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MARX AND MARXISM.
By 1848 the schemes and ideals of the utopian socialists were almost completely discredited. The various model communities had collapsed. The political revolutions of 1848 had been largely supported by contemporary socialists, and their failure placed idealism at a discount. Efforts to put inte practice the ideas of "6 ‘right to work, "labour exchanges, “organization of labour,” etc., all broke down under the malevolence of their opponents, the impatience of their supporters, and the awkwardness and lack of organizing ability of the leaders. Hence the notion of revolutionizing society at a jump, of replacing the old errors of competition by the new truths of co-operation, common property, and equality of enjoyment was abandoned; the belief in the power of ideals and reason grew faint, and the old socialism lost much of its hold on men's affections.
But even while the old doctrines were dying, new ones were being born. Economists and historians were beginning to study society as a thing which grows from one stage to another. Darwin was tracing the causes of changes in organic life; German economists were turning to economic history, and endeavouring to discover the principles which underlie society at any stage of its growth and cause changes in its structure. Hegel, the German philosopher, taught that the whole world, moral, social and intellectual, was in a perpetual process of development, and he sought some force or idea to explain this progress.
This new line of thought influenced socialism as fundamentally as it did science and historical study. Society changes; grows; there is no finality or permanence in its institutions; therefore what forces brought capitalism into being, and what forces in capitalist society seem in their operations likely to evolve a new economic order? Further, does the nature of those forces offer any clue to the character of the next stage in social structure To these questions many different answers were given. Mazzini, for instance, foresaw the world passing from nationalism to internationalism, and declared that the worker, having passed from slave to serf, from serf to wage-servant, would next pass from wage-servant to partner. But the socialist, looking out over the story of social growth, found two things: first, that all society and change were explained by the working of economic forces; and, second, that those forces were now working towards the destruction of capitalism and the coming of socialism. The world was not driven along by the power of ideas or ideals, but by the material economic conditions.
Marx and Engels. This revolution in the whole character of socialism was largely the work of two men, Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels. Engels. was the junior partner of the firm; it is impossible to say to what extent le contributed ideas to the new doctrine, but there can be little doubt that his share in the creation of "scientific socialism” was greater than he would have us believe.
Marx was one of the biggest intellectual forces of the 19th century. He did for the social sciences almost as much as Darwin did for biological science. Darwin laid down the doctrine of organic evolution, and tried to explain how man, plants, and animals have reached their present conditions ; Marx laid down the doctrine of social evolution, and endeavoured to explain how economic, political, and social systems have come and gone. Darwin talked of evolution and natural selection, Marx of the economic interpretation of history and the class struggle. Neither writer brought a perfectly new idea into the world, for both had many intellectual antecedents. But both systematized the earlier thought and knowledge, and placed their respective studies on a new foundation. Both have been the subject of intensive comment and criticism, both have been found wanting in their explanation of how changes take place, but both have left an indelible mark on the body of science. They were giants, even if they did not utter the last word on biology and sociology.
Marx was more than a historian and economist. He was a born fighter and propagandist. From 1843 to his death in 1883 he worked unceasingly to rouse the wage-earners of Europe. He probably attached more importance to this work than to his writings. One real movement was worth a dozen theoretical abstractions or programmes, and Marx was therefore at the back of many labour movements. Without seeking the limelight, he supplied them with arguments, manifestoes, and watchwords: he planned their campaigns and outlined their tactics. And all the time he was engaged in collecting material, formulating and expanding his theories, and accumulating manuscript. He burned the candle at both ends, and finally wore himself out. Along with Owen, he stands out as one of the rare big personal influences on the labour movement.
Marx's Life. Marx was born in 1818 at Treves, in Rhenish Prussia. His parents were Jews who turned Christian, and thus he came from the exiled race which gave Ricardo to economics, Disraeli to politics, the Rothschilds to finance, Mendelssohn to music, and Spinoza to philosophy. His father was a lawyer, and he grew up in an atmosphere of comfort and culture. After a brilliant university career in history, law, and philosophy, he was turned from his desire to become a professor by the reactionary tone then prevailing in academic circles, and deserted teaching for journalism. In 1842 he joined the staff of a democratic paper, and soon became editor. His attacks on the Prussian government brought him to blows with the censor; in 1843 the paper was suppressed, and Marx driven out of the country. He went to Paris, the centre of radical and socialistic thought at that time. Here he came into contact with Proudhon, Louis Blanc, Heine, and others, and became thoroughly versed in the ideas of the rational socialists. As joint editor of a German paper published in Paris, he described the lot of the “poor dumb millions, deprived of participation in the fruits of civilization, and shut out by their poverty from the possibility of free development of their powers.
But he failed to see any remedy in the fantastic projects of the Utopians. In Paris he met Engels, a young man, 24 years of age, son of a German manufacturer, who had lived for years in Manchester, and therefore knew the results of the Industrial Revolution in England. The two fitted together personally and intellectually as a glove fits a hand, and for the next forty years were the Siamese twins of socialism.
Marx's stay in Paris was short. His newspaper criticized the Prussian government so strongly that Berlin persuaded the French authorities to deport him to Brussels. Here he wrote his first important work, “The Misery of Philosophy,” in 1847. In it he riddled the ideas of Proudhon
and other rational socialists, and foreshadowed the theories which soon were to make him a disruptive force in economic thought. He was becoming generally known among workingmen and radicals, and in 1847 the Communist League, an international body working for revolution instead of utopias, sought his aid in framing a programme. Marx and Engels replied ny drawing up the Communist Manifesto, one of the most influential documents penned in the 19th century. In a few pages these two men, still in their twenties, laid down a philosophy of history, an analysis of contemporary society, a scathing criticism of the Utopians, a prophecy of revolution, a party programme, and a complete set of battle-cries. Its peroration was a declaration of war and a clarion call to the wage-earners. "The Communists openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!!! As a weapon for immediate use the manifesto had little effect. As a forcible statement of new ideas, as the debut of Marxism, and as a powder-magazine of phrases it played an important part in the whole subsequent history of socialism.
The revolutions of 1848 failed. Marx, who had gone to Germany again and preached non-payment of taxes and the organization of armed forces, was tried for high treason, and expelled. Paris was made too hot for him, and so in 1849, accompanied by his family, he settled in London. Here he spent the rest of his life, for years in extreme poverty, eking out a scanty existence by journalism. Hard work and the smoking of too many cigars frequently broke his health, and only in later days did the receipt of a small legacy blunt the edge of poverty.
As an active worker in labour movements, Marx exerted great influence. For a time he tried to revive Chartism. During the American Civil War he did much to convert British opinion from its support of the South to a belief in Lincoln and the North. In 1862 a party of French workmen was sent by the French government and the employers to see the wonders of the London Exhibition. Marx used the visit of these men to revive the idea of an international labour organization, and in 1864 the International Working Men's Association was formed. Its aim was to knit the organized workers of Europe and America into a solid body for the protection, progress, and emancipation of the wage-earners, and for six years the “International”!. was a nightmare to every government in Europe. But the Franco-German War lashed up international hatred, the failure of the Paris Commune broke the French organized bodies, and wranglings on Socialism versus Anarchism tore the movement to pieces. Still the gospel of international labour solidarity was too attractive to be crushed, and was revived twenty years later. In all such efforts Marx worked without stint or thought of himself.
Marx the Writer. In the midst of his varied activity Marx still found time to devote to the development of the ideas embodied in the Manifesto. This entailed a vast amount of reading, and months were spent at the British Museum and elsewhere, reading over a very wide field of literature in most of the European languages. In 1859 he published his ? Critique of Political Economy,” but was dissatisfied with it, and therefore pushed on with his monumental treatise. In 1862 the rough draft of the first volume of "Capital” was finished, but other activities prevented its publication in Germany till 1867. There were still two volumes to come, but
in spite of sturdy efforts they were never really finished. Illness and family bereavement pressed heavily upon Marx, and he died of pneumonia in 1883. The notes and manuscript of volumes II and III were put into ship-shape by Engels, and published in 1885 and 1894 respectively.
Recent research has shown that to a great extent Marx was indebted to his predecessors for many of his most important ideas. Sismondi, Fourier, Saint-Simon, Louis Blanc, Rodbertus, Ricardo, and others, especially English writers, had already called attention to different points and set out new theories. Marx took some of them, surrounded them with historical and philosophic knowledge, and thus sought to establish a coherent system of economic theory. That system was almost completely framed in Marx's mind by 1847; the only important addition to it after that date was the theory of value, and with this one important exception Marx spent the last 35 years of his life developing the hypotheses formulated in the forties. The Manifesto, written in a style suitable for its purpose, is the most readable of his works; “Capital,” which was not intended to be primarily propagandist but rather a scientific treatise on capitalist production and exchange, is hard reading-even for an economics book. Pedantic and laborious in style, abstract in language and method, it has suffered the fate of being much talked about but little read.
The Marxian writings contain a theory of history, a discussion of the economics of capitalism, and a set of deductions about the present state of society and its future development.
The Economic Interpretation of History. Most historians before Marx had regarded history either as a string of unconnected events, or as the story of growth influenced by big personalities, legal, political, and spiritual ideas, racial sentiments, or chance. To some of them material things were shaped by the mind of man. Marx turned this round, and declared that the mind of man, his ideas and outlook were shaped by material forces. As Engels expressed it, “In every historical epoch the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch.” The idea was '
not new; it dates back to Aristotle, but remained vague until Marx solidified it in a formula. Under any prevailing mode of producing and exchanging goods men enter into definite relations with each other. These relations create social classes, colour ideas, shape forms of government, laws and codes of conduct. The ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the age, but with the rulers as with the ruled, “man's ideas, views, conceptions, in one word, man's consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations, and in his social life.”
Now the mode of production and exchange is constantly changing, by reason of the development of trade, scientific discoveries, mechanical inventions, and new financial usages. When this change has gone a certain distance it finds further progress impeded by the old social relationships. Hence a revolution is necessary, out of which the new forces of production emerge victorious, and on them is built up a new economic, political, and intellectual structure. Thus society is shaped at each stage by the method of producing and exchanging goods; political squabbles are really struggles between rival economic interests; revolutions are the result of conflict
between new forms of production, pushing through to the light, and old social relations.
The Class Struggle. Here then we have a clue, a key to unlock the door of history. Having opened the door, what do we find inside? Struggle, factions, war, civil strife. What is the reason for this perpetual tug-of-war? Given the economic interpretation of history, the Marxian answer is obvious: “The whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes."
The names of the classes may change-freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman-but in all ages the two classes, oppressor and oppressed, have stood in constant opposition, carrying on an uninterrupted hidden or open fight, a fight which always ended either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. With the Industrial Revolution the class struggle entered upon a new and more intense phase ; the number of classes was being rapidly reduced to two quite clearly marked sections, and the battle was becoming a straight-out fight between the capitalists and the labourers—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie were the descendants of those who during the 16th to 18th centuries had accumulated wealth in overseas trade, finance, or industry. They seized the new inventions and discoveries, established factories, and became the lords of the new economic order. Driven along by the stress of competition and the desire for profit, they harnessed nature, gathered the people in from the country to the town, scattered their wares all over the world, and made mankind their market. They secured control over the governing machine, and the executive of the modern state became "but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.
Side by side with this growth of the capitalist class was the rise of the proletariat. Divorced from the land, devoid of any capital, the labourers were herded together in towns and factories, where they sold their labour piecemeal, a commodity like every other article of commerce. Skill and individuality are destroyed by the constant improvement of machinery, and as women and children take the place of men, the latter are forced into the army of unemployed. Hence wages are kept down by competition in an over-supplied market to such a sum as will provide the means of subsistence for the worker and enable him to propagate the race.
Surplus Value. The struggle between the two classes comes from the antagonism between socialized production of wealth and private appropriation of that wealth. In medieval times individuals or families by their own labour and tools produced finished articles. Washing, carding, spinning, weaving and dyeing the wool were all done by the same person or family. This was individual production. The man who provided the labour kept the product of that labour for himself; this might be called individual or labour appropriation, with every man getting what he produced. Now, under the capitalist system, there is socialized production; the division of labour makes one article the product of a hundred men's work. But instead of each of these men getting one-hundredth part of the value their social labour produces, he gets a subsistence wage, determined by the standard of living of the period, and the capitalist takes the remainder. The value of commodities, said Marx, is determined by the amount of social labour