5.30.2017 Daily Links

 Thought for the Day 


In considering the possibility of an ethical conduct of a human life, the summative statement will always remain tantamount to the Sermon on the Mount’s prescription of treating others according to one’s own honest preferences, and proscription of any engagement with others that proceeds otherwise; the operative interrogatories for examining one’s own manifestation of a defensible ethic in this regard arguably should approximate two simple questions, How does one honor and reflect the Golden Rule? and Why does one fail to promote and follow behavior that mirrors such a basic precept of moral imprimatur?, the upshot of both of which could be a multitiered thought about awareness that revolves around the incontrovertible and inescapable necessity of collectivity in social relations, a collaborative nexus that working people will either define for themselves or, through passivity or false consciousness, allow others to delineate for them.

 The Daily Doc 

1. Alexander Pope, 1711.
2. Voltaire, 1764.
3. Giorgi Plekhanov, 1902.
4. Ann Robertson, 2003.
5. Alvaro Santana-Acuna, 2017.
Numero Uno“‘Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
But, of the two, less dang’rous is th’ Offence,
To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense:
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this,
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss;
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.’Tis with our Judgments as our Watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
True Taste as seldom is the Critick’s Share;
Both must alike from Heav’n derive their Light,
These born to Judge, as well as those to Write.
Let such teach others who themselves excell,
And censure freely who have written well.
Authors are partial to their Wit, ’tis true,
But are not Criticks to their Judgment too?Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the Seeds of Judgment in their Mind;
Nature affords at least a glimm’ring Light;
The Lines, tho’ touch’d but faintly, are drawn right.
But as the slightest Sketch, if justly trac’d,
Is by ill Colouring but the more disgrac’d,
So by false Learning is good Sense defac’d.
Some are bewilder’d in the Maze of Schools,
And some made Coxcombs Nature meant but Fools.
In search of Wit these lose their common Sense,
And then turn Criticks in their own Defence.
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,
Or with a Rival’s or an Eunuch’s spite.
All Fools have still an Itching to deride,
And fain wou’d be upon the Laughing Side;
If Maevius Scribble in Apollo’s spight,
There are, who judge still worse than he can writeSome have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn’d Criticks next, and prov’d plain Fools at last;
Some neither can for Wits nor Criticks pass,
As heavy Mules are neither Horse or Ass.
Those half-learn’d Witlings, num’rous in our Isle,
As half-form’d Insects on the Banks of Nile:
Unfinish’d Things, one knows now what to call,
Their Generation’s so equivocal:
To tell ’em, wou’d a hundred Tongues require,
Or one vain Wit’s, that might a hundred tire.But you who seek to give and merit Fame,
And justly bear a Critick’s noble Name,
Be sure your self and your own Reach to know.
How far your Genius, Taste, and Learning go;
Launch not beyond your Depth, but be discreet,
And mark that Point where Sense and Dulness meet.Nature to all things fix’d the Limits fit,
And wisely curb’d proud Man’s pretending Wit:
As on the Land while here the Ocean gains,
In other Parts it leaves wide sandy Plains;
Thus in the Soul while Memory prevails,
The solid Pow’r of Understanding fails;
Where Beams of warm Imagination play,
The Memory’s soft Figures melt away.
One Science only will one Genius fit;
So vast is Art, so narrow Human Wit;
Not only bounded to peculiar Arts,
But oft in those, confin’d to single Parts.
Like Kings we lose the Conquests gain’d before,
By vain Ambition still to make them more:
Each might his sev’ral Province well command,
Wou’d all but stoop to what they understand.First follow NATURE, and your Judgment frame
By her just Standard, which is still the same:
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchang’d and Universal Light,
Life, Force, and Beauty, must to all impart,
At once the Source, and End, and Test of Art
Art from that Fund each just Supply provides,
Works without Show, and without Pomp presides:
In some fair Body thus th’ informing Soul
With Spirits feeds, with Vigour fills the whole,
Each Motion guides, and ev’ry Nerve sustains;
It self unseen, but in th’ Effects, remains.
Some, to whom Heav’n in Wit has been profuse.
Want as much more, to turn it to its use,
For Wit and Judgment often are at strife,
Tho’ meant each other’s Aid, like Man and Wife.
‘Tis more to guide than spur the Muse’s Steed;
Restrain his Fury, than provoke his Speed;
The winged Courser, like a gen’rous Horse,
Shows most true Mettle when you check his Course.

Those RULES of old discover’d, not devis’d,
Are Nature still, but Nature Methodiz’d;
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain’d
By the same Laws which first herself ordain’d.

Hear how learn’d Greece her useful Rules indites,
When to repress, and when indulge our Flights:
High on Parnassus’ Top her Sons she show’d,
And pointed out those arduous Paths they trod,
Held from afar, aloft, th’ Immortal Prize,
And urg’d the rest by equal Steps to rise;
Just Precepts thus from great Examples giv’n,
She drew from them what they deriv’d from Heav’n
The gen’rous Critick fann’d the Poet’s Fire,
And taught the World, with Reason to Admire.
Then Criticism the Muse’s Handmaid prov’d,
To dress her Charms, and make her more belov’d;
But following Wits from that Intention stray’d;
Who cou’d not win the Mistress, woo’d the Maid;
Against the Poets their own Arms they turn’d,
Sure to hate most the Men from whom they learn’d
So modern Pothecaries, taught the Art
By Doctor’s Bills to play the Doctor’s Part,
Bold in the Practice of mistaken Rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their Masters Fools.
Some on the Leaves of ancient Authors prey,
Nor Time nor Moths e’er spoil’d so much as they:
Some dryly plain, without Invention’s Aid,
Write dull Receits how Poems may be made:
These leave the Sense, their Learning to display,
And theme explain the Meaning quite away

You then whose Judgment the right Course wou’d steer,
Know well each ANCIENT’s proper Character,
His Fable, Subject, Scope in ev’ry Page,
Religion, Country, Genius of his Age:
Without all these at once before your Eyes,
Cavil you may, but never Criticize.
Be Homer’s Works your Study, and Delight,
Read them by Day, and meditate by Night,
Thence form your Judgment, thence your Maxims bring,
And trace the Muses upward to their Spring;
Still with It self compar’d, his Text peruse;
And let your Comment be the Mantuan Muse.

When first young Maro in his boundless Mind
A Work t’ outlast Immortal Rome design’d,
Perhaps he seem’d above the Critick’s Law,
And but from Nature’s Fountains scorn’d to draw:
But when t’examine ev’ry Part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same:
Convinc’d, amaz’d, he checks the bold Design,
And Rules as strict his labour’d Work confine,
As if the Stagyrite o’er looked each Line.
Learn hence for Ancient Rules a just Esteem;
To copy Nature is to copy Them.

Some Beauties yet, no Precepts can declare,
For there’s a Happiness as well as Care.
Musick resembles Poetry, in each
Are nameless Graces which no Methods teach,
And which a Master-Hand alone can reach.
If, where the Rules not far enough extend,
(Since Rules were made but to promote their End)
Some Lucky LICENCE answers to the full
Th’ Intent propos’d, that Licence is a Rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common Track.
Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to Faults true Criticks dare not mend;
From vulgar Bounds with brave Disorder part,
And snatch a Grace beyond the Reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro’ the Judgment, gains
The Heart, and all its End at once attains.
In Prospects, thus, some Objects please our Eyes,
Which out of Nature’s common Order rise,
The shapeless Rock, or hanging Precipice.
But tho’ the Ancients thus their Rules invade,
(As Kings dispense with Laws Themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! Or if you must offend
Against the Precept, ne’er transgress its End,
Let it be seldom, and compell’d by Need,
And have, at least, Their Precedent to plead.
The Critick else proceeds without Remorse,
Seizes your Fame, and puts his Laws in force.

I know there are, to whose presumptuous Thoughts
Those Freer Beauties, ev’n in Them, seem Faults:
Some Figures monstrous and mis-shap’d appear,
Consider’d singly, or beheld too near,
Which, but proportion’d to their Light, or Place,
Due Distance reconciles to Form and Grace.
A prudent Chief not always must display
His Pow’rs in equal Ranks, and fair Array,
But with th’ Occasion and the Place comply,
Conceal his Force, nay seem sometimes to Fly.
Those oft are Stratagems which Errors seem,
Nor is it Homer Nods, but We that Dream.

Still green with Bays each ancient Altar stands,
Above the reach of Sacrilegious Hands,
Secure from Flames, from Envy’s fiercer Rage,
Destructive War, and all-involving Age.
See, from each Clime the Learn’d their Incense bring;
Hear, in all Tongues consenting Paeans ring!
In Praise so just, let ev’ry Voice be join’d,
And fill the Gen’ral Chorus of Mankind!
Hail Bards Triumphant! born in happier Days;
Immortal Heirs of Universal Praise!
Whose Honours with Increase of Ages grow,
As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow!
Nations unborn your mighty Names shall sound,
And Worlds applaud that must not yet be found!
Oh may some Spark of your Coelestial Fire
The last, the meanest of your Sons inspire,
(That on weak Wings, from far, pursues your Flights;
Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes)
To teach vain Wits a Science little known,
T’ admire Superior Sense, and doubt their own!

Of all the Causes which conspire to blind
Man’s erring Judgment, and misguide the Mind,
What the weak Head with strongest Byass rules,
Is Pride, the never-failing Vice of Fools.
Whatever Nature has in Worth deny’d,
She gives in large Recruits of needful Pride;
For as in Bodies, thus in Souls, we find
What wants in Blood and Spirits, swell’d with Wind;
Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our Defence,
And fills up all the mighty Void of Sense!
If once right Reason drives that Cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless Day;
Trust not your self; but your Defects to know,
Make use of ev’ry Friend–and ev’ry Foe.

A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir’d at first Sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts,
While from the bounded Level of our Mind,
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc’d, behold with strange Surprize
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise!
So pleas’d at first, the towring Alps we try,
Mount o’er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky;
Th’ Eternal Snows appear already past,
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last:
But those attain’d, we tremble to survey
The growing Labours of the lengthen’d Way,
Th’ increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes,
Hills peep o’er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

A perfect Judge will read each Work of Wit
With the same Spirit that its Author writ,
Survey the Whole, nor seek slight Faults to find,
Where Nature moves, and Rapture warms the Mind;
Nor lose, for that malignant dull Delight,
The gen’rous Pleasure to be charm’d with Wit.
But in such Lays as neither ebb, nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,
That shunning Faults, one quiet Tenour keep;
We cannot blame indeed–but we may sleep.
In Wit, as Nature, what affects our Hearts
Is nor th’ Exactness of peculiar Parts;
‘Tis not a Lip, or Eye, we Beauty call,
But the joint Force and full Result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportion’d Dome,
The World’s just Wonder, and ev’n thine O Rome!)
No single Parts unequally surprize;
All comes united to th’ admiring Eyes;
No monstrous Height, or Breadth, or Length appear;
The Whole at once is Bold, and Regular.

Whoever thinks a faultless Piece to see,
Thinks what ne’er was, nor is, nor e’er shall be.
In ev’ry Work regard the Writer’s End,
Since none can compass more than they Intend;
And if the Means be just, the Conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial Faults, is due.
As Men of Breeding, sometimes Men of Wit,
T’ avoid great Errors, must the less commit,
Neglect the Rules each Verbal Critick lays,
For not to know some Trifles, is a Praise.
Most Criticks, fond of some subservient Art,
Still make the Whole depend upon a Part,
They talk of Principles, but Notions prize,
And All to one lov’d Folly Sacrifice.

Once on a time, La Mancha’s Knight, they say,
A certain Bard encountring on the Way,
Discours’d in Terms as just, with Looks as Sage,
As e’er cou’d Dennis, of the Grecian Stage;
Concluding all were desp’rate Sots and Fools,
Who durst depart from Aristotle’s Rules.
Our Author, happy in a Judge so nice,
Produc’d his Play, and beg’d the Knight’s Advice,
Made him observe the Subject and the Plot,
The Manners, Passions, Unities, what not?
All which, exact to Rule were brought about,
Were but a Combate in the Lists left out.
What! Leave the Combate out? Exclaims the Knight;
Yes, or we must renounce the Stagyrite.
Not so by Heav’n (he answers in a Rage)
Knights, Squires, and Steeds, must enter on the Stage.
So vast a Throng the Stage can ne’er contain.
Then build a New, or act it in a Plain.

Thus Criticks, of less Judgment than Caprice,
Curious, not Knowing, not exact, but nice,
Form short Ideas; and offend in Arts
(As most in Manners) by a Love to Parts.

Some to Conceit alone their Taste confine,
And glitt’ring Thoughts struck out at ev’ry Line;
Pleas’d with a Work where nothing’s just or fit;
One glaring Chaos and wild Heap of Wit;
Poets like Painters, thus, unskill’d to trace
The naked Nature and the living Grace,
With Gold and Jewels cover ev’ry Part,
And hide with Ornaments their Want of Art.
True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest,
What oft was Thought, but ne’er so well Exprest,
Something, whose Truth convinc’d at Sight we find,
That gives us back the Image of our Mind:
As Shades more sweetly recommend the Light,
So modest Plainness sets off sprightly Wit:
For Works may have more Wit than does ’em good,
As Bodies perish through Excess of Blood.

Others for Language all their Care express,
And value Books, as Women Men, for Dress:
Their Praise is still–The Stile is excellent:
The Sense, they humbly take upon Content.
Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound,
Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found.
False Eloquence, like the Prismatic Glass,
Its gawdy Colours spreads on ev’ry place;
The Face of Nature was no more Survey,
All glares alike, without Distinction gay:
But true Expression, like th’ unchanging Sun,
Clears, and improves whate’er it shines upon,
It gilds all Objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the Dress of Thought, and still
Appears more decent as more suitable;
A vile Conceit in pompous Words exprest,
Is like a Clown in regal Purple drest;
For diff’rent Styles with diff’rent Subjects sort,
As several Garbs with Country, Town, and Court.
Some by Old Words to Fame have made Pretence;
Ancients in Phrase, meer Moderns in their Sense!
Such labour’d Nothings, in so strange a Style,
Amaze th’unlearn’d, and make the Learned Smile.
Unlucky, as Fungoso in the Play,
These Sparks with aukward Vanity display
What the Fine Gentleman wore Yesterday!
And but so mimick ancient Wits at best,
As Apes our Grandsires in their Doublets treat.
In Words, as Fashions, the same Rule will hold;
Alike Fantastick, if too New, or Old;
Be not the first by whom the New are try’d,
Nor yet the last to lay the Old aside.

But most by Numbers judge a Poet’s Song,
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong;
In the bright Muse tho’ thousand Charms conspire,
Her Voice is all these tuneful Fools admire,
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their Ear,
Not mend their Minds; as some to Church repair,
Not for the Doctrine, but the Musick there.
These Equal Syllables alone require,
Tho’ oft the Ear the open Vowels tire,
While Expletives their feeble Aid do join,
And ten low Words oft creep in one dull Line,
While they ring round the same unvary’d Chimes,
With sure Returns of still expected Rhymes.
Where-e’er you find the cooling Western Breeze,
In the next Line, it whispers thro’ the Trees;
If Chrystal Streams with pleasing Murmurs creep,
The Reader’s threaten’d (not in vain) with Sleep.
Then, at the last, and only Couplet fraught
With some unmeaning Thing they call a Thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the Song,
That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull Rhimes, and know
What’s roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
And praise the Easie Vigor of a Line,
Where Denham’s Strength, and Waller’s Sweetness join.
True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance,
‘Tis not enough no Harshness gives Offence,
The Sound must seem an Eccho to the Sense.
Soft is the Strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth Stream in smoother Numbers flows;
But when loud Surges lash the sounding Shore,
The hoarse, rough Verse shou’d like the Torrent roar.
When Ajax strives, some Rocks’ vast Weight to throw,
The Line too labours, and the Words move slow;
Not so, when swift Camilla scours the Plain,
Flies o’er th’unbending Corn, and skims along the Main.
Hear how Timotheus’ vary’d Lays surprize,
And bid Alternate Passions fall and rise!
While, at each Change, the Son of Lybian Jove
Now burns with Glory, and then melts with Love;
Now his fierce Eyes with sparkling Fury glow;
Now Sighs steal out, and Tears begin to flow:
Persians and Greeks like Turns of Nature found,
And the World’s Victor stood subdu’d by Sound!
The Pow’rs of Musick all our Hearts allow;
And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now.

Avoid Extreams; and shun the Fault of such,
Who still are pleas’d too little, or too much.
At ev’ry Trifle scorn to take Offence,
That always shows Great Pride, or Little Sense;
Those Heads as Stomachs are not sure the best
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest.
Yet let not each gay Turn thy Rapture move,
For Fools Admire, but Men of Sense Approve;
As things seem large which we thro’ Mists descry,
Dulness is ever apt to Magnify.

Some foreign Writers, some our own despise;
The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize:
(Thus Wit, like Faith by each Man is apply’d
To one small Sect, and All are damn’d beside.)
Meanly they seek the Blessing to confine,
And force that Sun but on a Part to Shine;
Which not alone the Southern Wit sublimes,
But ripens Spirits in cold Northern Climes;
Which from the first has shone on Ages past,
Enlights the present, and shall warm the last:
(Tho’ each may feel Increases and Decays,
And see now clearer and now darker Days)
Regard not then if Wit be Old or New,
But blame the False, and value still the True.

Some ne’er advance a Judgment of their own,
But catch the spreading Notion of the Town;
They reason and conclude by Precedent,
And own stale Nonsense which they ne’er invent.
Some judge of Authors’ Names, not Works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the Writings, but the Men.
Of all this Servile Herd the worst is He
That in proud Dulness joins with Quality,
A constant Critick at the Great-man’s Board,
To fetch and carry Nonsense for my Lord.
What woful stuff this Madrigal wou’d be,
To some starv’d Hackny Sonneteer, or me?
But let a Lord once own the happy Lines,
How the Wit brightens! How the Style refines!
Before his sacred Name flies ev’ry Fault,
And each exalted Stanza teems with Thought!

The Vulgar thus through Imitation err;
As oft the Learn’d by being Singular;
So much they scorn the Crowd, that if the Throng
By Chance go right, they purposely go wrong;
So Schismatics the plain Believers quit,
And are but damn’d for having too much Wit.

Some praise at Morning what they blame at Night;
But always think the last Opinion right.
A Muse by these is like a Mistress us’d,
This hour she’s idoliz’d, the next abus’d,
While their weak Heads, like Towns unfortify’d,
‘Twixt Sense and Nonsense daily change their Side.
Ask them the Cause; They’re wiser still, they say;
And still to Morrow’s wiser than to Day.
We think our Fathers Fools, so wise we grow;
Our wiser Sons, no doubt, will think us so.
Once School-Divines this zealous Isle o’erspread;
Who knew most Sentences was deepest read;
Faith, Gospel, All, seem’d made to be disputed,
And none had Sense enough to be Confuted.
Scotists and Thomists, now, in Peace remain,
Amidst their kindred Cobwebs in Duck-Lane.
If Faith it self has diff’rent Dresses worn,
What wonder Modes in Wit shou’d take their Turn?
Oft, leaving what is Natural and fit,
The current Folly proves the ready Wit,
And Authors think their Reputation safe,
Which lives as long as Fools are pleas’d to Laugh.

Some valuing those of their own, Side or Mind,
Still make themselves the measure of Mankind;
Fondly we think we honour Merit then,
When we but praise Our selves in Other Men.
Parties in Wit attend on those of State,
And publick Faction doubles private Hate.
Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose,
In various Shapes of Parsons, Criticks, Beaus;
But Sense surviv’d, when merry Jests were past;
For rising Merit will buoy up at last.
Might he return, and bless once more our Eyes,
New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise;
Nay shou’d great Homer lift his awful Head,
Zoilus again would start up from the Dead.
Envy will Merit as its Shade pursue,
But like a Shadow, proves the Substance true;
For envy’d Wit, like Sol Eclips’d, makes known
Th’ opposing Body’s Grossness, not its own.
When first that Sun too powerful Beams displays,
It draws up Vapours which obscure its Rays;
But ev’n those Clouds at last adorn its Way,
Reflect new Glories, and augment the Day.

Be thou the first true Merit to befriend;
His Praise is lost, who stays till All commend;
Short is the Date, alas, of Modern Rhymes;
And ’tis but just to let ’em live betimes.
No longer now that Golden Age appears,
When Patriarch-Wits surviv’d thousand Years;
Now Length of Fame (our second Life) is lost,
And bare Threescore is all ev’n That can boast:
Our Sons their Fathers’ failing language see,
And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.
So when the faithful Pencil has design’d
Some bright Idea of the Master’s Mind,
Where a new World leaps out at his command,
And ready Nature waits upon his Hand;
When the ripe Colours soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just Shade and Light,
When mellowing Years their full Perfection give,
And each Bold Figure just begins to Live;
The treach’rous Colours the fair Art betray,
And all the bright Creation fades away!

Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken Things,
Attones not for that Envy which it brings.
In Youth alone its empty Praise we boast,
But soon the Short-liv’d Vanity is lost!
Like some fair Flow’r the early Spring supplies,
That gaily Blooms, but ev’n in blooming Dies.
What is this Wit which must our Cares employ?
The Owner’s Wife, that other Men enjoy,
Then most our Trouble still when most admir’d,
And still the more we give, the more requir’d;
Whose Fame with Pains we guard, but lose with Ease,
Sure some to vex, but never all to please;
‘Tis what the Vicious fear, the Virtuous shun;
By Fools ’tis hated, and by Knaves undone!

If Wit so much from Ign’rance undergo,
Ah let not Learning too commence its Foe!
Of old, those met Rewards who cou’d excel,
And such were Prais’d who but endeavour’d well:
Tho’ Triumphs were to Gen’rals only due,
Crowns were reserv’d to grace the Soldiers too.
Now, they who reached Parnassus’ lofty Crown,
Employ their Pains to spurn some others down;
And while Self-Love each jealous Writer rules,
Contending Wits becomes the Sport of Fools:
But still the Worst with most Regret commend,
For each Ill Author is as bad a Friend.
To what base Ends, and by what abject Ways,
Are Mortals urg’d thro’ Sacred Lust of praise!
Ah ne’er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast,
Nor in the Critick let the Man be lost!
Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join;
To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine.

But if in Noble Minds some Dregs remain,
Not yet purg’d off, of Spleen and sow’r Disdain,
Discharge that Rage on more Provoking Crimes,
Nor fear a Dearth in these Flagitious Times.
No Pardon vile Obscenity should find,
Tho’ Wit and Art conspire to move your Mind;
But Dulness with Obscenity must prove
As Shameful sure as Importance in Love.
In the fat Age of Pleasure, Wealth, and Ease,
Sprung the rank Weed, and thriv’d with large Increase;
When Love was all an easie Monarch’s Care;
Seldom at Council, never in a War:
Jilts rul’d the State, and Statesmen Farces writ;
Nay Wits had Pensions, and young Lords had Wit:
The Fair sate panting at a Courtier’s Play,
And not a Mask went un-improv’d away:
The modest Fan was liked up no more,
And Virgins smil’d at what they blush’d before–
The following Licence of a Foreign Reign
Did all the Dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then Unbelieving Priests reform’d the Nation,
And taught more Pleasant Methods of Salvation;
Where Heav’ns Free Subjects might their Rights dispute,
Lest God himself shou’d seem too Absolute.
Pulpits their Sacred Satire learn’d to spare,
And Vice admir’d to find a Flatt’rer there!
Encourag’d thus, Witt’s Titans brav’d the Skies,
And the Press groan’d with Licenc’d Blasphemies–
These Monsters, Criticks! with your Darts engage,
Here point your Thunder, and exhaust your Rage!
Yet shun their Fault, who, Scandalously nice,
Will needs mistake an Author into Vice;
All seems Infected that th’ Infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the Jaundic’d Eye.

LEARN then what MORALS Criticks ought to show,
For ’tis but half a Judge’s Task, to Know.
‘Tis not enough, Taste, Judgment, Learning, join;
In all you speak, let Truth and Candor shine:
That not alone what to your Sense is due,
All may allow; but seek your Friendship too.

Be silent always when you doubt your Sense;
And speak, tho’ sure, with seeming Diffidence:
Some positive persisting Fops we know,
Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so;
But you, with Pleasure own your Errors past,
An make each Day a Critick on the last.

‘Tis not enough your Counsel still be true,
Blunt Truths more Mischief than nice Falsehood do;
Men must be taught as if you taught them not;
And Things unknown propos’d as Things forgot:
Without Good Breeding, Truth is disapprov’d;
That only makes Superior Sense belov’d.

Be Niggards of Advice on no Pretence;
For the worst Avarice is that of Sense:
With mean Complacence ne’er betray your Trust,
Nor be so Civil as to prove Unjust;
Fear not the Anger of the Wise to raise;
Those best can bear Reproof, who merit Praise.

‘Twere well, might Criticks still this Freedom take;
But Appius reddens at each Word you speak,
And stares, Tremendous! with a threatning Eye
Like some fierce Tyrant in Old Tapestry!
Fear most to tax an Honourable Fool,
Whose Right it is, uncensur’d to be dull;
Such without Wit are Poets when they please.
As without Learning they can take Degrees.
Leave dang’rous Truths to unsuccessful Satyrs,
And Flattery to fulsome Dedicators,
Whom, when they Praise, the World believes no more,
Than when they promise to give Scribling o’er.
‘Tis best sometimes your Censure to restrain,
And charitably let the Dull be vain:
Your Silence there is better than your Spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write?
Still humming on, their drowzy Course they keep,
And lash’d so long, like Tops, are lash’d asleep.
False Steps but help them to renew the Race,
As after Stumbling, Jades will mend their Pace.
What Crouds of these, impenitently bold,
In Sounds and jingling Syllables grown old,
Still run on Poets in a raging Vein,
Ev’n to the Dregs and Squeezings of the Brain;
Strain out the last, dull droppings of their Sense,
And Rhyme with all the Rage of Impotence!

Such shameless Bards we have; and yet ’tis true,
There are as mad, abandon’d Criticks too.
The Bookful Blockhead, ignorantly read,
With Loads of Learned Lumber in his Head,
With his own Tongue still edifies his Ears,
And always List’ning to Himself appears.
All Books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden’s Fables down to Durfey’s Tales.
With him, most Authors steal their Works, or buy;
Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
Name a new Play, and he’s the Poet’s Friend,
Nay show’d his Faults–but when wou’d Poets mend?
No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr’d,
Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Church-yard:
Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
Distrustful Sense with modest Caution speaks;
It still looks home, and short Excursions makes;
But ratling Nonsense in full Vollies breaks;
And never shock’d, and never turn’d aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering Tyde!

But where’s the Man, who Counsel can bestow,
Still pleas’d to teach, and not proud to know?
Unbiass’d, or by Favour or by Spite;
Not dully prepossest, nor blindly right;
Tho’ Learn’d well-bred; and tho’ well-bred, sincere;
Modestly bold, and Humanly severe?
Who to a Friend his Faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the Merit of a Foe?
Blest with a Taste exact, yet unconfin’d;
A Knowledge both of Books and Humankind;
Gen’rous Converse; a Sound exempt from Pride;
And Love to Praise, with Reason on his Side?

Such once were Criticks, such the Happy Few,
Athens and Rome in better Ages knew.
The mighty Stagyrite first left the Shore,
Spread all his Sails, and durst the Deeps explore;
He steer’d securely, and discover’d far,
Led by the Light of the Maeonian Star.
Poets, a Race long unconfin’d and free,
Still fond and proud of Savage Liberty,
Receiv’d his Laws, and stood convinc’d ’twas fit
Who conquer’d Nature, shou’d preside o’er Wit.

Horace still charms with graceful Negligence,
And without Method talks us into Sense,
Will like a Friend familarly convey
The truest Notions in the easiest way.
He, who Supream in Judgment, as in Wit,
Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ,
Yet judg’d with Coolness tho’ he sung with Fire;
His Precepts teach but what his Works inspire.
Our Criticks take a contrary Extream,
They judge with Fury, but they write with Fle’me:
Nor suffers Horace more in wrong Translations
By Wits, than Criticks in as wrong Quotations.

See Dionysius Homer’s Thoughts refine,
And call new Beauties forth from ev’ry Line!

Fancy and Art in gay Petronius please,
The Scholar’s Learning, with the Courtier’s Ease.

In grave Quintilian’s copious Work we find
The justest Rules, and clearest Method join’d;
Thus useful Arms in Magazines we place,
All rang’d in Order, and dispos’d with Grace,
But less to please the Eye, than arm the Hand,
Still fit for Use, and ready at Command.

Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
And bless their Critick with a Poet’s Fire.
An ardent Judge, who Zealous in his Trust,
With Warmth gives Sentence, yet is always Just;
Whose own Example strengthens all his Laws,
And Is himself that great Sublime he draws.

Thus long succeeding Criticks justly reign’d,
Licence repress’d, and useful Laws ordain’d;
Learning and Rome alike in Empire grew,
And Arts still follow’d where her Eagles flew;
From the same Foes, at last, both felt their Doom,
And the same Age saw Learning fall, and Rome.
With Tyranny, then Superstition join’d,
As that the Body, this enslav’d the Mind;
Much was Believ’d, but little understood,
And to be dull was constru’d to be good;
A second Deluge Learning thus o’er-run,
And the Monks finish’d what the Goths begun.

At length, Erasmus, that great, injur’d Name,
(The Glory of the Priesthood, and the Shame!)
Stemm’d the wild Torrent of a barb’rous Age.
And drove those Holy Vandals off the Stage.

But see! each Muse, in Leo’s Golden Days,
Starts from her Trance, and trims her wither’d Bays!
Rome’s ancient Genius, o’er its Ruins spread,
Shakes off the Dust, and rears his rev’rend Head!
Then Sculpture and her Sister-Arts revive;
Stones leap’d to Form, and Rocks began to live;
With sweeter Notes each rising Temple rung;
A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung!
Immortal Vida! on whose honour’d Brow
The Poet’s Bays and Critick’s Ivy grow:
Cremona now shall ever boast thy Name,
As next in Place to Mantua, next in Fame!

But soon by Impious Arms from Latium chas’d,
Their ancient Bounds the banish’d Muses past:
Thence Arts o’er all the Northern World advance,
But Critic Learning flourish’d most in France.
The Rules, a Nation born to serve, obeys,
And Boileau still in Right of Horace sways.
But we, brave Britons, Foreign Laws despis’d,
And kept unconquer’d and unciviliz’d,
Fierce for the Liberties of Wit, and bold,
We still defy’d the Romans as of old.
Yet some there were, among the sounder Few
Of those who less presum’d, and better knew,
Who durst assert the juster Ancient Cause,
And here restor’d Wit’s Fundamental Laws.
Such was the Muse, whose Rules and Practice tell,
Nature’s chief Master-piece is writing well.
Such was Roscomon–not more learn’d than good,
With Manners gen’rous as his Noble Blood;
To him the Wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And ev’ry Author’s Merit, but his own.
Such late was Walsh,–the Muse’s Judge and Friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
To Failings mild, but zealous for Desert;
The clearest Head, and the sincerest Heart.
This humble Praise, lamented Shade! receive,
This Praise at least a grateful Muse may give!
The Muse, whose early Voice you taught to Sing,
Prescrib’d her Heights, and prun’d her tender Wing,
(Her Guide now lost) no more attempts to rise,
But in low Numbers short Excursions tries:
Content, if hence th’ Unlearned their Wants may view,
The Learn’d reflect on what before they knew:
Careless of Censure, not too fond of Fame,
Still pleas’d to praise, yet not afraid to blame,
Averse alike to Flatter, or Offend,
Not free from Faults, nor yet too vain to mend.”     Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism;” 1711: http://poetry.eserver.org/essay-on-criticism.html.

Numero Dos“This book does not demand continuous reading; but at whatever place one opens it, one will find matter for reflection.  The most useful books are those of which readers themselves compose half; they extend the thoughts of which the germ is presented to them; they correct what seems defective to them, and they fortify by their reflections what seems to them weak.It is only really by enlightened people that this book can be read; the ordinary man is not made for such knowledge; philosophy will never be his lot.  Those who say that there are truths which must be hidden from the people, need not be alarmed; the people do not read; they work six days of the week, and on the seventh go to the inn.  In a word, philosophical works are made only for philosophers, and every honest man must try to be a philosopher, without pluming himself on being one.

This alphabet is extracted from the most estimable works which are not commonly within the reach of the many; and if the author does not always mention the sources of his information, as being well enough known to the learned, he must not be suspected of wishing to take the credit for other people’s work, because he himself preserves anonymity, according to this word of the Gospel: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’ …

Note on a Magistrate Written about 1764

A senior magistrate of a French town had the misfortune to have a wife who was debauched by a priest before her marriage, and who since covered herself with disgrace by public scandals: he was so moderate as to leave her without noise.  This man, about forty years old, vigorous and of agreeable appearance, needs a woman; he is too scrupulous to seek to seduce another man’s wife, he fears intercourse with a public woman or with a widow who would serve him as concubine.  In this disquieting and sad state, he addresses to his Church a plea of which the following is a précis:

My wife is criminal, and it is I who am punished.  Another woman is necessary as a comfort to my life, to my virtue even; and the sect of which I am a member refuses her to me; it forbids me to marry an honest girl.  The civil laws of to-day, unfortunately founded on canon law, deprive me of the rights of humanity.  The Church reduces me to seeking either the pleasures it reproves, or the shameful compensations it condemns; it tries to force me to be criminal.

I cast my eyes over all the peoples of the earth; there is not a single one except the Roman Catholic people among whom divorce and a new marriage are not natural rights.

What upheaval of the rule has therefore made among the Catholics a virtue of undergoing adultery, and a duty of lacking a wife when one has been infamously outraged by one’s own?

Why is a bond that has rotted indissoluble in spite of the great law adopted by the code, quidquid ligatur dissolubile est?  I am allowed a separation a mensa et thoro,[Pg 12] and I am not allowed divorce.  The law can deprive me of my wife, and it leaves me a name called ‘sacrament!’  What a contradiction! what slavery! and under what laws did we receive birth!

What is still more strange is that this law of my Church is directly contrary to the words which this Church itself believes to have been uttered by Jesus Christ: ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery’ (Matt. xix. 9).

I do not examine whether the pontiffs of Rome are in the right to violate at their pleasure the law of him they regard as their master; whether when a state has need of an heir, it is permissible to repudiate her who can give it one. I do not inquire if a turbulent woman, demented, homicidal, a poisoner, should not be repudiated equally with an adulteress: I limit myself to the sad state which concerns me: God permits me to remarry, and the Bishop of Rome does not permit me.

Divorce was a practice among Catholics under all the emperors; it was also in all the dismembered states of the Roman Empire. The kings of France, those called “of the first line,” almost all repudiated their wives in order to take new ones. At last came Gregory IX., enemy of the emperors and kings, who by a decree made marriage an unshakeable yoke; his decretal became the law of Europe. When the kings wanted to repudiate a wife who was an adulteress according to Jesus Christ’s law, they could not succeed; it was necessary to find ridiculous pretexts. Louis the younger was obliged, to accomplish his unfortunate divorce from Eleanor of Guienne, to allege a relationship which did not exist. Henry IV., to repudiate Marguerite de Valois, pretexted a still more false cause, a refusal of consent. One had to lie to obtain a divorce legitimately.

What! a king can abdicate his crown, and without the Pope’s permission he cannot abdicate his wife! Is it possible that otherwise enlightened men have wallowed so long in this absurd servitude!

That our priests, that our monks renounce wives, to that[Pg 13] I consent; it is an outrage against population, it is a misfortune for them, but they merit this misfortune which they have made for themselves. They have been the victims of the popes who wanted to have in them slaves, soldiers without families and without fatherland, living solely for the Church: but I, magistrate, who serve the state all day, I need a wife in the evening; and the Church has not the right to deprive me of a benefit which God accords me. The apostles were married, Joseph was married, and I want to be. If I, Alsacian, am dependent on a priest who dwells at Rome, if this priest has the barbarous power to rob me of a wife, let him make a eunuch of me for the singing of Misereres in his chapel.

Note for Women

Equity demands that, having recorded this note in favour of husbands, we should also put before the public the case in favour of wives, presented to the junta of Portugal by a Countess of Arcira. This is the substance of it:

The Gospel has forbidden adultery for my husband just as for me; he will be damned as I shall, nothing is better established. When he committed twenty infidelities, when he gave my necklace to one of my rivals, and my ear-rings to another, I did not ask the judges to have him shaved, to shut him up among monks and to give me his property. And I, for having imitated him once, for having done with the most handsome young man in Lisbon what he did every day with impunity with the most idiotic strumpets of the court and the town, have to answer at the bar before licentiates each of whom would be at my feet if we were alone together in my closet; have to endure at the court the usher cutting off my hair which is the most beautiful in the world; and being shut up among nuns who have no common sense, deprived of my dowry and my marriage covenants, with all my property given to my coxcomb of a husband to help him seduce other women and to commit fresh adulteries.

[Pg 14] I ask if it is just, and if it is not evident that the laws were made by cuckolds?

In answer to my plea I am told that I should be happy not to be stoned at the city gate by the canons, the priests of the parish and the whole populace. This was the practice among the first nation of the earth, the chosen nation, the cherished nation, the only one which was right when all the others were wrong.

To these barbarities I reply that when the poor adulteress was presented by her accusers to the Master of the old and new law, He did not have her stoned; that on the contrary He reproached them with their injustice, that he laughed at them by writing on the ground with his finger, that he quoted the old Hebraic proverb—”He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”; that then they all retired, the oldest fleeing first, because the older they were the more adulteries had they committed.

The doctors of canon law answer me that this history of the adulteress is related only in the Gospel of St. John, that it was not inserted there until later. Leontius, Maldonat, affirm that it is not to be found in a single ancient Greek copy; that none of the twenty-three early commentators mentions it. Origen, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, Theophilact, Nonnus, do not recognize it at all. It is not to be found in the Syriac Bible, it is not in Ulphilas’ version.

That is what my husband’s advocates say, they who would have me not only shaved, but also stoned.

But the advocates who pleaded for me say that Ammonius, author of the third century, recognized this story as true, and that if St. Jerome rejects it in some places, he adopts it in others; that, in a word, it is authentic to-day. I leave there, and I say to my husband: “If you are without sin, shave me, imprison me, take my property; but if you have committed more sins than I have, it is for me to shave you, to have you imprisoned, and to seize your fortune. In justice these things should be equal.”

My husband answers that he is my superior and my chief, that he is more than an inch taller, that he is shaggy as a[Pg 15]bear; that consequently I owe him everything, and that he owes me nothing.

But I ask if Queen Anne of England is not her husband’s chief?  if her husband the Prince of Denmark, who is her High Admiral, does not owe her entire obedience? and if she would not have him condemned by the court of peers if the little man’s infidelity were in question?  It is therefore clear that if the women do not have the men punished, it is when they are not the stronger.”     Voltaire, Preface & “Adultery;” from The Philosophical Dictionary, 1764: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18569/18569-h/18569-h.htm#Adultery.

marxist communist socialist

Numero Tres“The Russian translation of Engels’ brochure Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is now appearing in its third edition.  The second edition was published in 1892.   At that time, opinion that socialist theory in general could not be described as scientific did not yet find expression in international socialist literature.  Today such opinions are being proclaimed very loudly and are not remaining without influence among some readers.  Therefore, we consider it timely to examine the question: what is scientific socialism and in what does it differ from utopian socialism?But to begin with, let us listen to one of the ‘critics’.

In a paper read on 17 May 1901 to the Berlin Student Union for the Study of Social Science (Sozialwissenschaftlicher Studentenverein zu Berlin), Mr Bernstein posed the selfsame question, although he formulated it differently: ‘How is scientific socialism possible?’  (‘Wie ist wissenschaftlicher Sozialismus möglich?’)  His investigations brought him to a negative reply.  To use his own words, no ‘ism’ can ‘be scientific’:

‘Ism’ designates system of outlooks, tendencies, systems of ideas or demands, but not science.  The basis of every true science is experience.  Science builds its edifice on accumulated knowledge.  Socialism, however, is the teaching on a future social system and for that reason its most characteristic feature cannot be established scientifically.

Is that right?  We shall see.

First of all, let us discuss the relationship between ‘isms’ and science.  If Mr Bernstein were right in saying that no ‘ism’ can be a science, then it is clear, for instance, that Darwinism too is not a ‘science’.  Let us accept that for the moment.  But, what is Darwinism?  If we are to go on accepting Mr Bernstein’s theory as correct we must include Darwinism in the ‘systems of ideas.’  But cannot a system of ideas be a science, or is not a science a system of ideas?  Mr Bernstein evidently thinks not but he is labouring under a misapprehension and all because there is an astonishing and dreadful confusion in his own ‘system of ideas.’

Every intelligent schoolchild now knows that science builds upon the basis of experience.  But that is not the question.  The question is: what exactly does science build on the basis of experience?  And there is only one answer to this question: science builds on the basis of experience certain generalisations (’systems of ideas’) which, in turn, underlie certain previsions of phenomena.  But this refers to the future.  Therefore, not every consideration regarding the future is devoid of scientific basis.

What kind of conclusion is it that says socialism is a world-outlook and is therefore unscientific? Evidently Mr Bernstein seems to think this is indisputable. But before it could indeed be indisputable, it would be necessary to prove from the beginning that no and nobody’s world-outlook can be scientific. Mr Bernstein has not done and will never do so; therefore, we take exception to him and say: parlez pour vous, cher monsieur!

Further. A trend is not a science. But science can discover and daily does discover trends peculiar to phenomena under investigation. Scientific socialism, in particular, establishes a certain trend (the trend to social revolution) prevailing in the present capitalist society: socialism was a teaching on the future social order even before it emerged from the utopian stage.

One would have to be a Bernstein in order to imagine that science is not a ‘system of ideas’. It is a truly monstrous suggestion. Science is precisely knowledge worked up into a system. Bernstein, as usual, confuses matters. He heard about the appearance in contemporary natural science of a ‘trend’ to free science completely from hypotheses, and decided that science had nothing in common with any ‘systems of ideas’. In fact, this same scientific ‘trend’ which led Mr Bernstein to his monstrous thesis, is groundless. Haeckel was quite right when, in criticising this mistaken ‘trend’, he said: ‘ohne Hypothese ist Erkenntnis nicht möglich’ (Die Lebenswunder (Stuttgart, 1904), p.97).

If the proposition is true that the present is pregnant with the future, a scientific study of the present must give us the opportunity of foreseeing some phenomena – in this case, socialisation of the means of production – of the future, not on the basis of some kind of mysterious prophecies or arbitrary and abstract reasoning, but precisely on the basis of ‘experience’, on the basis of knowledge accumulated by science.

If Mr Bernstein wished seriously to ponder over the question he himself posed about the possibility of scientific socialism, he should first of all have decided whether the proposition we have indicated above was true or untrue in application to social phenomena. Even a moment’s thought would have shown him that in this case it was no less true than in all others. Being then sure of this, he ought to have considered whether contemporary social science possessed such a store of information about present-day social relations as, when put to use, would enable science to foresee an impending replacement of these social relations by others – the capitalist mode of production by the socialist. If he had observed that there was not and never could be such a store of information, the question of the possibility of scientific socialism would have solved itself negatively. But if he had been convinced that this information already existed, or could be accumulated with time, he would then have come inevitably to a positive decision on the question. But no matter how he resolved this question, one thing would have become perfectly clear to him, that which – because of his erroneous method of investigation – still remains for him wrapped in the mist of an ill-balanced and ill-considered ‘system of ideas’. He would have seen that the impossibility of the existence of scientific socialism could be proved only if it became obvious that prevision of social phenomena was impossible, in other words, that before resolving the question of the possibility of scientific socialism it was essential to resolve the question of the possibility of any social science at all. If Mr Bernstein had perceived all this, he might perhaps have observed also that the subject he had selected for his paper was ‘of enormous dimensions’, [3] and that he who has no other means of analysis than the muddleheaded contrasting of science and ‘isms’, of experience and a ‘ system of ideas’ can do very little to elucidate such a subject.

Incidentally, we are being unjust to our author. The means of analysis at his disposal were not really restricted to such contrasts. Here, for instance, on pages 33-34 of his paper we also come across the idea that science has no other aim than knowledge, whereas ‘political and social doctrines’ strive to resolve certain practical tasks. During the discussion which followed the reading of Mr Bernstein’s paper, a member of the audience pointed out to him in connection with this idea that medicine had the practical aim of healing, and yet it must be regarded as a science. But our lecturer replied to this by saying that healing was the task of medical art, which, in any case, presupposed a basic knowledge of medical science; but that medical science itself aims not at healing, but at the study of the means and conditions of healing. To this Mr Bernstein added: ‘If we take this distinguishing of conceptions as a typical example [als typisches Muster], we shall have no trouble in defining, in the most complex cases, where science ends and where art or doctrine begins.’ [4]

We take as our ‘example’ the ‘distinguishing of conceptions’ recommended by Mr Bernstein and argue thus: in socialism, as in medicine, we have to distinguish two sides: the science and the art. Socialism as a science studies the means and conditions of the socialist revolution, while socialism as a ‘doctrine’, or as a political art, tries to bring about this revolution with the help of acquired knowledge. And we add that if Mr Bernstein takes as a ‘typical example’ the distinction we have made in accordance with his own example, he will readily understand exactly where in the socialist system science ends and doctrine or art begins.

Robert Owen, addressing the ‘British public’ in one of his appeals serving as a preface to his book A New View of Society, or Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, wrote:

Friends and Countrymen,

I address myself to you, because your primary and most essential interests are deeply involved in the subjects treated in the following Essays.

You will find existing evils described and remedies proposed… Beneficial changes can only take place by well-digested and well-arranged plans…

It is, however, an important step gained when the cause of evil is ascertained. The next step is to devise a remedy… To discover that remedy, and try its efficacy in practice, have been the employments of my life; and having found a remedy which experience proves to be safe in its application, and certain in its effects, I am now anxious that you should all partake of its benefits.

But be satisfied, fully and completely satisfied, that the principles on which the New View of Society is founded are true; that no specious error lurks within them, and that no sinister motive gives rise to their publicity. [5]

We are now in a position to follow this great British socialist’s train of thought from the angle of Mr Bernstein’s ‘distinguishing of conceptions’; it is clear that Robert Owen began with a study of the prevailing evils and the revelation of their causes. This part of his work corresponds to what is known in medicine as aetiology. Then he went on to study the means and conditions of the treatment of the social diseases in which he was interested. Having found the remedy, which seemed to him to be quite effective, he proceeded to put it to a practical test. We might call this his therapeutics. Only after his experiments had given entirely satisfactory results did he decide to offer his treatment to the ‘British public’, in other words to begin medical practice. Previously he had been engaged in medical science, now he had to begin practising medical art. Here is a complete parallel: once Mr Bernstein admits that it is possible to have a science of medicine, it is obvious he must admit that it is possible to have a science of socialism, if he wishes to be true to his own ‘distinguishing of conceptions’. Those same lines of investigation which we discerned in Robert Owen according to his own words may be just as easily noted among the French socialists, his contemporaries. As an example, we shall take Fourier. He said that he had brought to the people the art of being rich and happy. This part of his teaching corresponds to medical art. On what did he base this practical part of his teaching? On the laws of moral attraction, which he said had remained unknown until he finally discovered them after long and intensive research. Here we are no longer dealing with art, but with theory, with ‘knowledge worked up into a system’, that is to say, with science. And Fourier insistently repeated that his art was based on his scientific discoveries. [6] It goes without saying that Mr Bernstein is in no way bound to attach to these discoveries the same great significance that Fourier and his school did. This, however, does not affect the point at issue. Of course, Mr Bernstein did not consider himself obliged to believe in the infallibility of all the medical theories of our time. But that did not prevent him from coming to the conviction that medical art is one thing and medical science is another, and that the existence of medical art, far from precluding the existence of medical science, presumes it as a necessary condition of its own existence. Why, then, is such a correlation between art and science not possible also in socialism? Why should the existence of socialism as a socio-political ‘doctrine’ preclude the existence of socialism as a science?

Mr Bernstein does not reply to these questions. Until he does his proposed ‘distinguishing of conceptions’ will not corroborate but refute his contention that scientific socialism is impossible. And he cannot reply to these questions for the very simple reason that he has nothing to answer. Of course, there can and must be doubts about the theoretical justification of comparing medical art to socialism. But precisely on this matter our author had no doubts, and could not have had any, since his point of view on social life in no way precludes such comparisons.

Thus, Mr Bernstein’s ‘distinguishing of conceptions’ not only leaves us unconvinced about the impossibility of scientific socialism, but, on the contrary, encourages us to believe that even the socialism of Robert Owen, Fourier and other utopians was, at least partly, scientific socialism. As a consequence of this, we have begun to see less clearly that ‘distinguishing of conceptions’, in virtue of which, until now, we had considered that the socialist theory of Marx and Engels had marked an epoch in the history of socialism. Indeed, this ‘distinguishing’ is unclear not to us alone. With Mr Bernstein it also turns out that, although the teaching of Marx and Engels has a great deal more of the scientific element than the teachings of Fourier, Owen and Saint-Simon, yet, like these, though to a lesser degree, it contains elements of utopianism alongside elements of science and therefore the difference between them has more of a quantitative than a qualitative character. [7]

This opinion fitted naturally in the context of Mr Bernstein’s paper: if scientific socialism generally is impossible, Marxismis obviously one of the unscientific ‘isms’ that contain some admixture of utopianism. Mr Bernstein’s belief in the impossibility of scientific socialism is based on premises which, when correctly interpreted, lead to diametrically opposite conclusions, that is to say, oblige us to acknowledge that scientific socialism, like scientific medicine, is fully possible. Since this is the case and as we have no desire to entangle ourselves forever in the logical contradictions of Mr ‘Critic’, we shall break the thread of this argument and instead ask ourselves the question: how, ultimately, is scientific socialism distinguished from utopian socialism?

In order to answer this question, we shall have to define the distinguishing features of both types of socialism.

On page 14 of the pamphlet in question, Engels says:

The Utopians’ mode of thought has for a long time governed the socialist ideas of the nineteenth 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 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. [8]

Mr Bernstein reproaches Engels with having exaggerated in this passage. He says:

I cannot agree with him when he says that they [the utopian socialists] regarded as a matter of chance, independent of historical development, in terms of place and time, the truths revealed by them to the world. This generalisation misrepresents their views on history. [9]

If Mr Bernstein had only taken the trouble to get better acquainted with the literature of utopian socialism and to ponder more deeply over the fundamental historical views of the utopian socialists, he would have seen that there is not the least shade of exaggeration in Engels’ statement.

Fourier was firmly convinced that he had succeeded in discovering the laws of moral attraction, but he was never able at any time to see his theory as the fruit of France’s social development. He had often wondered why hundreds, even thousands of years ago people had not made the discoveries which he had finally made. And he could answer this only by referring to man’s lack of vision as well as the force of chance. He even wrote a very characteristic dissertation on the ‘tyranny of chance’, in which he argued ‘that this colossal and despicable force presides almost alone all discoveries’. [10]He said that he paid it tribute in his ‘discovery of the calculus of attraction’ (‘dans la découverte du calcul de l’attraction’). As with Newton, the idea was suggested to him by an apple:

A fellow traveller who dined with me in Février’s restaurant in Paris paid 14 sous for this famous apple. I had just come in from a part of the country where apples equal or even superior in quality were selling at half a liard each, or less than 14 sous per hundred. I was so struck by the difference in the price of apples in two places with the same climate that I began to suspect a basic defect in the industrial mechanism; out of this came those investigations which after four years led me to discover the theory of series of industrial groups and then the laws of general movement which Newton had missed… Since then I found that one could count four famous apples, two of them noted for the trouble they caused (Adam’s apple and the apple of Paris) and two for the services they rendered to science. Do not these four apples deserve a special page in history? [11]

This would seem to be sufficiently expressive; but it is not yet all. In Fourier’s theory, chance plays a much greater role than might appear from his ingenuous reflections on the four apples. In this theory, the whole historical development of man’s views, the whole destiny of human prejudice are determined by chance.

If people have persisted so long in their admiration for civilisation [said Fourier], this was because none of them took Bacon’s advice and made a critical analysis of the flaws and shortcomings of each profession. [12]

Why did no one take Bacon’s advice? Very simply, because the chance that might have inspired them to follow his advice did not occur. The present order of things, which itself is only an exception to the general rule, only a digression from the true destiny of mankind, proved to be more prolonged than it need have been, thanks to ‘the thoughtlessness of the sophists, who forgot that they ought to enquire into the universal aims of Providence (‘oublièrent de spéculer sur l’universalité de la Providence’) and discover that code of laws which it had to compile for human relations’. [13]

Now the reader may judge for himself whether there is even the slightest exaggeration in Engels’ statement which we quoted above.

Faith in the historical omnipotence of chance was not so clearly expressed and was perhaps not so great among other eminent utopians as it was with Fourier. But to what extent it affected even the most sober of them, Robert Owen, may be seen from the simple fact that he addressed his socialist appeals to the potentates of the earth, to those who had a substantial interest in maintaining the exploitation of man by man. Such appeals were sadly out of tune with all Robert Owen’s teaching on the formation of the human character. In the literal and clear meaning of this teaching, the potentates of the earth were wholly incapable of initiating the elimination of that same social order which influenced the formation of their own views and the existence of which was so closely connected with their own vital interests. Nevertheless, Robert Owen, [14] tirelessly and solicitously, with the help of detailed calculations, exact plans and excellent drawings, explained to the monarchs of Europe what constituted a ‘rational’ social system. In this respect, Owen, like all the other utopian socialists, was closely akin to the great French Enlighteners from whom (mainly Helvétius) he borrowed almost all of his teaching on the formation of the human character, and who, like him, and with a persistence fully deserving a better fate, explained to the crowned ‘legislators’ how and in what manner human happiness could be assured. They fulminated eloquently against the ‘despots’ and just as tenaciously placed their hopes in enlightened despotism. This was an obvious contradiction and, of course, it could not escape their own notice. They all realised it, some more clearly than others, but all of them consoled themselves precisely with a trust in chance. Suppose you have a large urn in which there are very many black balls and two or three white ones and that you take one ball after the other. It need hardly be said that in each separate instance you have less chance of removing a white ball than a black one. But if you continue taking out the balls you will inevitably pull out a white one at last. The same applies to crowned ‘legislators’. In each separate instance there is a much greater chance of finding a bad ‘legislator’ on the throne than a good one. But a good one will eventually appear. He will do everything prescribed by ‘philosophy’ and then reason will triumph.

This was how the French Enlighteners saw matters and this essentially deeply pessimistic view, tantamount to the admission of the utter helplessness of their ‘philosophy’, had a close causal connection with their general historical outlook. It is known that even those of the eighteenth-century French Enlighteners who were convinced materialists held idealist views on history. They believed that the development of knowledge, and man’s mental development generally, was the basic cause of historical progress. In this regard, the utopian socialists were completely at one with them. Thus, for example, Robert Owen said that

… these false notions have ever produced evil and misery in the world, and that they still disseminate them in every direction. That the soled cause of their existence hitherto has been man’s ignorance of human nature. [15]

In accordance with this, the elimination of social evil, too, was to be expected solely from the dissemination among the people of a correct understanding of their own nature. Robert Owen was firmly convinced that such understanding would spread inevitably among the people. Only a few months before his death he wrote that man was ‘created to acquire knowledge by experience, and happiness by obeying the laws of his nature’. [16] But experience is knowledge. What determines its more or less rapid accumulation? Why is it that in the course of one historical epoch mankind acquires an enormous treasure-house of knowledge, and during another, often incomparably longer period, adds only completely insignificant crumbs of knowledge to its previous stores and sometimes loses even the stores themselves? Owen did not and could not answer this question, an extremely important one for a scientific explanation of historical phenomena. In general people who hold idealist views on history do not and cannot answer this question. And that is understandable. To be able to answer it, they would have to explain what it is that determines man’s mental development, that is to say, they would have to perceive this development not as the basic cause of the historical process, but as the outcome of another, more deep-seated cause. And this would be tantamount to acknowledging the bankruptcy of the idealist conception of history. He who does not yet acknowledge this must inevitably give chance a very large place in his interpretation of historical events and in his consideration of the future. Chance furnishes him with an explanation of all that he cannot explain by the conscious activity of historical persons. Reference to chance is the first unconscious and involuntary step towards recognising that the development of man’s consciousness is conditioned by causes that are independent of him.That is why the Enlighteners of the eighteenth century and the utopian socialists alluded so often to the element of chance. Fourier’s ‘four apples’ are as absurd now as the French Enlighteners’ ‘urn’ full of balls. But both the ‘urn’ and the ‘apples’ had their adequate basis in the deep-seated qualities of the idealist conception of history; and the political and social reformers and revolutionaries who held such views had to appeal, more often than other philistines, to the ‘urn’, the ‘apples’ and much more of the unexpected. Indeed, if the historical process of accumulation of knowledge is determined in the last analysis by a series of chance phenomena which have no necessary connection with the course of social life and the development of social relations, then each individual contribution to the general treasure-house of knowledge, every discovery made by this or that thinker, including the author of this or that plan of social reconstruction, must inevitably be a gift of chance. And if the discovery of truth is dependent upon chance, then the dissemination of this truth and its embodiment, more or less rapidly, in social life, must also be subordinated to that same ‘colossal and despicable force’. Hence that coquetting of the French Enlighteners and the utopian socialists with the potentates of the earth which excites so much wonder today. With them, practice corresponded to theory, ‘art’ to ‘science’.

True, at times there was a marked dissatisfaction among the utopian socialists with the theory they had inherited from the Enlighteners, an endeavour to escape from the narrow circle of idealism and stand on more real ground. They were striving to create a social science. Hence all their ‘discoveries’. Some of these were remarkable, in the full sense of the word. They threw a vivid light on many paramount aspects of the historical process, for instance, the role of the class struggle in the modern history of West European societies, [17] and thus prepared the way for the scientific explanation of social phenomena. But they only prepared the way for it. Historical idealism, which was the standpoint of all socialists in the first half of the nineteenth century, made much more difficult the final elaboration of a scientific view of social life. Only phenomena which conform to objective laws can be subjected to scientific explanation. This conformity to laws presupposes the subordination of phenomena to the law of necessity, whereas historical idealism considers historical progress almost exclusively as the product of the conscious and consequently the free activity of men. So long as this contradiction existed, a scientific explanation of social life was impossible. Not only were the socialists of that time unable to resolve this contradiction; they could not even formulate it with the necessary precision, although it had already been clearly grasped and precisely formulated by German philosophy in the person of Schelling.

Schelling demonstrated that the freedom of human activity not only did not preclude necessity, but, on the contrary, presupposed necessity as its own condition. [18] Schilling’s profound thought was developed fundamentally and in detail by Hegel. To put it into everyday language, it means that man’s activity may be considered from two sides. First, man appears before us as the cause of some or other social phenomena. In so far as man realises that he himself is such a cause, he believes that the question of whether these social phenomena should or should not be produced depends on him. And to that extent he believes that his activity is conscious and free. But the man who acts as the cause of a given social phenomenon can and must also be seen as the effect of those social phenomena which fashioned his personality and the trend of his volition. When considered as an effect, social man cannot be regarded as a free agent, since the circumstances that determine the trend of his volition are independent of him. Thus, his activity appears to us as subject to the law of necessity, that is to say, as activity conforming to law. We may conclude from this that freedom does not in any way preclude necessity. It is very important to know this truth because it – and it alone – opens the way to a scientific explanation of social life. We already know that only those phenomena which are subject to the law of necessity are open to scientific explanation. If we knew social man only as the cause of social phenomena, we would understand his activity only from the point of view of freedom, and therefore it would always be inaccessible to scientific explanation. The Enlighteners of the eighteenth century, and the utopian socialists of the nineteenth century, in their judgements on history, saw social man only as the cause of social phenomena. This was because of their idealist view of history: whoever considers mental development to be the most basic cause of historical progress will take account only of the conscious activity of men, and conscious activity is precisely that activity which we call free. [19]

Necessity does not preclude freedom. Moreover, the conscious and, in this sense, the free activity of men is possible only because their actions are necessary. This may seem paradoxical, but it is an irrefutable truth. If men’s actions were not necessary, it would be impossible to foresee them, and where that is impossible, there is no place for free activity in the sense of conscious influence on surrounding life. [20] Thus, necessity proves to be the guarantee of freedom.

This was all very well elucidated already by the German idealists, and in so far as they held to this standpoint in their opinions of social life, they were on the firm ground of science. But just because they were idealists, they could not put their own brilliant ideas to proper use. True, their philosophical idealism was not necessarily connected with the idealist view of history. Hegel remarks in his Lectures on the Philosophy of History that although, of course, reason governs the world, it does so in the same sense as it governs the motion of the celestial bodies, that is, in the sense of conformity to law. The motion of the celestial bodies conforms to definite laws, but their motion is unconscious motion. According to Hegel, the historical progress of mankind is accomplished in the same way; human progress is subject to certain laws, but men are not conscious of these laws and one may say, therefore, that historical progress is unconscious. Men err when they think that their ideas are the principal factors in historical progress. The ideas of any given epoch are themselves determined by the character of that epoch. Moreover, the owl of Minerva flies out only at night.

When men begin to study their own social relations, it may be said with certainty that these relations have outlived their day and are preparing to yield place to a new social order, the true character of which will again become clear to mankind only when its turn, too, has come to leave the historical scene. [21]

These arguments of Hegel’s are very far removed from the naive notion, representing the essence of the idealist explanation of history, that historical progress is determined, in the final analysis, by the development of ideas, or, as the French Enlighteners sometimes expressed it, that ‘opinion’ governs the world. Hegel did, at least, point out correctly how historical progress cannot be explained. But his arguments likewise contain nothing to indicate the true cause. And it could not be otherwise. If Hegel was far from the naive historical idealism of the French Enlighteners and the utopian socialists, this did not in the least disturb the idealist foundation of his own system, but this foundation could not but hinder the elaboration of an entirely scientific explanation of the social and historical process. According to Hegel, the basis of all world development is the development of the Absolute Idea. With him it is the development of this idea which, in the final analysis, explains all human history. But what is this Absolute Idea? It is – as Feuerbach [22] explained very well – only the personification of the process of thinking. Thus, world development generally and historical development in particular are to be explained by the laws of human thought, or, in other words, history is explained by logic. Just how unsatisfactory this explanation is may be seen from many of Hegel’s own works. With him historical progress is comprehensible only when it is interpreted not by logic but by the development of social – and predominantly economic – relations. When he says, for instance, that Lacedaemon fell mainly as a consequence of economic inequality, this is quite understandable in itself and is fully in accord with the conclusions of modern historical science. But the Absolute Idea has definitely nothing to do with this, and when Hegel turns to it for a final elucidation of the fate of Greece and Lacedaemon, he has literally nothing to add to what he has already explained by referring to economics. [23]

Hegel was fond of repeating that idealism reveals itself as the truth of materialism. But his Philosophy of History proves the exact opposite. It makes clear that in application to history materialism must be acknowledged as the truth of idealism.In order finally to find the straight and true road to a scientific explanation of the social-historical process, investigators had to lay aside all varieties of idealism and adopt the materialist standpoint. This was done by Marx and Engels. Their materialist conception of history is characterised as follows in the present pamphlet:

The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason and right wrong (Vernunft Unsinn, Wohlthat Plage geworden), is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principle, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production. [24]

If the growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust is itself a consequence of socio-economic development it is clear that a certain conformity to law may also be found in the conscious activity of men, which is conditioned by their conceptions of reason and justice. Since this activity is determined, in the last analysis, by the development of economic relations, now, having ascertained the trend of the economic development of society, we thereby acquire the possibility to foresee in which direction the conscious activity of its members must proceed. Thus, here as with Schelling, freedom flows from necessity and necessity is transformed into freedom. But whereas Schelling, because of the idealist nature of his philosophy, could not get beyond general – though extremely profound – considerations in this respect, the materialist conception of history allows us to use these general considerations for the investigation of ‘living’ life, for the scientific explanation of all the activity of social man.

In providing the possibility to observe the conscious activity of social man from the point of view of its necessity, the materialist conception of history thus paves the way for socialism on a scientific basis. In the passage we quoted from Engels, he says that the means of getting rid of the social incongruities cannot be invented, that is to say, devised by some brilliant thinker, but must be discovered in the changed economic relations of the particular epoch. And to the extent that such discoveries are possible, so also is scientific socialism possible. We now have, therefore, a very definite answer to the question raised by Mr Bernstein regarding the possibility of scientific socialism. True, it looks as though Mr Bernstein himself does not suspect that such an answer exists. But that only goes to show that he has understood nothing at all of the basic teaching of the people he has professed to follow for the last twenty years.

One may devise something that is completely non-existent; a discovery applies only to that which already exists in reality. What is, therefore, to discover in economic reality the means of getting rid of social incongruities? It is to demonstrate that the very development of this reality has already created and continues to create the economic basis of the future social order.

Utopian socialism proceeded from abstract principles; scientific socialism takes as its starting point the objective course of economic development of bourgeois society.

Utopian socialism readily worked out plans for the future social structure. Scientific socialism, notwithstanding Mr Bernstein’s assertion quoted earlier, occupies itself not with the future society, but with defining that tendency which is peculiar to the present social order. It does not paint the future in glowing colours: it studies the present. A vivid example: on the one side, Fourier’s image of the future life of mankind in the Phalansteries; on the other side, Marx’s analysis of the present capitalist mode of production.

If the means of getting rid of the present social incongruities cannot be devised on the basis of general considerations about human nature, but must be discovered in the economic conditions of our time, it is patent that their discovery likewise cannot be a matter of chance, independent of these conditions. No, the discovery itself is a process conforming to law and accessible to scientific study.

The basic principle of the materialist explanation of history is that men’s thinking is conditioned by their being, or that in the historical process, the course of the development of ideas is determined, in the final analysis, by the course of development of economic relations. If this is the case, it is plain that the formation of new economic relations must necessarily bring with it the appearance of new ideas corresponding to the changed conditions of life. And should a new socio-political idea enter the head of some brilliant man and should he realise, for example, that the old social order cannot last, but must be replaced by a new one, then this happens not ‘by chance’, as the utopian socialists believed, but by the force of quite comprehensible historical necessity. Similarly, the dissemination of this new socio-political idea, its assimilation by the brilliant man’s supporters, cannot be attributed to chance; it gains ground precisely because it corresponds to the new economic conditions, and pervades precisely that class or strata of the population which more than any other feels the disadvantages of the obsolete social system. The process of the dissemination of the new idea also turns out to be in conformity to law. And since the dissemination of the idea corresponding to the new economic relations must sooner or later be followed by its realisation, that is to say, the elimination of the old and the triumph of the new social order, it follows that the whole course of social development, all social evolution – with its various aspects and the revolutionary features peculiar to it – is now perceived from the point of view of necessity. Here, then, we have in full view the main feature which distinguishes scientific socialism from utopian. The scientific socialist envisages the realisation of his ideal as a matter of historical necessity, whereas the utopian socialist pins his hopes on chance. This brings a corresponding change in methods of propaganda for socialism. The utopians worked at random, today addressing themselves to enlightened monarchs, tomorrow to enterprising and profit-hungry capitalists and on the following day to disinterested friends of humanity and so on. [25] The scientific socialists, on the other hand, have a well-balanced and consistent programme based on the materialist understanding of history. They do not expect all classes of society to sympathise with socialism, being aware that the ability of a given class to be amenable to a given revolutionary idea is determined by the economic position of that class, and that of all classes in contemporary society only the proletariat finds itself in an economic position inevitably pushing it into revolutionary struggle against the prevailing social order. Here, too, as everywhere, the scientific socialists are not content to view the activity of social man as the cause of social phenomena; they look more deeply and perceive this cause itself as the consequence of economic development. Here as everywhere they examine the conscious activity of men from the point of view of its necessity:

If for the impending overthrow of the present mode of distribution of the products of labour, with its crying contrasts of want and luxury, starvation and surfeit, we had no better guarantee than the consciousness that this mode of distribution is unjust, and that justice must eventually triumph, we should be in a pretty bad way, and we might have a long time to wait. The mystics of the Middle Ages who dreamed of the coming millennium were already conscious of the injustice of class antagonisms. On the threshold of modern history, 350 years ago, Thomas Münzer proclaimed it to the world. In the English and French bourgeois revolutions the same call resounded – and died away. And if today the same call for the abolition of class antagonisms and class distinctions, which up to 1830 had left the working and suffering classes cold, if today this call is re-echoed a million-fold, if it takes hold of one country after another in the same order and in the same degree of intensity that modern industry develops in each country, if in one generation it has gained a strength that enables it to defy all the forces combined against it and to be confident of victory in the near future – what is the reason for this? The reason is that modern large-scale industry has called into being on the one hand a proletariat, a class which for the first time in history can demand the abolition, not of this or that particular class organisation, or of this or that particular class privilege, but of classes themselves, and which is in such a position that it must carry through this demand on pain of sinking to the level of the Chinese coolie. On the other hand this same large-scale industry has brought into being, in the bourgeoisie, a class which has the monopoly of all the instruments of production and means of subsistence, but which in each speculative boom period and in each crash that follows it proves that it has become incapable of any longer controlling the productive forces, which have grown beyond its power; a class under whose leadership society is racing to ruin like a locomotive whose jammed safety-valve the driver is too weak to open. In other words, the reason is that both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established by it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place, a revolution which will put an end to all class distinctions. On this tangible, material fact, which is impressing itself in a more or less clear form, but with insuperable necessity, on the minds of the exploited proletarians – on this fact, and not on the conceptions of justice and injustice held by any armchair philosopher, is modern socialism’s confidence in victory founded. [26]

That is what Engels said in his dispute with Dühring, and his words portray in full clarity the distinguishing features of scientific socialism with which we are now familiar: the view that the emancipation movement of the proletariat is a law-regulated social process; the conviction that only necessity can ensure the triumph of freedom. [27]

Taine says somewhere that perfect science reproduces with great accuracy in ideas the nature and consistency of phenomena. Such a science can make accurate forecasts about each separate phenomenon. And there is nothing easier than to show that social science does not and cannot have such accuracy. But neither has scientific socialism ever claimed such accuracy. When its opponents object that sociological prediction is impossible, they confuse two quite distinct concepts; the concept of the direction and general outcome of a particular social process, and the concept of separate phenomena (events) out of which the process is composed. Sociological prediction is distinguished, and always will be distinguished, by its having very little accuracy in everything that concerns the forecast of separate events, whereas it possesses quite considerable accuracy where it has to define the general character and trend of social processes. Let us take an example. Statistics prove that the mortality rate fluctuates according to the time of the year. Knowing how it fluctuates in a particular country or locality, it is easy to forecast to what extent the number of deaths will go up or down from one period of the year to another. Here we are speaking about the general character and trend of a particular social process, so it is possible to make a very exact forecast. But if we should wish to know the particular phenomena in which will be expressed, say, the increase in mortality with the coming of autumn, or if we should wish to ask ourselves which particular persons will not survive the autumn and what will be the concrete circumstances which will bring about their demise, we should not expect an answer from social science; and if we still hoped to get one we should have to resort to the services of a magician or a fortune-teller. Another example. Suppose that in the parliament of a given country there are representatives of the big landowners whose income is being seriously reduced by competition from neighbouring countries; of the industrial employers who market their products in the same neighbouring countries; and lastly of the proletarians who exist solely by selling their labour power. A bill to impose a high tariff on grain imports has been brought before this parliament. What do you think? Will the sociologist be able to foretell how the parliamentary representatives of the various social classes will react to this bill? We think that in this case the sociologist (and not only the sociologist, the man of science, but anyone who has any political experience and common sense) has every possibility to make an accurate forecast.

The representatives of the landowners [he will say] will support the proposal with all their energy; the representatives of the proletariat will just as energetically reject it, and in this respect the employers’ representatives will not lag behind them in opposition, unless the landowners’ representatives have bought their agreement not to oppose the bill by making some kind of really important economic concession to them in some other field.

This forecast will be made on the basis of analysing the economic interests of the different social classes and it will have the definiteness and accuracy of a mathematical deduction, at least as far as the landowners and the proletariat are concerned. Further, knowing the voting strength of the representatives of each of these classes in parliament, our sociologist will be able easily and accurately to forecast the fate of the bill. Here again his forecast can have a very large measure of accuracy and reliability. But since you may not be satisfied with having a general forecast of the nature and trend of this particular social process – the process of struggle over the bill – and wish to know in advance who exactly will speak on the bill, and exactly what kind of scenes their speeches will give rise to in the parliament, the sociologist will reply to such questions, not by scientific prediction, but with more or less witty conjectures; and if you are still dissatisfied, your only remaining hope is again the fortune-teller. A third example: if you take the works of the great French Enlighteners of the eighteenth century – say, for instance, Holbach – you will find in them the whole social programme of the Great French Revolution. But what you will not find in them is one single forecast about the historical events which later constituted the process by which the demands advanced by the French Enlighteners on behalf of the entire third estate were put into effect. Whence this difference? It is clear where it comes from. The nature and trend of a given social process is one thing; the separate events which go to make up the whole process are quite another matter. If I understand the nature and trend of the process, I can foretell its outcome. But no matter how profound my comprehension of this process may be, it will not enable me to foretell separate events and their particular features. When people say that sociological prediction is impossible, or, at least, extremely difficult, they almost always have in mind the impossibility of foretelling particular events, completely forgetting that this is not the business of sociology. Sociological prediction has as its object, not isolated events, but the general results of that social process which – as, for example, the process of development of bourgeois society – is already being accomplished at the given time. That these general results can be determined beforehand is well illustrated by the above-mentioned example of the French Revolution, the entire social programme of which was formulated, as we have said, by the advanced literary representatives of the bourgeoisie. [28]

Scientific socialism says, first of all, that the victory of socialist ideals presupposes as its essential condition, a certain course of economic development of bourgeois society, taking place independently of the will of the socialists; secondly, that this essential condition is already at hand, determined by the nature and development of the relations of production peculiar to that society; thirdly, that the very dissemination of socialist ideals among the working class of the contemporary capitalist countries is caused by the economic structure and development of these countries. Such is the general idea of scientific socialism. And this general idea is not invalidated in any way by the completely correct proposition that sociology will never be a perfect science in the sense meant by Taine. Well, and what of it? Although sociology is not a perfect science, the general conception of scientific socialism is nonetheless indisputable, rendering all doubts of the possibility of such socialism groundless.

The bourgeois theoreticians and the ‘critics’ of Marx often advance also the following argument in discussions on the possibility of scientific socialism.

If scientific socialism is possible [they say], then bourgeois social science is also possible, which is self-contradictory nonsense, since science can be neither socialist nor bourgeois. Science is integral. Bourgeois political economy is as unthinkable as socialist mathematics.

This argument, too, is based on a confusion of ideas. Mathematics can be neither socialist nor bourgeois – that is true. But what is true in application to mathematics is untrue when applied to social science.

What is the sum of the squares of the shorter sides of a right-angled triangle equal to? To the square of the hypotenuse. Is that right? It is. Is it always right? Always. The relation of the square of the hypotenuse to the sum of the squares of the other two sides cannot vary, since the properties of mathematical figures are invariable. And what do we find in sociology? Does the subject of its investigation remain invariable? It does not. The subject of sociological investigation is society and society develops and, consequently, changes. It is just this change, this development, that provides the possibility of bourgeois social science and, in like manner, of scientific socialism. In its development, society passes through certain phases to which the phases of development of social science correspond; for example, that which we call bourgeois economics is one phase in the development of economic science, and that which we call socialist economics is another phase, following directly after the first. What is surprising about this? Where is the self-contradictory nonsense here?

It would be wrong to think that bourgeois economics consists of errors alone. Nothing of the kind. In so far as bourgeois economics corresponds to a definite phase of social development it will contain irrefutable scientific truth. [29] But this truth is relative precisely because it corresponds only to a certain phase of social development. However, the bourgeois theoreticians, who imagine that society must always remain at the bourgeois phase, attribute absolute significance to their relative truths. This is their basic error, one that is being set right by scientific socialism which has come into being owing to the fact that the bourgeois epoch of social development is drawing to a close. Scientific socialism may by likened to the same Minerva’s owl which Hegel spoke about and which, he said, flies out only when the sun of the prevailing social order – in this case, the capitalist – is selling. Once again: where is the contradiction here? Where is the nonsense? Here there is neither contradiction nor nonsense; here, on the contrary, we have the opportunity to glance at the very process of the development of science as a process conforming to law.

Be that as it may, the main distinguishing feature of scientific socialism is now quite clear to us. Its adherents are not satisfied with the hope that socialist ideals, because of their lofty nature, will attract general sympathy and will therefore triumph. No, they require the assurance that this very attraction of general sympathy to socialist ideals is a necessary social process, and they derive this assurance from the analysis of contemporary economic relations and the course of their development. [30] The apologists of the existing social order feel well enough, although they do not always clearly realise it, that this main distinguishing feature is just what constitutes the main strength of socialist theory. Therefore, their ‘criticism’ is directed at this point. They usually begin with the argument that economics cannot be regarded as the mainspring of social development, since man is not fashioned of stomach alone, but has also a soul, a heart and other imperishable treasures. However, these sentimental arguments, which are evidence of the utter inability of present-day bourgeois theoreticians to understand what is the most important, fundamental task of social science, play only a secondary role with them. The main force of their arguments is concentrated on the question of the trend of contemporary economic development. Here they try to refute, one by one, every tenet of scientific socialism. [31] Even though their attempts come to nothing, they constantly renew them and cannot help doing so since the question at issue is the very existence of a social order so dear to their hearts. They realise that, if economic development actually proceeds along the lines indicated by the scientific socialists, the social revolution is inevitable. And this is equivalent to admitting that scientific socialism is possible.

We have indicated one distinguishing feature of scientific socialism; Engels indicates another in his controversy with Dühring when he says that this socialism dates only from the discovery of the nature and origin of surplus value, and that all of it has been ‘built up’ around this discovery. (The reader will understand in what sense this is said.) As the aim of the socialist movement is the abolition of exploitation of one social class by another – the proletariat by the bourgeoisie – scientific socialism became possible only from the time when science succeeded in defining the nature of class exploitation generally and, in particular, that form which it assumes in present-day society. Prior to this, socialism could not go beyond more or less vague strivings, and in its criticism of the prevailing system lacked the most important ingredient: an understanding of where lay the economic kernel of this system. The discovery of surplus value gave it this understanding. How great is the importance of this discovery is evidenced by the mere fact that the defenders of the existing order of things try with all their might to disprove its truth. The theory of marginal utility [32] is now meeting with a very cordial welcome from the bourgeois economists precisely because it envelops in a dense cloud the question of the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist and even throws doubt upon the very fact of this exploitation. [33] (Therein lies the whole ‘scientific’ meaning of this theory, the uselessness of which is far from marginal.)

But no matter how important the discovery of surplus value was in the history of socialism, scientific socialism would, nevertheless, have remained impossible if the abolition of the bourgeois relations of production and, consequently, the abolition of the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, had not been conceived as an historical necessity, conditioned by the whole process of contemporary economic development.

A few words more. Three chapters of the celebrated book, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft [Anti-Dühring], devoted to a criticism of the Dühring ‘force theory’ are, as in previous editions of this hook, published as an appendix to the present edition. These chapters contain, by the way, an outline of history of the art of war in the civilised states of modern times as well as an analysis of the causal connection of the development of this art with the economic development of society. These chapters may appear ‘one-sided’ to people inclined to eclecticism. Such people will retort: ‘Not everything can be explained by economy.’ We consider it useful, therefore, to draw their attention to one book which owes its origin to experts in military affairs. It is entitled Les maîtres de la guerre. Frédéric IINapoléon – Moltke (Essai critique d’après des travaux inédits de M le général Bonnal par le Lt-Colonel Rousset, professeur à l’Ecole supérieure de Guerre). This interesting book deals with the same subject as that examined by Engels in the chapters mentioned above and it draws almost exactly the same conclusions:

The social conditions obtaining in each epoch of history [we read on page four] exert a preponderant influence, not only on the military organisation of a nation but also on the character, the abilities, and the trends of the military men. Generals of the ordinary stamp make use of the familiar and accepted methods, and march on towards successes or reverses according to whether attendant circumstances are more or less favourable to them… As for the great captains, these subordinate to their genius the means and procedures of warfare, or, to be more exact, guided by a kind of divinatory instinct, they transform the means and procedures in accordance with the parallel laws of a social evolution, whose decisive effect (and repercussion) on the technique of their art they alone understand in their day.

This is by no means far from the materialist explanation of history, although the author has probably not got the slightest notion what that is.  Surely if the development of the art of war is determined by social development and social development by economic development, it must follow that military technique, and not technique alone, but also the ‘character, the abilities and the aspirations of military men’ are determined, in the last analysis, by economic development.  This conclusion, which has astonished so many, many ‘intellectuals’ of every nationality by its ‘one-sidedness’, would scarcely have frightened our military author, who, recognising that the development of military technique is determined by social development, also recognises at the same time that this development, in turn, is conditioned by ‘the progress of science, arts and industry’ (page 2). If he is not lacking in the ability to think consistently, and evidently he is not, it would be easy for him to understand the historical theory according to which social development is accomplished on the basis of economic development and economic development is determined by the course of development of the productive forces.

The historical essay on the art of war written by the same author from the unpublished materials of General Bonnal is extremely reminiscent of the essay on the same subject which Engels wrote in Anti-Dühring.   Here and there the resemblance is so great, indeed, that one could presume that it had been borrowed, were this not precluded by the simple chronological fact that Engels’ Anti-Dühring was published twenty-three years before Lt-Colonel Rousset’s book.  It is just as unthinkable to imagine that Rousset (or General Bonnal) had borrowed from Engels.  We may be sure that the works of the great German socialist were completely unknown to these learned French officers.  The matter is very simply explained by the fact that Engels was an expert on military matters and a consistent thinker, able to apply the fundamental principles of his historical theory to the study of the most varied aspects of social life.  Guided by these fundamental principles, he discerned that which, to quote Rousset, was discerned only by the greatest generals: the decisive impact of social evolution on the technique of war.  This particular case proves convincingly that the materialist explanation of history, when correctly understood, does not lead to ‘one-sidedness’, but broadens and sharpens the investigator’s vision as nothing else could.

We should have liked to say something, too, about dialectics and its relation to formal logic.  But lack of space compels us to put this off to another, more favourable, occasion.  (That it would be useful to carry out this intention may be seen from those extremely vague conceptions of dialectics with which far too often even orthodox Marxists are satisfied.  It must be admitted that in the polemics aroused by the ‘critical’ efforts of Mr Bernstein and Co, the majority of the orthodox Marxists proved to be weakest precisely in the defence of dialectics.  This weakness must be eliminated; we are in duty bound to repulse decisively all the attacks of our enemies on our logical stronghold.)”     Giorgi Plekhanov, Preface to the Third Edition: Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, 1902

marx socialism communism

Numero Cuatro“THE TEMPESTUOUS relation between Marx and Bakunin is a well known legacy of the history of western socialism.  As co-members of the International Working Men’s Association, they seem to have devoted as much energy battling one another as their common enemy, the capitalist system, culminating in Marx’s successful campaign to expel Bakunin from the organization.  While at times engaging in cordial relations, they nevertheless harbored uncomplimentary mutual assessments.  According to Marx, Bakunin was ‘a man devoid of all theoretical knowledge’ and was ‘in his element as an intriguer,’ while Bakunin believed that ‘… the instinct of liberty is lacking in him [Marx]; he remains from head to foot, an authoritarian.’For some, the intensity of the conflict has been puzzling, given that the two authors seem to be struggling for identical goals.  Convinced that capitalism is predicated on the exploitation of workers by capitalists, they were equally dedicated to fighting for a socialist society where economic classes would be abolished and all individuals would have the opportunity to develop all of their creative capacities.  Hence, both envisioned socialism as eliminating the division of labor, especially between mental and manual work, and between men and women.  In other words, the work process was to be transformed so that all workers would take an active role in the organization, design and implementation of it.  Moreover, both argued that the oppressed must liberate themselves – one should not expect any benevolent impulses from members of the ruling, capitalist class; and to insure success, the revolution must assume an international scope.  Finally, they agreed that the State was an instrument of class oppression, not some neutral organ that equitably represented everyone’s interests, and in the final analysis must be abolished.  The 1871 Paris Commune offered, in their opinion, a model to be emulated.

However, their most profound point of disagreement centered on their conflicting analyses of the State.  Most importantly, while Marx envisioned a transitional stage between capitalism and a fully mature communist society, which included a state in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat (i.e., a workers’ state), Bakunin adamantly rejected the establishment of any kind of state, including a workers’ state.  In fact, this rejection is the defining principle of the school of anarchism, a term that literally translates as ‘no government.’  For Bakunin, the only consistent, revolutionary option was to move immediately to a fully mature communist society which, both authors agreed, would be distinguished by the absence of a state.  As a corollary to this disagreement, Marx supported attempts by independently organized workers to pursue their class interests by pressing for reforms within the bourgeois state – for example, for a reduction in the length of the working day – arguing that such victories would promote class consciousness, whereas Bakunin contested this proposal on the grounds that any political engagement whatsoever would constitute a perversion of the revolutionary movement and instead advocated complete abstention from the bourgeois political arena.  The proper form of a revolutionary organization was also a point of dispute.  Bakunin enthusiastically created secret societies as catalysts for a revolutionary upsurge while Marx flatly rejected them.  Finally, the two contested the proper role of the peasants in a revolutionary movement.  Bakunin argued that they might play a leading role while Marx designated the proletariat as the exclusive, leading revolutionary agent.

Because of the preponderance of the points of agreement, some commentators have resorted to personality flaws to account for the interminable disharmony that plagued their relation. For example, Bakunin has been accused of being both anti-Semitic and anti-Germanic while Marx has been considered to suffer from an incurable strain of rigid authoritarianism. A more promising line of explanation of their intractable differences, however, lies in an investigation into the profoundly divergent philosophical frameworks that served as the points of departure for their respective political analyses. As will be shown below, their foundational concepts are so incompatible that even their points of agreement are rendered more illusory than substantive.

Bakunin’s Philosophic Positions

Some of the important philosophical assumptions Bakunin employed in his approach to human reality were borrowed from the European Enlightenment, particularly the empiricist branch of this tradition, so a proper appreciation for his framework requires a brief excursion into its principles.

Having witnessed the phenomenal success of the natural sciences with such practitioners as Galileo and Newton, among others, many Enlightenment philosophers were inspired to transpose both the method and guiding assumptions of the natural sciences onto the domain of human behavior. These borrowed assumptions included the conviction that different kinds of natural objects contain their unique and defining fixed essence; objects interact with one another according to immutable mechanical laws of cause and effect; and after careful observation of individual interactions, the appropriate laws can be conclusively identified and codified. Consequently, the assumption was commonly adopted by members of the Enlightenment that humans are entirely natural creatures along the lines of other natural species and accordingly embody a unique and permanent essence and exhibit behavior that is entirely determined by natural causes. This approach was highlighted by the popular recourse to the concept of “the state of nature”. As a state that either literally or figuratively preceded the formation of organized societies, it purported to offer a glimpse into human nature in its purely “natural” state, prior to alterations resulting from the impact of society. Philosophers during this period, which coincided with the rise of capitalism, almost universally described humans as individualistic, autonomous and independent and to one degree or another strongly inclined to pursue their own self interest, in conformity with the prevailing bourgeois norms.

Bakunin deviated somewhat from this philosophic tradition by rejecting the description of humans as essentially individualistic. For example, he mocked the conception of society as originating by means of isolated, independent individuals contracting with one another, labeling this version a philosophic “fiction”, and argued instead that humans were naturally social and always lived in communities. But he profoundly subscribed to the view that humans should be regarded on the same theoretical plane as other natural objects and that consequently human behavior was governed entirely by mechanical, natural laws. The following quotations offer a sample of this outlook:

“There are a good many laws which govern it [society] without its being aware of them, but these are natural laws, inherent in the body social…. [T]hey have governed human society ever since its birth; independent of the thinking and the will of the men composing the society.”3

“[Natural laws] … constitute our being, our whole being, physically, intellectually, and morally: we live, we breathe, we act, we think, we wish only through these laws.”4

“History and statistics prove to us that the social body, like any other natural body, obeys in its evolutions and transformations general laws which appear to be just as necessary as the laws of the physical world.”5

“Man himself is nothing but Nature…. Nature envelopes, permeates, constitutes his whole existence.”6

Bakunin’s ethics at first glance seem to be a logical corollary to his general naturalistic framework in so far as he identifies what is morally good with what is natural:

“The moral law … is indeed an actual law … because it emanates from the very nature of human society, the root basis of which is to be sought not in God but in animality.”7

“I speak of that justice which is based solely upon human conscience, the justice which you will rediscover deep in the conscience of everyman, even the conscience of the child and which translates itself into simple equality.”8

In other words, justice is a natural human sentiment which permanently resides in the human constitution.

Bakunin’s definition of evil, however, was not altogether consistent. On the one hand, he seems to have followed the empiricist tradition by identifying it with what is also natural: “We know very well, in any case, that what we call good and bad are always, one and the other, the natural results of natural causes, and that consequently one is as inevitable as the other.”9 On the other hand, perhaps because he found it politically advantageous, Bakunin also identified evil, not with a natural impulse or sentiment, but with what is “unnatural”, thereby creating a dualistic universe that was not entirely captured by natural laws. What lay outside these laws was the unnatural, the artificial, a domain which consequently could persevere only by constant recourse to force and coercion: “We must distinguish well between natural laws and authoritarian, arbitrary, political, religious, criminal, and civil laws which the privileged classes have established….”10

One final important component of Bakunin’s philosophic arsenal is his notion of freedom. We shall see that when Marx and Bakunin mention this term, they have in mind two entirely different concepts. Bakunin’s understanding of this term contains several important facets. For example, for Bakunin, acting freely means, above all, acting “naturally” or according to one’s natural impulses: “The liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been externally imposed upon him by any extrinsic will whatever, divine or human, collective or individual.”11 In other words, this definition rests on the conception of humans as natural creatures governed by natural laws. To act naturally is simply to be spontaneous, to be “oneself”: “Once more, Life, not science, creates life; the spontaneous action of the people themselves alone can create liberty.”12

The identification of freedom with spontaneity or impulsive behavior then leads to a second feature of Bakunin’s definition. He is embracing a conception of freedom that can be exercised by an single individual, isolated from a human community. One can act spontaneously entirely alone; it does not, for example, require a special, acquired mental capacity. Consequently, for Bakunin, freedom was an attribute of individuals, not of humans constituting a collectivity:

“Liberty … consists in my being entitled, as a man, to obey no other man and to act only on my own judgment.”13

Liberty is the absolute right of all adult men and women to seek no sanction for their actions except their own conscience and their own reason, to determine them only of their own free will, and consequently to be responsible for them to themselves first of all, and then to society of which they are a part, but only in so far as they freely consent to be a part of it.”14

However, because he viewed humans as naturally social, at times he tried to take this understanding of freedom and demonstrate that it could operate consistently in a human community:

“I am a fanatical lover of liberty…. I do not mean that formal liberty which is dispensed, measured out, and regulated by the State…. Nor do I mean that individualist, egoist, base, and fraudulent liberty extolled by the school of Jean Jacques Rousseau and every other school of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the rights of all, represented by the State, as a limit for the rights of each…. No, I mean the only liberty worthy of the name, the liberty which implies the full development of all the material, intellectual, and moral capacities latent in everyone of us; the liberty which knows no other restrictions but those set by the laws of our own nature. Consequently there are, properly speaking, no restrictions, since these laws are not imposed upon us by any legislator from outside, alongside, or above ourselves. These laws are subjective, inherent in ourselves; they constitute the very basis of our being…. [T]hat liberty of each man which does not find another man’s freedom a boundary but confirmation and vast extension of his own; liberty through solidarity, in equality.”15

Leaving aside the question whether this formulation is consistent with his earlier versions, Bakunin is basically arguing that it is our nature to live together in equality, cooperating with one another, where no one exploits or is exploited. Hence, if I am acting naturally and consequently freely, then I am not exploiting my neighbor, thereby allowing my neighbor to live naturally and freely. In this way one individual’s freedom serves as a confirmation and extension of another. But still, this conception of freedom is grounded on the individual: “… collective liberty and prosperity exist only so far as they represent the sum of individual liberties and prosperities.”16

To summarize Bakunin’s philosophy, he is operating, by and large, within the naturalistic framework established by the empiricist current of the Enlightenment. Humans are conceived as embodying a permanently fixed nature with behavior basically determined by natural laws. This state of affairs is then identified with what is good. However, when coercion enters into the relations among people, we enter the realm of the unnatural. We are alienated from our natural condition and we lose our freedom.

The Philosophy of Marx

While Bakunin’s major theoretical assumptions were firmly rooted in materialist Enlightenment philosophy, Marx was impacted by this tradition for the most part only after it underwent a significant transformation in the hands of Hegel. Most importantly, Hegel rejected the Enlightenment conviction that humans are a natural species, conforming to the same kind of permanently fixed laws as the rest of the natural world. Instead, he postulated a vision of humanity engaged in a developmental process, constantly transforming and recreating itself in its struggle to become increasingly rational. Moreover, this undertaking was conceived as a collective endeavor since rationality, in the final analysis, is an attribute that requires, both for its original emergence and its continual exercise, the contribution of the entire species. For example, each new generation builds on the rational accomplishments of its predecessors, and in this way humans gradually succeed in creating a scientific grasp of reality. Finally, in Hegel’s opinion, this historical process culminates in a state of consummate rationality when humanity acquires self-knowledge. Here humans achieve the capacity to regulate their interactions according to conscious, rational canons and have come to understand themselves as a rational species in a collective sense.

Marx adopted Hegel’s vision of humans engaged in a collective undertaking but argued in favor of a different logic governing the process. For Hegel, the logic of history reflected the logic of human consciousness while Marx anchored the logic to a materialist substructure. In particular, for Marx, the manner in which humans go about satisfying their basic needs stamps a certain structure on the kind of society they create, the relations people have with one another, and the ideas they formulate about themselves and the surrounding world:

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”17

Moreover, this economic foundation contains a certain logic that unleashes a historical movement:

“… [W]e must begin by stating the first premise of all human existence and, therefore, of all history, the premise, namely that man must be in a position to live in order to be able to ‘make history.’ But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. The second point is that the satisfaction of the first need … leads to new needs; and this production of new needs is the first historical act.”18

Like Hegel, Marx viewed this historical process as a collective endeavor since humans depend on one another both for the satisfaction of their basic physical needs and for the acquisition of higher needs:

“The object before us, to begin with, material production. Individuals producing in society – hence socially determined individual production, is, of course, the point of departure. The individual and isolated hunter and fisherman, with whom Smith and Ricardo begin, belongs among the unimaginative conceits of the eighteenth-century Robinsonades, which in no way express merely a reaction against over-sophistication and a return to a misunderstood natural life, as cultural historians imagine. As little as Rousseau’s contrat social, which brings naturally independent, autonomous subjects into relation and connection by contract, rests on such naturalism.”19

While Bakunin posited a fixed, natural human essence, Marx, again following Hegel’s lead, believed that human nature itself unfolded in a developmental process whereby the specific nature of one historical epoch was shed and a new nature was donned in a perpetual process of re-creation. As humans invent ever more sophisticated instruments to employ in the production process, they simultaneously transform themselves into more rational, universal individuals. At the beginning of history, the human species was hardly distinguishable from the rest of the animal kingdom; people were impulsive and lacked a conscious understanding of themselves and their environment. In other words, Bakunin’s picture of humanity as a fixed, natural species only enjoys a fleeting validity at the earliest stage of history in Marx’s perspective:

“This beginning is as animal as social life itself at this stage. It is mere herd-consciousness, and at this point man is only distinguished from the sheep by the fact that with him consciousness takes the place of instinct or that his instinct is a conscious one. This sheep-like or tribal consciousness receives its further development and extension through increased productivity, the increase of needs, and, what is fundamental to both of these, the increase of population.”20

But in the course of a communist revolution, a remarkable transformation takes place: the working class seizes control of the instruments of production and, for the first time, begins to direct them according to a conscious, rational plan:

All-round dependence, this natural form of the world-historical co-operation of individuals, will be transformed by this communist revolution into the control and conscious mastery of these powers, which born of the action of men on one another, have till now overawed and governed men as powers completely alien to them.”21

Here humans have abandoned their animal-like, impulsive existence in favor of a deliberate, rational regulation of their affairs. But conscious mastery of the productive forces can only be achieved when humans work in cooperation and harmony with one another, for as long as economic classes exist with their accompanying exploitation, relations of domination will substitute for rational discussion, thereby precluding the possibility of consciously controlling the productive forces:

“First, the productive forces appear as a world for themselves, quite independent of and divorced from the individuals, alongside the individuals: the reason for this that the individuals, whose forces they are, exist split up and in opposition to one another, whilst, on the other hand, these forces are only real forces in the intercourse and association of these individuals.”22

For this reason, the involvement of all individuals in the conscious control of the economy is an absolute prerequisite:

“In all appropriations up to now, a mass of individuals remained subservient to a single instrument of production; in the appropriation by the proletarians, a mass of instruments of production must be made subject to each individual, and property to all. Modern universal intercourse can be controlled by individuals, therefore, only when controlled by all.”23

In stark contradiction to Bakunin, Marx believed that a successful revolution does not signal the recapturing of an original, natural essence that was stifled by the advent of the State and the creation of classes, but rather the creation of a new human being:

“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.”24

Thus, in the revolutionary process, the proletariat transforms itself from a passive class, following the dictates of the bourgeoisie, into a self-determining agent capable of taking the reins of history into its own hands and directing events according to a conscious plan. This represents the dawn of a new age in which individuals act collectively and consciously in determining social policy: “Only at this stage does self-activity coincide with material life, which corresponds to the development of individuals into complete individuals and the casting off of all natural limitations.”25

We see, therefore, that Marx and Bakunin have developed two dramatically divergent visions of humanity. Bakunin adopted a static version of human nature, identifying it with what is physically natural while Marx posited a humanity that was undergoing maturation, leaving behind a more animal-like existence as it achieved ever higher levels of rationality and self-consciousness.

Their ethical doctrines correspondingly reflected these different conceptual frameworks. While Bakunin defined the good in terms of what is “natural,” Marx relativized ethical terms historically so that each new mode of production was seen to spawn new ethical assumptions:

“The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behavior. The same applies to mental productions as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms.”26

In the context of criticizing Gilbart, a 19th century British historian of economics who claimed that deriving profit from money through interest was “naturally” just, Marx argued that there is no natural justice, i.e., no justice that is permanently valid:

“To speak here of natural justice, as Gilbart does … is nonsense. The justice of the transactions between agents of production rests on the fact that these arise as natural consequences out of the production relationships. The juristic forms in which these economic transactions appear as willful acts of the parties concerned, as expressions of their common will and as contracts that may be enforced by law against some individual party, cannot, being mere forms, determine this content. They merely express it. This content is just whenever it corresponds, is appropriate, to the mode of production. It is unjust whenever it contradicts that mode.”27

Marx’s notion of freedom also involves a paradigm shift in relation to Bakunin and the empiricist school of the Enlightenment. There are two pivotal turns that Marx executed in departing from this tradition and in both cases he was following Hegel’s analysis.

First, for Marx, freedom does not amount to following one’s impulses or engaging in spontaneity. Impulses are a part of one’s natural constitution – they are not the product of choice. When we act impulsively, we act “naturally” and without conscious reflection. However, when we rationally and consciously direct our behavior, we ourselves, through thoughtful deliberation, determine our course of action. Marx accordingly allied himself with that sector of the Enlightenment that was represented, for example, by Kant and Rousseau, where both endorsed the autonomy of the subject:

“Really free working, e.g. composing, is at the same time precisely the most damned seriousness, the most intense exertion. The work of material production can achieve this character only (1) when its social character is posited, (2) when it is of a scientific and at the same time general character, not merely human exertion as a specifically harnessed natural force, but exertion as subject, which appears in the production process not in a merely natural, spontaneous form, but as an activity regulating all the forces of nature.”28

Second, and connected with the first point, freedom is not a capacity that is exercised fundamentally by an individual; rather it is for Marx undertaken primarily by a community of people and in this respect his analysis deviates from Kant and Rousseau. Science, for example, is not a discipline that can be created or employed by an isolated individual. Humans existed for thousands of years before they were in a position to begin to engage in scientific thought, and many more thousands of years passed before they were able to create formal, scientific theories. And no progress could be made at all in this direction until humans developed the ability to build on the contributions of previous generations.

Moreover, because humans are dependent upon one another for the satisfaction of their needs, both physical and psychological, they are compelled to work with one another. Within capitalist society, rather than working with one another directly, cooperation is enforced indirectly by people competing against one another, each consulting only his or her private interest in determining which option to pursue. But such behavior entails that the structure people operate within does not become an object of critical reflection precisely because, from the vantage point of an isolated individual, it is impossible to alter. Hence, from this perspective society appears to be as inflexible as the law of gravity. But the goal of a socialist society is to invert this relation. Instead of individuals feeling powerless in the face of their own social institutions, by directly coming together through organized discourse, they place themselves in a position to alter these institutions according to their own needs and values. But this can only be accomplished when individuals are operating as a coordinated force, where they are discussing, debating and voting on which options to pursue, and where everyone has the opportunity to participate. Consequently a socialist society brings into play a new definition of freedom, and, in Marx’s opinion, a superior conception: the collective, rational determination of social policy. “Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by blind forces of Nature.”29

Consequently, Bakunin’s individualistic definition of freedom, in Marx’s opinion, remains mired in the conceptual framework of bourgeois philosophy and simply sows confusion when transplanted onto a socialist foundation:

“Liberty [i.e. the bourgeois conception], therefore is the right to do everything that harms no one else. The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post. It is a question of the liberty of man as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself…. But the [bourgeois] right of man to liberty is based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself.”30

In fact, this bourgeois conception of freedom, when compared to a more advanced socialist conception, is simply another form of slavery:

“Precisely the slavery of civil society is in appearance the greatest freedom because it is in appearance the fully developed independence of the individual, who considers as his own freedom the uncurbed movement, no longer bound by a common bond or by man, of the estranged elements of his life, such as property, industry, religion, etc., whereas actually this is his fully developed slavery and inhumanity.”31

The differences between Marx’s and Bakunin’s definitions of freedom, in the final analysis, stem directly from their opposed philosophical presuppositions. For Bakunin, since humans are a natural species, it only makes sense to define freedom as acting naturally. But for Marx, since he regards humanity as in the process of lifting itself above nature, freedom is identified with collective, rational action.

One final cornerstone of Marx’s philosophic foundation concerns his analysis of the laws of history. As we have seen, his historical, materialist approach committed him to emphasizing the role of economic conditions in determining the course of history. But while Bakunin argued that historical laws could be reduced to natural laws, thereby implying that humans have no more control over their destiny than natural objects, Marx postulated a dynamic relation between human intentions and the surrounding economic environment:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”32

“It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances.”33

Here, the material environment and human intentions conjoin to nudge, or hurl, as the case may be, history in a particular direction.

This dynamic relationship for Marx is rooted in the basic production process through which humans relate both to one another and to nature:

“Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both men and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal…. We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.”34

In other words, the economic foundation itself upon which history rests in Marx’s system, includes the role of human consciousness as an irreducible moment.

Consequently, Marx’s materialism does not commit him to a mechanical explanation where each historical event is conclusively determined by a preceding set of conditions, as in the natural sciences. Rather, the surrounding economic conditions establish certain parameters within which human intentions operate, thereby stamping a general logic on these intentions without entirely determining them. It is impossible, for example, to create a computer when one has only stone implements at one’s disposal, but one is not compelled to create a computer even if all the necessary technology is available.

For this reason Marx insisted upon drawing a sharp boundary between nature, on the one hand, and history on the other:

“Nature does not produce on the one side owners of money or commodities, and on the other men possessing nothing but their own labour-power. This relation has no natural basis, neither is its social basis one that is common to all historical periods. It is clearly the result of a past historical development, the product of many economic revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older forms of social production.”35

And for this reason he was also critical of attempts to depict history as one more branch of the natural sciences:

“Does not the history of the productive organs of man [i.e. technology], of organs that are the material basis of all social organization, deserve equal attention [as the history of the organs of plants and animals]? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the former, but not the latter? … The weak points in the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism that excludes history and its process, are at once evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions of its spokesmen, whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own speciality.”36

The Dispute Over the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

With their divergent philosophical frameworks at least partially clarified, it becomes clearer why their political differences could not be resolved. Their respective political programs were tied to conflicting philosophical principles so that they were at times being pulled in diametrically opposed directions.

From Bakunin’s perspective, the most important revolutionary act aimed at the destruction of the institution of the State: “We think that the necessarily revolutionary policy of the proletariat must have for its immediate and only object the destruction of States.”37 The State, by establishing the right of inheritance, creates economic classes and thereby introduces an “unnatural” dimension in human relations, a perversity, as it were, that can only be maintained through force which, by means of the military and the police, the State monopolizes. When the State is abolished and coercion is removed, people can immediately revert back to their “natural” condition and recapture their “natural” freedom. No transitional period is required. The dictatorship of the proletariat, as another State, would only serve to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Operating within his historical, materialist framework and placing economics first, Marx countered this analysis by arguing that the State, far from creating economic classes, was itself created by them, by the clash of opposing class interests. The ruling class, in order to consolidate its economic privileges, uses the State to create laws which enshrine its monopoly on wealth in a cloak of legal legitimacy, and it establishes a military apparatus that is prepared to implement these laws by brute force.

Consequently, from Marx’s perspective, classes could persist beyond the destruction of the bourgeois state, although with some difficulty, and the bourgeoisie could survive even after its property has been expropriated. People who have enjoyed privileges are molded by them, they tend to view their elevated position as “natural,” and accordingly seldom relinquish their assets voluntarily. As history as proven, they will often fight tenaciously to reinstate them. Hence, according to Marx, if the proletariat is truly determined to succeed, it must be prepared to use decisive force, if the situation demands. Therefore the working class must establish its own coercive apparatus, i.e. state, so that it can defend its interests and enforce a genuine form of majority rule. Otherwise it will find itself at the mercy of a counterrevolution.

In criticizing Marx’s program of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Bakunin raises this challenge: “If the proletariat is to be the ruling class, one may ask whom will it govern? There must be yet another proletariat that will be subjected to this new domination, this new state.”38 Here Bakunin’s reaction stems from his belief that the State itself is the creator of classes so that whoever controls the state is identified with the ruling, capitalist class while those being victimized by it are the equivalent of the proletariat. But for Marx, as we just saw, the proletarian dictatorship is not aimed at any section of the working class but at the former bourgeoisie, which simply does not disappear overnight.

Bakunin, however, proceeds: “There are about forty million Germans. Are all forty million going to be members of the government?”39 And Marx responds: “Certainly, because the thing starts with the self-government of the commune.”40

This last criticism of Bakunin is connected with a fundamental misunderstanding of Marx’s program. Operating within an a-historical framework, Bakunin was quick to assume all states are basically the same. Hence, he concluded that Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat was not essentially different from the bourgeois state: “… according to Mr. Marx’s theory the people not only must not destroy it [the State] but on the contrary must reinforce it and make it stronger….”41

But this was not Marx’s intention. In 1852, for example, in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx argued:

“This executive power with its enormous bureaucratic and military organization, with its ingenious state machinery, embracing wide strata, with a host of officials numbering half a million, this appalling parasitic body, which enmeshes the body of French society like a net and chokes all its pores, sprang up in the days of the absolute monarchy, with the decay of the feudal system, which it helped to hasten…. Finally, in its struggle against the revolution, the parliamentary republic found itself compelled to strengthen, along with the repressive measures, the resources and centralization of governmental power. All revolutions perfected this machine instead of smashing it.”42

Almost twenty years later he reiterated this position: “… If you look at the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire, you will find that I declare: the next French Revolution will no longer attempt to transfer the bureaucratic-military apparatus from one hand to another, but to smash it, and this is the precondition for every real people’s revolution on the Continent.”43

The determination to smash the bourgeois state was a cornerstone of Marx’s political program. Its destruction opens the door to the political participation of the entire working class where everyone can have a voice in shaping public policy. If the bourgeois state were to survive, the proletariat would remain hopelessly paralyzed in a bureaucratic quagmire.

Aside from the need of the dictatorship of the proletariat to guard against the bourgeoisie, Marx envisioned the establishment of a socialist society as an arduous task, requiring a transitional period in which the groundwork could be laid for a radically new society. Not subscribing to any concept of a natural, pristine condition that could serve as a point of return, Marx conceived of the revolutionary process as one that actually involved the creation of a new human being, one that was capable of acting both socially and rationally. But such an achievement could not be secured instantaneously; considerable time and effort was required for it to mature.

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”44

But in order for a moral and intellectual transformation in humans to take place, or, as mentioned above, “an alteration of man on a mass scale,” the proper economic conditions must exist because, as Marx persistently argued, humans are molded by their economic environment:

“He [Bakunin] understands nothing whatever about social revolution; all he knows about it is political phrases; its economic prerequisites do not exist for him. Since all the economic forms, developed or undeveloped, that have existed till now included the enslavement of the worker (whether in the shape of the wage-worker or the peasant, etc.) he presumes that a radical revolution is equally possible in all of them.”45

These economic improvements would include the abolition of the division of labor, especially between mental and manual labor, and the development of the productive forces:

“And … this development of productive forces … is an absolutely necessary practical premise because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced; and furthermore, because only with this universal development of productive forces is a universal intercourse between men established, which … finally has put world-historical, empirically universal individuals in place of local ones.”46

Therefore, the dictatorship of the proletariat was also required since it could not be assumed that relations among people will immediately proceed smoothly. Time would be needed for humanity to recreate itself along more humanitarian principles. Then:

“… after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life, but life’s prime want, after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banner: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!’”47

Organisational Differences

Another major point of dispute centers on the form of organization needed to wage a revolution.

Although Bakunin was a member of the International Working Men’s Association, most of his organizing efforts were concentrated on the creation of secret societies which were governed by a top-down structure. The following quote gives a sense of the role Bakunin assigned to them and why they appeared to be a sensible alternative for him:

“This organization rules out any idea of dictatorship and custodial control. But for the very establishment of the revolutionary alliance and the triumph of revolution over reaction, the unity of revolutionary thought and action must find an agent in the thick of the popular anarchy which will constitute the very life and all the energy of the revolution. That agent must be the secret universal association of international brothers.

“This association stems from the conviction that revolutions are never made by individuals or even by secret societies. They come about of themselves, produced by the force of things, the tide of events and facts…. All that a well-organized secret society can do is first to assist the birth of the revolution by sowing ideas corresponding to the instincts of the masses, then to organize, not the army of the revolution – the army must always be the people – but a kind of revolutionary general staff made up of devoted, hardworking and intelligent men, and above all of sincere friends of the people, without ambition or vanity, and capable of acting as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the popular instinct.

“Therefore there should be no vast number of these individuals…. Two or three hundred revolutionaries are enough for the largest country’s organization.”48

There are several important points contained in the above passage. First, the emphasis is placed on the instincts of the masses for the fuel that will erupt in a revolutionary upheaval. Second, there is no emphasis on organizing the masses themselves. Third, the secret societies act somewhat as midwives, assisting in the birth of the revolution but are certainly not considered the main engine of it. They engage in translating the instincts of the masses into revolutionary concepts. Fourth, precisely because these societies are in fact secret, they are not elected by the masses, but are self-appointed representatives of the masses. They themselves determine whether they are genuinely hardworking and intelligent. Using these principles as his point of departure, Bakunin then criticized Marx for failing to appreciate the crucial role of instinct or temperament:

“Likewise, Marx completely ignores a most important element in the historic development of humanity, that is, the temperament and particular character of each race and each people, a temperament and a character which are themselves the natural product of a multitude of ethnological, climatological, economic and historic causes…. Among these elements … there is one whose action is completely decisive in the particular history of each people; it is the intensity of the spirit of revolt…. This instinct is a fact which is completely primordial and animalistic…. [I]t is a matter of temperament rather than intellectual and moral character….”49

And for this reason there is no need to educate the masses. In order to mount a revolution, Bakunin’s self-appointed leaders must simply mix with the oppressed so that this instinct to revolt might be ignited. Then, because instincts are true and just, one can depend on them entirely to push the revolution to a successful conclusion. Consequently, Bakunin complained that Marx was actually contaminating this natural flow of events in that Marx was “ruining the workers by making theorists out of them”.50

For Marx, the revolutionary process was far more complicated, requiring ongoing education of the proletariat. For example, it was crucial for him that the proletariat acquire class consciousness because, without this consciousness, it would not come to the realization that the entire capitalist system must be abolished and replaced by a system that operates in the interests of working people, as opposed to a small, extremely wealthy minority. In other words, without class consciousness, members of the proletariat assume that their miserable condition is a function of their own individual initiative, or lack thereof, or simply bad luck, as opposed to resulting from naked class exploitation. But class consciousness is not simply gained instinctively since the bourgeoisie, for example, is relentlessly on a campaign to assert ideological hegemony by arguing that capitalism represents the highest achievement in individual freedom, fairness in the distribution of wealth, etc. For these reasons, Marx was always insistent on the importance of propaganda or education:

“To assure the success of the revolution one must have ‘unity of thought and action’. [Marx is quoting Bakunin.] The members of the International are trying to create this unity by propaganda, by discussion and the public organization of the proletariat. But all Bakunin needs is a secret organization of one hundred people, the privileged representatives of the revolutionary idea, the general staff in the background, self-appointed and commanded by the permanent ‘Citizen B’ [i.e., Bakunin].”51

But in order for education to take place, the working class must be organized, and one such venue is the trade union movement: “It is in trade unions that workers educate themselves and become socialists, because under their very eyes and every day the struggle with capital is taking place.”52

Moreover, for Marx, beyond their trade union experience, workers must be organized on a political level so that they can challenge the bourgeoisie for state power. A political party is the organ through which the working class develops and expresses its class consciousness. It is the instrument with which it articulates and promotes its own class interests in opposition to the bourgeoisie:

“Here, in order to be able to offer energetic opposition to the democratic petty bourgeois, it is above all necessary for the workers to be independently organised and centralised in clubs… The speedy organisation of at least a provincial association of the workers’ clubs is one of the most important points for the strengthening and developing of the workers’ party; the immediate consequence of the overthrow of the existing governments will be the election of a national representative assembly. Here the proletariat must see to it:

“I. that no groups of workers are barred on any pretext or by any kind of trickery on the part of local authorities or government commissioners.

“II. that everywhere workers’ candidates are put up alongside the bourgeois-democratic candidates, that they are as far as possible members of the League, and that their election is promoted by all possible means. Even where there is no prospect whatever of their being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their independence, to count their forces and to lay before the public their revolutionary attitude and party standpoint. In this connection they must not allow themselves to be bribed by such arguments of the democrats as, for example, that by so doing they are splitting the democratic party and giving the reactionaries the possibility of victory.”52a

Furthermore, from Marx’s perspective, these working class organizations must encompass the entire proletariat. The working class as a whole must become actively engaged so that the discussions and debates truly amount to “universal intercourse”. If only some are engaged in the decision-making process, then the decisions will reflect only these special interests so that the decisions will not be universally valid.

“Thus things have now come to such a pass, that the individuals must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces, not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence… In all appropriations up to now, a mass of individuals remained subservient to a single instrument of production; in the appropriation by the proletarians, a mass of instruments of production must be made subject to each individual, and property to all. Modern universal intercourse can be controlled by individuals, only when controlled by all.”53

Therefore, while Bakunin was intent on organizing secret societies and relying on the instincts of the masses to push the revolution to a successful conclusion, Marx was urging that the workers themselves become organized. These working class organizations not only serve as vehicles for education, but they have the potential to become powerful weapons aimed at challenging the bourgeoisie for state power. In the process of this struggle, workers not only deepen their self-consciousness as an oppressed class, but gradually acquire the realization that they are capable of seizing control of society and running it in their own interests.

Political Reforms

Bakunin consistently condemned all efforts on the part of the proletariat to improve its lot by pressing for specific legislation that seemed in its interest. The State, after all, was an unnatural excrescence, implying that any participation in it would only contaminate the revolutionary movement. Marx, on the other hand, not only regarded this political engagement as permissible but even, at times, as indispensable, provided that the conquest of state power was not on the immediate agenda, either because the objective conditions were lacking or because the proletariat had not already achieved the appropriate level of class consciousness and organization. Struggling for reforms involves a certain level of organized, self-determination and hence contributes to the transformation of the working class into active agents. Also, when these campaigns are successful, they can endow the working class with a sense of its own power, enhance its self-confidence, and consequently lead to even bolder initiatives in a revolutionary direction. Moreover, the legislation can in turn open up greater opportunities for working class self-activity, for example, by shortening the working day. Finally, as mentioned earlier, this kind of political engagement is an expression of, and contributes to, the development of class consciousness:

“On the other hand, however, every movement in which the working class as a class confronts the ruling classes and tries to constrain them by pressure from without is a political movement. For instance, the attempt by strikes, etc., in a particular factory or even in a particular trade to compel individual capitalists to reduce the working day, is a purely economic movement. On the other hand the movement to force through an eight-hour, etc. law is a political movement. And in this way, out of the separate economic movements of the workers there grows up everywhere a political movement, that is to say, a class movement, with the object of enforcing its interests in a general form, in a form possessing general, socially coercive force.”54

For Marx, the development of class consciousness is a slow process that traverses a number of stages. On the lowest level, a worker who is suffering from the relations of exploitation approaches the employer as an individual, pleading for ameliorated working conditions. After meeting with failure, workers eventually come to recognize that a more promising avenue lies in collective action, for example, in organizing a union and launching a strike. Here the individual’s consciousness rises one level as he or she realizes that co-workers are also suffering and collective action can be far more effective than the pleas of an isolated individual. But these struggles can in turn lead to action on a more universal plane where one realizes that one’s plight is not simply the function of a particular workplace but emanates from the capitalist system itself. Here, individuals recognize that all workers are suffering and that by organizing the entire working class, a powerful agent is created that has the capacity to change such laws as the length of the working day; and so on. The political arena offers an important opportunity for the proletariat to embark on this path of growth.

The Revolutionary Agent

Another strategical disagreement dividing Marx and Bakunin centered around the question of who would lead the revolution. Both agreed that the proletariat would play a key role, but for Marx the proletariat was the exclusive, leading revolutionary agent while Bakunin entertained the possibility that the peasants and even the lumpenproletariat (the unemployed, common criminals, etc.) could rise to the occasion. Bakunin argued, for example, that the peasants were a revolutionary class for three reasons: (1) They have retained “the simple, robust temperament and the energy germane to the folk nature.” (2) They work with their hands and despise privilege. And (3) as toilers they have common interests with workers.55 In other words, being close to nature, the peasants are less alienated from their true, natural essence since they have suffered less corruption by the evils of society. Bakunin adopted a similar argument in relation to the lumpenproletariat:

“By flower of the proletariat, I mean precisely that eternal ‘meat’, … that great rabble of the people (underdogs, ‘dregs of society’) ordinarily designated by Marx and Engels in the picturesque and contemptuous phrase lumpenproletariat. I have in mind the ‘riffraff’, that ‘rabble’ almost unpolluted by bourgeois civilization, which carries in its inner being and in its aspirations … all the seeds of the socialism of the future….”56

In both cases, Bakunin’s conclusions flow directly from his conviction that inherent in humanity is a natural essence which can be suppressed but never entirely extinguished. Those in society who are more distant from the State apparatus (the peasants are scattered throughout the countryside, the lumpenproletariat simply refuses to obey the laws) are accordingly natural leaders.

In contrast, Marx consistently argued that the proletariat alone was the revolutionary agent: “Of all classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.”57 Here again their different philosophical frameworks led these revolutionaries in opposed directions. Because Marx believed human nature was shaped by the economy, he analyzed the possible revolutionary agents by analyzing how the economy would influence their development. And economic considerations led him to conclude that the peasants could not play a leading revolutionary role. For example, they do not constitute a cohesive class. Some are large landowners and hire other peasants to work for them while the latter are often landless and destitute. Moreover, the desire for land by a majority of the peasants could serve as an anchor, holding them back from a truly revolutionary perspective. Rather than rallying for a thoroughgoing, socialist revolution where private ownership of land is abolished, they often veer in the direction of seeking to augment their own modest, private property land holdings at the expense of the large landowners. But aside from these economic considerations, Marx also believed that the situation of the peasants, not only prohibited them from attaining class consciousness, but from becoming a truly revolutionary class:

“The small holding peasants form a vast mass, the members of which live in similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with one another. Their mode of production isolates them from one another instead of bringing them into mutual intercourse…. Their field of production, the small holding, admits of no division of labor in its cultivation, no application of science and, therefore, no diversity of development, no variety of talent, no wealth of social relationships. Each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient; it itself directly produces the major part of its consumption and thus acquires its means of life more through exchange with nature than in intercourse with society. A small holding, a peasant and his family; alongside them another small holding, another peasant and another family…. In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests and their culture from those of other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class. In so far as there is a merely local interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of their interests begets no community, no national bond and no political organization among them, they do not form a class.”58

Marx was even less enthusiastic about the lumpenproletariat because it was not directly related to the production process at all, being comprised of the permanently unemployed, criminals, etc.


We can now see that when Marxists and anarchists refer to such concepts as ‘human nature’ and ‘freedom,’ they have diametrically opposed definitions in mind and therefore are frequently talking at cross-purposes.  Bakunin’s notion of spontaneity stands starkly opposed to Marx’s notion of collective, rational action.  Each author, armed with his own definition, could then logically categorize the other as a tyrant.  One can understand, therefore, why Bakunin labeled Marx an ‘authoritarian’ when Marx would not concede to Bakunin’s impulsive politics.  Marx, on the other hand, viewed Bakunin’s conceptual framework as mired in an antiquated 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, lacking any historical dimension, theoretically inconsistent, and parading metaphysics as if it were materialism.  As far as Marx was concerned, Hegel could easily have been speaking of Bakunin when he declared:

‘Since the man of common sense makes his appeal to feeling, to an oracle within his breast, he is finished and done with anyone who does not agree; he only has to explain that he has nothing more to say to anyone who does not find and feel the same in himself.  In other words, he tramples underfoot the roots of humanity.  For it is in the nature of humanity to press onward to agreement with others; human nature only really exists in an achieved community of minds.

Neither the early nor the later Marx was a figure of the late Enlightenment, a philosophic school which trumpeted the autonomy of the isolated individual, divorced from a human community.  And Marx had little to say about socialist alternatives, except by suggesting broad parameters, since socialism, in the final analysis, is to be defined and created by the participants themselves, i.e. by ‘freely associated men’ engaged in ‘universal intercourse’ who in this way achieve ‘control and conscious mastery’ of their lives.”      Ann Robertson, “The Philosophical Roots of the Marx-Bakunin Conflict;” What’s Next, 2003

Numero Cinco“In 1967, Sudamericana Press published One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), a novel written by a little known Colombian author named Gabriel García Márquez.  Neither the writer nor the publisher expected much of the book.  They knew, as the publishing giant Alfred A. Knopf once put it, that ‘many a novel is dead the day it is published.’  Unexpectedly, One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to sell over 45 million copies, solidified its stature as a literary classic, and garnered García Márquez fame and acclaim as one of the greatest Spanish-language writers in history.

Fifty years after the book’s publication, it may be tempting to believe its success was as inevitable as the fate of the Buendía family at the story’s center.  Over the course of a century, their town of Macondo was the scene of natural catastrophes, civil wars, and magical events; it was ultimately destroyed after the last Buendía was born with a pig’s tail, as prophesied by a manuscript that generations of Buendías tried to decipher.  But in the 1960s, One Hundred Years of Solitude was not immediately recognized as the Bible of the style now known as magical realism, which presents fantastic events as mundane situations.  Nor did critics agree that the story was really groundbreaking.  To fully appreciate the novel’s longevity, artistry, and global resonance, it is essential to examine the unlikely confluence of factors that helped it overcome a difficult publishing climate and the author’s relative anonymity at the time.

* * *

In 1965, the Argentine Sudamericana Press was a leading publisher of contemporary Latin American literature. Its acquisitions editor, in search of new talent, cold-called García Márquez to publish some of his work. The writer replied with enthusiasm that he was working on One Hundred Years of Solitude, “a very long and very complex novel in which I have placed my best illusions.” Two and a half months before the novel’s release in 1967, García Márquez’s enthusiasm turned into fear. After mistaking an episode of nervous arrhythmia for a heart attack, he confessed in a letter to a friend, “I am very scared.” What troubled him was the fate of his novel; he knew it could die upon its release. His fear was based on a harsh reality of the publishing industry for rising authors: poor sales. García Márquez’s previous four books had sold fewer than 2,500 copies in total.

The best that could happen to One Hundred Years of Solitude was to follow a path similar to the books released in the 1960s as part of the literary movement known as la nueva novela latinoamericana. Success as a new Latin American novel would mean selling its modest first edition of 8,000 copies in a region with 250 million people. Good regional sales would attract a mainstream publisher in Spain that would then import and publish the novel. International recognition would follow with translations into English, French, German, and Italian. To hit the jackpot in 1967 was to also receive one of the coveted literary awards of the Spanish language: the Biblioteca Breve, Rómulo Gallegos, Casa de las Américas, and Formentor.

This was the path taken by new Latin American novels of the 1960s such as Explosion in a Cathedral by Alejo Carpentier, The Time of the Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa, Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, and The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes. One Hundred Years of Solitude, of course, eclipsed these works on multiple fronts. Published in 44 languages, it remains the most translated literary work in Spanish after Don Quixote, and a survey among international writers ranks it as the novel that has most shaped world literature over the past three decades.And yet it would be wrong to credit One Hundred Years of Solitude with starting a literary revolution in Latin America and beyond. Sudamericana published it when the new Latin American novel, by then popularly called the boom latinoamericano, had reached its peak in worldwide sales and influence. From 1961 onward, like a revived Homer, the almost blind Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges toured the planet as a literary celebrity. Following in his footsteps were rising stars like José Donoso, Cortázar, Vargas Llosa, and Fuentes. The international triumph of the Latin American Boom came when the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Miguel Ángel Asturias in 1967. One Hundred Years of Solitude could not have been published in a better year for the new Latin American novel. Until then, García Márquez and his work were practically invisible.

* * *

In the decades before it reached its zenith, the new Latin American novel vied for attention alongside other literary trends in the region, Spain, and internationally. Its primary competition in Latin America was indigenismo, which wanted to give voice to indigenous peoples and was supported by many writers from the 1920s onward, including a young Asturias and José María Arguedas, who wrote in Spanish and Quechua, a native language of the Andes.

In Spain during the 1950s and 1960s, writers embraced social realism, a style characterized by terse stories of tragic characters at the mercy of dire social conditions. Camilo José Cela and Miguel Delibes were among its key proponents. Latin Americans wanting a literary career in Spain had to comply with this style, one example being a young Vargas Llosa living in Madrid, where he first wrote social-realist short stories.

Internationally, Latin American writers saw themselves competing with the French nouveau roman or “new novel.” Supporters, including Jean-Paul Sartre, praised it as the “anti-novel.” For them, the goal of literature was not narrative storytelling, but to serve as a laboratory for stylistic experiments. The most astonishing of such experiments was George Perec’s 1969 novel A Void, written without ever using the letter “e,” the most common in the French language.

In 1967, the book market was finally ready, it seemed, for One Hundred Years of Solitude. By then, mainstream Latin American writers had grown tired of indigenismo, a style used by “provincials of folk obedience,” as Cortázar scoffed. A young generation of authors in Spain belittled the stories in social-realist novels as predictable and technically unoriginal. And in France, emerging writers (such as Michel Tournier in his 1967 novel Vendredi) called for a return to narrative storytelling as the appeal of the noveau roman waned.

Between 1967 and 1969, reviewers argued that One Hundred Years of Solitude overcame the limitations of these styles. Contrary to the localism of indigenismo, reviewers saw One Hundred Years of Solitude as a cosmopolitan story, one that “could correct the path of the modern novel,” according to the Latin American literary critic Ángel Rama. Unlike the succinct language of social realism, the prose of García Márquez was an “atmospheric purifier,” full of poetic and flamboyant language, as the Spanish writer Luis Izquierdo argued. And contrary to the formal experiments of the nouveau roman, his novel returned to “the narrative of imagination,” as the Catalan poet Pere Gimferrer explained. Upon the book’s translation to major languages, international reviewers acknowledged this, too. The Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg forcefully called One Hundred Years of Solitude “an alive novel,” assuaging contemporary fears that the form was in crisis.And yet these and other reviewers also remarked that One Hundred Years of Solitude was not a revolutionary work, but an anachronistic and traditionalist one, whose opening sentence resembled the “Once upon a time” formula of folk tales. And rather than a serious novel, it was a “comic masterpiece,” as an anonymous Times Literary Supplement reviewer wrote in 1967. Early views on this novel were indeed different from the ones that followed. In 1989, Yale literary scholar Harold Bloom solemnly called it “the new Don Quixote” and the writer Francine Prose confessed in 2013 that “One Hundred Years of Solitude convinced me to drop out of Harvard graduate school.”
Nowadays scholars, critics, and general readers mainly praise the novel as “the best expression of magical realism.” By 1995, magical realism was seen as making its way into the works of major English-language authors such John Updike and Salman Rushdie and moreover presented as “an inextricable, ineluctable element of human existence,” according to the New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani.But in 1967, the term magical realism was uncommon, even in scholarly circles. During One Hundred Years of Solitude’s first decade or so, to make sense of this “unclassifiable work,” as a reviewer put it, readers opted for labeling it as a mixture of “fantasy and reality,” “a realist novel full of imagination,” “a curious case of mythical realism,” “suprarrealism,”or, as a critic for Le Monde called it, “the marvelous symbolic.”Now seen as a story that speaks to readers around the world, One Hundred Years of Solitude was originally received as a story about Latin America. The Harvard scholar Robert Kiely called it “a South American Genesis” in his review for the New York Times. Over the years, the novel grew to have “a texture of its own,” to use Updike’s words, and it became less a story about Latin America and more about mankind at large. William Kennedy wrote for the National Observer that it is “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” (Kennedy also interviewed García Márquez for a feature story, “The Yellow Trolley Car in Barcelona, and Other Visions,” published in The Atlantic in 1973.)
Perhaps even more surprisingly, respected writers and publishers were among the many and powerful detractors of this novel. Asturias declared that the text of One Hundred Years of Solitude plagiarized Balzac’s 1834 novel The Quest of the Absolute. The Mexican poet and Nobel recipient, Octavio Paz, called it “watery poetry.” The English writer Anthony Burgess claimed it could not be “compared with the genuinely literary explorations of Borges and [Vladimir] Nabokov.” Spain’s most influential literary publisher in the 1960s, Carlos Barral, not only refused to import the novel for publication, but he also later wrote “it was not the best novel of its time.” Indeed, entrenched criticism helps to make a literary work like One Hundred Years of Solitude more visible to new generations of readers and eventually contributes to its consecration.With the help of its detractors, too, 50 years later the novel has fully entered popular culture.  It continues to be read around the world, by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Shakira, and by politicians such as Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who called the book ‘one of my favorites from the time I was young.’More recently, with the aid of ecologically minded readers and scholars, One Hundred Years of Solitude has unexpectedly gained renewed significance as awareness of climate change increases.  After the explosion of the BP drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico (one of the worst accidental environmental catastrophes in history), an environmental-policy advocate referred to the blowout as ‘tragic realism’ and a U.S. journalist called it the ‘pig’s tail of the Petro-World.’  What was the connection with One Hundred Years of Solitude?  The explosion occurred at an oil and gas prospect named Macondo by a group of BP engineers two years earlier, so when Deepwater Horizon blew up, reality caught up with fiction.  Some readers and scholars started to claim the spill revealed a prophecy similar to the one hidden in the Buendías manuscript:  a warning about the dangers of humans’ destruction of nature.García Márquez lived to see the name of Macondo become part of a significant, if horrifying, part of earth’s geological history, but not to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his masterpiece: He passed away in 2014.  But the anniversary of his best known novel will be celebrated globally.  As part of the commemoration, the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, where García Márquez’s archives have been kept since 2015, has opened an online exhibit of unique materials.  Among the contents will be the original typescript of the ‘very long and very complex novel’ that did not die but attained immortality the day it was published.”       Alvaro Santana-Acuna, “How One Hundred Years of Solitude Became a Classic;” Atlantic Magazine, 2017