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The New International, May 1943


Divine Right of the Hohenzollern

An Historical Article by Karl Marx


Archives of the Revolution, THE NEW INTERNATIONAL, Vol. IX No. 5, May 1943, pp. 154–155.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


May 5, 1943, was the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. The life and work of this titan of our age is fairly well known by millions. The political movement of the working class the world over, from its inception to this very day, is the embodiment of the teachings and practice of Marxism. Even the modern trade union movements have been, in one manner or another, affected by the doctrines of Marxism.

Hailed by the most down-trodden and exploited, and assailed by the powerful rules and lackeys of bourgeois society, betrayed by sycophants speaking in its name, Marxism is unscathed and remains the only vital force for social reconstruction. It offers the only program for the emancipation of the proletarians of all countries and of the colonial peoples cruelly exploited by the fiendish practices of capitalist imperialism. It points the only way out of the horrible contradictions of class society.

The critics of Marx have been many. In an endless stream they came and continue to arrive, each with a special critique, but all of them with a single refrain: Marxism is outlived; it is not scientific; Marx was unduly influenced by Hegel. His economic doctrines are abstractions incapable of being “proved” by the reality of capitalist production; and his politics are inapplicable in this modern era of capitalism. Aside from the fact that he was a “great man,” say these critics in the spirit of obeisance, everything he thought, wrote and projected as a practical program for the liberation of humanity was and remains wrong. For clinching proof that Marxism is an outlived doctrine, these gentlemen of futility point to the lamentable state of the world socialist movement, to the series of paralyzing defeats suffered by the international working class, to the degeneration of the workers’ state in Russia, and to the apparent strength of international capitalism.

The more recent critics of Marx are not innovators. For the most part, their criticisms are weary repetitions of the criticism made by Marx’s contemporaries, by the misleaders of the Second International, and the specific American critics, whose views in decades now gone forever were strengthened by the apparently endless upward development of American capitalism.

The revival of anti-Marxist criticism conies particularly at a time when the bankruptcy of capitalism as a world economic order is most visible. The war is not the expression of a revival of bourgeois strength. On the contrary, it is the most potent demonstration that the diseases of capitalism are incurable. But the extreme pressures of the war in the many guises it assumes is sufficient to bend the will and the thoughts of erstwhile intellectual supporters or fellow-travelers of the revolutionary socialist movement. Their conduct in these times, the “enthusiasm” they display in their newly-found admiration for the qualities of bourgeois democracy, are merely the reverse of the “enthusiasm” and admiration they held for Marxism when the economic crisis of capitalism more seemingly displayed its complete decay.

The only thing needed to bare the charlatanry of these intellectual soothsayers was the rise of “national unity” for the purposes of waging war. Gentlemen who in retrospect were able to diagnose the imperialist character of the war of 1914–18, became enthralled with the purposes of this war, at least with one side in the war. Completely sterile in their social and historical vision, they regard this war as one truly embracing, again on one side, the shibboleths of the last war.

No, they are not opposed to socialism – in the last analysis – but in order to reach this “common goal” it is necessary to support one side in the war, for on this side is to be found the gateway to socialism. Thus, that scholar in philosophy and notorious failure in politics, Sidney Hook, in presenting reasons why it is necessary to support, critically, of course, the democratic imperialists in the war, offers such a tediously prosaic and uninteresting example of the landlord and mortgagee faced with a home engulfed by flames. Shalt the tenant and the landlord fight about who shall put out the fire, or shall they unite and get to work! Hail the “lesser evil!”

Shades of a worn-out social-democratic ideal; an ideal so well carried out by the Second-International that it resulted in the temporary decapitation of a once powerful labor and political movement of socialism. The fact of the matter is that the landlord (the bourgeoisie) is incapable of putting out the real fire. They are theoretically capable of dousing a fire in a garbage pail or an outhouse, but they are incapable of destroying the cause of the flames (war) which burst continually upon the heads of the masses of the world with varying fury.

The only force capable of extinguishing the flames forever (and this is what matters) is the proletariat organized as a revolutionary socialist movement. There is no other force. There is no other way but the road of irreconcilable opposition to the landlord (bourgeois rule).

How Marx would have treated these “well-wishers” who travel the by-paths of the workers’ movement to spread their learned doctrines of confusion, disorientation and demobilization of the proletarian vanguard! He would have heaped upon them the scorn they so richly deserve, especially upon political scavengers whose accomplishments in the movements for socialism have been anything by admirable.

The point of the whole situation is that the opponents of Marxism have literally nothing to offer to the peoples of the world, nothing except conditional surrender (as though that were truly superior to abject surrender) to world imperialism. The need of the epoch is a more forthright application of the doctrines of Marxism, for it alone is capable of directing the way out of the impasse of bourgeois society with its crises and wars, its society of poverty and destruction!

There is no better time to recall the life and work of Marx and his co-worker, Fredrick Engels. It is impossible in these archives to summarize the life and deeds of these two founders of the modern socialist movement. But it is not necessary. The two selections which follow have historical interest for our generation. The Divine Right of the Hohenzollern presents Marx as an acute observer of history, a brilliant writer on a current event, and at the same time a trenchant critic of the then existing monarchical system in Europe. Mehring’s introduction to this article brings the affair up to date and acquaints the reader with the specific situation in Marx’s article.

In Mehring’s An Unusual Friendship, we have an extremely interesting portrait of Marx and Engels, their relationship and their way of work. Although Mehring’s biography of Marx is the classic study of this type, the book is now unavailable except in libraries. Even so, his article is “new” for the present generation of revolutionary socialists.

Both articles appeared in The Class Struggle, published in New York, the first in the months of May–June 1918, the second in May 1919.

by Franz Mehring

The Divine Right of the Hohenzollern
by Karl Marx

An Unusual Friendship
by Franz Mehring

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