Let’s not forget Engels!


I’ve just read a review of a book about Engels entitled The Frock Coated Communist (due to be released on May Day).

Having not read the book itself,  I can’t really comment on it.   But the review prompted me to want to write something about Engels because he is so often overlooked.


The review opens  by saying  “It is a truth now universally acknowledged that capitalism’s most insightful philosopher is Karl Marx.” and the first paragraph ends with “Today, in the midst of a once-a-century crisis of capitalism, Das Kapital has raced to the top of the German bestseller lists and even President Sarkozy has been caught leafing through its pages.”   The rest of the article is an account of the importance of Engels in the development of Marx’s economic views.

When Marx died, in 1883,  Engels was left holding the baby. One of his tasks was to edit the unfinished Volume 111 of Das Kapital. According to the review,  one thing Engels did was to

” … change Marx’s intent on a number of crucial passages with significant ideological repercussions. This was most obviously the case in the much debated Part III, ‘The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall’, in which Marx had outlined how profits tend to decline under capitalism as labour-saving technology progressively reduces the scope for extracting surplus value from living labour. Marx connected this falling profitability to the vulnerability of capitalism itself. But whereas the original manuscript referred to the ‘shaking’ of capitalist production, Engels spoke far more definitively of the ‘collapse’ of capitalism. A small change, but one with far-reaching consequences for later Marxists who repeatedly looked for a systemic ‘crisis’ or ‘breakdown’ of capitalism to usher in the communist dawn. It is a theme that has recently resurfaced in commentary on the credit crisis.

I have no idea whether Engels  changed Marx’s “intent” by speaking of the “collapse of capitalism”,  rather than the “shaking of capitalism”. However I’m inclined to think that the “ideological repercussions”  reflect the tendency of Communists  to see a very mechanical connection between capitalist crisis and the collapse of capitalism.  I doubt that Engels himself, thought like that.

The review does correctly point out the immense importance of  Engels’ first hand experience of the process of proletarianization, due to having to work in his father’s textile business.  In particular, it notes the importance of Engels’ article “The Condition of the Working Class In England” (1845).

Just out of interest I googled the Marx-Engels correspondence for that early period in their relationship (when both were still forming their views) and came across  an 1845 letter from Engels to Marx in which he described the contradictions he was experiencing while writing this article and at the same time working for his father in Barmen, Germany ( where he had returned after a 22 month stint working for the same business in Manchester.)  It’s wry, mischievous and entertaining.   I’ll just quote a bit of it:

“As it is, there’s never any opportunity here for an occasional outburst of high spirits, the life I lead being all that the most splendiferous philistine could desire, a quiet, uneventful existence, replete with godliness and respectability; I sit in my room and work, hardly ever go out, am as staid as a German. If things go on like this, I fear that the Almighty may overlook my writings and admit me to heaven.

I assure you that I’m beginning to acquire a good reputation here in Barmen. But I’m sick of it all and intend to get away at Easter, probably to Bonn. I have allowed myself to be persuaded by the arguments of my brother-in-law [Emil Blank] and the doleful expression on both my parents’ faces to give huckstering another trial and for […] days have been working in the office. Another motive was the course my love affair was taking.

But I was sick of it all even before I began work; huckstering is too beastly, Barmen is too beastly, the waste of time is too beastly and most beastly of all is the fact of being, not only a bourgeois, but actually a manufacturer, a bourgeois who actively takes sides against the proletariat. A few days in my old man’s factory have sufficed to bring me face to face with this beastliness, which I had rather overlooked.

I had, of course, planned to stay in the huckstering business only as long as it suited me and then to write something the police wouldn’t like so that I could with good grace make off across the border, but I can’t hold out even till then. Had I not been compelled to record daily in my book the most horrifying tales about English society, I would have become fed up with it, but that at least has kept my rage on the simmer. And though as a communist one can, no doubt, provided one doesn’t write, maintain the outward appearance of a bourgeois and a brutish huckster, it is impossible to carry on communist propaganda on a large scale and at the same time engage in huckstering and industry.

Enough of that — at Easter I shall be leaving this place. In addition there is the enervating existence in this dyed-in-the-wool Christian-Prussian family — it’s intolerable; I might end up by becoming a German philistine and importing philistinism into communism.

For the time being write to me here. If I have already left, your letters will be forwarded.

F. E.

In the book review,  the author emphaises Engels’ vivid  description of the human  degradation which accompanied 19th century capitalism and goes on to argue that nowadays Engels’ “deep feeling for the human costs of capitalism resonates most powerfully in those countries at the sharp end of global capitalism – most notably the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China. For here all the horrors of breakneck industrialisation – capitalism transforming social relations, destroying old customs and habits, turning villages into cities, and workshops into factories – display the same savagery which Engels recounted in 19th-century Europe. With China now claiming the mantle of ‘Workshop of the World’, the pollution, ill health, political resistance and social unrest prevalent, for example, in the Special Economic Zones of Guangdong Province and Shanghai appear eerily reminiscent of Engels’ accounts of Manchester and Glasgow.”   While this is undoubtedly true,  there is no mention in the review of an extremely provocative passage in which Engels argued that pre-industrial society, even at its most idyllic was not fit for humans. I ’ll quote that passage in full because it is so confronting to romantics

Before the introduction of machinery, the spinning and weaving of raw materials was carried on in the workingman’s home. Wife and daughter spun the yarn that the father wove or that they sold, if he did not work it up himself. These weaver families lived in the country in the neighbourhood of the towns, and could get on fairly well with their wages, because the home market was almost the only one and the crushing power of competition that came later, with the conquest of foreign markets and the extension of trade, did not yet press upon wages. There was, further, a constant increase in the demand for the home market, keeping pace with the slow increase in population and employing all the workers; and there was also the impossibility of vigorous competition of the workers among themselves, consequent upon the rural dispersion of their homes. So it was that the weaver was usually in a position to lay by something, and rent a little piece of land, that he cultivated in his leisure hours, of which he had as many as he chose to take, since he could weave whenever and as long as he pleased. True, he was a bad farmer and managed his land inefficiently, often obtaining but poor crops; nevertheless, he was no proletarian, he had a stake in the country, he was permanently settled, and stood one step higher in society than the English workman of today.

So the workers vegetated throughout a passably comfortable existence, leading a righteous and peaceful life in all piety and probity; and their material position was far better than that of their successors. They did not need to overwork; they did no more than they chose to do, and yet earned what they needed. They had leisure for healthful work in garden or field, work which, in itself, was recreation for them, and they could take part besides in the recreations and games of their neighbours, and all these games — bowling, cricket, football, etc., contributed to their physical health and vigour. They were, for the most part, strong, well-built people, in whose physique little or no difference from that of their peasant neighbours was discoverable. Their children grew up in the fresh country air, and, if they could help their parents at work, it was only occasionally; while of eight or twelve hours work for them there was no question.

What the moral and intellectual character of this class was may be guessed. Shut off from the towns, which they never entered, their yarn and woven stuff being delivered to travelling agents for payment of wages — so shut off that old people who lived quite in the neighborhood of the town never went thither until they were robbed of their trade by the introduction of machinery and obliged to look about them in the towns for work — the weavers stood upon the moral and intellectual plane of the yeomen with whom they were usually immediately connected through their little holdings. They regarded their squire, the greatest landholder of the region, as their natural superior; they asked advice of him, laid their small disputes before him for settlement, and gave him all honour, as this patriarchal relation involved. They were “respectable” people, good husbands and fathers, led moral lives because they had no temptation to be immoral, there being no groggeries or low houses in their vicinity, and because the host, at whose inn they now and then quenched their thirst, was also a respectable man, usually a large tenant-farmer who took pride in his good order, good beer, and early hours. They had their children the whole day at home, and brought them up in obedience and the fear of God; the patriarchal relationship remained undisturbed so long as the children were unmarried.

The young people grew up in idyllic simplicity and intimacy with their playmates until they married; and even though sexual intercourse before marriage almost unfailingly took place, this happened only when the moral obligation of marriage was recognised on both sides, and a subsequent wedding made everything good. In short, the English industrial workers of those days lived and thought after the fashion still to be found here and there in Germany, in retirement and seclusion, without mental activity and without violent fluctuations in their position in life. They could rarely read and far more rarely write; went regularly to church, never talked politics, never conspired, never thought, delighted in physical exercises, listened with inherited reverence when the Bible was read, and were, in their unquestioning humility, exceedingly well-disposed towards the “superior” classes. But intellectually, they were dead; lived only for their petty, private interest, for their looms and gardens, and knew nothing of the mighty movement which, beyond their horizon, was sweeping through mankind. They were comfortable in their silent vegetation, and but for the industrial revolution they would never have emerged from this existence, which, cosily romantic as it was, was nevertheless not worthy of human beings. In truth, they were not human beings; they were merely toiling machines in the service of the few aristocrats who had guided history down to that time. The industrial revolution has simply carried this out to its logical end by making the workers machines pure and simple, taking from them the last trace of independent activity, and so forcing them to think and demand a position worthy of men. As in France politics, so in England manufacture and the movement of civil society in general drew into the whirl of history the last classes which had remained sunk in apathetic indifference to the universal interests of mankind.

We need someone to write something as startling about the condition of the working people under  advanced capitalism.

Lots of people are now paying attention to Marx (while Engels is mainly left out of the picture).  I entitled this post “Let’s not Forget About  Engels because I do think he deserves far more recognition as a thinker in his own right.  I also think that his partnership with Marx was a wonderful thing and shows the importance of collaboration.  He is also easier to read than Marx!

However it’s now over 150 years since the Commuinist Manifesto was published and until very recently, capitalism has mostly been going strong.

I don’t think Marx and Engels expected that – or that the bourgeois democratic revolution would still not have been completed on a large section of the planet.   That requires some new analysis and thinking.

19 Responses to “Let’s not forget Engels!”

  1. 1 Steve Owens

    My impression of the Marx predicting economic collapse argument is that when the expected economic collapse failed to materialise Marxists like Lenin promoted the idea that the collapse had been adverted by the export of Capital to the empire. This idea was shown to be wrong when people did the sums and found that most exported Capital went to other advanced industrialised countries.
    Under Stalin Marx’s idea of collapse was reinterpreted as his “immiseration” thesis. This looked like a goer while the west was having the Great Depression but didn’t get much traction after that.

    After WW2 Marxist’s of all stripes expected the great depression to resume which looked likely in the first few years but looked pretty thin once the long boom took hold.

    With the long boom came the “permanent arms economy theory” which I don’t think amounted to much.

    Most Marxists hold the 1970’s to be important. Some argue that Capitalism went into crisis that has never been resolved while others say that Capitalism has experienced a decline in the rate of profit that is about to bare Marxist fruit.
    Well at least this crisis should resolve some points of theory and I can’t wait.

    Personally my money is on capitailsm being like Houdini having the ability to escape from seemingly impossible situations.
    On a side note Patrick you were right about the sub prime crisis being important where as I thought it was a passing bit of nonsense.

  2. 2 Bill Kerr

    For another valuable “easier to read” source – arthur mentioned an essay by Veblen – subsequently, I’ve been reading some of his essays in economics

    Wikipedia is a good starting point for an overview of schools of economic thought (classical, neoclassical, Keynesian, Austrian – Mises (“pure”) on the one hand & Hayek, Schumpeter on the other, Marxian). However, wikipedia has a neutral voice policy which eventually scrambles the brains. It’s easy to drown in a sea of neutral voice whilst advocacy of one type or another sharpens up the arguments.

    Veblen’s essays look great to me as an unscrambler, that he puts a point of view in his own clear voice and also covers some important issues that came after Marx, eg. the marginal theory of value wikipedia account(s) are confusing. I’m still reading Veblen but think they are well worth recommending.

    wrt steve’s point:

    Well at least this crisis should resolve some points of theory and I can’t wait.

    You would hope so but what is needed here is an evaluation of the status of economics as a science. Without going into detail at this point, through not having studied it closely enough yet, I think this is an issue that Veblen addresses.

    eg. A Keynesian like Paul Krugman can argue that a stimulus is need but that Obama is supplying the wrong type of stimulus, “the sense that the administration is just too close to Wall Street continues to grow” (Bank Scams ). From reading Krugman’s blog he seems intelligent, well thought out and logical to me but operating within the framework that capitalism can be made to work, that the bumpy bits can be smoothed out at least partially.

  3. 3 Arthur

    Some quick notes:

    1. Engels has always been systematically attacked by revisionists claiming that their very own version of “Marxism” was what Marx actually meant but distorted by Engels. This reflects Engels importance in having provided far more clear and popular accounts of Marx’s views than Marx was able to do. “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” (part of “Anti-Duhring”) remains the best introduction to studying Marxism.

    2. The claim that Engels spoke more definitively of a collapse” of capitalism is simply false. Both were confident that capitalism would eventually be overthrown and neither viewed it in terms of inevitable “collapse”. Rosa Luxemburg did have an analysis that implied inevitable (underconsumptionist) collapse – a view Lenin explicitly rejected (and refuted in detail in his polemics with the populist narodniks).

    3. Unfortunately there was a strong tendency among Marxist-Leninists to put things in terms of inevitable “collapse” – especially in popular expositions during the Great Depression, and there wasn’t much of a tradition of serious study of political economy for decades.

    4. In particular there was a widespread expectation that the depression would resume after World War 2 – though Varga, the most authoritative Soviet economist held the opposite view and correctly predicted a boom.

    5. The sixties were dominated by such “anti-imperialist” analyses as Baran and Sweezy and Paul Mattick that were a very long way from orthodox Marxism (although not at political loggerheads since the main enemy at the time was US imperialism and their analyses were convenient when denouncing it). To indicate how little grasp there was of Marxist theory, David Horowitz (now on the far right) wrote the most popular accounts of imperialism from which lots of people got their “theory” and edited the collection on “Marx and Modern Economics” from which the relatively few with an interest in economics got their understanding of that.

    6. Although there was a significant revival of interest in political economy in the 1970s it eventually died out without producing much that is worthwhile. There hasn’t been anything much of a “left” to do any serious work since.

    7. There’s going to have to be a LOT of hard work catching up before we’re able to make a serious contribution. This does include studying first Engels and then Marx.

    8. BTW Lenin mentioned while studying Hegel that literally nobody had understood “Capital” since it required studying Hegel and they didn’t. Interestingly Veblen made a somewhat similar remark about the Social Democrats of the Second International actually being Darwinists rather than Hegelians, accurately diagnosing their slide into revisionist reformism and imperialism in The Later Marxism as early as 1906 – well before the “Great War”. Curiously, Veblen characterizes Marx as presenting an underconsumptionist theory of collapse (consistently he dismisses Volumes 2 and 3 of Capital as of little interest).

    9. I liked this comment on Krugman’s piece on bank scams:

    When the fundamental problem is that most large financial institutions are bankrupt (insolvent) and there is no massive recapitalization via partial or total takeovers, isn’t it obvious that a mega transfer IS what is “required” to prevent a total collapse of the banking/financial system?

    You can slide, dice, and decorate a carrot all you want, but it remains a carrot. Here, there is a LOT of fancy financial/policy setups, frameworks, jargon, etc. but the very fundamental issue is incredibly simple: private sector financials are insolvent (due to a complex accumulation of past errors at all levels of the macro economy, etc.), hence they do not simply have a temporary liquidity issue (I know that is redundant), they have a fundamental solvency issue.

    A solvency issue is solved only by getting free funds – i.e. transfers. Either you get them by the front door – sell shares to “somebody” (the government) or you get them from the back door. It is unfortunately that simple. Anything added on top of this is window dressing and looks a lot like the “sophisticated” derivates that made risk “disappear” into the financial stratosphere…
    — Paco

    Krugman seems to miss that simple point – they HAVE to do whatever it takes to re-establishing a functioning banking system because the current banks are literally bankrupt.

    Details of the various tricks with mirrors to “maintain confidence” while fixing that are fascinating but Krugman seems to imply that there is some “Keynesian” scheme by which the economy can be got moving on dose of deficit WITHOUT first getting the banks to resume functioning at the expense of “taxpayers”.

    10. More relevant critiques are from the anti-Keynesians pointing out that the measures being taken now are an intensification of the measures that led to the current crisis and will therefore end up with an even bigger crisis (even if there appears to be a recovery in between). This is spectacularly visible with “regulation” where all the rhetoric is about “irresponsible speculation” while dramatically easing regulations in order to “maintain confidence” in institutions that are already bankrupt. The G20 more or less directed Accounting Standards bodies to change the “mark to market” rule so that corporations holding securities that have collapsed on the bear market would look as though their balance sheets are not actually insolvent. They have done so, which can only be INTENDED to encourage more speculative investment that ultimately ends in crisis.

  4. 4 Bill Kerr

    reply to a couple of arthur’s points
    point 8: My bad about Veblen in that I misunderstood your earlier reference and then interpreted Veblen’s essay on “the overproduction fallacy” as a satire!! 🙁 Nevertheless, some of his essays still look v. interesting to me but will need to study them more. Not clear to me why Darwin is somehow inferior to Hegel, mmm …. interesting. But thanks for the tip about Veblen’s attitude to Vol 2 and 3 of Capital.

    point 9: I think the Krugman blog comment you cite has misled you about his real position. He thinks the banks are failing and wants nationalisation and far more transparency. He’s critical of Obama for not taking stronger action wrt the banks. eg. see Banking on the Brink :

    Arguably, the only reason they haven’t already failed is that the government is acting as a backstop, implicitly guaranteeing their obligations. But they’re zombie banks, unable to supply the credit the economy needs.

    To end their zombiehood the banks need more capital. But they can’t raise more capital from private investors. So the government has to supply the necessary funds.

    But here’s the thing: the funds needed to bring these banks fully back to life would greatly exceed what they’re currently worth. Citi and BofA have a combined market value of less than $30 billion, and even that value is mainly if not entirely based on the hope that stockholders will get a piece of a government handout. And if it’s basically putting up all the money, the government should get ownership in return …

    The real question is why the Obama administration keeps coming up with proposals that sound like possible alternatives to nationalization, but turn out to involve huge handouts to bank stockholders….

  5. 5 Arthur

    re 8. There’s definately something fascinating about Veblen.

    re 9. I don’t understand what’s going on well enough to be sure of anything, but as said before, my impression is that bank nationalization in US is very likely. My guess is that they haven’t really finalized policy and are just trying to keep things from falling apart while they do. They barely have staff available to run Treasury and Reserve Bank, let alone a nationalized banking system so one way or another they have to keep the Wall Street people who know how to run banks onside and available or they would be in much the same situation as the story about a Cuban cabinet meeting where Castro is supposed to have asked “is anyone here an economist” and then put Che in charge of the central bank when he put his hand up. The story goes that Fidel later asked Che “I didn’t know you were an economist” and Che replied “Oh, I thought you said communist”.

    Krugman seems to think a “swift and orderly restructuring” will be simple. I suspect the administration knows it won’t be swift and could get very disorderly because FDIC just doesn’t have a current capability to run large insolvent banks like Citibank and Bank of America. In particular they want some mechanism for valuing toxic assets when restructuring. Any mechanism will be at “taxpayer expense” but if they just get dumped it would be hard to deal with the foreclosures short of martial law…

    I also suspect they have a Rumsfeldian awareness of the “unknown unknowns” (eg potential Tsunami from Eastern Europe) whereas Kruger as an academic ideologist has more Keynesian faith in the system than people actually close to it.

    In particular Bill is right that Krugman wants “far more transparency”. Given the actual situation that could only result in total panic, so governments naturally want as much obscurity as possible. I’m pretty sure that’s the answer to his “real question”. It isn’t a matter of special tenderness towards bank stockholders but of knowing there was almost a full scale panic meltdown last September and that a lot more than banks will go under in a panic.

  6. 6 Steve Owens

    Arthur do you mean Eugen Varga the soviet economist that in 1946 wrote that Capitalism was more stable than “Marxism” infered? Gee he was lucky his only punishment was the closure of the Institute that he headed.
    That’s what I like about soviet “science” present the truth and if your lucky all you have to do is to recant your error, if your not lucky well lets not go there.

  7. 7 Steve Owens

    Arthur is that the same Varga that apon his “rehabilitation” declared that the US was heading for a big depression in the 1950’s. I guess when the thought police let you go you might not be thinking that clearly. Maybe he was just upset because the USSR crushed his homeland in 1956.(he was still a member of the Hungarian Communist Party and lots of their leaders were being shot. Don’t get me wrong the USSR was completely correct I even understand that the Hungarians had established poetry clubs an attended funerals in very suspisious numbers.)

  8. 8 Arthur

    As usual Steve can’t deal with anything substantive but only wants an opportunity to divert into anti-communist (“anti-Stalinist”) jibes.

    Not worth discussing, but I mentioned Varga precisely because I think he’s one of the very few from that era worth studying for insight into political economy.

    With all his defects Varga was, notoriously, a Stalinist as well as having been right where Stalin was wrong about inter-imperialist contradictions and the post war boom (among the less important of Stalin’s faults). Incidentally he is said to have been rather closely associated with Rakosi, the post-war Stalinist leader of Hungary, removed along with the Stalinist leaders of most of Eastern Europe rather than associated with their revisionist opponents who blamed Stalinism for their own crimes.

    Consistency would result in Steve denouncing Varga as a Stalinist. But whoever heard of a consistent pseudo?

  9. 9 Steve Owens

    You are correct Varga was associated closely with Rakosi. I don’t know what made Varga apon his rehabilitation claim that the US was headed for a depression in the 50’s after having correctly argued against the continued depression idea in the late 40’s. I do make anti Stalin jibes whenever Hungary is mentioned as I have no other outlet for my anger. If people don’t understand a quick google of Rajk,Nagi or Hungarian revolution will provide some perspective.

  10. 10 Steve Owens

    There I go again relying on memory dont google Nagi google Imre Nagy

  11. 11 Steve Owens

    Varga, Varga I knew that the name rang a bell. He was economic advisor to Rakosi who was in charge when hyperinflation set a world record. Yes it’s hard to uphold economists when their outcomes outstrip their Zimbabwian counterparts. Look I would never denounce someone for simply being a Stalinist heck I was one myself for 2 weeks but world records in hyperinflation. Maybe they closed his institute for more than just revisionism.

  12. 12 Arthur

    This is unbelievably pathetic. The post-war world record hyperinflation reached its peak of 10-12% per hour in July 1946 under the Hungarian smallholders party government elected in 1945 led by Ferenc Nagy.

    The forint was reintroduced on 18 August 1946, after the 1945-1946 hyperinflation of the pengő. The process was managed by the Hungarian Communist Party, which held the relevant ministry seats, and the forint’s success was exploited for political gains, contributing to the 1948-49 communist take-over of state powers.

    For Steve Varga was good when he thought he was a victim of Stalinism and becomes bad when he discovers that he was a Stalinist and can then be blamed for pre-Stalinist hyperinflation.

    This is the actual mentality of typical anti-communists. Its only relevance to this topic is that Engels has also been given “the treatment” and should be remembered with respect.

  13. 13 Steve Owens

    No problem Im happy to recieve the correction. Rakosi was not ruling Hungary when the hyper inflation occured.
    I was mislead by the Wikipedia entry on hyperinflation which puts the blame at the feet of Marxist economists. Varga and Rakosi have my appologies.
    BTW I dont see Varga as good or bad. As far as I understand he was an economist who got some things wrong and some things right. I thought that he played a role in the Hungarian hyper inflation but it appears that I am wrong.

  14. 14 Steve Owens

    Wikapedia actually says ‘Russian Marxists”

  15. 15 Steve Owens

    In a paper entitled “Inflation and Hyper Inflation in the 20 Century Causes and Patterns” The explanation for Hungarian hyper inflation is given as the 25-50% of Hungarian government spending that went on reparations and occupation costs for hosting the Red Army. The other reason is that although Hungary was nominally independent real decisions were made by the Allied Control Commission which was lead by the USSR. When the Central Bank attempted to stop monetary emission the Commission refused to allow it.
    BTW I reject the slur of anti communist. When Communists come to power as the result of workers councils during a revolution or are elected to government then I support them and wish them well. On the other hand if Communists come to power against the popular will or cling to power when their mandate has disappeared then I honour them no more than any other usurper ruling in opposition to the ruled.
    I’m not so much anti communist as I am a democrat.

  16. 16 Arthur

    Lenin’s obituary Frederick Engels is well worth studying, not only for its direct relevance to the theme of this post (including an appreciation of Engels Condition of the Working Class… for portraying the workers not just as miserable victims but as the agency of social revolution). It also includes a concise summary of the “scientific” principles that Marx and Engels developed jointly in opposition to the dominant “socialism” of their day – and sadly again of ours.

  17. 17 Arthur

    BTW The accusation that orthodox Marxism ever adopted a theory of “collapse”, let alone that Engels was responsible for it is also refuted by Lenin’s adoption of Kautsky’s reply to Bernstein’s accusations:

    Passing from the method to the results of its application, Kautsky deals with the so-called Zusammenbruchstheorie, the theory of collapse, of the sudden crash of West-European capitalism, a crash that Marx allegedly believed to be inevitable and connected with a gigantic economic crisis. Kautsky says and proves that Marx and Engels never propounded a special Zusammenbruchstheorie, that they did not connect a Zusammenbruch necessarily with an economic crisis. This is a distortion chargeable to their opponents who expound Marx’s theory one-sidedly, tearing out of con text odd passages from different writings in order thus triumphantly to refute the “one-sidedness” and “crudeness” of the theory. Actually Marx and Engels considered the transformation of West-European economic relations to be dependent on the maturity and strength of the classes brought to the fore by modern European history. Bernstein tries to assert that this is not the theory of Marx, but Kautsky’s interpretation and extension of it. Kautsky, however, with precise quotations from Marx’s writings of the forties and sixties, as well as by means of an analysis of the basic ideas of Marxism, has completely refuted this truly pettifogging trickery of the Bernstein who so blatantly accused Marx’s disciples of “apologetics and pettifoggery….”

    The same review of Kautsky also adopts his refutation of several other now “standard” attempts to foist ignorant twaddle on orthodox Marxism. Here’s just one of several others that are often blamed on Leninism despite having been explicitly rejected by Lenin:

    Bernstein declares that everyone has abandoned Marx’s “theory of misery” or “theory of impoverishment.” Kautsky demonstrates that this is again a distorted exaggeration on the part of the opponents of Marx, since Marx propounded no such theory. He spoke of the growth of poverty, degradation, etc., indicating at the same time the counteracting tendency and the real social forces that alone could give rise to this tendency. Marx’s words on the growth of poverty are fully justified by reality: first, we actually see that capitalism has a tendency to engender and increase poverty, which acquires tremendous proportions when the above-mentioned counteracting tendency is absent. Secondly, poverty grows, not in the physical but in the social sense, i.e., in the sense of the disparity between the increasing level of consumption by the bourgeoisie and consumption by society as a who]e, and the level of the living standards of the working people. Bernstein waxes ironical over such a conception of “poverty,” saying that this is a Pickwickian conception. In reply Kautsky shows that people like Lassalle, Rodbertus, and Engels have made very definite statements to the effect that poverty must be understood in its social, as well as in its physical, sense. As you see—he parries Bernstein’s irony—it is not such a bad company that gathers at the “Pickwick Club”! Thirdly and lastly, the passage on increasing impoverishment remains perfectly true in respect of the “border regions” of capitalism, the border regions being understood both in the geographical sense (countries in which capitalism is only beginning to penetrate and frequently not only gives rise to physical poverty but to the outright starvation of the masses) and in the political-economic sense (handicraft industries and, in general, those branches of economy in which backward methods of production are still retained).

    There are several more.

  18. 18 Glenn Poston

    Lets not forget Allen Watts, or Jacque Fresco.What ever happened to quicksilver who use to comment on the last super power? He respondes with self endulgence. Again im just a redneck from South Carolina. Where we keep our women barefoot and pregnant, our rebel flag waving.
    Im just a simple man where spelling is not a big deal. With the job i have It keeps me stupid, just like the rich and powerful perfer it. Hail to the chiefs, hee hee hell yeah!

  19. 19 jim sharp

    Lenin’s obituary Frederick Engels is well worth studying, as well as testing it thru practice by being in their amongst the class!
    his “Critical Essays on Political Economy,”in which he examined the principal phenomena of the CONTEMPORARY ECONOMIC ORDER [not something i feel when reading here at S/T’s] from a socialist standpoint.

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