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Topics: Economic Systems - 6. Socialist Economics
6. Socialist Economics
Karl Marx provided a fundamental critique of classical economics, based on the labour theory of value. Just as the term "mercantilism" had been coined and popularised by its critics, like Adam Smith, so was the term "capitalism" or Kapitalismus used by its dissidents, primarily Karl Marx. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was, and in many ways still remains the pre-eminent socialist economist. His combination of political theory represented in the Communist Manifesto and the dialectic theory of history inspired by Friedrich Hegel provided a revolutionary critique of capitalism as he saw it in the nineteenth century. The socialist movement that he joined had emerged in response to the conditions of people in the new industrial era and the classical economics which accompanied it. He wrote his magnum opus Das Kapital at the British Museum's library.
Robert Owen (1771-1858) was one industrialist who determined to improve the conditions of his workers. He bought textile mills in New Lanark, Scotland where he forbade children under ten to work, set the workday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and provided evening schools for children when they finished. Such meagre measures were still substantial improvements and his business remained solvent through higher productivity, though his pay rates were lower than the national average. He published his vision in The New View of Society (1816) during the passage of the Factory Acts, but his attempt from 1824 to begin a new utopian community in New Harmony, Indiana ended in failure. One of Marx's own influences was the French philosopher Pierre Proudhon. While deeply critical of capitalism, he also objected to those contemporary socialists who idolized association. In his book The Philosophy of Poverty Proudhon made a political economic attack on the classical subsistence theory of wages.(1846) In his book What is Property? (1840) he argue that property is theft, a different view than the classical Mill, who had written that "partial taxation is a mild form of robbery". However, towards the end of his life, Proudhon modified some of his earlier views. In the posthumously published Theory of Property, he argued that "property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State." Friedrich Engels, a published radical author, released a book titled The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 describing people's positions as "the most unconcealed pinnacle of social misery in our day." After Marx died, it was Engels that completed the second volume of Das Kapital from Marx's notes.
The first volume of Das Kapital was the only one Marx alone published. The second and third volumes were done with the help of Friedrich Engels and Karl Kautsky, who had become a friend of Engels, saw through the publication of volume four.
Marx had begun a tradition of economists who concentrated equally on political affairs. Also in Germany, Rosa Luxembourg was a member of the SPD, who later turned towards the Communist Party because of their stance against the First World War. Beatrice Webb in England was a socialist, who helped found both the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Fabian Society.
System of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control; also, the political movements aimed at putting that system into practice.
Because “social control” may be interpreted in widely diverging ways, socialism ranges from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal. The term was first used to describe the doctrines of Charles Fourier, Henri de Saint-Simon, and Robert Owen, who emphasized noncoercive communities of people working noncompetitively for the spiritual and physical well-being of all (see utopian socialism). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, seeing socialism as a transition state between capitalism and communism, appropriated what they found useful in socialist movements to develop their “scientific socialism.” In the 20th century, the Soviet Union was the principal model of strictly centralized socialism, while Sweden and Denmark were well-known for their noncommunist socialism. See also collectivism, communitarianism, social democracy.
Socialism is a social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.
This conviction puts socialism in opposition to capitalism, which is based on private ownership of the means of production and allows individual choices in a free market to determine how goods and services are distributed. Socialists complain that capitalism necessarily leads to unfair and exploitative concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of the relative few who emerge victorious from free-market competition—people who then use their wealth and power to reinforce their dominance in society. Because such people are rich, they may choose where and how to live, and their choices in turn limit the options of the poor. As a result, terms such as individual freedom and equality of opportunity may be meaningful for capitalists but can only ring hollow for working people, who must do the capitalists’ bidding if they are to survive. As socialists see it, true freedom and true equality require social control of the resources that provide the basis for prosperity in any society. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels made this point in Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) when they proclaimed that in a socialist society “the condition for the free development of each is the free development of all.”
This fundamental conviction nevertheless leaves room for socialists to disagree among themselves with regard to two key points. The first concerns the extent and the kind of property that society should own or control. Some socialists have thought that almost everything except personal items such as clothing should be public property; this is true, for example, of the society envisioned by the English humanist Sir Thomas More in his Utopia (1516). Other socialists, however, have been willing to accept or even welcome private ownership of farms, shops, and other small or medium-sized businesses.
The second disagreement concerns the way in which society is to exercise its control of property and other resources. In this case the main camps consist of loosely defined groups of centralists and decentralists. On the centralist side are socialists who want to invest public control of property in some central authority, such as the state—or the state under the guidance of a political party, as was the case in the Soviet Union. Those in the decentralist camp believe that decisions about the use of public property and resources should be made at the local, or lowest-possible, level by the people who will be most directly affected by those decisions. This conflict has persisted throughout the history of socialism as a political movement.
The origins of socialism as a political movement lie in the Industrial Revolution. Its intellectual roots, however, reach back almost as far as recorded thought—even as far as Moses, according to one history of the subject. Socialist or communist ideas certainly play an important part in the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, whose Republic depicts an austere society in which men and women of the “guardian” class share with each other not only their few material goods but also their spouses and children. Early Christian communities also practiced the sharing of goods and labour, a simple form of socialism subsequently followed in certain forms of monasticism. Several monastic orders continue these practices today.
Christianity and Platonism were combined in More’s Utopia, which apparently recommends communal ownership as a way of controlling the sins of pride, envy, and greed. Land and houses are common property on More’s imaginary island of Utopia, where everyone works for at least two years on the communal farms and people change houses every 10 years so that no one develops pride of possession. Money has been abolished, and people are free to take what they need from common storehouses. All the Utopians live simply, moreover, so that they are able to meet their needs with only a few hours of work a day, leaving the rest for leisure.
More’s Utopia is not so much a blueprint for a socialist society as it is a commentary on the failings he perceived in the supposedly Christian societies of his day. Religious and political turmoil, however, soon inspired others to try to put utopian ideas into practice. Common ownership was one of the aims of the brief Anabaptist regime in the Westphalian city of Münster during the Protestant Reformation, and several communist or socialist sects sprang up in England in the wake of the Civil Wars (1642–51). Chief among them was the Diggers, whose members claimed that God had created the world for people to share, not to divide and exploit for private profit. When they acted on this belief by digging and planting on land that was not legally theirs, they ran afoul of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, which forcibly disbanded them.
Whether utopian or practical, these early visions of socialism were largely agrarian. This remained true as late as the French Revolution, when the journalist François-Noël Babeuf and other radicals complained that the Revolution had failed to fulfill the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Adherence to “the precious principle of equality,” Babeuf argued, requires the abolition of private property and common enjoyment of the land and its fruits. Such beliefs led to his execution for conspiring to overthrow the government. The publicity that followed his trial and death, however, made him a hero to many in the 19th century who reacted against the emergence of industrial capitalism.
Conservatives who saw the settled life of agricultural society disrupted by the insistent demands of industrialism were as likely as their radical counterparts to be outraged by the self-interested competition of capitalists and the squalor of industrial cities. The radicals distinguished themselves, however, by their commitment to equality and their willingness to envision a future in which industrial power and capitalism were divorced. To their moral outrage at the conditions that were reducing many workers to pauperism, the radical critics of industrial capitalism added a faith in the power of people to put science and an understanding of history to work in the creation of a new and glorious society. The term socialist came into use about 1830 to describe these radicals, some of the most important of whom subsequently acquired the title of “utopian” socialists.
One of the first utopian socialists was the French aristocrat Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon. Saint-Simon did not call for public ownership of productive property, but he did advocate public control of property through central planning, in which scientists, industrialists, and engineers would anticipate social needs and direct the energies of society to meet them. Such a system would be more efficient than capitalism, according to Saint-Simon, and it even has the endorsement of history itself. Saint-Simon believed that history moves through a series of stages, each of which is marked by a particular arrangement of social classes and a set of dominant beliefs. Thus, feudalism, with its landed nobility and monotheistic religion, was giving way to industrialism, a complex form of society characterized by its reliance on science, reason, and the division of labour. In such circumstances, Saint-Simon argued, it makes sense to put the economic arrangements of society in the hands of its most knowledgeable and productive members, so that they may direct economic production for the benefit of all.
Another early socialist, Robert Owen, was himself an industrialist. Owen first attracted attention by operating textile mills in New Lanark, Scot., that were both highly profitable and, by the standards of the day, remarkably humane: no children under age 10 were employed. Owen’s fundamental belief was that human nature is not fixed but formed. If people are selfish, depraved, or vicious, it is because social conditions have made them so. Change the conditions, he argued, and people will change; teach them to live and work together in harmony, and they will do so. Thus, Owen set out in 1825 to establish a model of social organization, New Harmony, on land he had purchased in the U.S. state of Indiana. This was to be a self-sufficient, cooperative community in which property was commonly owned. New Harmony failed within a few years, taking most of Owen’s fortune with it, but he soon turned his attention to other efforts to promote social cooperation—trade unions and cooperative businesses, in particular.
Similar themes mark the writings of François-Marie-Charles Fourier, a French clerk whose imagination, if not his fortune, was as extravagant as Owen’s. Modern society breeds selfishness, deception, and other evils, Fourier charged, because institutions such as marriage, the male-dominated family, and the competitive market confine people to repetitive labour or a limited role in life and thus frustrate the need for variety. By setting people at odds with each other in the competition for profits, moreover, the market in particular frustrates the desire for harmony. Accordingly, Fourier envisioned a form of society that would be more in keeping with human needs and desires. Such a “phalanstery,” as he called it, would be a largely self-sufficient community of about 1,600 people organized according to the principle of “attractive labour,” which holds that people will work voluntarily and happily if their work engages their talents and interests. All tasks become tiresome at some point, however, so each member of the phalanstery would have several occupations, moving from one to another as his interest waned and waxed. Fourier left room for private investment in his utopian community, but every member was to share in ownership, and inequality of wealth, though permitted, was to be limited.
The ideas of common ownership, equality, and a simple life were taken up in the visionary novel Voyage en Icarie (1840; Travels in Icaria), by the French socialist Étienne Cabet. Icaria was to be a self-sufficient community, combining industry with farming, of about one million people. In practice, however, the Icaria that Cabet founded in Illinois in the 1850s was about the size of a Fourierist phalanstery, and dissension among the Icarians prompted Cabet to depart in 1856.
Other early socialists
Other socialists in France began to agitate and organize in the 1830s and ’40s; they included Louis Blanc, Louis-Auguste Blanqui, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Blanc, the author of L’Organisation du travail (1839; The Organization of Labour), promoted a scheme of state-financed but worker-controlled “social workshops” that would guarantee work for everyone and lead gradually to a socialist society. Blanqui, by contrast, was a revolutionary who spent more than 33 years in prison for his insurrectionary activities. Socialism cannot be achieved without the conquest of state power, he argued, and this conquest must be the work of a small group of conspirators. Once in power, the revolutionaries would form a temporary dictatorship that would confiscate the property of the wealthy and establish state control of major industries.
In Qu’est-ce que la propriété? (1840; What Is Property?), Proudhon memorably declared, “Property is theft!” This assertion was not quite as bold as it appears, however, since Proudhon had in mind not property in general but property that is worked by anyone other than its owner. In contrast to a society dominated by capitalists and absentee landlords, Proudhon’s ideal was a society in which everyone had an equal claim, either alone or as part of a small cooperative, to possess and use land and other resources as needed to make a living. Such a society would operate on the principle of mutualism, according to which individuals and groups would exchange products with one another on the basis of mutually satisfactory contracts. All this would be accomplished, ideally, without the interference of the state, for Proudhon was an anarchist who regarded the state as an essentially coercive institution. Yet his anarchism did not prevent him from urging Napoleon III to make free bank credit available to workers for the establishment of mutualist cooperatives—a proposal the emperor declined to adopt.
Despite their imagination and dedication to the cause of the workers, none of the early socialists met with the full approval of Karl Marx, who is unquestionably the most important theorist of socialism. In fact, Marx and his longtime friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels were largely responsible for attaching the label “utopian,” which they intended to be derogatory, to Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen, whose “fantastic pictures of future society” they contrasted to their own “scientific” approach to socialism. The path to socialism proceeds not through the establishment of model communities that set examples of harmonious cooperation to the world, according to Marx and Engels, but through the clash of social classes. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” they proclaimed in the Manifesto of the Communist Party. A scientific understanding of history shows that these struggles will culminate in the triumph of the working class and the establishment of socialism.
According to Engels, the basic elements of Marx’s theory are to be found in German philosophy, French socialism, and British economics. Of these, German philosophy was surely the formative influence on Marx’s thinking. Born in Trier in the German Rhineland, Marx was a philosophy student at the University of Berlin when the idealism of G.W.F. Hegel dominated German philosophy. Hegel maintained that history is the story of the unfolding or realization of “spirit”—a process that requires struggle, agony, and the overcoming of obstacles to the attainment of self-knowledge. Just as individual persons cannot realize their potential—especially the potential for freedom—if they remain forever in a childish or adolescent condition, so spirit must develop throughout history in a dialectical fashion. That is, individuals and even nations are characters in a drama that proceeds through the clash of opposing ideas and interests to a greater self-awareness and appreciation of freedom. Slavery, for example, was long taken for granted as a natural and acceptable practice, but the slave’s struggle to be recognized as a person was bringing an end to slavery as master and slave came to recognize their common humanity—and thus to liberate themselves, and spirit, from a false sense of the master’s superiority.
Like Hegel, Marx understood history as the story of human labour and struggle. However, whereas for Hegel history was the story of spirit’s self-realization through human conflict, for Marx it was the story of struggles between classes over material or economic interests and resources. In place of Hegel’s philosophical idealism, in other words, Marx developed a materialist or economic theory of history. Before people can do anything else, he held, they must first produce what they need to survive, which is to say that they are subject to necessity. Freedom for Marx is largely a matter of overcoming necessity. Necessity compels people to labour so that they may survive, and only those who are free from this compulsion will be free to develop their talents and potential. This is why, throughout history, freedom has usually been restricted to members of the ruling class, who use their control of the land and other means of production to exploit the labour of the poor and subservient. The masters in slaveholding societies, the landowning aristocracy in feudal times, and the bourgeoisie who control the wealth in capitalist societies have all enjoyed various degrees of freedom, but they have done so at the expense of the slaves, serfs, and industrial workers, or proletarians, who have provided the necessary labour.
For Marx, capitalism is both a progressive force in history and an exploitative system that alienates capitalists and workers alike from their true humanity. It is progressive because it has made possible the industrial transformation of the world, thereby unleashing the productive power to free everyone from necessity. Yet it is exploitative in that capitalism condemns the proletarians, who own nothing but their labour power, to lives of grinding labour while enabling the capitalists to reap the profits. This is a volatile situation, according to Marx, and its inevitable result will be a war that will end all class divisions. Under the pressure of depressions, recessions, and competition for jobs, the workers will become conscious that they form a class, the proletariat, that is oppressed and exploited by their class enemy, the bourgeoisie. Armed with this awareness, they will overthrow the bourgeoisie in a series of spontaneous uprisings, seizing control of factories, mines, railroads, and other means of production, until they have gained control of the government and converted it into a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. Under socialism or communism—Marx and Engels drew no clear or consistent distinction between the two—government itself will eventually wither away as people gradually lose the selfish attitudes inculcated by private ownership of the means of production. Freed from necessity and exploitation, people will finally live in a true community that gives “each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions.”
Marx maintained that the revolution by which socialism would be achieved was ordained by the logic of capitalism itself, as the capitalists’ competition for profits led them to create their own “grave diggers” in the proletariat. Even the role of the revolutionary, such as Marx, was confined to that of “midwife,” for revolutionaries could do no more than speed along the inevitable revolution and ease its birth pangs.
This, at least, was Marx’s more or less “official” doctrine. In his writings and political activities, however, he added several qualifications. He acknowledged, for example, that socialism might supplant capitalism peacefully in England, the United States, and other countries where the proletariat was gaining the franchise; he also said that it might be possible for a semifeudal country such as Russia to become socialist without first passing through capitalist industrialism. Moreover, Marx played an important part in the International Working Men’s Association, or First International, formed in 1864 by a group of labour leaders who were neither exclusively revolutionary nor even entirely committed to socialism. In short, Marx was not the inflexible economic determinist he is sometimes taken to be. But he was convinced that history was on the side of socialism and that the equal development of all people to be achieved under socialism would be the fulfillment of history.
Socialism after Marx
By the time of Marx’s death in 1883, many socialists had begun to call themselves “Marxists.” His influence was particularly strong within the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which was formed in 1875 by the merger of a Marxist party and a party created by Marx’s German rival, Ferdinand Lassalle. According to Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (1891), Lassalle had “conceived the workers’ movement from the narrowest national standpoint”; that is, Lassalle had concentrated on converting Germany to socialism, whereas Marx thought that socialism had to be an international movement. Even worse, Lassalle and his followers had sought to gain control of the state through elections in hopes of using “state aid” to establish producers’ cooperatives. Marx’s belief in the revolutionary transformation of society soon prevailed in the SPD, but his controversy with Lassalle and the Lassalleans testifies to the existence of other important currents in socialist thought in the late 19th century.
Socialism after Marx » Christian socialism
Caught up in these currents were men and women who seemed to agree on little but their condemnation of capitalism. Many prominent socialists were militant atheists, for example, but others expressly connected socialism to religion. Even the rationalist Saint-Simon had called for a “new Christianity” that would join Christian social teachings with modern science and industry to create a society that would satisfy basic human needs. His followers attempted to put this idea into practice, giving rise to a Saint-Simonian sect sometimes called “the religion of the engineers.” This combination of an appeal to universal brotherhood and a faith in enlightened management also animated the best-selling utopian novel Looking Backward (1888), by the American journalist Edward Bellamy. In England the Anglican clergymen Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley initiated a Christian socialist movement at the end of the 1840s on the grounds that the competitive individualism of laissez-faire capitalism was incompatible with the spirit of Christianity. Similar concerns inspired socialists in other countries, including the Russian novelist, anarchist, and pacifist Leo Tolstoy.
Although neither Christianity nor any other religion was a dominant force within socialist theory or politics, the connection between Christianity and socialism persisted through the 20th century. One manifestation of this connection was liberation theology—sometimes characterized as an attempt to marry Marx and Jesus—which emerged among Roman Catholic theologians in Latin America in the 1960s. Another, perhaps more modest, manifestation is the Christian Socialist Movement in Britain, which affiliates itself with the British Labour Party. Several members of Parliament have belonged to the Christian Socialist Movement, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the son of a Methodist minister, and his predecessor, Tony Blair, an Anglican who converted to Catholicism not long after he left office.
Socialism after Marx » Anarcho-communism
Neither Tolstoy’s religion nor his pacifism was shared by the earlier flamboyant Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who held that religion, capitalism, and the state are forms of oppression that must be smashed if people are ever to be free. As he stated in an early essay, The Reaction in Germany (1842), “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.” This belief led Bakunin into one uprising or conspiracy after another throughout his life. It also led him into a controversy with Marx that contributed to disintegration of the International Working Men’s Association in the 1870s. As a communist, Bakunin shared Marx’s vision of a classless, stateless community in which the means of production would be under community control; as an anarchist, however, he vehemently rejected Marx’s claim that the dictatorship of the proletariat was a necessary step on the way to communism. To the contrary, Bakunin argued, the dictatorship of the proletariat threatened to become even more oppressive than the bourgeois state, which at least had a militant and organized working class to check its growth.
Anarcho-communism took less-extreme forms in the hands of two later Russian émigrés, Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman. Kropotkin used science and history to try to demonstrate that anarchism is not foolishly optimistic. In Mutual Aid (1897) he drew on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to argue that, contrary to popular notions of social Darwinism, the groups that prospered in evolutionary terms were those that practiced cooperation. Goldman, who came to prominence as “Red Emma” in the United States, campaigned against religion, capitalism, the state, and marriage, which she condemned in Marriage and Love (1910) as an institution that “makes a parasite of woman, an absolute dependent.” She also served a prison term for advocating birth control.
Socialism after Marx » Fabian socialism
As the anarcho-communists argued for a form of socialism so decentralized that it required the abolition of the state, a milder and markedly centralist version of socialism, Fabianism, emerged in Britain. Fabian Socialism was so called because the members of the Fabian Society admired the tactics of the Roman general Fabius Cunctator (Fabius the Delayer), who avoided pitched battles and gradually wore down Hannibal’s forces. Instead of revolution, the Fabians favoured “gradualism” as the way to bring about socialism. Their notion of socialism, like Saint-Simon’s, entailed social control of property through an effectively and impartially administered state—a government of enlightened experts. The Fabians themselves were mostly middle-class intellectuals—including George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, and H.G. Wells—who thought that persuasion and education were more likely to lead to socialism, however gradually, than violent class warfare. Rather than form their own political party or work through trade unions, moreover, the Fabians aimed at gaining influence within existing parties. They eventually exercised considerable influence within Britain’s Labour Party, though they had little to do with its formation in the early 1900s.
Socialism after Marx » Syndicalism
Near the anarcho-communists on the decentralist side of socialism were the syndicalists. Inspired in part by Proudhon’s ideas, syndicalism developed at the end of the 19th century out of the French trade-union movement—syndicat being the French word for trade union. It was a significant force in Italy and Spain in the early 20th century until it was crushed by the fascist regimes in those countries. In the United States, syndicalism appeared in the guise of the Industrial Workers of the World, or “Wobblies,” founded in 1905.
The hallmarks of syndicalism were workers’ control and “direct action.” Syndicalists such as Fernand Pelloutier distrusted both the state, which they regarded as an agent of capitalism, and political parties, which they thought were incapable of achieving radical change. Their aim was to replace capitalism and the state with a loose federation of local workers’ groups, which they meant to bring about through direct action—especially a general strike of workers that would bring down the government as it brought the economy to a halt. Georges Sorel elaborated on this idea in his Réflexions sur la violence (1908; Reflections on Violence), in which he treated the general strike not as the inevitable result of social developments but as a “myth” that could lead to the overthrow of capitalism if only enough people could be inspired to act on it.
Socialism after Marx » Guild socialism
Related to syndicalism but nearer to Fabianism in its reformist tactics, Guild Socialism was an English movement that attracted a modest following in the first two decades of the 20th century. Inspired by the medieval guild, an association of craftsmen who determined their own working conditions and activities, theorists such as Samuel G. Hobson and G.D.H. Cole advocated the public ownership of industries and their organization into guilds, each of which would be under the democratic control of its trade union. The role of the state was less clear: some guild socialists envisioned it as a coordinator of the guilds’ activities, while others held that its functions should be limited to protection or policing. In general, however, the guild socialists were less inclined to invest power in the state than were their Fabian compatriots.
Revisionism and revolution
In 1889, on the centenary of the French Revolution, a Second International emerged from two rival socialist conventions in Paris. Intended as a revival of the International Working Men’s Association, this new organization was dominated by Marxists in general and the SPD in particular. By this time the SPD was both officially Marxist and a force to be reckoned with in German politics. Despite Otto von Bismarck’s attempts to suppress it, Wilhelm Liebknecht, August Bebel, and other leaders had transformed the SPD into a mass party. But its considerable success—the SPD won almost one-fifth of the votes cast in the parliamentary elections of 1890, for example—raised the question of whether socialism might be achieved through the ballot box rather than through revolution. The “orthodox” position, as developed by the SPD’s chief theorist, Karl Kautsky, tried to reconcile the SPD’s electoral practice with Marx’s revolutionary doctrine. But others had begun to think that it would be better to recognize that circumstances had changed and to revise Marx’s doctrine accordingly.
Foremost among the “revisionists” was Eduard Bernstein, an SPD leader who became an associate of Engels while living in England to escape Bismarck’s harassment. Bernstein was also exposed to the Fabians while in England, and their example encouraged him to question aspects of Marx’s theory. Like others, Bernstein observed that the living and working conditions of the proletariat were not growing more desperate, as Marx had predicted, but were on the contrary improving, largely as a result of trade-union activity and the extension of the franchise. This led him to conclude that the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism was neither necessary nor desirable. A gradual, peaceful transformation to socialism, he argued in Evolutionary Socialism (1899), would be safer than the revolutionary route, with its dangerously vague and potentially tyrannical dictatorship of the proletariat.
Bernstein’s writings drew a swift and hostile reaction from his SPD comrades, Kautsky in particular, and from revolutionary Marxists elsewhere. After several years of polemical war between revisionists and orthodox Marxists, the revisionists eventually triumphed within the SPD, which gradually abandoned its revolutionary pretenses. Nevertheless, some stalwarts, such as Rosa Luxemburg, remained faithful to the spirit of revolutionary Marxism.
Among the remaining orthodox Marxists was the Russian revolutionary V.I. Ulyanov, better known by his pseudonym Lenin. As the leader of the Bolshevik, or “majority,” faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, Lenin himself had been accused of straying from the Marxist path. The problem for Russian Marxists was that Russia in the late 19th century remained a semifeudal country with barely the beginnings of industrial capitalism. To be sure, Marx had allowed that it might be possible for a country such as Russia to move directly from feudalism to socialism, but the standard position among Marxists was that capitalism was a necessary stage of economic and historical development; otherwise, there would be neither the productive power to overcome necessity nor the revolutionary proletariat to win freedom for all as it emancipated itself from capitalist exploitation.
This had been the standard position among Russian Marxists too, but it was not Lenin’s. Lenin had little faith in the revolutionary potential of the proletariat, arguing in What Is to Be Done? (1902) that the workers, left to themselves, would fight only for better wages and working conditions; they therefore needed to be educated, enlightened, and led to revolution by a “vanguard” party of professional revolutionaries. Moreover, the authoritarian nature of the Russian government required that the vanguard party be conspiratorial, disciplined, and elitist. Lenin’s Russian-Marxist rivals disputed these points, but his manipulation of the vote at a party congress enabled him to label them the Menshevik, or “minority,” faction.
Lenin’s commitment to revolution thus put him at odds with those who advocated a revised, evolutionary Marxism. In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), Lenin argued against the revisionists, stating that the improvement in conditions enjoyed by the proletariat of Europe and the United States was a kind of bribe made possible by the “superprofits” that their countries’ capitalists were extracting from the labour and resources of the poorer parts of the world. But imperialism would also be the last stage of capitalism, for it was bound to expose the contradictions of capitalism not only in the industrial countries but also in the countries exploited by the imperialistic powers—hence the possibility of revolution in a country that had not itself gone through capitalism.
Lenin wrote Imperialism during World War I, which proved to be a watershed in the history of socialism. In the years before war broke out in August 1914, most European socialists had held that the only war the proletariat should fight was the class war against the bourgeoisie. When the war began, however, socialists were forced to choose between international socialism and their countries, and they generally chose the latter—though there were notable exceptions, Luxemburg and Lenin among them. Once the SPD’s contingent in the Reichstag voted to issue war credits, socialists in other countries fell into line behind their own governments. The Second International lingered for a time, but to no effective purpose.
World War I also inflicted severe hardships on the Russian people, thereby contributing to the collapse of the tsarist regime and creating an opportunity for revolution, which the Bolsheviks seized in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Lenin’s standing among revolutionary Marxists soared, though Luxemburg and others deplored the way in which the dictatorship of the proletariat was becoming a dictatorship of the All-Russian Communist Party, as the Bolsheviks named themselves in 1918. Still, the communists’ victory gave Luxemburg and other revolutionaries hope that the Russian example would inspire socialist revolutions elsewhere.
For his part, Lenin feared that his regime could not survive without the aid of friendly—and therefore socialist—neighbours. Accordingly, he called a meeting in Moscow to establish a Third International, or Communist International (Comintern). The response from other countries was tepid, and, by the time the delegates convened in March 1919, the prospects for a new international had been further dimmed by the failure of the Spartacus Revolt of the new Communist Party of Germany—a failure that claimed the lives of Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (the son of Wilhelm Liebknecht), who were summarily executed by counterrevolutionary forces in 1919 (see also Spartacus League). Lenin pressed on with the formation of the Comintern, but it was soon apparent that it was an agent of the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (formally created in 1922) and not of international socialism as such. Indeed, by this time a fissure had clearly developed between communists on the one hand and socialists, or social democrats, on the other.
Socialism in the era of world war
The division took institutional form as communist parties emerged in one country after another to challenge existing socialist parties and their common enemy, capitalism. In general, the communists were revolutionary Marxists who adhered to what came to be called Marxism-Leninism. Their socialist rivals—variously known as socialists, social democrats, and labourites—were a more diverse group, including both revisionists and non-Marxists, but they were united in their commitment to peaceful, democratic tactics. They were also less likely than the communists to claim that history was moving inexorably toward the demise of capitalism and more likely to appeal to ethical considerations. In England, for example, the reformer Richard Henry Tawney found a receptive audience within the Labour Party when he rested the case for socialism on its promotion of fellowship, the dignity of work, and the equal worth of all members of society.
On the communist side, the standard was set by the increasingly totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. Lenin’s death in 1924 led to a power struggle between Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Stalin not only won the struggle but eventually ordered the deaths of Trotsky and other rivals—and of millions more who opposed or resisted his policies. While professing to be a revolutionary in the Marxist-Leninist tradition, Stalin concentrated his efforts on building “socialism in one country,” largely through a program of forced collectivization and industrialization.
There were occasional deviations from the Marxist-Leninist line, as in the case of Antonio Gramsci, who helped to found the Italian Communist Party in 1921. Gramsci resisted the tendency to reduce Marx’s theory to economic terms, focusing instead on the way in which the “hegemony” of the ruling classes over schools, churches, the media, and other cultural institutions encouraged workers to acquiesce in their exploitation. But Gramsci’s attempt to convince other communists of the revolutionary potential of cultural transformation was restricted by his imprisonment, from 1926 until shortly before his death in 1937, by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.
Fascist oppression, in fact, was a major problem for communists and socialists alike, not only in Italy but subsequently in Spain under Francisco Franco and in Germany under Adolf Hitler. Socialist parties had drawn enough votes in Germany, Britain, and France to participate in or even to lead coalition governments in the 1920s and ’30s, and in Sweden the Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party won control of the government in 1932 with a promise to make their country into a “people’s home” based on “equality, concern, cooperation, and helpfulness.” Wherever fascists took power, however, communists and socialists were among the first to be suppressed.
Nor were there any signal victories for socialism outside Europe in the years between the world wars. Although Eugene V. Debs won nearly one million votes in the U.S. presidential election of 1920, his showing represented less than 4 percent of the votes cast and remains the electoral high point for American socialists. In India, Mahatma Gandhi attracted a mass following, but his popularity owed more to his campaign for independence from Britain than to the traces of socialism in his philosophy.
In China another mass movement for national liberation developed at this time, though it was explicitly communist. Its leader, Mao Zedong, helped to found the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921. After a disastrous beginning—the Comintern had pushed the Chinese communists into an alliance with the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who attacked the communists as soon as he thought it expedient—Mao retreated to the fields and hills to rebuild the CCP. While remaining faithful to Lenin’s notion of the communist party as the revolutionary vanguard, Mao proceeded to lead a guerilla movement that established its power base among the peasantry, which he regarded as a rural proletariat. In Mao’s hands, moreover, the concept of nation largely replaced that of class, with China represented as a poor and oppressed proletarian nation that had to rise against the oppressing imperialist nations and their bourgeois underlings.
World War II forged an uneasy alliance between communists and socialists—and between liberals and conservatives—in their common struggle against fascism. The alliance soon disintegrated, however, as the Soviet Union established communist regimes in the eastern European countries it had occupied at the end of the war. The Cold War that ensued deepened the fissure between communists and other socialists, the latter seeing themselves as democrats opposed to the one-party rule of the Soviet Union and its satellites. The Labour Party, for example, won a parliamentary majority in the British elections of 1945 and subsequently established a national health care system and public control of major industries and utilities; when the party lost its majority in 1951, it peacefully relinquished the offices of government to the victorious Conservatives.
The communists also claimed to be democrats, but their notion of “people’s democracy” rested on the belief that the people were not yet capable of governing themselves. Thus, Mao declared, after Chiang Kai-shek’s forces were driven from mainland China in 1949, that the new People’s Republic of China was to be a “people’s democratic dictatorship”; that is, the CCP would rule in the interests of the people by suppressing their enemies and building socialism. Freedom of expression and political competition were bourgeois, counterrevolutionary ideas. This became the justification for one-party rule by other communist regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the socialist parties of Europe were modifying their positions and enjoying frequent electoral success. The Scandinavian socialists set the example of “mixed economies” that combined largely private ownership with government direction of the economy and substantial welfare programs, and other socialist parties followed suit. Even the SPD, in its Bad Godesberg program of 1959, dropped its Marxist pretenses and committed itself to a “social market economy” involving “as much competition as possible—as much planning as necessary.” Although some welcomed this blurring of boundaries between socialism and welfare-state liberalism as a sign of “the end of ideology,” the more radical student left of the 1960s complained that there was little choice between capitalism, the “obsolete communism” of the Marxist-Leninists, and the bureaucratic socialism of western Europe.
Elsewhere, the withdrawal of European colonial powers from Africa and the Middle East created opportunities for new forms of socialism. Terms such as African socialism and Arab socialism were frequently invoked in the 1950s and ’60s, partly because the old colonial powers were identified with capitalist imperialism. In practice, these new kinds of socialism typically combined appeals to indigenous traditions, such as communal land ownership, with the Marxist-Leninist model of one-party rule for the purpose of rapid modernization. In Tanzania, for example, Julius Nyerere developed an egalitarian program of ujamaa (Swahili: “familyhood”) that collectivized village farmlands and attempted, unsuccessfully, to achieve economic self-sufficiency—all under the guidance of a one-party state.
In Asia, by contrast, no distinctive form of socialism emerged. Aside from the communist regimes, Japan was the only country in which a socialist party gained a sizable and enduring following, to the point of occasionally controlling the government or participating in a governing coalition.
Nor has there been a peculiarly Latin American contribution to socialist theory. The regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba tended to follow the Marxist-Leninist path in the 1950s and ’60s, though with increasing moderation in later years, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Liberation theology called on Christians to give priority to the needs of the poor, but it has not developed an explicitly socialist program. Perhaps the most distinctively Latin American expression of socialist impulses was Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez’s call for a “Bolivarian Revolution.” Apart from the appeal to Simón Bolívar’s reputation as a liberator, however, Chávez did not establish a connection between socialism and Bolívar’s thoughts and deeds.
In many ways, however, the attempt by Salvador Allende to unite Marxists and other reformers in a socialist reconstruction of Chile is most representative of the direction that Latin American socialists have taken since the late 20th century. Elected by a plurality vote in a three-way election in 1970, Allende tried to nationalize foreign corporations and redistribute land and wealth to the poor. These efforts provoked domestic and foreign opposition, which led, in the midst of economic turmoil, to a military coup and Allende’s death—though whether by his or someone else’s hand is not clear.
Several socialist (or socialist-leaning) leaders have followed Allende’s example in winning election to office in Latin American countries. Chávez led the way in 1999 and was followed in the early 21st century by successful electoral campaigns by self-proclaimed socialist or distinctly left-of-centre leaders in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia. Although it would be too much to say that these leaders have shared a common program, they have tended to support increased welfare provision for the poor, nationalization of some foreign corporations, redistribution of land from large landholders to peasants, and resistance to the “neoliberal” policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Socialism after communism
The most important development in the recent history of socialism is undoubtedly the collapse of communism, first in eastern Europe in 1989 and then in the Soviet Union itself in 1991. Communist parties continued to exist, of course, and some of them remained in power—e.g., in North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and China. But by the late 20th century little of Marxism remained in the policies of the CCP, as economic reforms increasingly favoured private ownership of productive property and encouraged market competition. What did remain was the Leninist insistence on one-party rule.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts at glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”), initiated after he became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, signaled a move away from one-party rule and the inefficient command economy, in which wages, prices, production, and distribution were determined by bureaucrats. Gorbachev intended perestroika to increase productivity and raise living standards without going far in the direction of a market economy. But glasnost created political opportunities for those who were unhappy with communism, as the downfall of the eastern European regimes indicated; ultimately it prompted a reaction—an attempted coup by a group of hard-line communists in 1991—that failed so swiftly and spectacularly that the Soviet Union itself disintegrated. By the end of the 20th century, communism, though not quite dead, certainly seemed to be dying.
Beginning in the late 20th century, the advent of what many considered a “postindustrial” economy, in which knowledge and information count for more than labour and material production, raised doubts about the relevance of socialism, which was in theory and in practice primarily a response to industrial capitalism. This conviction led to much talk of a “third way”—that is, a centre-left position that would preserve the socialist commitment to equality and welfare while abandoning class-based politics and public ownership of the means of production. In 1995 the British Labour Party under Tony Blair embraced the third way by forsaking its long-standing commitment to the nationalization of basic industries; in general elections two years later, the Labour Party won a landslide victory, and Blair served as prime minister for the next 10 years. Other heads of government who professed the third way in the 1990s included Pres. Bill Clinton of the United States, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany, and Prime Minister Wim Kok of The Netherlands.
Critics on the left complained that the third way reduced equality to an equal chance to compete in economies in which the rich were growing ever richer and the poor were increasingly disadvantaged. Such a position, they insisted, is hardly socialist. But even these critics seldom called for a return to a centralist form of socialism; instead, they were more likely to advocate a decentralist form of market socialism. As the name implies, market socialism blends elements of a free-market economy with social ownership and control of property. Proposals have varied, but the basic idea is that businesses will compete for profits, as in capitalism, but they will be owned, or at least governed, by those who work in them. The workers in every business will choose their supervisors, control their working conditions, set the prices of their products, and decide how to share the profits—or to cope with the losses—of their enterprise. Market socialism is thus a form of “workplace democracy,” or “economic democracy,” that enables workers not only to vote in political contests but also to have a say in the economic decisions that affect them daily in their work.
If socialism has a future, it may well lie in some form of market socialism. Market socialism promises neither the utopia of the early socialists nor the brave new world that Marx and his followers envisioned as the fulfillment of history. But it does promise to promote cooperation and solidarity rather than competitive individualism, and it aims at reducing, if not eliminating, the class divisions that foster exploitation and alienation. In these respects, this modest, decentralized version of socialism continues to sound the themes that have long inspired people to take up the cause of socialism. Even in Latin America and other places where socialists continue to call for direct, public ownership of natural resources and major industries, they nevertheless leave room for private competition for profits in the marketplace. In one way or another, socialists now seem more interested in bringing the free market under control than in eliminating it completely.
Terence BallRichard Dagger / Encyclopedia Britannica
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
by Frederick Engels
[The Development of Utopian Socialism]
Modern Socialism is, in its essence, the direct product of the recognition, on the one hand, of the class antagonisms existing in the society of today between proprietors and non-proprietors, between capitalists and wage-workers; on the other hand, of the anarchy existing in production. But, in its theoretical form, modern Socialism originally appears ostensibly as a more logical extension of the principles laid down by the great French philosophers of the 18th century. Like every new theory, modern Socialism had, at first, to connect itself with the intellectual stock-in-trade ready to its hand, however deeply its roots lay in material economic facts.
The great men, who in France prepared men’s minds for the coming revolution, were themselves extreme revolutionists. They recognized no external authority of any kind whatever. Religion, natural science, society, political institutions – everything was subjected to the most unsparing criticism: everything must justify its existence before the judgment-seat of reason or give up existence. Reason became the sole measure of everything. It was the time when, as Hegel says, the world stood upon its head ; first in the sense that the human head, and the principles arrived at by its thought, claimed to be the basis of all human action and association; but by and by, also, in the wider sense that the reality which was in contradiction to these principles had, in fact, to be turned upside down. Every form of society and government then existing, every old traditional notion, was flung into the lumber-room as irrational; the world had hitherto allowed itself to be led solely by prejudices; everything in the past deserved only pity and contempt. Now, for the first time, appeared the light of day, the kingdom of reason; henceforth superstition, injustice, privilege, oppression, were to be superseded by eternal truth, eternal Right, equality based on Nature and the inalienable rights of man.
We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realization in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, the Contrat Social of Rousseau, came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic. The great thinkers of the 18th century could, no more than their predecessors, go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch.
But, side by side with the antagonisms of the feudal nobility and the burghers, who claimed to represent all the rest of society, was the general antagonism of exploiters and exploited, of rich idlers and poor workers. It was this very circumstance that made it possible for the representatives of the bourgeoisie to put themselves forward as representing not one special class, but the whole of suffering humanity. Still further. From its origin the bourgeoisie was saddled with its antithesis: capitalists cannot exist without wage-workers, and, in the same proportion as the mediaeval burgher of the guild developed into the modern bourgeois, the guild journeyman and the day-laborer, outside the guilds, developed into the proletarian. And although, upon the whole, the bourgeoisie, in their struggle with the nobility, could claim to represent at the same time the interests of the different working-classes of that period, yet in every great bourgeois movement there were independent outbursts of that class which was the forerunner, more or less developed, of the modern proletariat. For example, at the time of the German Reformation and the Peasants’ War, the Anabaptists and Thomas Münzer; in the great English Revolution, the Levellers; in the great French Revolution, Babeuf.
These were theoretical enunciations, corresponding with these revolutionary uprisings of a class not yet developed; in the 16th and 17th centuries, Utopian pictures of ideal social conditions; in the 18th century, actual communistic theories (Morelly and Mably). The demand for equality was no longer limited to political rights; it was extended also to the social conditions of individuals. It was not simply class privileges that were to be abolished, but class distinctions themselves. A Communism, ascetic, denouncing all the pleasures of life, Spartan, was the first form of the new teaching. Then came the three great Utopians: Saint-Simon, to whom the middle-class movement, side by side with the proletarian, still had a certain significance; Fourier; and Owen, who in the country where capitalist production was most developed, and under the influence of the antagonisms begotten of this, worked out his proposals for the removal of class distinction systematically and in direct relation to French materialism.
One thing is common to all three. Not one of them appears as a representative of the interests of that proletariat which historical development had, in the meantime, produced. Like the French philosophers, they do not claim to emancipate a particular class to begin with, but all humanity at once. Like them, they wish to bring in the kingdom of reason and eternal justice, but this kingdom, as they see it, is as far as Heaven from Earth, from that of the French philosophers.
For, to our three social reformers, the bourgeois world, based upon the principles of these philosophers, is quite as irrational and unjust, and, therefore, finds its way to the dust-hole quite as readily as feudalism and all the earlier stages of society. If pure reason and justice have not, hitherto, ruled the world, this has been the case only because men have not rightly understood them. What was wanted was the individual man of genius, who has now arisen and who understands the truth. That he has now arisen, that the truth has now been clearly understood, is not an inevitable event, following of necessity in the chains of historical development, but a mere happy accident. He might just as well have been born 500 years earlier, and might then have spared humanity 500 years of error, strife, and suffering.
We saw how the French philosophers of the 18th century, the forerunners of the Revolution, appealed to reason as the sole judge of all that is. A rational government, rational society, were to be founded; everything that ran counter to eternal reason was to be remorselessly done away with. We saw also that this eternal reason was in reality nothing but the idealized understanding of the 18th century citizen, just then evolving into the bourgeois. The French Revolution had realized this rational society and government.
But the new order of things, rational enough as compared with earlier conditions, turned out to be by no means absolutely rational. The state based upon reason completely collapsed. Rousseau’s Contrat Social had found its realization in the Reign of Terror, from which the bourgeoisie, who had lost confidence in their own political capacity, had taken refuge first in the corruption of the Directorate, and, finally, under the wing of the Napoleonic despotism. The promised eternal peace was turned into an endless war of conquest. The society based upon reason had fared no better. The antagonism between rich and poor, instead of dissolving into general prosperity, had become intensified by the removal of the guild and other privileges, which had to some extent bridged it over, and by the removal of the charitable institutions of the Church. The “freedom of property” from feudal fetters, now veritably accomplished, turned out to be, for the small capitalists and small proprietors, the freedom to sell their small property, crushed under the overmastering competition of the large capitalists and landlords, to these great lords, and thus, as far as the small capitalists and peasant proprietors were concerned, became “freedom from property”. The development of industry upon a capitalistic basis made poverty and misery of the working masses conditions of existence of society. Cash payment became more and more, in Carlyle’s phrase [See Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, London 1843], the sole nexus between man and man. The number of crimes increased from year to year. Formerly, the feudal vices had openly stalked about in broad daylight; though not eradicated, they were now at any rate thrust into the background. In their stead, the bourgeois vices, hitherto practiced in secret, began to blossom all the more luxuriantly. Trade became to a greater and greater extent cheating. The “fraternity” of the revolutionary motto was realized in the chicanery and rivalries of the battle of competition. Oppression by force was replaced by corruption; the sword, as the first social lever, by gold. The right of the first night was transferred from the feudal lords to the bourgeois manufacturers. Prostitution increased to an extent never heard of. Marriage itself remained, as before, the legally recognized form, the official cloak of prostitution, and, moreover, was supplemented by rich crops of adultery.
In a word, compared with the splendid promises of the philosophers, the social and political institutions born of the “triumph of reason” were bitterly disappointing caricatures. All that was wanting was the men to formulate this disappointment, and they came with the turn of the century. In 1802, Saint-Simon’s Geneva letters appeared; in 1808 appeared Fourier’s first work, although the groundwork of his theory dated from 1799; on January 1, 1800, Robert Owen undertook the direction of New Lanark.
At this time, however, the capitalist mode of production, and with it the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was still very incompletely developed. Modern Industry, which had just arisen in England, was still unknown in France. But Modern Industry develops, on the one hand, the conflicts which make absolutely necessary a revolution in the mode of production, and the doing away with its capitalistic character – conflicts not only between the classes begotten of it, but also between the very productive forces and the forms of exchange created by it. And, on the other hand, it develops, in these very gigantic productive forces, the means of ending these conflicts. If, therefore, about the year 1800, the conflicts arising from the new social order were only just beginning to take shape, this holds still more fully as to the means of ending them. The “have-nothing” masses of Paris, during the Reign of Terror, were able for a moment to gain the mastery, and thus to lead the bourgeois revolution to victory in spite of the bourgeoisie themselves. But, in doing so, they only proved how impossible it was for their domination to last under the conditions then obtaining. The proletariat, which then for the first time evolved itself from these “have-nothing” masses as the nucleus of a new class, as yet quite incapable of independent political action, appeared as an oppressed, suffering order, to whom, in its incapacity to help itself, help could, at best, be brought in from without or down from above.
This historical situation also dominated the founders of Socialism. To the crude conditions of capitalistic production and the crude class conditions correspond crude theories. The solution of the social problems, which as yet lay hidden in undeveloped economic conditions, the Utopians attempted to evolve out of the human brain. Society presented nothing but wrongs; to remove these was the task of reason. It was necessary, then, to discover a new and more perfect system of social order and to impose this upon society from without by propaganda, and, wherever it was possible, by the example of model experiments. These new social systems were foredoomed as Utopian; the more completely they were worked out in detail, the more they could not avoid drifting off into pure phantasies.
These facts once established, we need not dwell a moment longer upon this side of the question, now wholly belonging to the past. We can leave it to the literary small fry to solemnly quibble over these phantasies, which today only make us smile, and to crow over the superiority of their own bald reasoning, as compared with such “insanity”. For ourselves, we delight in the stupendously grand thoughts and germs of thought that everywhere break out through their phantastic covering, and to which these Philistines are blind.
St. Simon Saint-Simon was a son of the great French Revolution, at the outbreak of which he was not yet 30. The Revolution was the victory of the 3rd estate – i.e., of the great masses of the nation, working in production and in trade, over the privileged idle classes, the nobles and the priests. But the victory of the 3rd estate soon revealed itself as exclusively the victory of a smaller part of this “estate”, as the conquest of political power by the socially privileged section of it – i.e., the propertied bourgeoisie. And the bourgeoisie had certainly developed rapidly during the Revolution, partly by speculation in the lands of the nobility and of the Church, confiscated and afterwards put up for sale, and partly by frauds upon the nation by means of army contracts. It was the domination of these swindlers that, under the Directorate, brought France to the verge of ruin, and thus gave Napoleon the pretext for his coup d’état.
Hence, to Saint-Simon the antagonism between the 3rd Estate and the privileged classes took the form of an antagonism between “workers” and “idlers”. The idlers were not merely the old privileged classes, but also all who, without taking any part in production or distribution, lived on their incomes. And the workers were not only the wage-workers, but also the manufacturers, the merchants, the bankers. That the idlers had lost the capacity for intellectual leadership and political supremacy had been proved, and was by the Revolution finally settled. That the non-possessing classes had not this capacity seemed to Saint-Simon proved by the experiences of the Reign of Terror. Then, who was to lead and command? According to Saint-Simon, science and industry, both united by a new religious bond, destined to restore that unity of religious ideas which had been lost since the time of the Reformation – a necessarily mystic and rigidly hierarchic “new Christianity”. But science, that was the scholars; and industry, that was, in the first place, the working bourgeois, manufacturers, merchants, bankers. These bourgeois were, certainly, intended by Saint-Simon to transform themselves into a kind of public officials, of social trustees; but they were still to hold, vis-à-vis of the workers, a commanding and economically privileged position. The bankers especially were to be called upon to direct the whole of social production by the regulation of credit. This conception was in exact keeping with a time in which Modern Industry in France and, with it, the chasm between bourgeoisie and proletariat was only just coming into existence. But what Saint-Simon especially lays stress upon is this: what interests him first, and above all other things, is the lot of the class that is the most numerous and the most poor (“la classe la plus nombreuse et la plus pauvre”).
Already in his Geneva letters, Saint-Simon lays down the proposition that “all men ought to work”. In the same work he recognizes also that the Reign of Terror was the reign of the non-possessing masses.
“See,” says he to them, “what happened in France at the time when your comrades held sway there; they brought about a famine.” [Lettres d’un habitant de Genève à ses contemporains, Saint-Simon, 1803]
But to recognize the French Revolution as a class war, and not simply one between nobility and bourgeoisie, but between nobility, bourgeoisie, and the non-possessors, was, in the year 1802, a most pregnant discovery. In 1816, he declares that politics is the science of production, and foretells the complete absorption of politics by economics. The knowledge that economic conditions are the basis of political institutions appears here only in embryo. Yet what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production – that is to say, the “abolition of the state”, about which recently there has been so much noise.
Saint-Simon shows the same superiority over his contemporaries, when in 1814, immediately after the entry of the allies into Paris, and again in 1815, during the Hundred Days’ War, he proclaims the alliance of France and England, and then of both of these countries, with Germany, as the only guarantee for the prosperous development and peace of Europe. To preach to the French in 1815 an alliance with the victors of Waterloo required as much courage as historical foresight.
Fourier If in Saint-Simon we find a comprehensive breadth of view, by virtue of which almost all the ideas of later Socialists that are not strictly economic are found in him in embryo, we find in Fourier a criticism of the existing conditions of society, genuinely French and witty, but not upon that account any the less thorough. Fourier takes the bourgeoisie, their inspired prophets before the Revolution, and their interested eulogists after it, at their own word. He lays bare remorselessly the material and moral misery of the bourgeois world. He confronts it with the earlier philosophers’ dazzling promises of a society in which reason alone should reign, of a civilization in which happiness should be universal, of an illimitable human perfectibility, and with the rose-colored phraseology of the bourgeois ideologists of his time. He points out how everywhere the most pitiful reality corresponds with the most high-sounding phrases, and he overwhelms this hopeless fiasco of phrases with his mordant sarcasm.
Fourier is not only a critic, his imperturbably serene nature makes him a satirist, and assuredly one of the greatest satirists of all time. He depicts, with equal power and charm, the swindling speculations that blossomed out upon the downfall of the Revolution, and the shopkeeping spirit prevalent in, and characteristic of, French commerce at that time. Still more masterly is his criticism of the bourgeois form of the relations between sexes, and the position of woman in bourgeois society. He was the first to declare that in any given society the degree of woman’s emancipation is the natural measure of the general emancipation.
But Fourier is at his greatest in his conception of the history of society. He divides its whole course, thus far, into four stages of evolution – savagery, barbarism, the patriarchate, civilization. This last is identical with the so-called civil, or bourgeois, society of today – i.e., with the social order that came in with the 16th century. He proves “that the civilized stage raises every vice practiced by barbarism in a simple fashion into a form of existence, complex, ambiguous, equivocal, hypocritical” – that civilization moves “in a vicious circle”, in contradictions which it constantly reproduces without being able to solve them; hence it constantly arrives at the very opposite to that which it wants to attain, or pretends to want to attain, so that, e.g., “under civilization poverty is born of superabundance itself”. [Théorie de l’unite universelle, Fourier, 1843 and Le nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire, ou invention du procédé d'industrie attrayante et enaturelle distribuée en séries passionnées, Fourier, 1845]
Fourier, as we see, uses the dialectic method in the same masterly way as his contemporary, Hegel. Using these same dialectics, he argues against talk about illimitable human perfectibility, that every historical phase has its period of ascent and also its period of descent, and he applies this observation to the future of the whole human race. As Kant introduced into natural science the idea of the ultimate destruction of the Earth, Fourier introduced into historical science that of the ultimate destruction of the human race.
Whilst in France the hurricane of the Revolution swept over the land, in England a quieter, but not on that account less tremendous, revolution was going on. Steam and the new tool-making machinery were transforming manufacture into modern industry, and thus revolutionizing the whole foundation of bourgeois society. The sluggish march of development of the manufacturing period changed into a veritable storm and stress period of production. With constantly increasing swiftness the splitting-up into large capitalists and non-possessing proletarians went on. Between these, instead of the former stable middle-class, an unstable mass of artisans and small shopkeepers, the most fluctuating portion of the population, now led a precarious existence.
The new mode of production was, as yet, only at the beginning of its period of ascent; as yet it was the normal, regular method of production – the only one possible under existing conditions. Nevertheless, even then it was producing crying social abuses – the herding together of a homeless population in the worst quarters of the large towns; the loosening of all traditional moral bonds, of patriarchal subordination, of family relations; overwork, especially of women and children, to a frightful extent; complete demoralization of the working-class, suddenly flung into altogether new conditions, from the country into the town, from agriculture into modern industry, from stable conditions of existence into insecure ones that change from day to day.
Owen At this juncture, there came forward as a reformer a manufacturer 29-years-old – a man of almost sublime, childlike simplicity of character, and at the same time one of the few born leaders of men. Robert Owen had adopted the teaching of the materialistic philosophers: that man’s character is the product, on the one hand, of heredity; on the other, of the environment of the individual during his lifetime, and especially during his period of development. In the industrial revolution most of his class saw only chaos and confusion, and the opportunity of fishing in these troubled waters and making large fortunes quickly. He saw in it the opportunity of putting into practice his favorite theory, and so of bringing order out of chaos. He had already tried it with success, as superintendent of more than 500 men in a Manchester factory. From 1800 to 1829, he directed the great cotton mill at New Lanark, in Scotland, as managing partner, along the same lines, but with greater freedom of action and with a success that made him a European reputation. A population, originally consisting of the most diverse and, for the most part, very demoralized elements, a population that gradually grew to 2,500, he turned into a model colony, in which drunkenness, police, magistrates, lawsuits, poor laws, charity, were unknown. And all this simply by placing the people in conditions worthy of human beings, and especially by carefully bringing up the rising generation. He was the founder of infant schools, and introduced them first at New Lanark. At the age of two, the children came to school, where they enjoyed themselves so much that they could scarely be got home again. Whilst his competitors worked their people 13 or 14 hours a day, in New Lanark the working-day was only 10 and a half hours. When a crisis in cotton stopped work for four months, his workers received their full wages all the time. And with all this the business more than doubled in value, and to the last yielded large profits to its proprietors.
In spite of all this, Owen was not content. The existence which he secured for his workers was, in his eyes, still far from being worthy of human beings. "The people were slaves at my mercy." The relatively favorable conditions in which he had placed them were still far from allowing a rational development of the character and of the intellect in all directions, much less of the free exercise of all their faculties.
“And yet, the working part of this population of 2,500 persons was daily producing as much real wealth for society as, less than half a century before, it would have required the working part of a population of 600,000 to create. I asked myself, what became of the difference between the wealth consumed by 2,500 persons and that which would have been consumed by 600,000?” 
The answer was clear. It had been used to pay the proprietors of the establishment 5 per cent on the capital they had laid out, in addition to over £300,000 clear profit. And that which held for New Lanark held to a still greater extent for all the factories in England.
“If this new wealth had not been created by machinery, imperfectly as it has been applied, the wars of Europe, in opposition to Napoleon, and to support the aristocratic principles of society, could not have been maintained. And yet this new power was the creation of the working-classes.”
Note, l. c., p.22.
To them, therefore, the fruits of this new power belonged. The newly-created gigantic productive forces, hitherto used only to enrich individuals and to enslave the masses, offered to Owen the foundations for a reconstruction of society; they were destined, as the common property of all, to be worked for the common good of all.
Owen’s communism was based upon this purely business foundation, the outcome, so to say, of commercial calculation. Throughout, it maintained this practical character. Thus, in 1823, Owen proposed the relief of the distress in Ireland by Communist colonies, and drew up complete estimates of costs of founding them, yearly expenditure, and probable revenue. And in his definite plan for the future, the technical working out of details is managed with such practical knowledge – ground plan, front and side and bird’s-eye views all included – that the Owen method of social reform once accepted, there is from the practical point of view little to be said against the actual arrangement of details.
His advance in the direction of Communism was the turning-point in Owen’s life. As long as he was simply a philanthropist, he was rewarded with nothing but wealth, applause, honor, and glory. He was the most popular man in Europe. Not only men of his own class, but statesmen and princes listened to him approvingly. But when he came out with his Communist theories that was quite another thing. Three great obstacles seemed to him especially to block the path to social reform: private property, religion, the present form of marriage.
He knew what confronted him if he attacked these – outlawry, excommunication from official society, the loss of his whole social position. But nothing of this prevented him from attacking them without fear of consequences, and what he had foreseen happened. Banished from official society, with a conspiracy of silence against him in the press, ruined by his unsuccessful Communist experiments in America, in which he sacrificed all his fortune, he turned directly to the working-class and continued working in their midst for 30 years. Every social movement, every real advance in England on behalf of the workers links itself on to the name of Robert Owen. He forced through in 1819, after five years’ fighting, the first law limiting the hours of labor of women and children in factories. He was president of the first Congress at which all the Trade Unions of England united in a single great trade association. He introduced as transition measures to the complete communistic organization of society, on the one hand, cooperative societies for retail trade and production. These have since that time, at least, given practical proof that the merchant and the manufacturer are socially quite unnecessary. On the other hand, he introduced labor bazaars for the exchange of the products of labor through the medium of labor-notes, whose unit was a single hour of work; institutions necessarily doomed to failure, but completely anticipating Proudhon’s bank of exchange of a much later period, and differing entirely from this in that it did not claim to be the panacea for all social ills, but only a first step towards a much more radical revolution of society.
The Utopians’ mode of thought has for a long time governed the Socialist ideas of the 19th century, and still governs some of them. Until very recently, all French and English Socialists did homage to it. The earlier German Communism, including that of Weitling, was of the same school. To all these, Socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice, and has only to be discovered to conquer all the world by virtue of its own power. And as an absolute truth is independent of time, space, and of the historical development of man, it is a mere accident when and where it is discovered. With all this, absolute truth, reason, and justice are different with the founder of each different school. And as each one’s special kind of absolute truth, reason, and justice is again conditioned by his subjective understanding, his conditions of existence, the measure of his knowledge and his intellectual training, there is no other ending possible in this conflict of absolute truths than that they shall be mutually exclusive of one another. Hence, from this nothing could come but a kind of eclectic, average Socialism, which, as a matter of fact, has up to the present time dominated the minds of most of the socialist workers in France and England. Hence, a mish-mash allowing of the most manifold shades of opinion: a mish-mash of such critical statements, economic theories, pictures of future society by the founders of different sects, as excite a minimum of opposition; a mish-mash which is the more easily brewed the more definite sharp edges of the individual constituents are rubbed down in the stream of debate, like rounded pebbles in a brook.
To make a science of Socialism, it had first to be placed upon a real basis.
1. This is the passage on the French Revolution:
“Thought, the concept of law, all at once made itself felt, and against this the old scaffolding of wrong could make no stand. In this conception of law, therefore, a constitution has now been established, and henceforth everything must be based upon this. Since the Sun had been in the firmament, and the planets circled around him, the sight had never been seen of man standing upon his head – i.e., on the Idea – and building reality after this image. Anaxagoras first said that the Nous, Reason, rules the world; but now, for the first time, had men come to recognize that the Idea must rule the mental reality. And this was a magnificent sunrise. All thinking Beings have participated in celebrating this holy day. A sublime emotion swayed men at that time, an enthusiasm of reason pervaded the world, as if now had come the reconciliation of the Divine Principle with the world.”
[Hegel: “The Philosophy of history”, 1840, p.535]
Is it not high time to set the anti-Socialist law in action against such teachings, subversive and to the common danger, by the late Professor Hegel?
2. Engels refers here to the works of the utopian Socialists Thomas More (16th century) and Tommaso Campanella (17th century). See Code de la nature, Morelly, Paris 1841 and De la législation, ou principe des lois, Mably, Amsterdam 1776.
3. From The Revolution in Mind and Practice, p.21, a memorial addressed to all the “red Republicans, Communists and Socialists of Europe,” and sent to the provisional government of France, 1848, and also “to Queen Victoria and her responsible advisers.”
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844
Private Property and Communism
The antithesis between lack of property and property, so long as it is not comprehended as the antithesis of labour and capital, still remains an indifferent antithesis, not grasped in its active connection, in its internal relation, not yet grasped as a contradiction. It can find expression in this first form even without the advanced development of private property (as in ancient Rome, Turkey, etc.). It does not yet appear as having been established by private property itself. But labour, the subjective essence of private property as exclusion of property, and capital, objective labour as exclusion of labour, constitute private property as its developed state of contradiction – hence a dynamic relationship driving towards resolution.
The transcendence of self-estrangement follows the same course as self-estrangement. Private property is first considered only in its objective aspect – but nevertheless with labour as its essence. Its form of existence is therefore capital, which is to be annulled “as such” (Proudhon). Or a particular form of labour – labour levelled down, fragmented, and therefore unfree – is conceived as the source of private property’s perniciousness and of its existence in estrangement from men. For instance, Fourier, who, like the Physiocrats, also conceives agricultural labour to be at least the exemplary type, whereas Saint-Simon declares in contrast that industrial labour as such is the essence, and accordingly aspires to the exclusive rule of the industrialists and the improvement of the workers’ condition. Finally, communism is the positive expression of annulled private property – at first as universal private property.
By embracing this relation as a whole, communism is:
(1) In its first form only a generalisation and consummation of it [of this relation]. As such it appears in a two-fold form: on the one hand, the dominion of material property bulks so large that it wants to destroy everything which is not capable of being possessed by all as private property. It wants to disregard talent, etc., in an arbitrary manner. For it the sole purpose of life and existence is direct, physical possession. The category of the worker is not done away with, but extended to all men. The relationship of private property persists as the relationship of the community to the world of things.
Finally, this movement of opposing universal private property to private property finds expression in the brutish form of opposing to marriage (certainly a form of exclusive private property) the community of women, in which a woman becomes a piece of communal and common property. It may be said that this idea of the community of women gives away the secret of this as yet completely crude and thoughtless communism. Just as woman passes from marriage to general prostitution, [Prostitution is only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer, and since it is a relationship in which falls not the prostitute alone, but also the one who prostitutes – and the latter’s abomination is still greater – the capitalist, etc., also comes under this head. – Note by Marx ] so the entire world of wealth (that is, of man’s objective substance) passes from the relationship of exclusive marriage with the owner of private property to a state of universal prostitution with the community. This type of communism – since it negates the personality of man in every sphere – is but the logical expression of private property, which is this negation.
General envy constituting itself as a power is the disguise in which greed re-establishes itself and satisfies itself, only in another way. The thought of every piece of private property as such is at least turned against wealthier private property in the form of envy and the urge to reduce things to a common level, so that this envy and urge even constitute the essence of competition. Crude communism is only the culmination of this envy and of this levelling-down proceeding from the preconceived minimum. It has a definite, limited standard.
How little this annulment of private property is really an appropriation is in fact proved by the abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilisation, the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and crude man who has few needs and who has not only failed to go beyond private property, but has not yet even reached it.
The community is only a community of labour, and equality of wages paid out by communal capital – by the community as the universal capitalist. Both sides of the relationship are raised to an imagined universality – labour as the category in which every person is placed, and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community.
In the approach to woman as the spoil and hand-maid of communal lust is expressed the infinite degradation in which man exists for himself, for the secret of this approach has its unambiguous, decisive, plain and undisguised expression in the relation of man to woman and in the manner in which the direct and natural species-relationship is conceived. The direct, natural, and necessary relation of person to person is the relation of man to woman. In this natural species-relationship man’s relation to nature is immediately his relation to man, just as his relation to man is immediately his relation to nature – his own natural destination. In this relationship, therefore, is sensuously manifested, reduced to an observable fact, the extent to which the human essence has become nature to man, or to which nature to him has become the human essence of man.
From this relationship one can therefore judge man’s whole level of development. From the character of this relationship follows how much man as a species-being, as man, has come to be himself and to comprehend himself; the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being. It therefore reveals the extent to which man’s natural behaviour has become human, or the extent to which the human essence in him has become a natural essence – the extent to which his human nature has come to be natural to him. This relationship also reveals the extent to which man’s need has become a human need; the extent to which, therefore, the other person as a person has become for him a need – the extent to which he in his individual existence is at the same time a social being.
The first positive annulment of private property – crude communism – is thus merely a manifestation of the vileness of private property, which wants to set itself up as the positive community system.
(2) Communism (a) still political in nature – democratic or despotic; (b) with the abolition of the state, yet still incomplete, and being still affected by private property, i.e., by the estrangement of man. In both forms communism already is aware of being reintegration or return of man to himself, the transcendence of human self-estrangement; but since it has not yet grasped the positive essence of private property, and just as little the human nature of need, it remains captive to it and infected by it. It has, indeed, grasped its concept, but not its essence.
(3) Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.
The entire movement of history, as simply communism’s actual act of genesis – the birth act of its empirical existence – is, therefore, for its thinking consciousness the comprehended and known process of its becoming. Whereas the still immature communism seeks an historical proof for itself – a proof in the realm of what already exists – among disconnected historical phenomena opposed to private property, tearing single phases from the historical process and focusing attention on them as proofs of its historical pedigree (a hobby-horse ridden hard especially by Cabet, Villegardelle, etc.) By so doing it simply makes clear that by far the greater part of this process contradicts its own claim, and that, if it has ever existed, precisely its being in the past refutes its pretension to reality.
It is easy to see that the entire revolutionary movement necessarily finds both its empirical and its theoretical basis in the movement of private property – more precisely, in that of the economy.
This material, immediately perceptible private property is the material perceptible expression of estranged human life. Its movement – production and consumption – is the perceptible revelation of the movement of all production until now, i.e., the realisation or the reality of man. Religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc., are only particular modes of production, and fall under its general law. The positive transcendence of private property as the appropriation of human life, is therefore the positive transcendence of all estrangement – that is to say, the return of man from religion, family, state, etc., to his human, i.e., social, existence. Religious estrangement as such occurs only in the realm of consciousness, of man’s inner life, but economic estrangement is that of real life; its transcendence therefore embraces both aspects. It is evident that the initial stage of the movement amongst the various peoples depends on whether the true recognised life of the people manifests itself more in consciousness or in the external world – is more ideal or real. Communism begins from the outset (Owen) with atheism; but atheism is at first far from being communism; indeed, that atheism is still mostly an abstraction.
The philanthropy of atheism is therefore at first only philosophical, abstract philanthropy, and that of communism is at once real and directly bent on action.
We have seen how on the assumption of positively annulled private property man produces man – himself and the other man; how the object, being the direct manifestation of his individuality, is simultaneously his own existence for the other man, the existence of the other man, and that existence for him. Likewise, however, both the material of labour and man as the subject, are the point of departure as well as the result of the movement (and precisely in this fact, that they must constitute the point of departure, lies the historical necessity of private property). Thus the social character is the general character of the whole movement: just as society itself produces man as man, so is society produced by him. Activity and enjoyment, both in their content and in their mode of existence, are social: social activity and social enjoyment. The human aspect of nature exists only for social man; for only then does nature exist for him as a bond with man – as his existence for the other and the other’s existence for him – and as the life-element of human reality. Only then does nature exist as the foundation of his own human existence. Only here has what is to him his natural existence become his human existence, and nature become man for him. Thus society is the complete unity of man with nature – the true resurrection of nature – the consistent naturalism of man and the consistent humanism of nature.
Social activity and social enjoyment exist by no means only in the form of some directly communal activity and directly communal enjoyment, although communal activity and communal enjoyment – i.e., activity and enjoyment which are manifested and affirmed in actual direct association with other men – will occur wherever such a direct expression of sociability stems from the true character of the activity’s content and is appropriate to the nature of the enjoyment.
But also when I am active scientifically, etc. – an activity which I can seldom perform in direct community with others – then my activity is social, because I perform it as a man. Not only is the material of my activity given to me as a social product (as is even the language in which the thinker is active): my own existence is social activity, and therefore that which I make of myself, I make of myself for society and with the consciousness of myself as a social being.
My general consciousness is only the theoretical shape of that of which the living shape is the real community, the social fabric, although at the present day general consciousness is an abstraction from real life and as such confronts it with hostility. The activity of my general consciousness, as an activity, is therefore also my theoretical existence as a social being.
Above all we must avoid postulating “society” again as an abstraction vis-à-vis the individual. The individual is the social being. His manifestations of life – even if they may not appear in the direct form of communal manifestations of life carried out in association with others – are therefore an expression and confirmation of social life. Man’s individual and species-life are not different, however much – and this is inevitable – the mode of existence of the individual is a more particular or more general mode of the life of the species, or the life of the species is a more particular or more general individual life.
In his consciousness of species man confirms his real social life and simply repeats his real existence in thought, just as conversely the being of the species confirms itself in species consciousness and exists for itself in its generality as a thinking being.
Man, much as he may therefore be a particular individual (and it is precisely his particularity which makes him an individual, and a real individual social being), is just as much the totality – the ideal totality – the subjective existence of imagined and experienced society for itself; just as he exists also in the real world both as awareness and real enjoyment of social existence, and as a totality of human manifestation of life.
Thinking and being are thus certainly distinct, but at the same time they are in unity with each other.
Death seems to be a harsh victory of the species over the particular individual and to contradict their unity. But the particular individual is only a particular species-being, and as such mortal.
(4) Just as private property is only the perceptible expression of the fact that man becomes objective for himself and at the same time becomes to himself a strange and inhuman object; just as it expresses the fact that the manifestation of his life is the alienation of his life, that his realisation is his loss of reality, is an alien reality: so, the positive transcendence of private property – i.e., the perceptible appropriation for and by man of the human essence and of human life, of objective man, of human achievements should not be conceived merely in the sense of immediate, one-sided enjoyment, merely in the sense of possessing, of having. Man appropriates his comprehensive essence in a comprehensive manner, that is to say, as a whole man. Each of his human relations to the world – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, observing, experiencing, wanting, acting, loving – in short, all the organs of his individual being, like those organs which are directly social in their form, are in their objective orientation, or in their orientation to the object, the appropriation of the object, the appropriation of human reality. Their orientation to the object is the manifestation of the human reality, [For this reason it is just as highly varied as the determinations of human essence and activities] it is human activity and human suffering, for suffering, humanly considered, is a kind of self-enjoyment of man.
Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it – when it exists for us as capital, or when it is directly possessed, eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., – in short, when it is used by us. Although private property itself again conceives all these direct realisations of possession only as means of life, and the life which they serve as means is the life of private property – labour and conversion into capital.
In the place of all physical and mental senses there has therefore come the sheer estrangement of all these senses, the sense of having. The human being had to be reduced to this absolute poverty in order that he might yield his inner wealth to the outer world. [On the category of “having”, see Hess, in the Philosophy of the Deed].
The abolition of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities, but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes have become, subjectively and objectively, human. The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object – an object made by man for man. The senses have therefore become directly in their practice theoreticians. They relate themselves to the thing for the sake of the thing, but the thing itself is an objective human relation to itself and to man, [in practice I can relate myself to a thing humanly only if the thing relates itself humanly to the human being] and vice versa. Need or enjoyment have consequently lost its egotistical nature, and nature has lost its mere utility by use becoming human use.
In the same way, the senses and enjoyment of other men have become my own appropriation. Besides these direct organs, therefore, social organs develop in the form of society; thus, for instance, activity in direct association with others, etc., has become an organ for expressing my own life, and a mode of appropriating human life.
It is obvious that the human eye enjoys things in a way different from the crude, non-human eye; the human ear different from the crude ear, etc.
We have seen that man does not lose himself in his object only when the object becomes for him a human object or objective man. This is possible only when the object becomes for him a social object, he himself for himself a social being, just as society becomes a being for him in this object.
On the one hand, therefore, it is only when the objective world becomes everywhere for man in society the world of man’s essential powers – human reality, and for that reason the reality of his own essential powers – that all objects become for him the objectification of himself, become objects which confirm and realise his individuality, become his objects: that is, man himself becomes the object. The manner in which they become his depends on the nature of the objects and on the nature of the essential power corresponding to it; for it is precisely the determinate nature of this relationship which shapes the particular, real mode of affirmation. To the eye an object comes to be other than it is to the ear, and the object of the eye is another object than the object of the ear. The specific character of each essential power is precisely its specific essence, and therefore also the specific mode of its objectification, of its objectively actual, living being. Thus man is affirmed in the objective world not only in the act of thinking, but with all his senses.
On the other hand, let us look at this in its subjective aspect. Just as only music awakens in man the sense of music, and just as the most beautiful music has no sense for the unmusical ear – is [no] object for it, because my object can only be the confirmation of one of my essential powers – it can therefore only exist for me insofar as my essential power exists for itself as a subjective capacity; because the meaning of an object for me goes only so far as my sense goes (has only a meaning for a sense corresponding to that object) – for this reason the senses of the social man differ from those of the non-social man. Only through the objectively unfolded richness of man’s essential being is the richness of subjective human sensibility (a musical ear, an eye for beauty of form – in short, senses capable of human gratification, senses affirming themselves as essential powers of man) either cultivated or brought into being. For not only the five senses but also the so-called mental senses, the practical senses (will, love, etc.), in a word, human sense, the human nature of the senses, comes to be by virtue of its object, by virtue of humanised nature. The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history of the world down to the present.
The sense caught up in crude practical need has only a restricted sense. For the starving man, it is not the human form of food that exists, but only its abstract existence as food. It could just as well be there in its crudest form, and it would be impossible to say wherein this feeding activity differs from that of animals. The care-burdened, poverty-stricken man has no sense for the finest play; the dealer in minerals sees only the commercial value but not the beauty and the specific character of the mineral: he has no mineralogical sense. Thus, the objectification of the human essence, both in its theoretical and practical aspects, is required to make man’s sense human, as well as to create the human sense corresponding to the entire wealth of human and natural substance.
We see how subjectivity and objectivity, spirituality and materiality, activity and suffering, lose their antithetical character, and – thus their existence as such antitheses only within the framework of society;
We see how the history of industry and the established objective existence of industry are the open book of man’s essential powers, the perceptibly existing human psychology. Hitherto this was not conceived in its connection with man’s essential being, but only in an external relation of utility, because, moving in the realm of estrangement, people could only think of man’s general mode of being – religion or history in its abstract – general character as politics, art, literature, etc. – as the reality of man’s essential powers and man’s species-activity. We have before us the objectified essential powers of man in the form of sensuous, alien, useful objects, in the form of estrangement, displayed in ordinary material industry (which can be conceived either as a part of that general movement, or that movement can be conceived as a particular part of industry, since all human activity hitherto has been labour – that is, industry – activity estranged from itself.)
A psychology for which this book, the part of history existing in the most perceptible and accessible form, remains a closed book, cannot become a genuine, comprehensive and real science. What indeed are we to think of a science which airily abstracts from this large part of human labour and which fails to feel its own incompleteness, while such a wealth of human endeavour, unfolded before it, means nothing more to it than, perhaps, what can be expressed in one word – “need”, “vulgar need”?
The natural sciences have developed an enormous activity and have accumulated an ever-growing mass of material. Philosophy, however, has remained just as alien to them as they remain to philosophy. Their momentary unity was only a chimerical illusion. The will was there, but the power was lacking. Historiography itself pays regard to natural science only occasionally, as a factor of enlightenment, utility, and of some special great discoveries. But natural science has invaded and transformed human life all the more practically through the medium of industry; and has prepared human emancipation, although its immediate effect had to be the furthering of the dehumanisation of man. Industry is the actual, historical relationship of nature, and therefore of natural science, to man. If, therefore, industry is conceived as the exoteric revelation of man’s essential powers, we also gain an understanding of the human essence of nature or the natural essence of man. In consequence, natural science will lose its abstractly material – or rather, its idealistic – tendency, and will become the basis of human science, as it has already become – albeit in an estranged form – the basis of actual human life, and to assume one basis for life and a different basis for science is as a matter of course a lie.
Sense-perception (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Only when it proceeds from sense-perception in the two-fold form of sensuous consciousness and sensuous need – is it true science. All history is the history of preparing and developing “man” to become the object of sensuous consciousness, and turning the requirements of “man as man” into his needs. History itself is a real part of natural history of nature developing into man. Natural science will in time incorporate into itself the science of man, just as the science of man will incorporate into itself natural science: there will be one science.
Man is the immediate object of natural science; for immediate, sensuous nature for man is, immediately, human sensuousness (the expressions are identical) – presented immediately in the form of the other man sensuously present for him. Indeed, his own sense-perception first exists as human sensuousness for himself through the other man. But nature is the immediate object of the science of man: the first – object of man – man – is nature, sensuousness; and the particular human sensuous essential powers can only find their self-understanding in the science of the natural world in general, just as they can find their objective realisation only in natural objects. The element of thought itself – the element of thought’s living expression – language – is of a sensuous nature. The social reality of nature, and human natural science, or the natural science of man, are identical terms.
Poverty is the passive bond which causes the human being to experience the need of the greatest wealth – the other human being. The dominion of the objective being in me, the sensuous outburst of my life activity, is passion, which thus becomes here the activity of my being.>
(5) A being only considers himself independent when he stands on his own feet; and he only stands on his own feet when he owes his existence to himself. A man who lives by the grace of another regards himself as a dependent being. But I live completely by the grace of another if I owe him not only the maintenance of my life, but if he has, moreover, created my life – if he is the source of my life. When it is not of my own creation, my life has necessarily a source of this kind outside of it. The Creation is therefore an idea very difficult to dislodge from popular consciousness. The fact that nature and man exist on their own account is incomprehensible to it, because it contradicts everything tangible in practical life.
The creation of the earth has received a mighty blow from geognosy – i.e., from the science which presents the formation of the earth, the development of the earth, as a process, as a self-generation. Generatio aequivoca is the only practical refutation of the theory of creation.
Now it is certainly easy to say to the single individual what Aristotle has already said: You have been begotten by your father and your mother; therefore in you the mating of two human beings – a species-act of human beings – has produced the human being. You see, therefore, that even physically man owes his existence to man. Therefore you must not only keep sight of the one aspect – the infinite progression which leads you further to inquire: Who begot my father? Who his grandfather? etc. You must also hold on to the circular movement sensuously perceptible in that progress by which man repeats himself in procreation, man thus always remaining the subject. You will reply, however: I grant you this circular movement; now grant me the progress which drives me ever further until I ask: Who begot the first man, and nature as a whole? I can only answer you: Your question is itself a product of abstraction. Ask yourself how you arrived at that question. Ask yourself whether your question is not posed from a standpoint to which I cannot reply, because it is wrongly put. Ask yourself whether that progress as such exists for a reasonable mind. When you ask about the creation of nature and man, you are abstracting, in so doing, from man and nature. You postulate them as non-existent, and yet you want me to prove them to you as existing. Now I say to you: Give up your abstraction and you will also give up your question. Or if you want to hold on to your abstraction, then be consistent, and if you think of man and nature as non-existent, then think of yourself as non-existent, for you too are surely nature and man. Don’t think, don’t ask me, for as soon as you think and ask, your abstraction from the existence of nature and man has no meaning. Or are you such an egotist that you conceive everything as nothing, and yet want yourself to exist?
You can reply: I do not want to postulate the nothingness of nature, etc. I ask you about its genesis, just as I ask the anatomist about the formation of bones, etc.
But since for the socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis. Since the real existence of man and nature has become evident in practice, through sense experience, because man has thus become evident for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man, the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man – a question which implies the admission of the unreality of nature and of man – has become impossible in practice.
Atheism, as the denial of this unreality, has no longer any meaning, for atheism is a negation of God, and postulates the existence of man through this negation; but socialism as socialism no longer stands in any need of such a mediation. It proceeds from the theoretically and practically sensuous consciousness of man and of nature as the essence. Socialism is man’s positive self-consciousness, no longer mediated through the abolition of religion, just as real life is man’s positive reality, no longer mediated through the abolition of private property, through communism.
Communism is the position as the negation of the negation, and is hence the actual phase necessary for the next stage of historical development in the process of human emancipation and rehabilitation. Communism is the necessary form and the dynamic principle of the immediate future, but communism as such is not the goal of human development, the form of human society.