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Henry Judd

Books in Review

Selected Pages

(November 1951)

From The New International, Vol. XVII No. 6, November–December 1951, pp. 366–367.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Karl Marx: Pages Choisies pour une Ethique Socialiste
by Maximilien Rubel
Marcel Rivière et Cie. 1948

The author of this selection of writings by Karl Marx has had in mind far more than the wish to present a new, up-to-date choice from the vast amount of material available. Despite suppression by the Russian government, and the multitude of other persecutions which Marx’s writings have known, a sufficient store exists for the individual who wishes to inform himself, and anthologies of Marx are readily available. What, then could have been the author’s purpose in publishing this extensive collection?

Recognizing that Marxist thought and interpretation suffers from not only the perversion placed upon it by the Stalinist movement, which has twisted it into a doctrine justifying one of the most criminal forms of human society ever known, but also the fact that many of those who still refer to themselves as Marxian socialists have forgotten (if they ever knew) much of the guiding element behind Marx’s thought – what we may call, in a banal phrase – the motivating spirit of Marxism, M. Rubel has undertaken the elementary task of attempting to present Marxism in the light of its creator’s original concepts, thoughts and purposes. He is interested, among other things, in showing the gulf which separates Marx from Stalinism, or any other totalitarian interpretation of the socialist movement; he is interested in showing, through Marx’s own texts, the profoundly democratic, humanist and “ethical” character of his thought; finally, he is interested in revealing the organic nature, the consistency, which Marx carried throughout his life, from his youth to his end.

Rubel explains his purposes in a long, introductory essay which we would criticize on the ground of its length, and tendency to cover too much territory in too superficial a manner. A polemic against the numerous schools of anti-Marxism can hardly be handled in such a way. He further explains the sources of his material, difficulties involved, etc. Even the more familiar texts should be re-read, if only to see how they fit into the true pattern of Marxism. In addition, there are many texts and selections which, at least to this reviewer, were quite unfamiliar. Some deal with such fascinating topics as alienated man, the nature of a political sect, the role of the Party (suggesting quite a different attitude than that of Lenin), the State, character of the socialist society, etc., etc. It is not our purpose here to describe these texts in detail, but only to take note of them for interested readers.

The author has shaped his book, divided under numerous headings, into five main sections. A Prolegomena which contains material, in the form of letters, etc., from the years 1835–1843, including philosophic notes written by Marx at the age of 16! Then follow sections on the Ethical-Materialist Concept of History; the Historic Significance of Capitalism; the Ethical Mission of the Proletariat and, finally, The Socialist City. The work seems to be most careful and scholarly; with references, sources, notes, etc. But Rubel has already made a reputation for himself as an outstanding authority and “Marxicologist.” The socialist movement owes much to him for undertaking this collection which provides the necessary basis for any effort to reevaluate the work of one of the greatest of all thinkers, and to restore its original sense and spirit. It is the most important work in Marxism since the end of the last war, and one can only regret that it exists, as yet, only in the French language.

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