§ Preface by Karl Kautsky
¶This booklet by my friend Herman Gorter is being read by Dutch workers and will also be read by German-speaking workers as well, without the need for any other recommendation.
¶If I have inserted a few introductory remarks this is because, in a certain sense, I am responsible for the fact that one of his critics could express doubt concerning Gorter’s understanding of historical materialism.
¶In 1903, in an article in Die Neue Zeit, I expressed the
view that, throughout the entire course of social evolution, the
precepts of social morality have had absolutely no application outside
of the social organization, the nation or the class to which one
belongs, and that they are by no means extended to the enemy of the
class or the nation. My verification of this reality has been zealously
exploited ever since, especially by Catholic priests, against both me
and my party. With their well-known love of truth, they distort the
confirmation of a reality which has been observed for many
thousands of years, since the beginning of human evolution, with respect
to all classes and all nations, into an invitation to
my party comrades to ignore the prevailing moral points of view
and to lie shamefacedly to the masses of the people when the
interests of the party require it. The irony of this affair resides in
the fact that my argument was part of an article which was a polemic
against the old revisionist, now former social democrat, G. Bernhardt,
who claimed for the party comrades,
who are situated on a higher
plane, the right to deceive the masses.
¶Gorter, as it turns out, has subsequently re-confirmed this same point, but he has put it to a more serious use than I did. For this he has been attacked not by his political adversaries, but by his party comrades. He was accused of not understanding Marxism, and it was said that Marx himself held very different positions than Gorter.
¶As proof, they have referred to the statutes of the International, which contain this statement:
¶The International Workingmen’s Association, as well as the individuals and groups of which it is composed, acknowledge truth, justice and morality as the rules governing their mutual affairs as well as their dealings with others, without consideration of color, creed or nationality.
¶This sentence would appear to be in total disagreement with Gorter’s position. And these are Marx’s own words, since Marx was the author of the International’s statutes.
¶First of all, it must be pointed out that this sentence has nothing to do with Gorter’s position. The latter reiterates a fact which has prevailed everywhere from time immemorial. It is not historical fact which the statutes set forth, but requirements for membership in the International.
¶It cannot be maintained that these requirements were formulated in an especially clear and felicitous manner. What, after all, are truth, justice and morality? Is it not true that each class has its own point of view on justice and morality? Is it not true that solidarity, for example, belongs to proletarian morality? And do we want to comprehensively apply proletarian solidarity to the capitalists? There are undoubtedly many situations where capitalists and proletarians have the same interests. In such cases, the proletariat will much more rapidly practice the solidarity required by their morality than the capitalists. After the Messina earthquake, the proletarians who rushed to the aid of buried victims did not ask if they were rich or poor; they did what they could to save human beings. It was not proletarian considerations which obstructed the rescue efforts, but capitalist concerns, because they placed the highest priority on salvaging property.
¶Wherever it is not human beings who are confronting nature, but capitalists who are confronting proletarians, within the framework of society, it is impossible to speak of solidarity between them; one group tries to reduce wages, the other tries to increase them. Each can only gain at the expense of the other.
¶And wherever proletarians enter into conflict with capitalists, they are not obliged to assume an attitude of absolute sincerity towards them. Who would want to require striking workers to communicate to the capitalists the whole truth concerning the size of their strike fund? To deceive the capitalist enemy concerning this figure could in some circumstances literally become a moral duty for a proletarian endowed with class consciousness.
¶That sentence in the statutes of the International does, of course, contain a kernel of truth. We must acknowledge truth, justice and morality as rules for our behavior in relations among ourselves. Truth must rule among all the combatants of an army; therefore, we do not have the right to tell a lie to the comrades when we believe it is in the interest of the party. This is why, in the article I wrote in 1903 for Die Neue Zeit, I said:
¶Just as there are economic laws which are valid for every form of society, there are also moral principles from which no one can be exempt. One of the most important of these principles is the duty of sincerity towards comrades. This duty has never been recognized towards the enemy; on the other hand, without it there can be no lasting cooperation between comrades who are on the same side. It is valid for all societies without class contradictions; and it is valid within a society full of class contradictions for every party specifically composed of class comrades. Lying to party comrades has always been permitted in those parties in which two parties acted in concert, each associating with the other for the purpose of exploiting their joint power in the interest of each. This is the morality of the jesuitical party and of clericalism generally1.
¶It is perfectly legitimate for the statutes of the International to expressly reject this jesuit morality.
¶To the best of my knowledge, the only time Marx invoked this
statutory principle, he did so in connection with his revulsion at the
idea of lying to comrades. He attacked the Bakuninists for forming a
secret organization within the International; this organization had
prescribed as the highest duty of its adepts the task of deceiving
the profane internationals concerning the existence of the secret
organization, concerning its motives and even concerning the purposes of
its words and deeds 2.
¶Without mutual sincerity, without reciprocal trust among its members, it is impossible for a democratic party to conduct an energetic struggle.
¶It is, however, inconceivable that a duty of sincerity should be established towards all men, in every circumstance; towards the police who are persecuting our friends, for example.
¶Therefore, if the passage from the statutes of the International was indeed written by Marx, it cannot be maintained that he was particularly successful in his choice of words or that an idea worthy of consideration was provided with an opportune form. This is certainly surprising, coming from Marx. But Marx did not write this passage. This was first proven, to the best of my knowledge, by Jäckh in his history of the International. I came to the same conclusion and this has received further confirmation from Marx’s daughter, comrade Laura Lafargue.
¶One must not forget that Marx was not an autocrat in the International. He was obliged, in the interests of the unity of the proletarian class struggle, to accept many decisions with which he was not at all pleased.
¶He did not write the statutes of the International all by himself. The supporters of Proudhon and Mazzini also participated in the drafting of the statutes. If one wants to make Marx responsible for the passage in question because it is in the statutes of the International, then he would also share responsibility for the following passage, which, from the points of view of both style and logic, is of a piece with the former, which immediately precedes it:
¶The International Workingmen’s Association, as well as the individuals and groups of which it is composed, acknowledge truth, justice and morality as the rules governing their mutual affairs as well as their dealing with all others, without consideration of color, creed or nationality.
¶It is considered to be each man’s duty to demand civil rights and human rights not just for himself but also for all those who do their duty. No rights without duties, no duties without rights.
¶Any remaining doubts about whether or not Marx was responsible for
the passage about truth and morality will be dispelled as soon as the
close relation between that passage and this other one which demands
civil rights for those who
do their duty is recognized. Here we
find a provision which is simply ridiculous, since its interpretation is
elastic. What authority will decide upon the question of who is doing
their duty and, consequently, who is worthy of enjoying civil rights? It
was not just the bourgeoisie and the workers who had very different
opinions about the rights of the citizen, as there have been even
greater differences among the workers during the era of the
International. For they still followed in the footsteps of the
bourgeoisie in many ways. Among Proudhon’s supporters the strike was
considered to be an act of dereliction of duty. Thus, away with the
strikers’ right to vote! It never would have occurred to Marx, for
example, to demand universal suffrage only for those
who do their
¶Naturally, Marx was incapable of opposing the two sentences of the statutes which he helped to draft and which he accepted in their entirety. I have been informed however, by a trustworthy source, that he privately expressed his discontent with these two paragraphs. But evidence of his discontent is also publicly available.
¶The provisional statutes were first published in 1864 in London as an appendix to the English edition of Marx’s Inaugural Address. They were published in German in April 1866 in the Geneva Vorbote by Johann Phillip Becker. The two paragraphs in question were completely omitted from that edition. It would be idle to speculate that Johann Phillip Becker was opposed to them. He hardly ever concerned himself with theoretical questions.
¶Could it have been Marx who was behind the excision of these paragraphs from the provisional statutes? It was the absence of these two paragraphs in the German edition of the statutes which, even before I read Jäckh, first called my attention to the fact that there were differences of opinion among those who drafted them and that these two paragraphs brought the contradiction to a head.
¶The idea that various sentences which horrified Marx were inserted into the statutes by the Proudhonians can be deduced from the following facts. The draft provisional statutes contained this resolution in Section 9:
¶Every member of the International Workingmen’s Association will receive, in case of emigration to another country, the fraternal assistance of the associated workers.
¶This was not good enough for the Program Committee and for the plenary session of the Geneva Congress which approved the final draft of the statutes, which added the following:
¶This assistance consists of: a) the right to be informed of everything concerning his trade in his new home; b) the right to credit under circumstances determined by the regulations of his section and to the full amount guaranteed by the same.
¶Here the undeniable source of these insertions is clear; it is petit-bourgeois Proudhonism, which sought to emancipate the proletariat with its exchange banks and with free mutual credit, just as it dreamed of an eternal justice which would transform private property from a motive for egoism into an ideal institution.
¶Proudhonism dominated the entire 1866 Congress. The resolution on the trade unions which had been proposed by the general council and which remains exemplary to this day, hardly interested the delegates at all. The debate on this topic was perfunctory. The following resolution, which was proposed by the Parisian delegation, was most passionately debated and unanimously adopted:
¶1. The Congress recommends to all sections that they undertake studies of international credit and send the results thereof to the general council, and that they publicize these studies for the benefit of all comrades in theirbulletins, so that, at the next congress, the comrades will be able to pass resolutions in connection therewith.
¶2. The Congress recommends the immediate study of the idea of the cooperative fusion of all the present and future workers credit institutions into a future central bank of the International Workingmen’s Association.
¶Just one more resolution to give an idea of the character of the Geneva Congress; it concerns female labor.
¶Varlin and Bourdon proposed the following resolution:
¶The lack of training, the degree of overwork, an exceedingly low rate of pay and unhygienic conditions in the factories are the causes, for the women who work in them today, of physical and moral decline. These causes can be eliminated by a better organization of labor, that is, by cooperation. The task is not to remove woman from labor that she needs in order to live, but to adapt it to her capacities.
¶This excellent resolution was defeated; the following resolution, proposed by the Proudhonians Chemale, Tolain and Fribourg, was adopted instead:
¶From the physical, moral and social perspectives, female labor must be rejected, as it is a cause of degeneration and is one of the sources of the moral decline of the working class.
¶Woman has received certain tasks from nature, and her place is in the family; her duty consists in raising children, bringing order to man’s life, accustoming him to family life and improving his habits. These are the services which woman must provide, the jobs she must do; to impose other tasks upon her is a bad thing.
¶This limited concept of female labor is also truly Proudhonian.
¶One therefore arrives at the most false conclusions by simply attributing all the declarations of the International to Marx. Many of them were inspired precisely by anti-Marxist elements. Whoever seeks to invoke the declarations of the International in order to characterize Marxist thought, must first have a clear grasp of that theory and its differences with respect to the spirit of the other socialist schools of thought which flourished during the era of the International.
¶One can be a very good Marxist and have a very good understanding of historical materialism yet nonetheless disagree with numerous resolutions of the International and with many passages in its statutes.
¶This applies, first of all, to the passages Marx did not compose. But it would not be very Marxist to want to stop at Marx’s words and bow down before them without demonstrating a critical mind. From the first moment of coming into contact with his method, it is natural that no one would want to unnecessarily disagree with a giant of thought like Marx. Nor, in the present case, is this necessary.
¶So, as far as I know, his divergence from the statutes of the International is the sole objection which has been offered against Gorter’s understanding of historical materialism. Now, readers of the German language will be able to judge his pamphlet for themselves.
§ 1. The Theme of this Pamphlet
¶Social democracy embraces not merely the aspiration to transform private property in the means of production, that is, natural forces and instruments of labor, as well as the soil, into common property, and to achieve this thanks to the political struggle, to the conquest of State power; social democracy embraces not just a political and economic struggle; it is more: it also embraces a struggle of ideas over a conception of the world, a struggle fought against the possessing classes.
¶The worker who wants to help defeat the bourgeoisie and bring his class to power must eliminate from his mind the bourgeois ideas which have been inculcated in him since his childhood by the State and the Church. It is not enough to join the trade union and the political party. He will never be able to be victorious with them if he does not transform himself internally into a different human being than the one molded by his rulers. There is a certain conception, a conviction, a philosophy, one might say, which the bourgeoisie rejects but which the worker must embrace if he wants to defeat the bourgeoisie.
¶The bourgeoisie want to convince the workers that mind is above material social existence, that mind alone rules and forms matter. They have been using mind as a means of domination: they have science, law, politics, art and the Church behind them and their rule incorporates all of these things. Now they want to make the workers believe that this is an expression of the natural order; that mind by its nature rules over material social existence, that it rules over the workers in the factory, the mine, the farm, the railroad and the ship. The worker who believes this, who believes that mind creates production, labor and social classes by itself, this worker submits to the bourgeoisie and their accomplices, the priests, the experts, etc., because the bourgeoisie controls the majority of the sciences, it controls the Church, and thus mind, and, if this is true, it must rule.
¶To preserve its power, the possessing class is trying to convince the workers to accept this as true.
¶But the worker who wants to become a free being, who wants to place the State under the power of his class and seize the means of production from the possessing classes, this worker must understand that the bourgeoisie, with its way of depicting things, turns them on their head and that it is not mind which determines existence, but social existence which determines mind.
¶If the worker understands this, then he will free himself from the mental rule of the possessing classes and will oppose their way of thinking with his own more just and more resilient way of thinking.
¶Furthermore, because social evolution and social existence itself are moving in the direction of socialism, because they are paving the way for socialism, the worker who understands this and who understands that his socialist thinking comes from social existence, will recognize that what is happening all around him in human society is the cause of what is produced in his head, that socialism is born in his head because it is growing outside, in society. He will recognize and will feel that he possesses the truth about reality; this will give him the courage and the confidence that are necessary for the social revolution.
¶This understanding is therefore just as indispensable for proletarian combat as the trade union and the political struggle; one could say that without this knowledge the economic and political struggles could not be carried through to the end. Mental slavery prevents the worker from correctly prosecuting the material struggle; a poor proletarian, his consciousness of being mentally stronger than his masters raises him above them and also confers upon him the power to defeat them in reality.
¶Historical materialism is the doctrine which explains that it is social existence which determines mind, and which obliges thought to take particular paths and which thus determines the will and the acts of individuals and classes.
¶In this pamphlet we shall attempt to prove to the workers, as simply and as clearly as possible, the truth of this doctrine.
§ 2. What Historical Materialism Is Not
¶However, before we proceed to a clear statement of what historical materialism is, in anticipation of encountering certain prejudices and foreseeable misunderstandings, we would like to first of all say what historical materialism is not. For besides the historical materialism that is the doctrine of social democracy, a particular doctrine established by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, there is also philosophical materialism, and various systems of that kind. And these systems, unlike historical materialism, do not address the question of how the mind is compelled by social existence, by the mode of production, technology, and labor, to proceed by way of determined paths, but rather the question of the relation between body and mind, matter and soul, God and the world, etc. These other systems, which are not historical but merely philosophical, attempt to find an answer to the question: what is the nature of the relationship between thinking in general and matter, or, how did thinking arise? Historical materialism, on the other hand, asks: why is it that, in any particular era, thought takes on one form or another? General philosophical materialism will say, for example: matter is eternal, and mind is born from it under certain conditions; it then disappears when its conditions no longer exist; while historical materialism will say: the fact that proletarians think in a different way than the possessing classes is a consequence of such-and-such causes.
¶General philosophical materialism asks about the nature of thought. Historical materialism asks about the causes of changes in thought. The former tries to explain the origin of thought, the latter its evolution. The former is philosophical, the latter historical. The former assumes a context in which there is no thought, no mind; the latter assumes the existence of mind. The big difference is apparent.
¶Those who want to examine and learn to understand the doctrine of social democracy must begin by paying particular attention to this difference. For their opponents, and especially all the religious believers, want at all costs to confound the two systems and, as a result of the revulsion expressed by the religious workers for the former doctrine, to banish the other system as well. The pastors of the church-goers say: materialism proclaims that the entire world is nothing but matter in mechanical motion, that matter and force are the only things that absolutely and eternally exist, that thought is simply a secretion of the brain, just as bile is a secretion of the liver; they say that the materialists are worshippers of matter and that historical materialism is the same thing as philosophical materialism. Many workers, especially in the Catholic regions, which still cling to the servile adoration of the spirit and where those who are acquainted with the true ideas of social democracy concerning the nature of mind, as they have been presented by Joseph Dietzgen, are few and far between, heed these warnings and are afraid to listen to social democratic speakers who want to lead them to the worship of matter and thus to eternal damnation.
¶These claims are false. We shall show, by means of a series of examples, that historical materialism does not address the general relationship between mind and matter, soul and body, God and the world, thought and existence, but only explains the changes which thought undergoes and which are produced by social transformations.
¶But if we prove that historical materialism is not the same thing as philosophical materialism, we do not thereby intend to imply that historical materialism cannot lead to a general conception of the world. To the contrary, historical materialism is, like every empirical science, a means to reach a general philosophical conception of the world. This is an especially important aspect of its meaning for the proletariat. It brings us closer to a general representation of the world. This representation is not, however, that of the mechanical-material view, any more than it is that of the catholic-christian, evangelical or liberal view; it is another conception altogether, a new conception, a new vision of the world which is particular to social democracy. Historical materialism is not a conception of the world strictly speaking; it is a path, a means, one of many means to reach such a conception, like Darwinism, all the sciences, Marx’s doctrine of capital and Dietzgen’s doctrine of mind, or the knowledge of such means. Any one of these means alone is not enough to attain this conception of the world but all of them together lead to it.
¶Since we shall only be discussing historical materialism in this pamphlet, we shall obviously not speak in any detail about the general philosophical conception of social democracy. In relation to some of the examples which shall help shed light on our topic, we shall nevertheless encounter opportunities to display a glimpse of this general conception of the world, so that the reader may acquire some understanding of this totality of which historical materialism constitutes one part alongside so many other sciences.
§ 3. The Content of the Doctrine
¶What, then, is the general content of our doctrine? Before we start to demonstrate its accuracy and its truth, we shall first provide the reader with a clear general outline of what we intend to prove.
¶For anyone who observes the social life which surrounds him it is obvious that society’s members live in certain mutual relations. They are not social equals but occupy higher or lower ranks and are opposed to one another in groups or classes. The superficial observer might think that these relations are nothing but property relations: some possess the land, others the factories, the means of transport or commodities destined for sale, while others possess nothing. Or he might think that the difference is principally a political difference; certain groups have the power of the State at their disposal, others have little or no influence over the State. But the more penetrating observer sees that, behind property and political relations, there are production relations, that is, relations in which men confront one another in the production of society’s needs.
¶Workers, businessmen, ship-owners, rentiers, big landowners, farmers, wholesalers and shopkeepers are what they are due to the place they occupy in the production process, in the transformation and circulation of products. This difference is even more profound than the distinction between someone with money and someone without money. The transformation of the wealth of nature is the basis of society. We are reciprocally involved in relations of labor and production.
¶On what, then, are these labor relations based? Are all men, as capitalists and workers, big landowners, farmers and day laborers, somehow simply floating in the air, so they can all call each other members of society?
¶No, labor relations are based on technology, on the instruments with which the land and nature are transformed. Industrialists and proletarians rely upon machinery, they are dependent on machinery. If there were no machines, there would be no industrialists or proletarians, or at least not the kind we know today.
¶The occupation of the artisan weaver gave birth to work at home for the whole family; the occupation of weaver in a small workshop engendered a society of small masters and clerks; large-scale steel weaving machinery powered by steam or electricity led to a society of great industrialists, stock brokers, directors, bankers and wage workers.
¶Production relations are not suspended in the air like clouds of smoke or steam; they form solid boundaries within which men are enclosed. The production process is a material process; its instruments are the walls and foundations of the space we occupy.
¶Technology, the instruments of production and the productive forces comprise society’s infrastructure, the real basis upon which the whole gigantic highly-developed organism of society is raised. But the same men who establish their social relations on the basis of their mode of production also form their ideas, representations, concepts and principles on the basis of these relations. The capitalists, the workers and the other classes who, as a result of the technology of the society in which they live, are obliged to confront one another in specific relations – as master and servant, property owner and the propertyless, landowner, farmer, and day laborer – these same capitalists, workers, etc., also think as capitalists, workers, etc. They form their ideas and representations not as abstract beings, but as real, living, quite concrete men; they are social men who live in a specific society.
¶Therefore, it is not just our material relations which depend on technology, and are based on labor and the productive forces, but also, since we think within these material relations and under these relations, our thoughts depend directly on these relations and thus indirectly on the productive forces.
¶The modern social existence of the proletariat was created by the machine. The proletariat’s social thoughts, which result from the relation in which the proletariat as such finds itself, are then indirectly based on the modern replacement of labor by machinery, they indirectly depend on it. And the same is true of all the classes of capitalist society. For the relations within which individual men confront one another are not just applicable to each man individually. Socially, each man is not situated in a unique relation which applies to him as a personal fact as opposed to other men; he has many fellow men who are in exactly the same relation with each other. A worker – to continue with this example – is not alone as a wage worker in relation to other men, he is one of numerous wage workers, he is a member of a class of millions of wage workers who, as wage workers, find themselves in the same situation. And the same is true of all men in the civilized world; everyone belongs to a group, a class whose members are involved in the same way in the production process. Therefore, not only is it true that a worker, a capitalist, a peasant, etc., will think socially as the work relations make them think, but their ideas and representations will coincide in their principle characteristics with those of hundreds of thousands of other people who find themselves in the same situation as them. There is a class thought, just as there is a class position in the labor process.
¶The form – here we continue to occupy ourselves with the general outline of our doctrine – in which the work relations of the different classes (capitalists, businessmen, workers, etc.) are revealed is at the same time a property relation in capitalist society and, in general, in any society divided into classes. The capitalists, the wage workers, the shopkeepers and the peasants not only occupy their own positions within production, but also in terms of possession, of property. The shareholder who pockets the dividends plays in the production process not just the role of supplier of money and parasite, but also the role of co-owner of the business, the means of production, the land, the tools, the raw materials and the products. The shopkeeper is not only someone who participates in exchange, an intermediary, but is also an owner of commodities and of commercial profit. The worker is not merely the person who makes the goods, but is also the owner of his labor power, which he sells in each instance, and of the price which his labor power fetches. In these terms, work relations, in a society which is divided into classes, are at the same time property relations.
¶It has not always been so. In primitive communist society, the land, the communally-built dwelling, the herds, in a word, the principal means of production, were common property. Essential social labor was carried out jointly; setting aside gender and age distinctions, there was equality in the production process and there was little or no difference in the control of property.
¶But after the division of labor advanced so far that all kinds of special jobs were created, and, thanks to an improved technology and a more developed division of labor, after a surplus above and beyond what was immediately needed for survival was produced, certain eminent professions – distinguished by knowledge or valor – such as those of priest and warrior, succeeded in appropriating this surplus and, ultimately, the means of production as well. This is how classes were born and this is how private property became the form in which labor relations have been manifested.
¶Thanks to the development of technology and the division of labor, classes were created. Class relations and property relations rest upon labor. Thanks to the development of technology, which has placed certain professions in a position to take possession of the means of production, the propertied and propertyless were born and the vast majority of the people were transformed into slaves, serfs and wage workers.
¶And the surplus which technology and labor produce beyond what is immediately needed has become increasingly important, and so has the wealth of the owners, and all the more stark is the class contrast for those who have no property. And, therefore, the class struggle has grown proportionately, the struggle waged by the classes for the possession of the products and means of production, and has thus become the general form of the struggle for existence of men in society. Labor relations are property relations, and property relations are relations between classes which are engaged in struggle with one another; and all these relations, taken as a whole, rest upon the development of labor, they result from the labor process and technology.
¶But technology does not stand still. It is part of a faster or slower development and movement, the forces of production grow, the mode of production changes. And when the mode of production changes, the relations in which men face one another must necessarily change as well. The relations of the old small-scale master craftsmen among themselves and with their apprentices are completely different from the present-day relations of the big business owners among themselves and with the wage-earning proletariat. Mechanized production has resulted in a modification of the old relations. And since, in a class society, production relations are at the same time property relations, the latter are revolutionized along with the former. And since conceptions, representations, ideas, etc. are formed within the framework and as functions of the relations in which men live, consciousness is also modified when labor, production and property undergo changes.
¶Labor and thought are parts of a continuous process of change and
By transforming nature by means of his labor, man
simultaneously transforms his own nature. The mode of production of
material life conditions all of social life.
It is not man’s
consciousness which determines his existence, but his social existence
which determines his consciousness.
¶At a certain stage of development, however, the material productive forces of society enter into conflict with the existing relations of production and property. The new productive forces cannot develop within the old relations; they cannot fully unfold within them. A struggle then begins between those who have an interest in preserving the old relations of production and property and those who have an interest in the development of the new productive forces. An era of social revolution ensues and lasts until the new productive forces are victorious and new relations of production and property arise in which the new productive forces can flourish.
¶And, by way of this revolution, man’s thought changes as well; it is modified with and within this revolution.
¶I have briefly summarized the content of our doctrine. It can be recapitulated in an outline form as follows:
- Technology, the productive forces, forms the basis of society. The productive forces determine the relations of production, the relations in which men confront one another in the production process. The relations of production are at the same time property relations. The relations of production and property are not only relations between persons, but between classes. These relations of class, property and production (in other words, social existence) determine man’s consciousness, that is, his conceptions of rights, politics, morality, religion, philosophy, art, etc.
- Technology is undergoing continuous development. Consequently, the productive forces, the mode of production, property and class relations, are also undergoing constant modification. Therefore, man’s consciousness, his conceptions and representations of rights, politics, morality, religion, philosophy, art, etc., are also modified along with the relations of production and the productive forces.
- The new technology, at a certain stage of development, enters into conflict with the old relations of production and property. Finally, the new technology prevails.
¶The economic struggle between the conservative sectors which have an interest in the preservation of the old forms and the progressive sectors which have an interest in the rise of the new forces enters into consciousness under juridical, political, religious, philosophical and artistic forms.
¶Now we shall attempt to prove that our theory is correct. By means of a series of examples we shall demonstrate the causal relation between changes in human technology and changes in human thought. If we succeed in doing so, then we shall have toppled an important pillar upon which the power of the capitalists over the workers rests. We shall thus have proven that no divine providence or human mental superiority can prevent the workers form ruling the world when technology transforms them into intellectual and material masters.
§ 4. Our Examples
¶The examples we shall provide below, first of all, must be very simple. They must be understood by workers who have little historical knowledge. They must thus possess a persuasive force as a result of their clarity. We shall therefore choose large-scale, wide-ranging phenomena, whose effects are visible everywhere.
¶If our doctrine is correct, it must obviously be valid for all of history.
¶It must be able to explain all class struggles, all radical changes in the thought of classes and society.
¶A great deal of historical knowledge, however, is required to explain, on the basis of our doctrine, examples drawn from previous centuries. We shall show how dangerous it is to want to apply our doctrine to eras or situations concerning which we have little or no knowledge. Neither the reader nor the author of this pamphlet possesses such extensive historical knowledge. We shall therefore only provide very simple examples, but we shall seek them primarily in our own era; large-scale phenomena which every worker knows or could know from his environment, changes in social relations and social thought which must be noticed by every living man. Questions, in short, which are of the greatest interest for the existence of the working class and which can only be satisfactorily resolved for that class by social democracy.
¶Furthermore, we shall have in this manner simultaneously conducted good propaganda work.
¶But very important and seemingly powerful arguments will be presented against our doctrine.
¶This is why, when we are discussing all kinds of mental phenomena, such as changes in political ideas, religious representations and other similar facts, we shall pause to consider and to combat on each occasion one of the most significant arguments of our opponents, so that our doctrine can be progressively approached from every angle and a good view of the whole can be obtained.
¶The material modifications brought about by technological change can quite easily be distinguished. In every industrial sector, in the means of transportation and in agriculture, too, everywhere technology is changing, the productive forces are changing. We see this taking place every day before our eyes.
¶Typesetting and the manufacture of printed materials were until recently still generally done by hand. But technological progress has brought the linotype machine, which selects the letters in obedience to the hand of the typographer and puts them in their place.
¶Glass-blowing was done by mouth. Technology has invented tools which manufacture glass vases, bottles, etc.
¶Butter was made by hand. A machine has been invented which churns vast quantities of milk in a much shorter period of time; this machine is now universally employed.
¶Dough is kneaded by hand in the little baker’s shop; the machine does it in a bread factory.
¶Light was produced by the mother of the family in the old-fashioned household. She cleaned and filled the lamp, taking care to trim the wick. In the modern home, gas or electricity is supplied from afar by machinery.
¶Everywhere you look, you see changes in the productive forces in every sector of industry, as well as increasingly more rapid transformation and faster-paced evolution. The machine executes operations that were once thought to be impossible for machines.
¶Along with the productive forces, the relations of production and the mode of production also change. We have already mentioned weaving machinery and how it introduced new relations among the business owners, and between the business owners and the workers. Previously, there were numerous artisans with adjoining little workshops, and proportionally few wage workers. Now there are hundreds of thousands of wage workers and proportionally few factory owners, few entrepreneurs in this industry. The manufacturers conduct themselves in their relations with one another like great lords while they act like Asiatic despots towards the workers. How these relations have changed! All of this, furthermore, was determined by the machine alone.
¶For it is the machine that has enriched those who could afford to buy one, the machine put them into a position to overcome their competitors, to obtain an enormous amount of capital on credit and, perhaps, to form a trust. And it is the machine, the force of production, which has caused the small business owners to lose their property and has compelled thousands of them to enter the ranks of wage labor.
¶And what consequences have resulted from the new productive forces employed in the production of butter? The machine, which transforms thousands of liters of milk into butter, was too expensive for the average peasant, who furthermore did not produce enough milk to use it. That is why a hundred peasants join together to buy one, and now they process their milk collectively. The productive force has been modified, but so too have the relations of production, as well as the whole way the product is produced; where formerly one hundred people worked separately, where the wives and children of the peasants made butter under conditions of agricultural exploitation, now one hundred people cooperate to make wage workers labor on behalf of their collective. The peasants, their wives, their children and a certain number of proletarians have entered into new relations of production with each other and with society as a whole.
¶It used to be the woman of the house who took care of the gas or oil lamp; hundreds of thousands of women were kept busy providing lighting for the home. But if the municipality builds a manufactured gas plant or an electric power station, then the relations of production are modified. It is not a particular human being who produces, but a vast social organism: the municipality. A new type of worker, previously rare, makes its appearance by the thousands: municipal employees, who have a totally different relation to society than the old producers of illumination.
¶Long ago, wagons were used to transport commodities and mail from one place to another. Technology has invented the locomotive and the telegraph and has thus made it possible for the capitalist State to attract the transport of goods, men and information. Hundreds of thousands of workers and employees have entered into new relations of production. The human masses in the municipality, the State or the Empire, are in a direct relation of production with the collectivity, and are much more numerous than the armed hordes of the past.
¶There is no activity which has not seen technology introduce a new way of production. From top to bottom, from scientific research in chemistry, from the inventor’s laboratory to the most humble labor and sewage disposal in a modern big city, technology and work routines are constantly changing. Every activity has been revolutionized, so that inventions are no longer the work of chance or of genius but are the work of people who are trained for the purpose of discovering inventions, and who consciously pursue certain paths towards that end.
¶One after another, production sectors are transformed or even totally eliminated. The economic life of a modern capitalist country is like a modern city where new construction replaces whole neighborhoods.
¶The new technology engenders big capital, and thus also gives rise to the modern banking and credit system which multiplies yet further the powers of big capital.
¶It gives rise to modern trade, it gives rise to the export of goods and capital, and that is why the seas are covered with fleets and whole regions of the world are subjected to capitalism for the production of minerals and agricultural products.
¶It gives rise to such huge capitalist interests that only the State is powerful enough to defend them. It therefore gives rise to the modern capitalist State itself, with its militarism, its taste for naval flotillas, its colonialism and imperialism, with its army of functionaries and its bureaucracy.
¶Is it necessary for us to use such examples to draw the attention of the workers to the fact that the new production relations are also property relations? The number of owners of means of production in the German Empire decreased by 84,000 in industry and 68,000 in agriculture between 1895 and 1907, at the same time that the population dramatically increased; on the other hand, the number of men who live from the sale of their labor power increased by three million in industry and 1,660,000 in agriculture. This change, which affected not just production relations but also property relations, was provoked by the new technology, which has smothered small business and has transformed hundreds of thousands of the children of the petit-bourgeoisie and peasantry into wage workers. And what else is the so-called new middle class but a class with new property relations? Functionaries, whose numbers are rapidly increasing, officials, scientists, the intelligentsia, the higher-paid professors, the engineers, chemists, lawyers, doctors, artists, managers, traveling salesmen, the small shopkeepers dependent on big capital, everyone who receives remuneration for services to the bourgeoisie directly or indirectly by way of the State, this new middle class exists in a property relation distinct from that of the old autonomous middle class. And the modern big capitalists who rule the world and world politics with their banks, their syndicates, their trusts and their cartels, exist in property relations vis-à-vis society which are totally different from those of the Florentines, the Venetians, or the Hanseatic, Flemish, Dutch or English traders and industrialists of centuries past.
¶Production and property relations are therefore not personal, but class relations.
¶The new technology creates, on the one hand, propertyless people whose numbers are increasing at a faster rate than the general population, who are slowly becoming the majority of the population, and who receive almost none of the social wealth, as well as a very large number of petit-bourgeois and peasants, employees and practitioners of the most diverse trades, who get very little of the social wealth. On the other hand, however, technology creates a proportionally small number of capitalists who, by way of their political and economic domination, get the greater part by far of the social wealth.
¶And the surplus they amass each year is once again used to exploit those who have little or nothing, the workers, peasants and petit-bourgeois, and foreign peoples in countries which have not yet undergone capitalist development, so that accumulation takes place, at compound interest, progressively growing, and deprivation is aggravated on the one hand, and a surplus of social wealth comes into being on the other hand.
¶The constant progress of technology therefore creates not only new relations of production and property, but also new class relations and, in our case, a sharper class divide and more widespread class struggle.
¶Is it not true that the whole world sees this? It is really not hard to see. The classes have turned on each other; the contemporary class struggle is sharper, more extensive and more profound than it has been for fifty years. With each passing year the abyss has grown wider and deeper and is getting bigger every day. It is absolutely clear that the cause of this is technology.
¶It is easy to understand the material side of this issue. Does it
take many words to explain to the son of a Saxon or Westphalian peasant,
who has become a factory worker, that it was technology which made this
happen, that it was a result of the new methods of production? That
there was no future for him in a small business, that today’s
competition is too fierce, that too much capital is required, that only
a few people can succeed in small business, but that the great majority
must labor fruitlessly? Big capital is big technology; who can amass
such capital with big technology? The modern worker knows full well that
the material situation, bad food, bad housing, and bad clothing
for him and his class, are the consequences of the new production
relations which have arisen from the old production relations thanks to
technology. It is not hard to discern the material existence of
all the classes in clearly-defined relation to the relations of
production and of property and, therefore, to the productive forces. Now
no one can point to the expensive clothes, the excellent food, and the
luxurious home of the manufacturer as a gift from God, because it is
clear that he obtained his well-being and his fortune thanks to
exploitation. No one can see
predestination at work in the
downfall of the wholesaler or the speculator, because the cause of their
downfall must be sought in value or commodity exchange. No one can speak
of heaven’s wrath when a worker is struck down by unemployment for
months, by illness and enduring poverty, because the natural
causes, or, more properly speaking, the social causes of all
these things, all of which have their roots in the new technologies, are
sufficiently well-known, at least by the worker. Nor can one any longer
stand for making personal intellectual faculties or individual character
responsible for one’s prosperity or misfortune, because in the big
business which is replacing everything, millions of people with
excellent talents cannot advance.
¶Society has reached such a level of development that the material causes of our material existence openly reside, for all to see, in society as well as in nature.
¶Just as we know that the sun is the source of all material life on earth, so too do we know that the labor process and the relations of production are the causes of the way things are in social material life.
¶If the worker would look calmly and steadily at his material existence, that of his comrades and of the classes above him, he would discover that what has been said above is correct. This would free him from many prejudices and superstitions.
¶At first sight, the question becomes more difficult when it is a matter of recognizing the relation between material labor, the relations of production and property, and mental existence. The soul, the spirit, the heart, reason; these have been presented to us for a long time, to us and our predecessors, as what is our own, as what is best, as the all-powerful (and even, from time to time, as all that exists)!
¶Nonetheless … when we say:
Social existence determines
consciousness, this thesis is, undoubtedly, in its universal
significance, a great new truth but, even before Marx and Engels, that
which pointed in this direction and paved the way for the higher truth
which they discovered, had already been explained, proven and
¶Does not every educated man believe, does he not know, for example, that before Marx and Engels had clearly proven so much, men’s customs, experience, education and environment also shaped them mentally? And our customs – are they not products of society? The men who educate us – have they not been educated themselves by society, and do they not give us a social education? Our experience – is it not social experience? We do not live alone like Robinson Crusoe! Our environment is, then, society first of all; we can only live in nature with our society. All of this is true, and it has also been acknowledged by people who are neither Marxists nor social democrats.
¶But materialism does not stop there; it summarizes all previous science, but goes deeper by saying: social experience, social customs, education and environment are themselves determined in turn by social labor and social relations of production. The latter determine all mental existence. Labor is the root of the human mind. The mind is born from that root.
§ 5. Social Existence Determines Mental Existence
A. Science, Knowledge and Learning
Our Opponents’ First Objection
The Second Objection
E. Customs and Morality
F. Religion and Philosophy
§ 6. Conclusion
¶With what we set forth above we have resolved the question we posed ourselves. Let us examine our conclusions once again.
¶We have seen that science, law, politics, customs, religion and philosophy, and art change because the relations of production change, which are themselves changed by technological development.
¶We saw that this was confirmed by a series of quite simple, generally well-known yet all-embracing examples, which involve entire classes and populations.
¶Obviously, we cannot supply an endless series of examples, and there are undoubtedly many pieces of history which, if we were to be asked to explain them in terms of historical materialism, would put us in an awkward position since we do not know enough about them to explain everything that happens in them to our opponents. But it is precisely for that reason that we have set forth such all-embracing examples, because, if they are correct in their vast scope, the correctness of the theory can hardly be doubted.
¶Furthermore, historical materialism has been applied by our comrades, primarily in Germany but also in other countries, to every field of history, with such overwhelming success that we can calmly say: experience has demonstrated the correctness of this part of Marxist doctrine.
¶We have also seen that historical materialism must by no means be considered as a form suitable only for the introduction of historical questions. One must begin by studying. If one wants to know why a class, or a people, thinks in a particular way, one does not say: well, the mode of production was this or that, and therefore this way of thinking was produced. For we would often be mistaken, since the same technology has produced very different ways of thinking in different peoples, just as different modes of production can also be effectively based, among different peoples, on the same technology. Likewise, other factors must be examined, the political history of the people, the climate, the geographical situation, all of which, together with technology, also influence the mode of production and the way of thinking. Historical materialism, the effect of the productive forces and the relations of production, appears most resplendently highlighted in its environment only when the other factors are understood.
¶For those who cannot take history courses, and who must be satisfied with the observation of our own epoch, of the struggle between capital and labor, the reflection of which is clearly visible above all in the mind of the worker – and which the worker may quite readily understand by his own efforts thanks to reading good texts and attending good courses.
¶We have also seen that the various domains of the mind are not sealed compartments. Together they form a single whole, all of them mutually influence one another, politics influences the economy, customs influence politics, technology influences science, and the other way around. There is an interaction, a reaction, a permanent survival of the mental life which flourished in the past. But its motor force is labor, and the channels through which the mental rivers flow are the relations of production.
¶Tradition is also a force, often a braking force.
¶The whole process is, as we have seen, a human process, which takes place thanks to man, among men, and in man; that is, it is not a mechanical process. We have been able to repeatedly prove that human need and human instincts are the bases of every event, and that the social instinct is the basis of the instincts of self-preservation and the continuation of the species. Instincts and needs are not mechanical things, they are also mental things, living things, they are feelings, and undoubtedly not at all simply mechanical. We have seen that nothing is more stupid or dishonest than to confuse historical materialism with mechanistic materialism. Technology itself is not just a mechanical process; it is also a mental process.
¶We have also seen that the great instrument used by nature for furthering the evolution of human thought, struggle, takes the form in our time of class struggle. We have seen, by means of numerous examples, that technology leads the classes into different relations of production and ownership and that, in this way, their ideas aggressively clash with each other; that a struggle among them over ownership results, and at the same time a battle of ideas affecting law, religion, etc.; that the material victory of one class is at the same time the victory of its ideas.
¶We have seen all of this and we believe we can calmly draw the conclusion that thought constantly changes, that thought is in constant motion, and that in all the domains we have addressed there are no eternal truths, that the only thing that is eternal and absolute is change, evolution. And it is also precisely this general, great truth that, as we said at the beginning of this work, even if we do not subject it to a specific examination, will nonetheless emerge from our experiences. The reader will have observed that we have not set forth this result as a dogma established in advance, but as a consequence of the facts, of simple historical experience.
§ The Power of the Truth
¶We have not in any case provided this analysis for the purpose of transforming the workers into philosophers. This will certainly be of interest if the reader understands that the mind, like everything else, is not an absolute thing, but is in a process of transformation; this understanding, as a philosophical truth, however salutary its influence on the mind may be, is still only a secondary outcome.
¶We have set ourselves another goal; we want to transform the workers into combatants. And into victors. While they attentively read these explanations, they must surely feel their inner power grow.
¶What, then, is the result of our doctrine and our examples?
¶If technology changes in such a way that it transforms an insignificant class into a powerful class, a slave into a fighter, then that class’s ideas must also be transformed from insignificant to powerful, from servile to proud. And if technology finally transforms this class into a victor, its ideas must finally come to be the only true ones.
¶Our intention is to give the working class the certainty that it has the truth, and confidence in its mental powers.
¶For technology is making the proletarian class as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore; it organizes it, pushes it into battle, transforms it mentally, morally and materially into a powerful class. The old relations of production, private ownership, have proven to be too narrow for modern labor; labor has become social; only with social ownership can it be freely exercised and developed. Technology in the narrow confines of the small business, in the joint-stock companies and the trusts, requires collective ownership so as to be capable of spreading its wings everywhere without obstacles. It does not want to be artificially stimulated at one time, then slowed down at another. And the workers will finally organize technology and the relations of production in accordance with their will, precisely because technology turned them into a powerful class, and because their will expresses the requirements of technology.
¶But, for just this reason, the ideas of the workers, which rest upon this conviction, to the extent that they rest upon it, are all true. For if reality proves the workers right and, therefore, if the ownership of the means of production is becoming collective, then all their ideas which point in that direction, to the extent that they point in that direction, are also correct and those of their opponents, who do not want this, are mistaken. If, one day, the soil and the machines belong to the whole world, then it is right that it should be that way, and the conception of those who wanted this is revealed to be true; the closer reality comes to this situation, the more true and right is the proletariat’s idea of law, and the more false is the conception of its opponents, and in contradiction with reality. And the same is true of its politics. If the workers must become, due to technology, the most numerous, the most organized, the most materially powerful class, their political points of view which express this status are true, and those of their opponents, who oppose this development, are false.
¶For truth is correspondence between thought and reality.
¶If the socialism of the working class is a requirement of technology, if, without it, production cannot continue to develop, then the morality of the proletariat, to the extent that it is concerned with this end, is also the true morality.
¶If the working class is right to believe that socialism can only come from the development of the productive forces and from the natural and social forces which have been understood by the working class, then it is also right to not accept anything supernatural, since there is no longer any basis for it, and all its adversaries who subscribe to a religion are imbued with superstitions.
¶And this is how it is in every domain: the development of technology proceeds in such a way that one class rises or falls not only materially, but also mentally. When the relations sought by a class become reality, its ideas, which expressed its desire for the new relations, then become true. Nor is this surprising, since ideas are nothing but the theories, the considerations, and the summaries of reality in a general concept.
¶This is why we have attempted with all the forces at our disposal to clarify historical materialism for the workers. The power of the truth must live in the mind of the proletariat.
§ The Power of the Individual
¶That last sentence itself leads us to a good conclusion: the power of the truth must live in the mind of the worker.
¶Surely, technology is leading to socialism. We do not make history by our own will.
¶Labor is becoming social.The relations of production must become socialist.Property relations demand socialization.
¶It is true. Social matter is more powerful than the mind of the individual. The individual must follow wherever it leads him.
¶But technology is composed of machines and of men. Labor in production means human hands, human brains and human hearts which take part in it. Property relations are relations between owners and non-owners.
¶Once again: the process is a living process. The social power which drags us along is not a dead fate, a brutal mass of compact matter. It is society, it is a living force.
¶To speak truly, we must go in the direction it is going in. The labor process is dragging us in a direction that we have not ourselves determined. We do not make history by our own will.
¶But … we do make it.
¶It is not a blind destiny but living society which destines you, workers, to usher in socialism.
¶You, as a class, can do nothing else. You must want higher wages, a happier life, and more leisure. You must organize. You must fight the State, you must conquer political power, and you must be victorious. It is production, it is living labor that you want.
¶But does it not also depend upon you personally to bring this about quickly, smoothly and correctly? Is it not precisely because you must do so as a living power that it will depend upon you, living individuals, living men, women and children, not what you do, but how you do it?
¶This depends on your body and your mind.
¶Physically robust and mentally strong proletarians will realize one of the most magnificent and greatest tasks ever seen in the world better than weak proletarians.
¶Under capitalism, to be as physically as healthy as you will need to be does not depend on your desires. Wage levels, the length of the working day, housing, do not depend on you alone. But to a very high degree, it is up to you whether or not you are mentally healthy. You can fully and completely accept into your mind the power and the force of the truth, of the socialist social truth, even when your body is not so strong.
¶It is something characteristic of the mind. Social existence dominates it in such a way that it can be feeble, tired, mortally exhausted, that it can no longer move.
¶But technology awakens it, shows it a point of light on the horizon, happiness, a goal. It points the way to victory for the class through social existence, then the mind of those who belong to that class go into motion; then it is impassioned, it lives, it aspires to something, it acts, then the saying according to which the mind rules the body becomes true. The mind then becomes more than the body; however weak the body may be, however under-nourished, however anemic, with a thousand troubles and worries, the mind becomes powerful, the mind becomes free.
¶Worker, comrade, it is necessary for you to be told that your mind can be free under capitalism. The process of production can make you mentally free immediately. You must free yourself from the mental yoke of the bourgeoisie. Historical materialism teaches you about the relation between man and nature. It teaches you that the time approaches when not only will humanity rule nature but will also rule itself. It teaches you that you are called upon to hasten the arrival of that day. He who understands this and acts in accordance with this understanding is mentally free. Only he, with his individual power, is capable of helping to lead his class to the new society.
¶The mind must be revolutionized. It must extirpate prejudice and cowardice. The most important thing is mental propaganda. Knowledge, mental power, is the essential thing, the most necessary of all.
¶Only knowledge creates a good organization, a good trade union movement, correct policies and therefore improvements in the fields of economics and politics.
¶No prosperity will be possible as long as capitalism exists.
¶Only socialism will bring prosperity.
¶But socialism can only be achieved, the hard fight for socialism can only be led, by mentally energetic men who are intellectually free.
¶First make your own mind strong, and then to do so with the minds of your comrades: this is the great and universal power of the individual, thanks to which he can hasten the advent of the socialist future.
¶Try it, workers, comrades. Drink deep from the development of the productive forces which you have before your eyes and even in your hands, what you must find in them: the new truth, the socialist vision of the world. And spread it!
¶In regard to practice, I can recommend, based on my experience as an agitator, the following in response to this claim. When an opponent reproaches us for recognizing the existence of a class morality – since it is not a question of preaching a class morality – demand that he make reference to particular instances where our class lied, deceived, etc. In most cases he will not be able to produce much in the way of evidence; if he cites the case of the theft of a secret document, explain to your listeners the whole case. If your listeners are workers who are ripe for our agitation, then the sentiment of solidarity with their comrades, which is inherited from our predecessors, will immediately be instinctively voiced within them, and they will feel that we are right.
¶If the opponent’s attack is repulsed in this way, then go on the offensive. After the failure to prove the existence of a bad class morality among us, show the bad class morality of the capitalists, of the yellow trade unions, of the bourgeois press, and of the politicians, as it is directed against us, against the oppressed class. Go on to compare our class morality, which defends the oppressed, and their class morality, which seeks to repress them; compare capitalist society, which implies such a morality, with the classless socialist society in which all humanity forms a solidaric brotherhood. Only then will you have an effect on the workers. And once again it will become clear that only theoretical truth will lead us to victory.
¶Marx himself had absorbed his knowledge about society from the class struggle of the proletariat which was taking place before his eyes in England and France. Dietzgen formed his conceptions of the mind on the basis of Marx’s knowledge of society. He was able to discern historical materialism in Marx’s writings, and only thus could Dietzgen arrive at his transparent doctrine of the mind. Both of them, then, derived their knowledge from the class struggle of the proletariat. The proletariat gave them, through their labor, their demands and their associations, the experience, and they constructed the doctrine, the theory. One could say that they gave back to the proletariat a hundred-fold what they had taken from it.
Neue Zeit, XXII, 1, p. 5.↩︎
A Plot against the International, 1874, p. 33.↩︎
Dreiklassenwahlrecht: in this voting system introduced by Frederick Wilhelm IV in Prussia in 1849 and which was in effect in that State until 1918, the lower chamber (Landtag) was elected by indirect universal suffrage, but the higher chamber was divided into three estates and representation in this chamber was proportional to the taxes paid by the three estates, so that more than 80% of the electorate elected less than one third of the deputies. (Note from the French translation)↩︎
Norddeutsche Bund: a Federation of 22 German States located north of the Main, created on Bismarck’s initiative after Prussia’s victory over Austria, and implemented in 1867.↩︎
We cannot sufficiently recommend to the reader, especially the working class reader, Kautsky’s lecture on Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History. Ethics is the last wall behind which people who want to keep the worker in a state of childhood thanks to religion are entrenched. When the terrestrial origin of the highest moral precepts is clarified, many mental obstacles are overcome. So also solidarity will be reinforced if it is understood to have its origin in the most ancient sentiments of the human species.↩︎
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920): professor of theology, he helped found the Amsterdam Free University; as a journalist, he founded two newspapers, De Standaard and De Heraut, and as a politician, he was one of the founders of the Anti-Revolutionary Party and was Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. (Note from the French translation)↩︎
Two mental tendencies are possible for the bourgeois or capitalist politician, who, as a result of the development of technology and the mode of production, comes into conflict with the working class. He can confess that he cannot and does not follow the precepts of the highest morality in regard to the working class. He then becomes a cynic, he mutes the voice inside him that tells him what he himself knows is
this won’t work. Or else he says that he recognizes and follows the highest morality. In that case he becomes a hypocrite whose words and actions are in sharp contradiction with each other, who dissimulates his anti-social actions behind beautiful resonant words. And the hypocrite is especially repugnant when, as in the case of Kuyper, he associates religion and devotion with his hypocrisy. Such phenomena, however, are not personal sins but, as we have shown, a necessary consequence of the development of the productive forces.↩︎
Two mental tendencies are possible, both among the capitalists and their political representatives as well as among the workers and their representatives. The worker could take nothing into account except the everyday struggle. His moral sentiment is then limited to a narrow circle, to his colleagues in his trade, for example. Or he could above all have his sights set on the final goal, socialism. In that case his moral sentiment embraces the whole proletariat, and can also come to include all of humanity. Cynicism and hypocrisy are the two general phenomena necessary in the ruling class; in the ruled class, an uninspiring narrowness and revolutionary enthusiasm. There are naturally many intermediate stages between the two poles.↩︎
Our opponents occasionally conclude from this that we think that anything is always permitted against the capitalists. This is false. As we said above, this is only the case when it is necessary for the veritable salvation of our class. The application of such means would be exactly contrary to the morality which orders us to act in the interest of our class.↩︎
It is often said that this abrupt representation and this acknowledgment of the existence of a class morality is prejudicial to our propaganda, because our opponents exploit these things against us and thus arouse the suspicions of the ignorant masses against us. But whoever says this is unaware of the power that theoretical truth confers upon a revolutionary class.↩︎
Today, as well, when commodity society penetrates primitive peoples, they are also
Only the Italian cities remained Catholic, also for economic reasons. The power of the Pope signified the power of Italy over the Christian world.↩︎
For reasons of space we naturally cannot deal with every philosophical system.↩︎
Wage Labor and Capital, Karl Marx.↩︎
The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.↩︎
Marx examined how the relations of production modify the content of thought. But thinking itself is explained by bourgeois philosophers and theologians as something that comes from God. Thus, after Marx’s critique of the content of thinking, consequently there still remained an unexplained part of the world of ideas which the bourgeoisie could use to buttress their own status and to put down the proletariat. This is the part that Joseph Dietzgen studied. As Marx had covered the material side, Dietzgen approached the problem from the other side, that of the idea. Whereas Marx set forth what social matter does to the mind, Dietzgen showed what the mind itself does. Marx often heard the bourgeoisie say:
But no one can understand the nature of things; the nature of things is beyond or above the capacities of our imagination.This is how they tried to preserve the supernatural. Dietzgen proved that the cause of the incomprehensibility of the nature of things for the bourgeoisie does not reside in things themselves, but in their own understanding. The bourgeoisie, the bourgeois philosophers and theologians, do not understand what it means to understand something. Dietzgen explained to the workers what understanding is, and therefore, thanks to Marx and Dietzgen, the entire relation between thought and social existence has been made clear, since one studied the modifications of thought, and the other the nature of thought.↩︎
This apparently refers to Friedrich Büchner (born 1824), a German naturalist and materialist philosopher, author of Force and Matter (1855) and Nature and Mind (1857). Büchner was a popularizer and polemicist who championed the experimental method of science. (Note from the French translation)↩︎
Ernst Häckel (1834-1919), German biologist and philosopher, was a stalwart proponent of the theory of evolution and popularized Darwin’s work in Germany. He is also considered to be the father of ecology. Some believe he was one of the first to engage in racial classification, since he established a racial hierarchy within an evolutionist framework and was therefore a precursor of the Nazi’s political-biological doctrine. (Note from the French translation)↩︎