarianism, that is, posing as treating man not as a means but as an end. Both declare that the system extant in the country benefits not a class but the entire community. The people of both America and the Soviet Union act as though they had “a cause,” the Russian living for his Marxism, the American, at least in the period of prosperity, absorbed in and living for his work. In both cases it is production and not consumption that is the dominant aim of life; in Russia, the production of a better control over nature and higher social standards, in America, the production of profit.
Pragmatism, as an American product, would necessarily carry forward into its philosophy precisely these aspects of American life. Stressing empiricism or inductive analysis of the data around it, without prejudgments, emphasizing practical experiential activity, pragmatism but reflected the general utilitarianism of bourgeois life. Pragmatism preached that change was constant but this embraced the theory that luck and chance, too, were factors in an indeterminate and unpredictable universe. Combined with these views went a revolt against all absolutisms, and just as the Liberal talked of democracy and every man counting for one, each having the right to his own point of view, so pragmatism invented a sort of philosophic democracy in which all causes, all opinions, all ideas counted for the same and had the same justification. One idea, one vote.
The real founder of pragmatism was William James (who gives credit, however, to Pierce as his forerunner). We may learn something of his philosophy when we say that James himself was a very pessimistic man, (*11) “ the kind of “sick soul” who he himself had declared needed religion to prevent insanity. James justified his religion by the pragmatic result it had upon his mental health. “God is real since he produces real effects.” (*12)
To James nothing existed save experience. But here it is well to stress that the term “experience” as used by James has little to do with the term "practice,” as used by the materialists. Experience may mean a great many things. We “experience,” for example, an apple. This can mean that the apple is really there or that it is our “experience.” In all experience there must be both the objective factor, material reality, and the mental factor, subjective sensibility. In the sense that James uses the word, materiality depends on mentality; there can be no object without our “experience” of it. That is as much as to say, for example, on the question of whether the earth existed before the appearance of mankind or of organic life, that since we cannot affirm that the earth was “experienced” by anyone then, we cannot really say that the earth existed before organic life. This is but an idea on our part. Here we see that James’ pretending to develop a scientific method flies in the face of all science.
“Experience was regarded by earlier empiricists as a method for making real discoveries, a safer witness than reasoning to what might exist in nature; but now experience is taken to be in itself the only real existence, the ultimate object that all thought and theory must regard. This empiricism does not look to the building up of science, but rather to a more thorough criticism and disintegration of conventional beliefs, those of empirical science included. It is in the intrepid prosecution of this criticism and disintegration that American philosophy has won its wings.” (*13)
James could not state, as did the materialist, that matter existed independently of man’s “experience” of it. To James, the mind was equally important as the object conceived and felt. If the mind was outside and independent of materiality, then the question arises. how does thought itself arise? Does thinking come from the brain? Here again James broke down on a most fundamental and yet simple scientific question.
Pragmatism asserted that science was “our” science; that is, the laws of science, since they were relative, since they were discovered by the human mind, were purely mental laws. Time did not exist outside of us; it was a mental concept. Further, as James wrote: “… we have the right to believe at our own risk any hypothesis that is live enough to tempt our will.” (*14) “Pure” reality outside of us did not exist since we ourselves helped to make the reality that we knew. As for truth, this was not an expression of the actions of nature outside of us, but was merely something which works. “The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons.’’ (*15)
The idea that truth was merely a question of cash value and convenience, was one which naturally flowed from the theory that truth was part of our own creation, a figment of our mind. Thus, while on the one hand pragmatism was constantly affirming that it was not related directly to idealism (though its founder, James, was a religionist, as we have seen), essentially it made matter dependent upon mental activity and so led back eventually to idealism. However, instead of doing this openly and frankly, pragmatism tried to avoid the entire question of whether matter is primary by stressing the necessity of avoiding dogma and too great intellectualization.
As anti-intellectualist, pragmatism was to have “no dogmas, and no doctrines save its method." (*16) “The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be indeterminable. Is the world one or many?—fated or free?—material or spiritual? … The pragmatic method in such cases is to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to anyone if this notion rather than that notion were true?” (*17)
Pragmatism turned away from theological solutions to the day-to-day facts around it, but not in the same manner that science did so. Pragmatism indeed wanted to scoop out the monist materialism of empirical science, and to replace it with the pluralism of pragmatism. Both idealism and materialism were monistic philosophies; that is, they identified matter and spirit, the first in order to make spirit dominant, the latter in order to make matter the prius. The older agnostics had adopted a dualist position, agreeing that both matter and spirit existed, but denying that we could know either through ordinary cognitive processes.
The pluralistic approach of James, however, affirmed that truth was not concrete but discrete; that is, each event was to be judged by itself. “Reality may exist in distributive form, in the shape not of an all but of a set of caches, just as it seems to.” (*18) Was not pragmatism, in truth, but “common sense"?
Phenomena constantly appeared on our horizon; later they disappeared. Whence did they come? Where did they go? This was not for us to answer, said James. Each event must be separate. No objective necessity and causality existed in nature. The world was not determinate but indeterminate. Chance luck (and God) existed. We must stop searching for first causes, supposed necessities, and must turn our attention to last results, fruits, consequences. We lived only and eternally in the present.
Given man as a creative factor in an indeterminate world, the world handed over to luck, accident, and chance, it was no accident that James should stress will, man’s will, as the essence of that creative factor. Here James showed himself really a part of the Kantian School of Free Will which he himself was willing to adopt as a “doctrine of relief.”
Both schools believed phenomena had no existence apart from our consciousness of them. To both, time was nothing but the form of our own internal intuition and space was a necessary, a priori idea. Both denied the value of neumena, absolutes. (*19) Both held that teleology and mechanism do not necessarily conflict. To mechanical laws, Kant added free will; James fought fatalism with his doctrine of chance.
The difference between the Kantians and the pragmatists is that the latter wiped away the transcendentalist scaffolding of German mysticism and replaced it with an urge of striving and a conviction to create and change the world, a conviction that the world is in the making and the making is in our hands. Nor would the pragmatist admit, with Kant, that things exist outside our experience. James was thus far closer to religion and to the French School of voluntarists.
James openly declared his agreement with Henri Bergson, chief of the voluntarist school, and Bergson his with James, although Bergson’s school of philosophy opened wide the door to abstract idealism. Following the line of Rousseau and Comte, the voluntarist stressed the need of action for its own sake, the method of intuition, and the value of feelings and affections. Pragmatism accepted voluntarism and combined it with empiricism and the scientific attitude. (*20)
The voluntarist school of Henri Bergson declared we could apprehend only immobility, and that space alone is its representative; reality, on the contrary, was change represented by time, itself a continual flux. From this Bergson deduced that the most fundamental conception of all was that of duration. Duration was an immediate datum of consciousness; matter was momentary mind, mind was memory, condensed vibrations. Duration was the life force—the creative activity that was reality itself. (*21)
The philosophy of Bergson was well attuned to the transition period from the throes of which science was emerging. Researches in electro-dynamics had seemed to prove that matter had disappeared into motion; the laws of mass and of the conservation of energy no longer applied; the only thing permanent was rhythmic time. The speculations of the mathematical physicists and their laws of relativity lent specious color to all sorts of spiritualisms. (*22)
In this direction French voluntarism increasingly turned toward mysticism and monist idealism. Only spiritual existence counted; matter was the stream which checked the ascent of life. To achieve freedom, one must follow the life stream blindly, guided only by intuition. Pursuing this mystic path, French Voluntarism was bound to diverge from practical utilitarian pragmatism. (*23)
From all this we can gather how little pragmatism has in common with materialism. James himself pointed out why he could not be a materialist. “Materialism means simply the denial that the moral order is eternal, and the cutting off of ultimate hopes; spiritualism means the affirmation of an eternal moral order and the letting loose of hope.” (*24) Furthermore, materialism signified struggle and discontent, pragmatism connoted comfort, and James advocated social compromise, the epicurean life.
In the twentieth century, pragmatism is continued by John Dewey, who restyles it instrumentalism, while others rename it experimentalism. (*25) Instrumentalism does not differ much from the pragmatism of James. All the essential points are carried forward. Dewey, too, believes in pluralism because “pluralism … leaves room for contingence,” (*26) and is indeed harmonious to the American philosophy of “give us a break.” According to Dewey, instrumentalism generally carries on the work of James and, indeed, stresses even more strongly than James the experience of the individual.
The attitude of Dewey towards materialism can be seen by his consistent struggle against Marxism, his nationalistic chauvinism during the last war, his counterposing to labor his own instrument, the new “Third Liberal Party.” To Dewey, Marx “had no conception, moreover, of the capacity of expanding industry to develop new inventions so as to develop new wants, new forms of wealth, new occupations; nor did he imagine that the intellectual ability of the employing class would be equal to seeing the need for sustaining consuming power by high wages in order to keep up production and its profit.” (*27)
Having displayed this profound knowledge of the works of Marx, the instrumentalist, Dewey, was convinced that high wages bring high profits, and that the intellectual superiority of the capitalist class would see to it, for the good of the class and to prevent revolution, that the workers always get high wages.
We now turn from the modifications of pragmatism to the historical and social views of the pragmatists. The Right Wing again may be seen as embodied in the position of James. For example, it is noted in his argument for peace: “But I do not believe that peace either ought to be or will be permanent on this globe, unless the states pacifically organized preserve some of the old elements of army discipline …. Martial virtues must be the enduring cement … obedience to command, must still remain the rock upon which states are built.” (*28)
This is then the ascetic and ethical way of doing away with war. But it is a theory that not only the pacifist James, but also Hitler and Mussolini themselves, may hail. Here is how James, the neurotic, James constantly on the verge of suicide and afraid to go out alone in the dark, (*29) could console himself.
In history, the pragmatist condescended to include economics as “also one of the efficient causes of why things ‘happen to happen’ in society.” These historians invented the term “economic interpretation" of history, which looked almost as efficacious as Marx’s materialist conception of history, but in reality was offered as a substitute. (*30) The economic interpretation of history differed from Marx’s dialectics in that the former adhered to a pluralistic approach. Economics was but one cause; there were other active forces in history just as great, such as psychology, religion, ethics, ideals, biology, individuals, etc, etc., and we must not be so intolerant as not to allow all cases to have equal weight or to deny the right of anyone to explain events by one cause rather than another. This approach enabled the Liberal historians of the economic interpretation school to interpose in full their arrant eclecticism, borrowing now from the idealists the right to view history as the unfolding of an idea, and now from the materialists the idea that perhaps we should pay attention to the materialist needs of the masses, needs based upon their economic relations and a given mode of production. (*31)
The difference between the two methods showed itself clearly in their treatment of the labor movement. All these people of the “economic interpretation” school declaimed against the class struggle as the driving force in politics, declaring that social forces do not have to clash, and that the evolutionary gradual processes of reform are far more likely to result in the amelioration of workers’ conditions than the road of insurrection, leading to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The pragmatist historians and sociologists never were weary of proclaiming that there is no “must” in history, that everything is an “ought,” and that truth is but one aspect of “the good"; that is, ethics covers the entire field of life. If socialism was to come—and some adhering to the Welfare School of Liberalism began to concede some of the good points of a sort of socialism—then it would be adopted because of its inherent justice, because moral people would decide that it “ought” to come, rather than that it would come as a matter of historic inevitability, such as Marx predicted. There was no inevitability in history.
Just as America offered itself as a substitute for European socialism, counterposing its unlimited individual opportunity in a new country, where forces were unknown and indeterminate, and where luck and chance played a large part in individual lives, to the crass reality of the class struggle and to socialism via the rough road of civil war, so pragmatism became a substitute philosophy for Marxism among many of the intellectuals who operated on the fringe of the working class movement. Some of these intellectuals tried to harmonize Marxism with pragmatism and to affirm fervently that, after all, a Marxist was a pragmatists. (*32)
In many respects, pragmatism does run parallel to dialectical materialism. Both believe, for instance, in the necessity of action. But whereas, to the materialist, action is bound up with theory, with the testing out and the correcting of our theoretical beliefs by the events outside of us to the pragmatist, action takes the place of all theory, the action of the individual replacing the existence of materiality.
Both philosophies believe in change, but, to the pragmatist, change is mere perpetual motion; to the materialist, change is movement. And there is an enormous difference between mere motion and movement. Movement means evolution. It signifies that there are basic starting points from which events move; there is an orientation and direction which events take; there are unfoldings of events which may be predicted. Pragmatism flees from such ideas.
In both methods, man is seen as a creator, but the materialist also stresses the limitation of man’s creating. Man may create, but not out of the whole cloth. (*33) Man is limited by his material environment. Not so with the pragmatist, who is restricted only by will, and who is so indispensable to environment that neither could exist without the other.
The materialist and the pragmatist place each question on a basis: “Will it work?” To the pragmatist, this is used to defend opportunism and even sophistry, and is made into an apology for the status quo. The pragmatist operates merely from day to day, without any perspective whatsoever, since his truth can be convenience or even whim. Not so the materialist. Whether a thing will work must depend upon the contradictory laws of motion involved in a given concrete situation; the resultant analysis induced thereby in the mind of man can result in harmonizing man’s action to the forces of history, and identifying man’s freedom as the consciousness of necessity. (*34)
Both schools emphasize that truth is concrete. Not only the pragmatist but the materialist constantly praises empiricism, the necessity to observe the concrete data of the present without prejudice or bias. To the pragmatist, however, life is a mosaic, a picture puzzle, each piece separated from every other piece without the slightest continuity. To him, therefore, there is really no history, just as there is no predictable future. There is only the present with its phenomena juxtaposed together. Like a mole, pragmatism prefers to move with its nose from day to day, rather than to see into the future.
Both sets emphasize experience as the best teacher and stress the necessity of going beyond mere verbalisms and of testing everything in action. But the pragmatist does not understand “experience” as only one form of practice, that events occur without any experience of them whatever, while the materialist makes praxis include events of nature even beyond one’s "experience.” Does space exist? The materialist says: “If you doubt it, step out of a tenth-story window and be convinced for yourself.” The pragmatist declares that there can be no laws of space unless we experience them. It is our experience, our sensations, that are real, and not merely space itself.
According to the pragmatist, we can learn nothing from history, since all truth arrives de novo with each individual’s “experience.” This stress on individualism and its denial of the historic forces and of the limited character of man’s creative ability, was adopted by some of the Anarchists who could then preach that it was not necessary to wait until capitalism reached a certain level of development before the “militant minority” could storm the governmental buildings and seize the power. To such Anarchists, as to the pragmatists, everything had to be tested out by experience, each time anew; if you failed the first time, all that was necessary was an improved will and another trial.
Both pragmatism and materialism deal with the effect of the economic forces of society upon history. The pragmatist treats with idealism as well; to the materialist, the economics of a given society is but part of the material environment which at the same time limits and bounds the making of history and yet compels history to move forward.
Pragmatism belonged to that “middle-of-the-road” agnostic school which was willing to compromise and to tolerate all irreconcilable elements with no questions asked. Its Left Wing was a sort of variation of shame-faced materialism. Its Right Wing openly flirted with religion. It could endear itself to both Liberal and Anarchist with its views that there is no “must” in history, that “goodwill” works wonders.
To the question of whether the socialist insurrection and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat were inevitable, pragmatism, in all its varieties, shouted “No,” although it did later make a change of front. At the time of William James, the idea that socialism was not inevitable, was based on the belief that capitalism would remain forever. To John Dewey, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was not inevitable, because reform is better than revolution. In both cases their class desires were hidden by a formula that nothing is inevitable. Their views were advanced in a period when the object of bourgeois politics was to forestall the advancing tide of the workers.
Today the pragmatic view that nothing is inevitable has an entirely different function, since it is fascism that is advancing and the proletariat that is retreating. If instrumentalists now say that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is not inevitable, it is because they conceive that fascism may come, and they trim their sails in advance in order to meet it. The dilettante philosophers who fringe the proletarian movement try to conceal their cowardice by stating that Marxism is fatalism and that fatalism prevents the workers from fighting fascism. Only pragmatism can save the workers from defeat. The workers must abandon the theory of the inevitability of communism; otherwise we may have the annihilation of the human race or a reversion to barbarism through fascism.
Pragmatism has certain aspects which can well endear it to fascism. Note the stress of action, the need for change, the importance of man’s will, the test of truth as mere convenience, a formula which may justify political trimming, and opportunism. Note the open door to religion, the struggle against Marxism with its theory of ultimate victory. It is no accident that Mussolini has been inspired by William James. Pragmatism fits in exquisitely well with a movement that is born of desperation, that has prevailed through demagoguery, that knows not what will happen from day to day, and that moves convulsively to avoid the ever-increasing conflicts overwhelming capitalism.
Having discovered, by the use of the materialist method, that the mode of production in each historical epoch was the foundation of the social life inevitably arising therefrom, Marx proceeded to analyze the mode of production he found around him, the laws of which he elaborated in his Capital. In his method of approach, Marx proceeded from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the abstract, and from the present to the past. Thus in studying capitalist economy he started from the simple unit in which the wealth of society presents itself, namely, the commodity, and from that point developed the dialectical contradictions inherent in every commodity, the transformation of commodity to money, and money into capital.
Incidentally, in the course of his methodology, Marx made a profound analysis of the relation of the simple to the complex, and pointed out that very often the simple becomes known only after it has become developed into the complex of which it remains the core. (*35) Regarding the connection between the present and the past, to Marx, not history was the key to the present, but the present was a key to history. Thus, he rejected the method of previous economists in starting their treatises on political economy with an analysis of the category of rent simply because rent was historically the first category developed.
Marx distinctly repudiated the methods of the schools of economy which had preceded him. He understood that it was not a simple matter of stating an economic fact, or of pointing out the conflict of this fact with eternal justice and true morals; it was explaining a fact which was destined to revolutionize the entire political economy. Ricardo and Adam Smith had written reams about morality and justice. Marx scrupulously refrained from using these concepts and limited his work solely to an exposition of the inexorable contradictions that a capitalist mode of production created in economic, and, therefore, in political and social life generally, as well.
In his work against Proudhon, Marx went to great length to combat the methodology of those economists who felt the ills of capitalist society and wanted to find a cure. The dialectical method had nothing to do with propounding cures by experts who stood outside the social system and who called on the will of individuals to adopt their reforms and thus be cured. Equally did Marx repudiate Proudhon’s method of hypotheses and theoretical antidotes. It was not a matter of setting before us some hypothetical plan which would serve as an antidote to ills. Quite the contrary, the work of Marx was to show that the contradictory processes which make up the law of motion of capitalism, give rise within themselves to forces which will do away with the contradictions and break the fetters of the productive processes. “For him, M. Proudhon, every economic category has two sides, the one good, the other bad…. The good side and the bad side, the advantage and the inconvenience, taken together, form for M. Proudhon the contradiction in each economic category.” “Hegel has no problems to put. He has only dialectic. M. Proudhon has of the dialectic of Hegel nothing but the language. His dialectic movement for him is the dogmatic distinction of good and evil.” (*36)
To begin with, Marx cleared the ground by an analysis of certain definitions. First, political economy is a science born in an era of capitalism and destined to die with capitalism. It is therefore a subject strictly confined in time and space. Second, Marx broke from the orthodox individualistic and abstract starting point of “What would Robinson Crusoe do?” Third, there is no such thing as production in general. While production has existed from time immemorial, its modes have changed in different periods. This was in opposition to the classic school of political economy which had tried to establish production on an eternal and unchangeable basis so as to prevent society from interfering with business.
In a posthumous paper found after his death, Marx analyzed the intimate correlation between production, consumption, distribution, circulation, and exchange, in which he not only distinguished one from the other, but showed their profound interconnections and that they all constitute a complex of processes of which production is the heart and core. “The result we arrive at is not that production, distribution, exchange, and consumption are identical, but that they are all members of one entity, different sides of one unit.” (*37)
The achievements of Marx in the economic field have been summarized by his co-worker Engels, as follows: “Marx analyzed all the economic categories which he found at hand…. In order to understand what surplus value is, Marx had to find what value is. Therefore he had above all to analyze. critically the Ricardian theory of value. Marx also analyzed labor as to its capacity for producing value, and he was the first to ascertain what kind of labor it was that produced value, and why it did so, and by what means it accomplished this. He found that value is nothing but crystallized labor of this kind,…. Marx then analyzed the relation of commodities to money and demonstrated how, and why, thanks to the immanent character of value, commodities and the exchange of commodities must produce the opposition of money and commodities. His theory of money, founded on this basis, is the first exhaustive treatment of this subject, and it is tacitly accepted everywhere. He analyzed the transformation of money into capital and demonstrated that this transformation is based on the purchase and sale of labor-power. By substituting labor-power, as a value—producing quality, for labor, he solved with one stroke one of the difficulties which caused the downfall of the Ricardian School, viz.: the impossibility of harmonizing the mutual exchange of capital and labor with the Ricardian law of determining value by labor. By ascertaining the distinction between constant and variable capital, he was enabled to trace the process of the formation of surplus-value in its details and thus to explain it, a feat which none of his predecessors had accomplished. In other words, he found a distinction inside of capital itself … which nevertheless furnished a key for the solution of the most complicated economic problems, … He furthermore analyzed surplus value and found its two forms; absolute and relative surplus value, and he showed that both of them had played a different and each time a decisive role in the historical development of capitalist production. On the basis of this surplus value he developed the first rational theory of wages which we have, and drew for the first time an outline of the history of capitalist accumulation and a sketch of its historical tendencies.” (*38)
Marx then, in order to find out what is value, had to analyze a commodity. A commodity has two factors, use-value and value; that is, a commodity is something that satisfies a human need or want and is exchanged for something else. The utility or usefulness of a product gives it use-value. Value presents itself first of all in the form of exchange value; that is, a product is known as a commodity, as a value, only when it is exchanged. Exchange value, however, is not value, but the value given in exchange. Thus commodities appear first of all as in a certain relation with other use-values. But behind the proportion common to millions of exchanges there must be something common to both objects to allow them to be equated one with the other. And what is common to these products is that both are the products of labor, abstract, homogenous, human labor. Thus the production of commodities is a system of social relationships in which different producers produce various products in a social division of labor and in which all of these products are equated to one another in exchange. In this equation not the specific, concrete labor of the tailor or weaver or of any other craftsman is equated, but rather, abstract human labor, human labor in general. This abstract human labor constitutes the source of value when embodied in a commodity. (*39)
Marx was not the first to lay down the principle that value is labor. It had been done before him by the physiocrats, who narrowed it down to agricultural labor, and by the British Classical School. These statements of Marx’s predecessors, however, had been without adequate proof and were exceedingly vague and contradictory. Nor had they been able to divide the kind of labor that constituted the source of value. Marx clarified all these points.
The Classical School of political economy had arisen at a time when the manufacturers, products of the industrial revolution, had to fight the old order and when they did not fear as yet the working class. Naturally, such an industrialist class found it to its interest to prove that all value came from the factory and consisted in labor to which the owner contributed his part. Later on, when the workers began to see the possibilities of the theory that value is labor, the Classical School became discarded by the bourgeoisie and gave way to schools of apologists, some calling for a change in the distributive system of wealth and philanthropically weeping over the poor.
Later on there would arise a psychological school that would attempt to shift the discussion from a physical objective basis to a spiritual basis, in which value was not labor, but was desire—the same object having different values according to the intensity of the wish and desire on the part of the purchaser. Values thus were created, not in the process of production but by the consumer. In the twentieth century, this psychological school found its center, significantly enough, in defeated Vienna, where the psychopathology of Freud dominated the scene. Here was a fitting setting for the psychological school.
According to Marx, value is not a specific physical property of an object; it is a social property, a social relation between persons, maintained as a material exchange of products. We can understand what value is only when we consider it from the point of view of a system of social production relationships which present themselves in a mass form, repeating the phenomenon of exchange millions upon millions of times. As values, then, all commodities are only different quantities of congealed labor time.
As society develops, the system of exchanges develops into a regular process of circulation, in the course of which the commodity most fitting takes on the role of contrasting itself with other commodities, becoming the universal equivalent called money. Money, therefore, is a commodity that has the social function of being the measure of all values as well as the medium of exchange.
Commodity production and money circulation can appear in societies that produce for use and that are not capitalistic. In such cases, money and exchange play a secondary role in the economic functioning of society. When money and commodity circulation become prominent, already we have a capitalist mode of production, which is one for exchange and not for use. The formula for commodity production is given as C-M-C; that is, a commodity is sold for money and with the money the seller buys another commodity of a different kind. Here money is a medium of circulation and the purpose of the sale is to arrive at a purchase of another kind of commodity, one with a different usefulness.
When money becomes capital, however, the formula is changed to M-C-M; that is, with money the owner buys a commodity and later sells the commodity for money, or, in other words, there is a purchase for the purpose of sale and money is no longer a medium but the beginning and end of the transaction. As it stands now, the formula appears ridiculous. Why should a man give away money in order to get back money? In the preceding set-up, C-M-C, he had secured a different article which he wanted in exchange for another which he did not want so badly. There was here the gratification of a different desire or the satisfaction of a different need. Not so in the second case, M-C-M. The explanation, of course, is simple. The M at the end of the formula is really M’; that is, it is a larger sum of money than the original investment, so that the formula stands M-C-Mí.
The question now arises, how does M become Mí (that is, M plus increment “m")? This is the question which Ricardo and all the other economists before Marx failed to solve. This increment “m” is called surplus value, or, roughly speaking, profit, and the process of its production is called the process of exploitation.
Marx was the first to show that surplus value does not arise in the sphere of circulation, nor does it arise out of mutual cheating, but comes legitimately from the mode of production itself, without anyone’s being robbed. If no one is cheated, and yet M becomes Mí, there must be within the series of exchanges some transformation that increases the value of the commodity bought. On closer examination, it is found that the commodities purchased by the owner of money, turned capitalist, are of two kinds: (1) the means of production, whose value is constant and can be transferred only to the finished product, and (2) labor power, whose value is variable.
Thus we come to an analysis of a new kind of commodity, labor power. How this labor power comes onto the scene of history, and why men must sell their energies piecemeal, in the form of labor power, are questions for history to solve. We may remark here that two historical prerequisites were necessary to the genesis of capital—first, the accumulation of a considerable sum of money in the hands of individuals living under conditions in which there was a comparatively high development of commodity production; and second, the existence of workers who were free in a double sense of the term, free to sell their labor power everywhere (that is, free from serfdom and slavery), and free from property so that they were compelled to sell their labor power in order to exist. In the sixteenth century, with the development of commerce, the discovery of the New World, and the driving off by force of the peasants from the land, these prerequisites were generally realized.
Capitalism started with the fact of a commodity, known as labor power, being offered on the labor market. The peculiar character of this commodity is that, when consumed or used, it creates a value greater than its own. In short, labor power is a peculiar commodity that expands its value when consumed. When commodity production has reached the phase of making labor power a commodity, it becomes transformed into capitalism, and money becomes capital.
This led Marx to a discussion of what is the value of labor power and how it is determined. Marx thought the value of labor power, like the value of any other commodity, is determined by the socially necessary human labor needed to reproduce it. Therefore, the value of labor power is the equivalent of the value of the means of life which the laborer needs to replenish his lost strength day by day and to breed children to carry on after he is dead. Thus, the laborer in selling his labor power for wages that will merely keep him efficiently alive is getting the full value of the commodity which he is selling and is not cheated by the employer, even though the product which he produces has a far greater value than the value of the means of life to sustain him and his family.
The owner of money, having bought labor power, is entitled to use it, that is, to set it to work for the whole day, twelve hours let us suppose. Meanwhile, in the course of perhaps only six hours the laborer can produce enough to pay back the cost of his own maintenance; thereby, in the course of the next six hours, he produces a surplus product for which the capitalist does not pay him, a surplus product which, in the form of commodities, becomes surplus value.
Therefore, it is in the course of production, in which labor power is transformed into active labor, working upon raw materials, that the value of the commodities purchased by the moneyed men increases. Capital, therefore, is self-expanding value and it expands solely because the value of labor power expands in use. We might say, therefore, that it is labor that is capital, since only labor expands values. However, we must note that, as labor, the activity is no longer in the possession of the laborer, but is embedded in the product which is in the possession of the employer. The laborer possesses only labor power and therefore is the owner of that particular commodity, but cannot be a capitalist. When the value of labor power has been transformed through the process of labor into a higher value, it is no longer within the possession of the laborer; it is the owner of the product who is the capitalist.
To express the degree of the exploitation of labor by capital, we must compare the surplus value produced by the laborer, not with the whole capital, but with the variable capital or wages. Thus, in the example given above, the rate of surplus value, or of exploitation, will be 6:6, or 100 per cent.
There are two fundamental ways in which surplus value can be increased: by an increase in the working day, which creates “absolute surplus value,” and by a reduction of the necessary working time, which yields "relative surplus value.” Analyzing the former method, Marx told of the struggle of the working class for shorter hours, and of government interference, first, in the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, in order to lengthen the working day, and, subsequently, in the nineteenth century, to shorten it by factory legislation. Analyzing the production of relative surplus value, Marx investigated the three fundamental historical stages of the processes whereby capitalism had increased the productivity of labor and reduced the time necessary to reproduce the means of life. These stages embrace first, simple cooperation; second, division of labor and manufacture; finally, machinery and large-scale industry.
Of highest importance and originality is Marx’s analysis of the accumulation of capital, that is to say, the transformation of a portion of surplus value into capital and the applying of this portion to additional production instead of using it to satisfy the personal needs of the capitalist. This surplus value, when returned to industry, does not, as Adam Smith and others assumed, become transformed entirely into variable capital, but is also apportioned into new means of production, or constant capital. It is this constant capital which consistently grows at the expense of the variable. The more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with either the variable capital alone or the sum total of capital is of immense importance in the process of development of capitalism and in transforming capitalism into socialism.
The accumulation of capital accelerates the replacement of workers by machinery, creating wealth at one pole and poverty at the other, giving birth to the so-called reserve army of labor and to a relative overpopulation of workers. Capitalism now has the possibility of expanding production at an exceptionally rapid rate. This possibility, in conjunction with enhanced opportunities for credit and accumulation, furnishes among other things the key to the understanding of crises of overproduction that occur periodically in capitalist countries, first on an average of about ten years, but subsequently in a more continuous form and with less definite periodicity.
The expropriation of the immediate producers is effected with ruthless vandalism, and under the stimulus of the most infamous, the basest, the meanest, and the most odious of passions. What has now to be expropriated is no longer the laborer working on his own account, but the capitalist who exploits many laborers. This expropriation is brought about by the operation of the immanent laws of capitalist production, by the centralization of capital. While there is thus a progressive diminution in the number of the capitalist magnates (who usurp and monopolize all the advantages of this transformative process), there occurs a corresponding increase in the mass of poverty, oppression, enslavement, degeneration, and exploitation; but at the same time there is a steady intensification of the wrath of the working class—a class which grows ever more numerous, and is disciplined, unified, and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist method of production. “The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” (*40)
In the second volume of Capital, Marx takes up the reproduction of social capital. Here he deals not with an individual capitalist, but with mass phenomena and with economy as a whole. In this book Marx thoroughly dissects the mechanism and operation of the periodic crises of capitalism. He separates the whole of social production into two great sections, the production of the means of production, and the production of articles for consumption, and shows how maladjustments between these two divisions invariably take place under the capitalist accumulation leading to crises.
In the third volume of Capital, Marx solves the problem of how an average rate of profit is formed on the basis of the law of value, something that none of the economists before him had been able to do, and which had placed the classical school of economy, with its theory of value as labor, in an inextricable dilemma. Here Marx divides surplus value into profit, interest, and ground rent. Profit, strictly speaking, is the mass of surplus value which adheres to the industrialist and from which ultimately there is derived interest and ground rent. The rate of profit is the rate of surplus value compared to the capital invested in the undertaking. Capital with a high “organic composition,” that is, with a preponderance of constant capital over variable capital to an extent above the social average, yields a below-average rate of profit. Capital with a low “organic composition" yields an above-average rate of profit. It would seem, then, that capitalists would rush to invest their money in the latter type of industry rather than the former. Competition among the capitalists, however, levels the rate of profit in both cases to the average. While the sum total of the values of all commodities in a given society coincides with the sum total of the prices of all commodities, in separate branches of production, as a result of competition, commodities are sold, not in accordance with their values, but in accordance with the prices of production, which are equal to the expended capital plus the average profit.
In this way, the well-known and indisputable fact of the divergence between prices and values, concomitant to the equalization of profits, is fully explained by Marx in conformity with the law of value and makes ridiculous the claim of bourgeois economists that, in Volume III of Capital, Marx wholly negates the laws laid down in Volume 1. However, the adjustment of value, which is a social matter, to price, which is an individual matter, is an exceedingly complex affair. In a society made up of separate purchasers of commodities, linked solely through the market, conformity to law can be only an average, a general manifestation, a mass phenomenon, with individually and mutually compensating deviations to one side and the other.
An increase in the productivity of labor means a more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with variable capital. Inasmuch as surplus value is a result of variable capital alone, it is obvious that the rate of profit, that is, the ratio of surplus value to the whole capital, has a tendency to fall. Marx makes a detailed analysis of this tendency, as well as of the circumstances that tend to counteract the fall and its exceedingly important effects.
Interesting is Marx’s analysis of usurer’s capital, commercial capital, and money capital. From first hand study of parliamentary reports, he carefully lays down the limits within which the rate of interest can fluctuate and analyzes the entire superstructure of the credit system. He shows, too, how the industrialist must part with some of his surplus value to the merchants, since the existence of large outlet stores saves the industrialist more money than if he himself went into the operation of circulating his goods.
In the theory of ground rent, Marx makes another great contribution. Because the land area is limited and, in the capitalist countries, is occupied entirely by private owners, the. production of agricultural products is determined by the cost of production not on soil of average quality, but on the worst soil needed for productive purposes, and by the cost of bringing goods to the market not under average conditions, but under the worst conditions the market demands. The difference between this price and the price of production on better soil under better conditions constitutes differential rent. Analyzing this differential rent in detail and showing how it rises in proportion to the fertility of the individual plots of land and to the extent to which capital is applied, Marx exposes the error of Ricardo and the Classical School who believed that differential rent is obtained only when there is a continual transition from better to worse land. Advances in agricultural technique, the growth of towns, etc., may on the contrary act inversely and transfer land from one category to the other. Thus, the famous law of diminishing returns, charging Nature with the insufficiency, limitations, and contradictions of capitalism, is shown as erroneous.
Moreover, the equalization of profit in all branches of industry, and natural economy in general, presupposes complete freedom of competition while the private ownership of land creates a monopoly. Thanks to this monopoly, the products of agriculture, where low organic compensation of capital prevails and, consequently, individually higher rate of profit can be secured, are not exposed to a perfectly free process of equalization of the rate of profit. The land-owner, being the monopolist, can keep the price of his products above the average; this monopoly price is the source of absolute rent.
Differential rent cannot be done away with so long as capitalism exists; but absolute rent can be abolished even under capitalism, for instance, by nationalization of the land, making all the land State property. Such nationalization would put an end to a monopoly of private land-owners, with the result that free competition would be applied more consistently and fully in the domain of agriculture. Here is the driving source for such movements as the Henry George Movement in the United States, and the motivation of the radical bourgeois in repeatedly advancing demands for land nationalization.
In his discussion of rent, Marx also expounds the laws of the evolution of capitalism in agriculture which bring in their trend the impoverishment and ruin of the agricultural population and the transformation of the rural population into an urban proletariat. If the small peasant is able to survive, it is because he is forced to sell his goods far below their value, so that although he is an individual owner, his net income is less than that of the wages of the ordinary worker. In such cases, the lower price of agricultural products is a result of the poverty of the producers and by no means of the productivity of their labor. Peasant proprietorship and the small holding system, which is the normal form of petty production, is bound to degenerate, wither, and perish under capitalism. In agriculture, as in industry, capitalism improves the productive process only at the price of the martyrdom of the producers.
It is manifest that Marx deduced the inevitability of the transformation of capitalist society into socialism wholly and exclusively from the economic law of the movement of contemporary society. While the socialization of labor grows apace, those of the ruling class become more and more divorced from the process of production and degenerate into mere parasites. The law, “He whom the gods would destroy he first makes mad” applies to capitalism as well. The proletariat, on the other hand, increases in numbers and maturity. Facing ever-increasing misery and disaster, at the same time it amasses a body of Marxist knowledge that in its hand becomes a terrible weapon of revolution, and takes the lead in the struggle for the emancipation of all humanity. The proletarians become the grave diggers of capitalism. Capitalism forces the workers to connect theory with practice, to wander all over the world, to try their hand at all occupations, to find themselves reduced to a common level, to organize and discipline themselves as a class. All this makes them fit to build a new society. Capitalism hardens them, tests them, wipes out all their illusions, gives them arms, and compels them under penalty of extinction to go forward towards socialism.
The contest of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie assumes varied forms, growing continually richer in content and inevitably becoming a political struggle aiming at the conquest of State power by the proletariat. The proletariat, when it seizes power, dictates its will openly to the former ruling classes and establishes then the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. This is the political essence of Marxism. (*41)
In the struggle of the workers against their enemy, whatever victories they win in the beginning are but temporary; they seem to take one step forward only to be forced two steps backward. However, this is only apparent. Inevitably they grow stronger and better prepared. As the class struggle nears the decisive hours, even small sections of the ruling class can cut themselves adrift, see the hand-writing on the wall, and join the revolutionary proletariat.
No class gives up power without a struggle. The proletariat cannot hope to dispossess the capitalist from control over the means of production without violence and bloody struggles. The necessity for violent revolution arises not only because this is the sole means to overthrow the bourgeoisie which throttles the progress of society, but also because it is the only way by which mankind can purge itself of bourgeois corruption, can burn out the putrescence of the old order and prepare itself for the new.
“Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.” (*42) Nevertheless, at bottom the struggle of the working class must be an international struggle, cutting through all national boundaries, in which the slogan is raised, “Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain!”
“All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” (*43) “The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation.” (*44) The victory of the proletariat, therefore, is the end not only of wage slavery but of all class rule forever.
In all this, the proletariat of the city is aided by the uprisings of the colonies. The development of capitalism in the colonies operates to reduce into impotence the native ruling cliques which must resort to standing by their masters, the imperialists, and thus must become thoroughly exposed to the masses of toilers. At the same time, colonial development brings into being a many-headed modernized proletariat that stands on the shoulders of the past, and, skipping intermediate stages of history, marches to challenge the capitalist order. Under such circumstances there occurs one colonial revolution after another, weakening imperialism and hastening the proletarian revolt everywhere.
The Dictatorship of the Proletariat is a transition regime whose sole function is to destroy the ruling classes under capitalism throughout the world. It is, therefore, a regime fitted to meet the stress and strain of international civil war. When the exigencies of the civil war are over, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat will give way to socialism, which is the first and lower stage of communism. (*45)
The heavy fetters which the capitalist relations have placed on production having been broken, there occurs an immense increase in the productivity of labor, supplanting the old backward technique by perfected socialization. Taking over all the technique prepared by capitalism, socialism begins where capitalism ends.
Under socialism, there are no longer a market, commodities, values, prices, wages, in the old sense of the terms. The workers, through their representatives, guide their own destinies and organize themselves so that international production may be purposefully controlled and planfully managed. The allocation of material and workers to a particular industry is made, not according to the hectic fluctuations of the market, through bankruptcy and frenetic successes, but by social analysis of the needs of man, of the productivity of the workers, and of how much strength is needed to fulfill these needs. For the first time, society rises from the domain of necessity into the realm of freedom.
Socialism reunites industry and agriculture upon the basis of the fusion of science and collective labor. The old life of the agrarian population, with its unsociability and idiocy, is liquidated, as is the unhealthy concentration of enormous masses of population in huge cities. The population is entirely redistributed and a new synthesis is obtained. Immense factory farms are established where the agricultural workers can have all the advantages of the city, and industry is wisely decentralized, bringing into realization the dream of garden cities.
Under socialism only those who work shall eat, except those who are physically incapacitated. Each one receives according to what he puts in. Socialism being but a transition towards communism, it still contains certain vestiges of the capitalist past, since under socialism not full equality is obtained, but only a mechanical equality. Goods are no longer sold for a market, but are produced for use; the worker receives a labor note to obtain goods, nearly equivalent in labor cost to the cost of the goods which he himself produced. A surplus must remain in order to take care of the dependents of society and in order to make possible necessary replacements, and constantly to extend production. Thus, in no period does the worker get exactly the full amount of the goods which he has created.
There being no class struggles, there is now no need for a State, and the State withers away. The army and navy are not necessary. Police disappear. The basis for crime is gone, since labor is so productive that all the wants of life easily can be obtained. The criminal is treated as a diseased person and is given careful hospitalization until he becomes rehabilitated and made again into a social creature.
Of course, in the early stage of the new social order, inequalities still persist, since culture is not spread equally, since the gap between the unskilled laborer and the professional still remains, and each one receives only what he produces. Those born weak will not create so much as those born strong. With the abolition of private property in the means of production, there still remain different accumulations of wealth and culture as vestiges of the past.
Under socialism there is laid the basis for a new type of family life, the ending of the misery and despotism that mark familial relations. A complete emancipation of women and children occurs with an entirely new upbringing for the younger generation to prepare them for the highest stage of communism. In the home, as in politics, the government over persons is transformed into the administration of things.
In the higher stage of social life to which socialism is a transition and which we can call communism in the narrow sense of the term, the transformation is entirely complete. Society has become regenerated. No longer does the rule prevail, “to each according to what he does,” but rather the precept, “from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.” Thus the weak and the backward will be given more in order to allow them to develop at the same rate as the others. The gap between theory and practice between the unskilled laborer and the professional scientist becomes entirely closed. Education will have enabled all to be scientists, at the same time allowing all scientists to use their hands in manual labor.
The tremendously increased productivity of mankind will have reduced to a bare minimum the amount of time necessary for each to produce the wants of life. Elimination of all toil in work will enable the worker to become an artist, to find the greatest pleasure in the objective result of his labors, to fuse into one work and recreation, and to combine his constructive relations with nature with the construction and reconstruction of himself. If work becomes a pleasure, pleasure itself is work.
Under such highly stimulating conditions, mankind will have raised itself by a full head and will appear as supermen to the poor mortals of the capitalist world who have gone before.
1. The Correspondence of Marx and Engels. Marx to Weydemeyer, p. 57. (International Edition.)
2. See, F. A. Lange: History of Materialism.
3. Hobbes is a good example of aristocratic English materialism. As for French materialism, see essay by Karl Marx in Selected Essays, International Publishers.
4. Or, better, the beginning was the Absolute Idea; the end was Absolute Truth. To Hegel “The self-comprehension of Spirit as supreme reality, complete spiritual consciousness, is the necessary demand, the inevitable outcome, and the final consummation of the entire process of experience.” (G. W. F. Hegel: The Phenomenology Of Mind, p. 41, J. B. Baillie translation, translator’s introduction.)
5. See, F. Engels, Feuerbach, pp. 60 and following; compare J. Dietzgen: Phenomena stand to the thing-in-itself as 20 miles of road is to the road itself. See, J. Dietzgen: Positive Outcome of Philosophy, “The Nature of Human Brain Work.”
6. Contrast Hegel’s treatment of such concepts as “Being," "Beginning” and “Becoming.”
(See G. W. F. Hegel: Science of Logic, I, 85, 119, Muirhead edition.)
7. V. I. Lenin (Ulyanov): The Teachings of Karl Marx, pamphlet, p. 16.
8. See, F. Engels: Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, p. 94. (Kerr edition.)
9. See, K. Marx: German Ideology, English translation given in “The Marxist,” No. 3 (1926)
10. K. Marx: Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, pp. 11-12.
11. See, H. Simons: “Why William James ‘Stood By’ God,” The Open Court XLIII, 80, 81 (1929).
12. WM. James: The Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 517.
13. G. Santayana: Philosophical Opinion in America, p. 6.
14. Wm. James: The Will to Believe, p. 29.
15. WM. James: Pragmatism, p. 76. This book is dedicated by James to John Stuart Mill “from whom I first learned the pragmatic openness of mind and whom my fancy likes to picture as our leader were he alive today.”
16. WM. James: Pragmatism, p. 54.
17. The same, p. 45.
18. Wm. James: A Pluralistic Universe, p. 129.
19. See, C. E. Witter: Pragmatic Elements in Kant’s Philosophy.
20. See, for example, Wm. James: A Pluralistic Universe.
21. See, H. Bergson, Creative Evolution.
22. See, for example, Jeans: The Mysterious Universe; J. S. Haldane: The Sciences and Philosophy, who even goes so far as to criticize Christianity for its materialism in declaring God created the world, when matter does not exist; and, Eddington: The Nature of the Physical World. 23. See, L. S. Stebbing: Pragmatism and French Voluntarism.
24.Wm. James: Pragmatism, p. 107.
25. Professors conduct a bitter rivalry over nomenclature.
26. John Dewey: Philosophy and Civilization, p. 20.
27. J. Dewey: Individualism, Old and New, p. 103.
28. See, Wm. James: “The Moral Equivalent to War” in Memories and Studies, pp. 287-288.
29. See article by M. Baum in The Monist, Vol. 42 (1932).
30. See, E. Seligman: The Economic Interpretation of History; also R. Pound: Interpretations of Legal History.
31. Compare S. H. M. Chang: The Marxian Theory of the State, p. 41. and following.
32. See, for example, S. Hook: Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx.
33. See, K. Marx: Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, pp. 9-10. (Kerr edition.)
34. See, F. Engels: Landmarks of Scientific Socialism, pp. 147-148.
35. See, K. Marx: Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Appendix.
36. K. Marx: The Poverty of Philosophy, pp. 121-122 and following.
37. K. Marx: Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, Appendix, p. 291.
38. K. Marx: Capital II, 24-26.
39. In our exposition of Marx’s economic views we follow closely V. I. Lenin’s pamphlet, The Teachings of Karl Marx.
40. K. Marx: Capital, I, 837.
41. In their Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels point out that the written history of all civilized society is the history of class struggles. See, Communist Manifesto (Kerr Edition), p. 12.
42. The same, p. 28.
43. The same, p. 28.
44. The same, pp. 27-28.
45. See, V. I. Lenin (Ulyanov): State and Revolution.