karl Marx - A Biography by David McLellan, chapter name T H R E E



When in the spring of 1845 we met again, this time in Brussels, Marx had already advanced to the main aspects of his materialist theory of history. Now we set about the task of elaborating the newly gained theory in the most different directions.

F. Engels, 'History of the Communist League',  MEW XXII 2 1 2 .

I . T H E   M A T E R I A L I S T   C O N C E P T I O N   O F   H I S T O R Y

Brussels was to be Marx's home for the next three years. It was still in many ways a provincial city, capital of a very rapidly industrialising country independent only since 1830, with a Catholic-conservative government and a vocal liberal opposition. Belgium was something of a political haven for refugees as it enjoyed greater freedom of expression than any other country on the continent of Europe. Marx arrived with a list of instructions written in his notebook by Jenny: the children's room and his study were to be 'very simply furnished'; the kitchen did not need to be furnished at all and Jenny would get the utensils herself, as also the beds and linen. She finished: 'The rest I leave to the wise judgement of my noble protector; my only remaining request is to have particular regard for some cupboards; they play an important role in the life of a housewife and are extremely valuable objects, never to be overlooked.

How should the books best be stored? And so amen!' At first it was impossible to find a satisfactory lodging. Jenny arrived about ten days after Marx and the family lived for a month in the Bois Sauvage guest house. Then they moved into Freiligrath's old lodging on his departure for Switzerland. Finally in May they rented a small terraced house in the rue de l'Alliance in a Flemish-speaking, countrified area at the eastern edge of the city, where they stayed for more than a year.

Jenny found herself pregnant on her arrival in Brussels and her mother now sent her her own maid, Helene Demuth, a practical young baker's daughter from a village near Trier, then aged twenty-five, who had grown up in the Westphalen family from the age of eleven or twelve and who was to be the constant, if often unmentioned, companion to the family until Marx's death. Marx at first found difficulty in obtaining a residence permit: the Belgian authorities were afraid that he would publish a resusci-tated version of  Vorwiirts and also the Prussian police were applying pressure. Marx had to show the authorities the contract he had signed for a book on Economics and Politics and declared that he was living off his wife's money while waiting for the royalties. Only after signing a promise to abstain from all political activity did he finally obtain permission to stay. In October 1845 Marx thought of emigrating to the United States and even applied to the mayor of Trier for a permit. When the Prussian police continued to demand his extradition Marx abandoned Prussian nationality in December 1845.

Nevertheless, the years in Brussels were probably the happiest ever enjoyed by the Marx family. There was a comfortable source of income from the sale of the furniture and linen in Paris and the 1500 francs advance that Marx received for his forthcoming book. In addition, on learning of his expulsion from Paris, Engels, together with Hess and Jung, had organised a subscription for him 'in order to spread your extra expenses among us all communistically'.' This appeal yielded almost 1000 francs, mainly from friends in the Rhineland, and Engels also put at Marx's disposal the royalties from his own book  The Condition of the Working Classes in England.  When Engels moved to Brussels he rented a house next to the Marx family and Hess and his wife Sibylle soon moved in next door to Engels. Sibylle acted as an 'auntie' to the Marx children.

They had an agreeable circle of friends, including the poet Ferdinand Freiligrath and a socialist journalist Karl Heinzen, and Jenny remembered with pleasure their evenings in the gay cafes of the city. Joseph Weydemeyer, an artillery officer with socialist leanings, who was to become a lifelong friend of Marx, described one of their outings in early 1846: 'To crown our folly, Marx, Weitling, Marx's brother-in-law and myself spent the night playing cards. Weitling was the first to tire. Marx and I spent some hours on a sofa and the next day, in the company of his wife and brother-in-law, we vagabonded in the most agreeable manner imaginable. Early in the morning we went to a cafe, then we took the train to Villeworde, a nearby village, where we had lunch. We were madly gay, and came back on the last train.'

The sorties were only reliefs from long periods of intense intellectual activity. On the day he left Paris Marx had signed a contract with Karl Leske, a progressive Darmstadt publisher, for a book to be entitled  A Critique of Economics and Politics to be finished by the summer of 1845.

The economic side would no doubt have been a reworking of the 'Paris Manuscripts'. Marx got as far as sketching out a table of contents for the political half which shows that he intended to continue the themes of his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and essays  On the Jewish Question by writing a detailed critique of the institutions of the liberal state viewed as a stage leading towards the abolition of both the state and of civil society." Engels had urged Marx even before he left Paris to finish the book as 'people's minds are ripe and we must strike while the iron is hot'.  Marx received many letters of inquiry and encouragement and Engels even announced in the  New Moral World that it was in print.8

Engels, who was sitting in his parents' home in Barmen finishing off his Condition of the Working Classes in England and in close contact with the Rhineland socialists, produced a constant stream of publishing projects.

On two of these Marx agreed to collaborate: a critique of Friedrich List as the chief proponent of protective tariffs as a means to ensure Germany's economic development; and a series of translations of Utopian socialists with critical introductions, beginning with Fourier, Owen, Morelly and the Saint-Simonians. But neither of these projects came to anything. But Marx was never a man to be hurried in his researches; and during the first few months in Brussels he buried himself in the municipal library to read books in French on economic and social problems in an effort to understand more fully the workings of bourgeois society, the factors that determined the general historical process, and the possibilities of proletarian emancipation.

Engels said later that when he moved to Brussels at the beginning of April Marx 'had already advanced from these principles [i.e. 'that politics and its history have to be explained from the economic conditions and their evolution and not vice versa'] to the main aspects of his materialist theory of history'; and in the Preface to the English edition of the Communist Manifesto he wrote that Marx had already worked out his theory in the spring of 1845 'and put it before me in terms almost as clear as those in which I have stated it here'. The only writing of Marx's surviving from this period are the famous eleven  Theses on Feuerbach rightly called by Engels 'the first document in which the brilliant kernel of the new world view is revealed'. From his first reading of Feuerbach in the early 1840s Marx had never been entirely uncritical; but both in the 'Paris Manuscripts' and in the  Holy Family Marx had nothing but praise for Feuerbach's 'real humanism'. Marx was now becoming identified too closely as a mere disciple of Feuerbach from whose static and unhistorical views Marx was bound to diverge owing to the growing attention he was paying to economics. In the  Theses on Feuerbach Marx gave a very brief sketch of the ideas that he and Engels elaborated a few months later in  The German Ideology.  By any standard  The German Ideology is one of Marx's major works. In it by criticising Feuerbach, the most 'secular' of the Young Hegelians, he and Engels completed the 'settling of accounts with our erstwhile philosophical consciousness', a process which had lasted since the Doctoral Thesis of 1841.

The first thesis contained the essence of Marx's criticism of Feuerbach's materialism: 'The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism (that of Feuerbach included) is that the things, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively'. In the second thesis Marx outlined his ideas on the unity of theory and practice: 'The question whether objective truth can be achieved by human thinking is not a question of theory but is a  practical question.  Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice.

The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely  scholastic question.' And in the third thesis Marx pointed out the deficiencies of the French materialists of the previous century, who had not realised that their own thinking was just as much a part of the historical process as anybody else's: 'The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.' In the following theses Marx declared that Feuerbach was correct in resolving religion into its secular basis: but he had failed to account for the existence of religion and this 'can only be explained by the cleavages and contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its The famous eleventh thesis on Feuerbach. The text reads: ' Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert, es kommt darauf an, sie zu verandern.'  Translation: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.' contradiction and revolutionised in practice.'16 The final, and the best-known, thesis read: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.'

In the three months following Engels' arrival he and Marx 'set about the task of elaborating the newly gained theory in the most different directions'. For Engels this took the form of a large-scale  History of English Society and for Marx his  Critique of Economics and Politics.  In July 1845 they both undertook a six-week trip to England. According to a subsequent letter from Marx to his publisher, this journey was undertaken exclusively for research on his book. Most of the time they spent in Manchester reading economic works by writers such as Petty, Tooke, Cooper, Thomson and Cobbett in the Old Chetham Library. Much later Engels still recalled with pleasure 'the small alcove and the four-sided desk where we sat 24 years ago. I like the place a lot: because of the stained glass window it always seems fine and sunny there.' On their return Marx and Engels stayed a few days in London where they met the Chartist leader George Julian Harney, editor of the most influential working-class paper,  The Northern Star.  Engels also introduced Marx to the leaders of the German workers' organisations in London - contacts that were to become the centre of Marx's preoccupations the following year - and together they attended a meeting of the leaders of various national groups to discuss the founding of some form of international democratic association. This took form as the Fraternal Democrats in September 1845.

While Marx was away in England, Jenny went to stay with her mother in Trier for two months. Their second daughter, Laura, was to be born at the end of September and Jenny prolonged her stay as long as possible in order to keep her lonely mother company. She wrote to Marx on his return from England:

The little house will have to do. Anyway, in winter a lot of room is not necessary. When I have finished the big business on the upper floor, I will move downstairs again. Then you can sleep in your present study and set up tent in the big lounge. That's fine. Then the children's noise is sealed off below. You are undisturbed above, I can join you in peaceful moments and we can keep the room in some sort of order. In any case, a good hot stove with accessories must be installed in the room as soon as possible. That is Breuer's affair, since nobody rents a room that is impossible to heat... Everything else I will see to later... ,

Once back from England Marx's socio-economic studies were interrupted by his decision to write a definitive critique of the Young Hegelians.

In a letter of explanation to Leske he wrote: 'It seemed to me very important that a work polemicising against German philosophy and current German socialism should precede my positive construction. This is necessary in order to prepare the public for the point of view of my Economics which is diametrically opposed to the previous German intellectual approach.'  The Holy Family had not accomplished this: it was written before Marx had developed his systematically materialist approach to history. Further, Bauer had published a reply to the  Holy Family in which Marx and Engels were labelled as 'Feuerbachian dogmatists'; and in November 1844 another Young Hegelian, Max Stirner, had published  The Ego and its Own,  an anarcho-existentialist work of extraordinary power and fascination which branded all the forces that oppressed mankind, whether religion or liberalism or socialism, as illusions from which men should free themselves by refusing any form of self-sacrifice and indulging in conscious egoism. And Marx and Engels had naturally been the object of strong criticism from Stirner as communist disciples of Feuerbach.  The German Ideology was thus conceived primarily as a work to make clear the disagreements between Marx and Engels and Feuerbach, and also to deal finally with the latest - and last - manifestations of Young Hegelian idealism, Bauer's 'pure criticism' and Stirner's egoism.

T h e book was begun at the end of September 1845 with a lengthy criticism of Feuerbach - 'the only one who has at least made some progress' - into which critiques of Bauer and Stirner were to be inserted.

By April 1846 these critiques had grown to the size of a large book in its own right which was prepared for publication and taken to Germany by Weydemeyer who had been staying with the Marx family for the first few months of 1846. T h e section on Feuerbach, however, remained unfinished and, in fact, contained very little on Feuerbach himself.  T h e second volume dealt with current socialist trends in Germany. It reached only a hundred or so pages and work on the manuscript was abandoned in August 1846 . "

By far the most important part of  The German Ideology is the unfinished section on Feuerbach. Marx and Engels began by making fun of the philosophical pretensions of the Young Hegelians which they described as 'the putrescence of Absolute Spirit' and characterised as follows: In the general chaos mighty empires have arisen only to meet with immediate doom, heroes have emerged momentarily only to be hurled back into obscurity by bolder and stronger rivals. It was a revolution beside which the French Revolution was child's play, a world struggle beside which the struggles of the Diadochi appear insignificant. Principles ousted one another, heroes of the mind overthrew each other with unheard-of rapidity, and in the three years 1842-45 more of the past was swept away in Germany than at other times in three centuries.

All this is supposed to have taken place in the realm of pure thought.

The main body of the section is then divided into three parts: a general statement of the historical and materialist approach in contrast to that of the Young Hegelians, a historical analysis employing this method, and an account of the present state of society and its immediate future - a communist revolution.

Marx and Engels began by stating their general position, which deserves lengthy quotation as it is the first concise statement of historical materialism:

The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. We begin with real individual men, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way.

The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human beings. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature....

Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to  produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation.

By producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life.

The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means of subsistence they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite  mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with  what they produce and with  how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production.

Marx and Engels went on to state that 'how far the productive forces of a nation are developed is shown most manifestly by the degree to which the division of labour has been carried'. T h e y showed how the division of labour led to the separation of town and country and then to the separation of industrial from commercial labour, and so on. Next they summarised the different stages of ownership that had corresponded to the stages in the division of labour: tribal ownership, communal and state ownership, feudal or estate ownership. Marx and Engels summarised their conclusions so far as follows:

The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people's imagination, but as they  really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will.

Marx and Engels then reiterated their general approach, stating that 'consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness', and showed how the division of labour, leading to private property, created social inequality, class struggle and the erection of political structures:

Out of this very contradiction between the interest of the individual and that of the community the latter takes an independent form as the State,  divorced from the real interests of individuals and community, and at the same time as an illusory communal life, always based, however, on the real ties existing in every family and tribal conglomeration - such as flesh and blood, language, division of labour on a larger scale, and other interests - and especially, as we shall enlarge upon later, on the classes, already determined by the division of labour, which in every such mass of men separate out, and of which one dominates all the others. It follows from this that the struggles within the State, the struggle between democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, the struggle for the franchise, etc., are merely the illusory forms in which the real struggles of the different classes are fought out among one another.

Marx and Engels then took up the question of 'premises' and repeated their criticism of the Young Hegelians who considered that philosophical ideas were themselves productive of revolutions. On the contrary: These conditions of life, which different generations find in existence, decide also whether or not the periodically recurring revolutionary convulsion will be strong enough to overthrow the basis of the entire existing system. And if these material elements of a complete revolution are not present (namely on the one hand the existing productive forces, on the other the formulation of a revolutionary mass, which revolts not only against separate conditions of society up till then, but against the very 'production of life' till then, the 'total activity' on which it was based), then, as far as practical development is concerned, it is absolutely immaterial whether the  idea of this revolution has been expressed a hundred times already, as the history of communism proves.

Elaborating on Marx's  Theses,  the text continued with a passage specifically devoted to Feuerbach. Taking as an example the cherry tree (imported into Europe for commercial reasons) Marx and Engels pointed out that an increasing number of objects could not be grasped by mere 'observation' but had to be understood as a result of social development, industry and commerce. With Feuerbach, however, 'in as far as he is a materialist he does not deal with history and in as far as he considers history he is not a materialist'.36 For no ideas could claim an eternal, objective validity. They changed in accordance with changing socio-economic relationships and it would be found that 'the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas'.

There followed a lengthy section on the division of labour, particularly in the Middle Ages, and the transition to capitalism; then a section on the influence of the division of labour on the evolving forms of the state, the legal system and property relations. The final section was on communism. 'Communism', it had already been stated, 'is not for us a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.'38 This 'real movement' differed from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals.

Its organisation is, therefore, essentially economic, the material production of the conditions of this unity; it turns existing conditions into conditions of unity. The reality, which communism is creating, is precisely the true basis for rendering it impossible that anything should exist independendy of individuals, insofar as reality is only a product of the preceding intercourse of individuals themselves.'

The key factor in the establishment of communism was the abolition of the division of labour. But the only example that Marx gave of this here was drawn from a rural community:

In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, cowboy or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.

At least the means to the end was clear. T h e section finished with the words:

If the proletarians are to assert themselves as individuals, they will have to abolish the very condition of their existence hitherto (which has, moreover, been that of all society up to the present), namely, labour.

Thus they find themselves direcdy opposed to the form in which, hitherto, the individuals of which society consists have given themselves collective expression, that is, the State. In order therefore to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the State

T h e section of  The German Ideology dealing with Bruno Bauer is very short: Marx had already dealt with Bauer's ideas at length in  The Holy Family and restricted himself here to reiterating in a few pages the complete barrenness of 'critical criticism' and refuting Bauer's attacks on Feuerbach.

T h e section on Stirner, on the other hand, is much longer than all the other parts of  The German Ideology put together. When Stirner's book first appeared Engels considered that it contained several positive elements that could serve as a basis for communist ideas, but Marx soon disabused him of any such notion. Marx's plans in December 1844 to write an article criticising Stirner had been upset by his expulsion from Paris and the banning of  Vorwiirts.  In  The German Ideology he and Engels certainly spared no effort: their onslaught on 'Saint Max' as they called him equals in length and easily surpasses in tedium Stirner's own book. T h e r e is the occasional flash of brilliance, but the (quite correct) portrayal of Stirner as the final product of the Young Hegelian school who carried to its logical extreme the subjective side of the Hegelian dialectic too often degenerates into pages of mere word-play and hair-splitting. The central criticism made by Marx and Engels is that Stirner's fundamental opposition of egoism to altruism is itself a superficial view: Communist theoreticians, the only ones who have time to devote to the study of history, are distinguished precisely because they alone have discovered that throughout history the 'general interest' is created by individuals who are defined as 'private persons'. They know that this contradiction is only a seeming one because one side of it, the so-called 'general', is constandy being produced by the other side, private interest, and by no means opposes the latter as an independent force with an independent history - so that this contradiction is in practice always being destroyed and reproduced. Hence it is not a question of the Hegelian 'negative unity' of two sides of a contradiction, but of the materially-determined destruction, of the preceding materially-determined mode of life of individuals, with the disappearance of which this contradiction together with its unity also disappears.

Equally, Stirner's view of might as right was not sufficient: If one regards power as the basis of right, as Hobbes and others do, then right, law, etc., are merely the symptoms - the expression of other relations upon which State power rests. The material life of individuals, which by no means depends merely on their 'will', their mode of production and form of intercourse, which mutually determine each other - these are the real basis of the State and remain so at all the stages at which division of labour and private property are still necessary, quite independently of the will of individuals. These actual relations are in no way created by the State power; on the contrary they are the power creating it. The individuals who rule in these conditions, besides having to constitute their power in the form of the State, have to give their will, which is determined by these definite conditions, a universal expression as the will of the State, as law - an expression whose content is always determined by the relations of this class, as the civil and criminal law demonstrates in the clearest possible way.

Towards the end of the book there were also some remarks on the organisation of labour which Stirner attacked as being authoritarian in proposals for a communist society, as true abolition of the division of labour implied that everyone would have to do everything. Marx and Engels replied that it was not their view 'that each should do the work of Raphael, but that anyone in whom there is a potential Raphael should be able to develop without hindrance'.

With a communist organisation of society [they continued] there disappears the subordination of the artist to local and national narrowness, which arises entirely from division of labour, and also the subordination of the artist to some definite art, thanks to which he is exclusively a painter, sculptor, etc., the very name of his activity adequately expressing the narrowness of his professional development and his dependence on division of labour. In a communist society there are no painters but, at most, people who engage in painting among other activities.

But such passages are brief intervals of interest in an otherwise extremely turgid polemic.

T h e second volume of  The German Ideology had a much more topical subject, Utopian German socialism - which Marx and Engels termed 'true' socialism and which at that time informed almost all socialist thinking in Germany. This section was a practical application of the discussion on Feuerbach - as most of the 'true' socialists were strongly influenced by his thinking as well as sharing in the anarchism of Stirner. On to elements of French socialism was grafted the Feuerbachian idea of a 'true', genuine human essence which consisted in the adoption of an altruistic attitude towards one's fellow men. The 'true' socialists considered that liberal ideas were already out of date and demanded the immediate realisation of 'true' human essence. Thus they rejected any participation in the struggle for 'bourgeois' rights. Their meetings contained a lot of moralising and sentiment - to the detriment, according to Marx and Engels, of sound historical analysis. 'True socialism', they said, 'is nothing but the transfiguration of proletarian communism, and of its kindred parties and sects in France and England, within the heaven of the German mind and . . . of true German sentiment.' Inevitably in so stagnant a country as Germany, they replaced revolutionary enthusiasm with the universal love of mankind and relied mainly on the petty bourgeoisie. The comments of Marx and Engels on the 'true' socialists were contained in three review articles. The first attacked an anonymous essay which advocated the German philosophical socialism of Feuerbach and Hess as opposed to the crudeness of French communism and regarded humanism as the synthesis of both. The second review attacked Karl Grim, a close disciple of Feuerbach and friend of Marx in his earliest university days, whom Marx referred to later as 'a teacher of German philosophy who had over me the advantage that he understood nothing about it himself.49 Griin had failed to grasp the essential points of French socialists (even when he plagiarised them) and concentrated on vague notions of 'human' consumption as opposed to studying real relationships of production. The third short essay dealt with a Dr Kiihlmann, who was not a true socialist at all but a bogus Swiss preacher of messianic communism.

The section of  The German Ideology on Feuerbach was one of the most central of Marx's works. It was a tremendous achievement in view of the low level of socialist writing and thought prevalent at the time. Marx never subsequently stated his materialist conception of history at such length and in detail. It remains a masterpiece today for the cogency and clarity of its presentation. Yet it remained unknown for almost a century.

From the beginning of 1846 Marx and Engels made great efforts to find a publisher for  The German Ideology.  Weydemeyer and Hess conducted lengthy negotiations with Rempel and Meyer, two Westphalian business-men who sympathised with true socialism and had agreed to put up the necessary money; at least six other prospective publishers were approached; the manuscript was sent to Cologne and even split up into sections to be published separately. The authors continued their efforts up till the end of 1847, but only the short review of Griin was ever published. This failure was due to the strict censorship regulations and the serious financial risks incurred in publishing radical works, though Marx considered that the refusals were motivated by the publishers' opposition to his ideas.50 Thus, as Marx wrote later, 'we abandoned the manuscript to the gnawing of the mice all the more willingly as we had achieved our main purpose - self-clarification'.51 And, in fact, the manuscript as it survives does bear considerable traces of mice's teeth. Marx nevertheless continued to work frantically on his  Economics and Politics His publisher Leske had threatened to cancel the contract. Marx duly promised the first volume by the end of November. But he was distracted by his polemic with Proudhon. Leske accordingly cancelled the contract in February 1847 - though he was still trying to recover his advance in 1871!

II. W E I T L I N G   A N D   P R O U D H O N

With  The German Ideology,  Marx and Engels clarified their fundamental differences with the Young Hegelians and - more importantly - with contemporary German socialists. They now turned their attention to impress their newly acquired insights on the very varied existing left-wing groups, and 'to win over to our convictions the European proletariat in general and the German proletariat in particular'. Brussels was an ideal vantage point from which to build up contacts among German socialists, for it was in the middle of a triangle formed by Paris and London (where the largest colonies of expatriate German workers had congregated) and Cologne (capital of the Rhineland, the German province by far the most receptive to communist ideas). In Brussels a colony of gifted German exiles soon began to form around Marx. He had been accompanied on his journey from Paris by Heinrich Burgers, a young journalist who had contributed to the  Rheinische Zeitung and become a communist in Paris.

The morning after their arrival Marx insisted that they call on the poet Ferdinand Freiligrath who had been attacked by the  Rheinische Zeitung for subservience to the Prussian Government which had none the less later exiled him for his radical writings. Their meeting was a cordial one in which Freiligrath found Marx 'an interesting fellow - agreeable and unpretentious'. Through Freiligrath and the German solicitor Karl Maynz, Marx met the leading Belgian democrats - in particular the lawyer I ucien Jottrand, and the leader of the Polish exiles Lelewel - and also Philippe Gigot, a young Belgian palaeographist in the Ministry of the Interior." Among the Germans who were closely connected with Marx were Sebastian Seiler, a former Swiss contributor to the  Rheinische Zeitung who ran a left-orientated news agency in Brussels; Karl Heinzen, a radical journalist then in the insurance business; Hermann Kriege, a journalist and disciple of Weitling; Wilhelm Wolff, who had arrived unheralded on the Marxes' doorstep in 1846 straight from Silesia where he had escaped from arrest for communist propaganda among the peasantry; and Georg Weerth, a representative for a German commercial firm who - though still in his early twenties - had already made a reputation as a poet.

Jenny's unstable but likeable brother, Edgar, who had a temporary job in Seiler's agency, also formed part of the group. Marx was also visited by Stefan Born, a young typesetter who was to play a central role in the 1848 revolution.

After a brief stay in the Bois Sauvage guest house (for economy reasons, he told Weydemeyer"), the Marx family moved in October 1846 to Ixelles, a southern suburb of Brussels. Here, Marx's first son, the ill-fated Edgar was born. Marx's financial situation was becoming very difficult and he was forced to write begging letters to Herwegh and Annenkov.

He managed to get a loan from Burgers in Cologne and also from his brother-in-law, but the situation only improved when in early 1848

his mother granted him a sizeable advance on his inheritance. Jenny was glad of the opportunities afforded by Brussels to extend her horizons beyond the household.

In Germany [she wrote to Marx at the beginning of their stay] a child is still a very great honour, the cooking pot and needle still bring respect and moreover one still has the satisfaction of a duty fulfilled in return for all the days spent washing, sewing and minding the children.

But when these old things no longer count as duties and honours and so on, when people progress so far that they even consider such old expressions to be obsolete .. . from then on one feels no more impulse to the small duties of life. One wants to enjoy, become active and experience in oneself the happiness of mankind.

In his memoirs written some fifty years later Stefan Born left the following account of his visit to Marx in late 1847:

I found him in a very simple - I might almost say poor - little dwelling in a suburb of Brussels. He received me in a friendly fashion, asking me about the success of my propaganda trip, and complimented me on my pamphlet against Heinzen; his wife joined him in this and gave me a friendly welcome.... I have seldom known so happy a marriage in which joy and suffering - the latter in most abundant measure - were shared and all sorrow overcome in the consciousness of full and mutual dependency. Moreover I have seldom known a woman who in outward appearance as well as in spirit was so well balanced and so immediately captivating as Mrs Marx. She was fair-haired and the children (who were then still young) had their father's dark hair and eyes. Marx's mother, who lived in Trier, contributed to the expenses of the household, though the writer's pen no doubt had to find the greater part.. .

After his stay in Brussels Marx made very few close friendships; most of those he made or strengthened in Brussels remained so for life.

Even before  The German Ideology was finished, Marx had started to establish a Communist Correspondence Committee in which Engels and Gigot were to take the most active part. This Committee was the embryo of all the subsequent Communist Internationals. It was designed as an instrument to harmonise and co-ordinate communist theory and practice in the European capitals. Marx described the aim as providing both a discussion of scientific questions and a critical appraisal of popular writings and socialist propaganda that can be conducted in Germany by these means. But the main aim of our correspondence will be to put German socialists in touch with English and French socialists, to keep foreigners informed of the socialist movements that will develop in Germany and to inform the Germans in Germany of the progress of socialism in France and England. In this way differences of opinion will be brought to light and we shall obtain an exchange of ideas and impartial criticism.6'

This Correspondence Committee, and the subsequent Communist League which followed it, were Marx's first ventures into practical politics.

The foundation of the Committee was to account for two controversies that raised questions central to the communist movement of that time.

The first (with Weitling) carried into practical politics the polemic against

'true' socialism in  The German Ideology,  the second (with Proudhon) continued for the best part of the century - Proudhon's followers being particularly active in the First International.

Weitling was the illegitimate son of a French officer and a German laundry woman and earned his living as an itinerant tailor while absorbing the writings of the French socialists. His first book,  Mankind as it is and as it ought to be,  had been written in 1838 at the request of the League of the Just in Paris, and he had been very effective in his propaganda in Switzerland where his imprisonment had earned him the additional distinction of a martyr's halo. Thus he was widely welcomed on his arrival in London in 1844. During 1845, however, his preacher's style, the quasi-religious terms in which he expounded his ideas, his demands for immediate revolution, his proposals for a dictatorship  a la Babeuf, and the marked psychological deterioration caused by his imprisonment: all these factors ended by alienating the majority of the London German communists who felt his approach to be impractical and unrealistic. On his way back to the Continent in early 1846 Weitling stopped in Brussels and the newly founded Correspondence Committee invited him to a discussion in Marx's house. Among those present were Engels, Gigot, Edgar von Westphalen, Weydemeyer, Seiler, a journalist Heilberg, and a visitor by special invitation, Paul Annenkov, a well-to-do Russian tourist whom Marx had known in Paris.' Weitling struck him as 'a handsome fair-haired young man in a coat of elegant cut, a coquettishly trimmed small beard someone more like a commercial traveller than the stern, embittered worker that I had expected to meet'. Annenkov continued: We introduced ourselves to each other casually - with a touch of elaborate courtesy on Weitling's side, however - and took our places at the small green table. Marx sat at one end of it with a pencil in his hand and his leonine head bent over a sheet of paper, while Engels, his inseparable fellow-worker and comrade in propaganda, tall and erect and as dignified and serious as an Englishman, made the opening speech. He spoke of the necessity for people, who have devoted themselves to transforming labour, to explain their views to one another and agree on a single common doctrine that could be a banner for all their followers who lack the time and opportunity to study theory. Engels had not finished his speech when Marx raised his head, turned to Weitling and said: 'Tell us, Weitling, you who have made such a noise in Germany with your preaching: on what grounds do you justify your activity and what do you intend to base it on in the future?'

I remember quite well the form of the blunt question, because it was the beginning of a heated discussion, which, as we shall see, was very brief. Weitling apparently wanted to keep the conference within the bounds of common-place liberal talk. With a serious, somewhat worried face he started to explain that his aim was not to create new economic theories but to adopt those that were most appropriate, as experience in France had shown, to open the eyes of the workers to the horrors of their condition and all the injustices which it had become the motto of the rulers and societies to inflict on them, and to teach them never more to believe any promises of the latter, but to rely only upon themselves, and to organize in democratic and communist associations. He spoke for a long time, but - to my astonishment and in contrast to Engels - confusedly and not too well from the literary point of view, often repeating and correcting himself and arriving with difficulty at his conclusions, which either came too late or preceded his propositions. He now had quite different listeners from those who generally surrounded him at his work or read his newspaper and pamphlets on the contemporary economic system: he therefore lost his ease of thought and speech. Weitling would probably have gone on talking had not Marx checked him with an angry frown and started his reply.

Marx's sarcastic speech boiled down to this: to rouse the population without giving them any firm, well-thought-out reasons for their activity would be simply to deceive them. The raising of fantastic hopes just spoken of, Marx continued, led only to the final ruin and not to the saving of the sufferers. To call to the workers without any strictly scientific ideas or constructive doctrine, especially in Germany, was equivalent to vain dishonest play at preaching which assumed on the one side an inspired prophet and on the other only gaping asses.. . . Weitling's pale cheeks coloured and he regained his liveliness and ease of speech. In a voice trembling with emotion he started trying to prove that a man who had rallied hundreds of people under the same banner in the name of justice, solidarity and mutual brotherly assistance could not be called completely vain and useless. Weitling consoled himself for the evening's attacks by remembering the hundreds of letters and declarations of gratitude that he had received from all parts of his native land and by the thought that his modest spadework was perhaps of greater weight for the common cause than criticism and armchair analysis of doctrines far from the world of the suffering and afflicted people.

On hearing these last words Marx finally lost control of himself and thumped so hard with his fist on the table that the lamp on it rung and shook. He jumped up saying: 'Ignorance never yet helped anybody!'

We followed his example and left the table. The sitting ended, and as Marx paced up and down the room, extraordinarily irritated and angry, I hurriedly took leave of him and his interlocutors and went home, amazed at all I had seen and heard.

T h e day after this discussion Weitling wrote to Hess that Marx had insisted on vetting party members; that for Marx the question of financial resources was all important (Weitling had the impression that Marx wished to exclude him from the Westphalian publishing project); there was to be no propaganda based on emotional appeals; and lastly 'there can be no talk at present of achieving communism; the bourgeoisie must first come to the helm'. Weitling continued: 'I see in Marx's head only a good encylopaedia, but no genius. He owes his influence to other people. Rich men back him in journalism, that's all.'

This was not the end of all contact between Weitling and Marx; for the next few weeks Weitling continued to accept a midday meal from Marx. But Marx went on with his campaign by issuing a circular against I lermann Kriege, a young Westphalian journalist who had been a member of the Brussels group before going to London and finally emigrating to America where he published a weekly entitled  VoIkstribun. Kriege's views were much more representative of 'true socialism' than Weitling's and this lengthy circular condemned Kriege's ideas as 'not communism': they were 'childish and pompous' an 'imaginary and sentimental exaltation' that 'compromised the communist movement in America and demoralised the workers'. T h e r e followed sections in which derision was poured on Kriege's metaphysical and religious phraseology, his use of the word 'love' thirty-five times in a single article, and his naive scheme of dividing up the soil of America equally between all citizens which aimed at 'turning all men into owners of private property'. Weitling was the only member of the Correspondence Committee who voted against the circular; he left Brussels immediately for Luxembourg and then some months later moved to N e w York on Kriege's invitation. T h e circular aroused a considerable volume of protest. Hess wrote to Marx about Weitling: 'You have made him quite crazy and don't be surprised. I want to have nothing more to do with the whole business; it's enough to make one sick.' And a week later he wrote that he himself wished 'to have nothing more to do with your party'. T h e London communists also reacted strongly against the circular.

This attack on Kriege was apparently only one of many such pamphlets, for Marx wrote later:

We published at the same time a series of pamphlets, pardy printed, partly lithographed, in which we subjected to a merciless criticism the mixture of French-English socialism or communism and German philosophy, which at the time constituted the secret doctrine of the League. We established in its place the scientific understanding of the economic structure of bourgeois society as the only tenable theoretical foundation. We also explained in popular form that our task was not the fulfilment of some Utopian system but the conscious participation in the historical process of social revolution that was taking place before our eyes.'

At the same time Marx tried to forge links with Paris where the most influential socialist was Proudhon. His position as a French thinker was peculiar in that he shared the atheistic approach to communism of the German Young Hegelians and rejected the patriotic Jacobinism that made Paris so impenetrable to German ideas. In early M a y 1846 Marx wrote to Proudhon describing the aims of the Correspondence Committee and inviting him to act as its Paris correspondent 'since as far as France is concerned we can find no better correspondent than yourself. In a postscript Marx warned Proudhon against Grtin, whom he described as 'a charlatan .. . who misuses his acquaintances'. Gigot and Engels also added postscripts saying how pleased they would be if Proudhon could accept the invitation. Proudhon's reply cannot have pleased Marx. He was willing to participate in Marx's project, but he had several reservations:

Let us together seek, if you wish, the law of society, the manner in which these laws are realised, the process by which we shall succeed in discovering them; but, for God's sake, after having demolished all the  a priori dogmatisms, do not let us in our turn dream of indoctrinating the people . . . I applaud with all my heart your thought of inviting all shades of opinion; let us carry on a good and loyal polemic; let us give the world the example of an informed and far-sighted tolerance, but let us not - simply because we are at the head of a movement make ourselves the leaders of a new intolerance, let us not pose as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic, the religion of reason. Let us gather together and encourage all dissent, let us outlaw all exclusiveness, all mysticism; let us never regard a question as exhausted, and when we have used our last argument, let us if necessary begin again - with eloquence and irony. On these conditions, I will gladly enter into your association. Otherwise - no!

Proudhon continued by saying that he was not in favour of immediate revolutionary action and preferred 'to burn property by a slow fire, rather than give it new strength by making a St Bartholomew's Night of the property owners'. There followed an ironical paragraph: 'This, my dear philosopher, is where I am at the moment; unless, of course, I am mistaken and the occasion arises to receive a caning from you, to which I subject myself with good grace while waiting for my revenge. . . . ' Proudhon finished by excusing Griln on the grounds that he had been obliged to exploit 'modern ideas' in order to earn money for his family; he added, moreover, that it was at Grtln's suggestion that he was hoping to insert a mention of Marx's works in his next book -  The System of Economic Contradictions subtitled ' T h e Philosophy of Poverty'. Marx apparently made no reply to Proudhon's letter except in the form of his furious attack on Proudhon's book published a year later under the title of  The Poverty of Philosophy.  In his reply Marx accepted Proudhon's facetious invitation to 'administer the cane' with a vengeance.

Proudhon's book was a large sprawling two-volume work which bore the motto  destruam et aedifkabo - though there was much more of the former than the latter. With great vigour Proudhon attacked religion, academic economics and communism but did not provide any very clear solutions. T h e book's ideas were very popular among French workers and in Germany three separate translations were arranged and two published in 1847, one being by Griin, whose ideas Engels had spent such a long time combating in Paris. Marx did not obtain Proudhon's book until Christmas 1846 and immediately wrote his impression of it in a long letter to Annenkov in which he clearly and succinctly applied to Proudhon's ideas his own materialist conception of history. T h e centre of Marx's criticism was that Proudhon did not grasp the historical development of humanity and thus had recourse to eternal concepts such as Reason and Justice. Marx wrote:

What is society, whatever its form may be? The product of men's reciprocal action. Are men free to choose this or that form of society for themselves? By no means. Assume a particular state of development in the productive forces of man and you will get a particular form of commerce and consumption. Assume particular stages of development in production, commerce and consumption and you will have a corresponding social constitution, a corresponding organisation of the family, of orders or of classes, in a word, a corresponding civil society. Assume a particular civil society and you will get particular political conditions which are only the official expression of civil society. M. Proudhon will never understand this because he thinks he is doing something great by appealing from the state to society - that is to say, from the official synopsis of society to official society.

It is superfluous to add that men are not free to choose their productive forces - which are the bases of all their history - for every productive force is an acquired force, the product of former activity. A coherence arises in human history, a history of humanity takes shape which is all the more a history of humanity as the productive forces of man and therefore his social relations have been more developed. Hence it necessarily follows that the social history of men is never anything but the history of their individual development, whether they are conscious of it or not. Their material relations are the basis of all their relations. These material relations are only the necessary forms in which their material and individual activity is realised."

Marx did, however, grant that Proudhon, by trying to mediate between bourgeois economics and socialist ideas, had 'the merit of being the scientific interpreter of the French petty bourgeoisie - a genuine merit because the petty bourgeoisie will form an integral part of all the impending social revolutions'.

These criticisms were elaborated on in his two-part book  The Poverty of Philosophy.  The first part dealt with the theory of value and the second began with an attack on Proudhon's method and ended with an important section on the working-class movement.

At the very outset Marx criticised Proudhon's lack of a precise starting point for his analysis. Proudhon's 'dialetic' merely consisted 'in the substitution for use-value and exchange-value and for supply and demand, of abstract and contradictory notions such as scarcity and abundance, utility and estimation,  one producer and  one consumer, both of them knights of free will'. And Proudhon's purpose in this was to 'arrange for himself a means of introducing later on one of the elements he had set aside, the cost of production, as the synthesis of use-value and exchange-value. And it is thus that in his eyes the cost of production constitutes synthetic value or constituted value.' By 'constituted value' of a product Proudhon meant 'the value which is constituted by the labour time incorporated in it'. According to Marx this doctrine was no invention of Proudhon's (as he claimed) but was clearly to be found in Ricardo, the difference between them being that 'Ricardo takes his starting point from present-day society to demonstrate to us how it constitutes value - M. Proudhon takes constituted value as his starting point to construct a new social world with the aid of this value'. So far from one's being able to draw 'egalitarian' consequences from this doctrine, it meant that wages always tended to a minimum. For Proudhon had confused 'the two measures: measure by the labour time needed for the production of a commodity and measure by the value of the labour. "Any man's labour", he says, "can buy the value it represents". Thus, according to him, a certain quantity of labour embodied in a product is equivalent to the worker's payment, that is, to the value of labour. It is the same reasoning that makes him confuse cost of production with wages.'84 Thus, 'in measuring the value of commodities by labour, M. Proudhon vaguely glimpses the impossiblity of excluding iabour from this same measure, insofar as labour has a value, as labour is a commodity. He has a misgiving that it is turning the wage minimum into the natural and normal price of immediate labour, that it is accepting the existing state of society. So, to get away from this fatal consequence, he contradicts himself and asserts that labour is not a commodity, that it cannot have value. He forgets that he himself has taken the value of labour as a measure.'8S Further, Proudhon set out to show that 'the labour time needed to create a product indicates its true proportional relation to needs, so that the things whose production costs the least time are the most immediately useful and so on, step by step.' But the same argument would show that 'the wide use of spirits, because of their low cost of production, is the most conclusive proof of their utility: it is telling the proletarian that potatoes are more wholesome for him than meat; it is accepting the present state of affairs; it is, in short, making an apology, with M. Proudhon, for a society without understanding it.'

For Marx, on the other hand, 'In a future society, in which class antagonism will have ceased, in which there will no longer be any classes, use will no longer be determined by the minimum time of production; but the time of production devoted to different articles will be determined by the degree of their social utility.' Proudhon's proposals abstracted from differences in demand, competition, etc., and he was inevitably forced into a dilemma: 'Either you want the genuine bartering process of past centuries with present-day means of production - in which case you are both reactionary and Utopian;  or you want progress without anarchy in which case, in order to preserve the productive forces, you must abandon individual exchange.' Anyway, Marx claimed, Proudhon was far from the first to think of 'reforming society by transforming all men into actual workers exchanging equal amounts of labour'. To prove his point he quoted at great length from the English economist Bray, views which he nevertheless rejected on the grounds that 'individual exchange corresponds . . . to a definite mode of production which itself corresponds to class antagonism. There is thus no individual exchange without the antagonism of classes.'91 Marx then finished the first half of the book with remarks on the impossibility of deducing the value of money from labour time, and on the way that Proudhon (in order to oppose the idea that labour produced a surplus) had to suppose existing social relations to be non-existent. In the second part of the book, Marx attacked Proudhon's desire 'to frighten the French by flinging quasi-Hegelian phrases at them', and his use of such pseudo-explanatory devices as thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

He then accused Proudhon of seeing 'in actual relations nothing but the incarnation o f . . . principles' and continued in a well-known passage: Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord: the steam mill, society with the industrial capitalist.

According to Marx, in the eyes of classical economists 'there are only two kinds of institutions, artificial and natural. The institutions of feudalism are artificial institutions, those of the bourgeoisie are natural institutions.'95 But bourgeois doctrines were as relative as any other and were to be supplanted by proletarian economic doctrines. The theoreticians of such doctrines were, of course, merely Utopian in the beginning of the proletarian movement; but to the extent that history moves forward and with it the struggle of the proletariat assumes clearer outlines, they no longer need to seek solutions by drawing on their imagination; they have only to take note of what is happening before their eyes and to become its mouthpiece.

So long as they look for knowledge by merely constructing systems, so long as they are at the beginning of the struggle, they see in poverty nothing but poverty - without seeing in it the revolutionary, subversive aspect which will overthrow the old society. From this moment, knowledge which is a product of historical process will have associated itself consciously with it, ceased to be doctrinaire and become revolutionary.

Proudhon was also deficient in his account of the division of labour which was not an economic category but a historical one; competition, equally, was above all an eighteenth-century product and no 'eternal' category; and landed property was no 'independent relation, a category apart, no abstract and eternal idea'. Finally Marx rejected Proudhon's view that strikes for higher wages were useless as their success only entailed a corresponding increase in prices. He dealt with this view in the last pages of his book which contained a sort of anarchist manifesto portraying the working class as essentially revolutionary:

An oppressed class is the vital condition for every society founded on the antagonism of classes. The emancipation of the oppressed class thus implies necessarily the creation of a new society. For the oppressed class to be able to emancipate itself it is necessary that the existing productive powers and social relations should no longer be capable of existing side by side. Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself. The organization of revolutionary elements as a class presupposes the existence of all the productive forces which could be brought to fruition within the framework of the old society.

Does this mean that after the collapse of the old society there will be a new dominant class culminating in a new political power? No.

The condition for the emancipation of the working class is the abolition of every class, just as the condition for the liberation of the third estate, of the bourgeois order, was the abolition of all estates and all orders.

The working class, in the course of its development, will substitute for the old civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power as such, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society.

Meanwhile the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is a struggle of class against class - a struggle which, carried to its highest expression, is a total revolution. Indeed, is it at all surprising that a society founded on the opposition of classes should culminate in brutal contradiction, the shock of body against body, as its final denouement?

Do not say that social movement excludes political movement. There is never a political movement which is not at the same time social.

It is only in an order of things in which there are no more classes and class antagonisms that social evolutions will cease to be political revolutions. Till then, on the eve of every general restructuring of society, the last word of social science will always be: 'Le combat ou lamort, la lutte sanguinaire ou le neant. C'est ainsi que la question est invinciblement pos£e.' George Sand.

Marx's book contained the first published and systematic statement of the materialist conception of history and he himself recommended it as an introduction to  Capital.  It also demonstrated Marx's great talent as a pamphleteer - though Proudhon's book was certainly an easy target.

However, in spite of its having been published in both Brussels and Paris, the total edition of 800 copies made little impression on Marx's contemporaries and he had to pay for the printing himself. Proudhon called the book 'a tissue of abuse, falsification and plagiarism' and its author 'the tape-worm of socialism'. He carefully annotated his own copy of  The Poverty of Philosophy and probably intended to reply but was interrupted by family affairs and the 1848 revolution. Thus culminated the highly acrimonious debate between the two men.

Proudhon was only one of several Paris socialists that the Brussels Correspondence Committee sought to recruit. The others, however, were not much more fruitful. There was a brief exchange of letters with Louis Blanc; and Dr Ewerbeck, who espoused a sort of peaceful communist humanism based on Cabet's ideas, served as a rallying point for what remained of the League of the Just. Having persuaded the Marx family to spend a fortnight with him at Ostend, Engels himself went to Paris in August 1846. In the regular letters he sent back to the Brussels Correspondence Committee he reported on the progress of his propaganda among the German workers which he directed particularly against Griin and the disciples of Proudhon.

Among the main craft unions in Paris, the tailors were still subject to the effect of Weitling's emotionally based communist propaganda (though he himself had left the city). Engels therefore attempted to recruit the remnants of the League of the Just (mostly members of joiners' unions) and instil into them some definite form of communism. By October he could report back to Brussels that his new recruits had now accepted a definition of communism comprising: a maintenance of the interests of the proletariat against those of the bourgeoisie; the abolition of private property; and, as a means, a violent democratic revolution. This ideological victory, however, was not of great moment for Engels continued in the same letter: 'The public in front of whom we played this face was composed of about twenty joiners. Apart from our meetings they organise discussions with all sorts of people in the outer boulevards, and outside their working association, they do not form any real group. .. .'I0° This letter showed Engels in a moment of uncharacteristic realism. In general it is clear that Engels was over-optimistic about the success of his propaganda. At the end of October the police intervened to stop even what small-scale activity existed and Engels thought it more prudent to turn his attention to the conquest of as many girls of as many different nationalities as possible before he left Paris.

Correspondence with Germany was established on a fairly regular basis: there were periodic reports from Silesia inspired by Wilhelm Wolff, from Wuppertal where the painter Koettgen (a close friend of Hess) led a communist group, and from Kiel where Georg Weber, a doctor, led the movement. Marx, however, was impatient with Weydemeyer's failure in Westphalia to find a publisher for  The German Ideology and relations became strained. The centre of communist activity was still Cologne.

Hess was there for the second half of 1846 and declared himself 'to some extent reconciled to "the Party" '; he recognised the necessity of basing communism on historical and economic presuppositions and was waiting with great interest for the appearance of Marx's book; his break with Marx did not become final until early 1848. But Marx's ideas seem to have had very little impact there, although the group there was organised by Roland Daniels (a close friend of Marx) with the support of d'Ester and Burgers, and was very active in local politics.

The only letter that has survived from the Brussels communists to Germany is one to Koettgen written in June 1846. Marx, together with the other members of the committee, criticised 'illusions' about the effi-cacy of petitions to authorities - arguing that they could only carry weight 'when there is a strong and well-organised communist party in Germany- both elements being currently lacking'. Meanwhile the Wuppertal communists should act 'jesuitically' and support bourgeois demands for freedom of the Press, constitutional government, etc. Only later would specifically communist demands be possible: for the present 'it is necessary to support, in a single party, "everything" that helps the movement forward and not have any tiresome moral scruples about it."

III. T H E   F O U N D I N G   O F   T H E   C O M M U N I S T    L E A G U E

The most important result of the Correspondence Committee was to create close ties between Marx and Engels and the London communists who at that time were the largest and best-organised colony of German workers. Until the late 1830s the most important centre had been Paris where exiled German artisans had started in 1836 the League of the Just (a secret society with code names and passwords) which itself derived from an earlier League of Outlaws. Its original object was to introduce into Germany the Rights of Man and the Citizen, and very roughly half of its membership came from artisans and half from the professions. The League of the Just participated in the rising organised by Blanqui and Barbes in 1839 and on its failure the majority of its members fled to London where they founded a flourishing branch. This in its turn created a 'front' organisation, the German Workers' Educational Union, which had almost 1000 members by the end of 1847 and survived until the First World War.

The League was led by a triumvirate of Karl Schapper, Heinrich Bauer and Joseph Moll. Schapper was a veteran communist from Nassau, the son of a poor country pastor. As a forestry student he had joined the  Burschenschaft movement and had worked with both Buchner and Mazzini while Marx was still a schoolboy. According to one of his colleagues in the League Schapper was a revolutionary 'more through enthusiasm than theoretical knowledge'.104 Bauer was a shoemaker. Moll was a Cologne watchmaker, intellectually and diplomatically the most gifted of the three. The Union organised courses four evenings a week in the Red Lion public house near Piccadilly. A German economics professor, Bruno Hildebrand, has left an account of one of these evenings which is worth extensive quotation as it vividly conveys the atmosphere in which was born the Communist League (and also the German Workers'

Educational Union, which remained peripheral to Marx's activities for many years). Hildebrand described an evening in April 1846 just at the time when Marx was beginning to establish regular contact with the London communists. He wrote:

We went to the meeting place of the Association about half past eight in an atmosphere of tension and impatience. The ground floor seemed to be a beer shop. Porter and other fine beers were on sale but I did not notice any seats for consumers. We went through this shop and up a staircase into a room furnished with tables and benches which could accommodate about 200 people. Twenty or so men were seated in little groups eating a very simple dinner or smoking one of the pipes of honour (of which there was one on each table) with their pot of beer in front of them. Others were still standing and the door was always opening to admit new arrivals. It was clear that the meeting would not begin for some time. The clothes were very proper, the behaviour had a simplicity that did not exclude dignity, but most of the faces were evidently those of workers. The main language was German, but we could also hear French and English. At the end of the room there was a grand piano with some music books on it - and this, in a London that was so unmusical, showed us that we had come to the right place.

We had been scarcely noticed and sat down at a table opposite the door. While waiting for Schapper, the friend who had invited us, we ordered porter and the traditional little penny packet of tobacco. Soon we saw a man enter who was tall and strong, a picture of health. He had a black moustache, a clear and penetrating look and an imperious manner. He seemed to be about thirty-six. He was introduced to me as Schapper....

Schapper invited us to sit with him at the back of the room. On the way he showed me a poster with the heading, 'Statutes of the German Workers' Educational Union'. . . . The main principle of the Union is that men can only come to liberty and self-consciousness by cultivating their intellectual faculties. Consequently all the evening meetings are devoted to instruction. On one evening, English is taught, on another geography, on the third history, on the fourth, drawing and physics, on the fifth, singing, on the sixth, dancing, and on the seventh communist politics....

We sat in the places allotted to us; meanwhile the room had filled up completely. The president, who was unknown to me - I was told he was a doctor, opened the meeting. When a solemn silence had been established and everyone had taken his pipe from his mouth, the secretary (a working tailor whose descriptive talent seemed to me to be truly enviable) declared that Citizen Schapper had invited Citizen Hildebrand and Citizen Diefenbach and asked if anyone had an objection to make. Then we went on to current politics and Citizen Schapper delivered a report on the week's events. His speech was eloquent, very detailed and full of interest. It was evident that he and the Association had many sources of information.... Naturally a strong communist tendency was always plain and the proletariat was the constant theme and the one real thread running through the entire speech. I admit that I can stand a good dose of liberalism, but certain passages made my hair stand on end...

At first the German communists in London had been under the influence of Cabet's peaceful Utopian communism, following the failure of their attempt at a  putsch in Paris in alliance with the Blanquists. Cabet had also persuaded them to give up their conspiratorial methods - though they necessarily remained a secret society. But they rejected Cabet's proposal to found a communist colony in America. By that time Weitling's influence had become important. But his notions of immediate revolution soon alienated the majority of the London communists who began to be much influenced by their personal experience of Owenite schemes, by Chartism and by the tangible success of the British trade unions. Weitling held the view that 'mankind is either always ripe or it never will be . . . .

Revolutions arise like storms and no one can chart their operations beforehand. . .. The intellect has only a poor role to play and without emotion can do nothing... the greatest deeds are accomplished by the emotions that move the masses.' Schapper's view, on the other hand, was that 'it is as easy to compel a tree to grow as to inculcate new ideas into mankind by force. Let us avoid physical violence: it is crude; and mankind does not need i t . . . . Let us view ourselves as leaves on the great tree of humanity and posterity will reap what we with our calm activity have sown.' This debate went on for several months in the meetings of the Association, and Weitling was ably supported by Kriege but the majority of the workers eventually sided with Schapper.

The London communists had broken off all contact with Weitling by the time that Marx, in mid-May 1846, suggested that they form a communist correspondence bureau in regular liaison with Brussels. As early as March Engels had formally asked Harney to act as correspondent with Brussels. But Harney, who had himself become a member of the League in February, insisted that Schapper and the leaders of the League be consulted first - suggesting that they were mistrustful of the 'literary characters in Brussels'; and Marx's ideas were indeed far from popular with them. According to Schapper (and his letters reflected the views of the League leaders as a whole) revolutions could not be made to order, and a spiritual awakening would have to precede a physical uprising. The task of the League was seen by its leaders as one of 'enlightening the people and propaganda for the community of goods'. They were also opposed to Marx's attitude to Kriege and complained of the 'intellectual arrogance' of the Brussels communists. Schapper did agree, however, to Marx's proposal in July 1846 that a congress be held in London at some future date to hammer out differences and 'bring force and unity into our propaganda'. As late as December 1846 Engels was suggesting to Marx - in a letter which is a good example of their 'intellectual arrogance' - that they might have to let the correspondence with the Londoners drop quietly and try to reach some agreement with Harney.

But it was clear that the German communists in London, in terms of numbers and organisation, represented for Marx and Engels by far the most promising entree into working-class politics, particularly because Marx's various European Correspondence Committees never really got off the ground.

In November the Central Committee of the League of the Just, which had remained in Paris, was formally transferred to London. Together with the attempt at organisational reform that this implied, there was the growing feeling that, after the rejection of the communism of Cabet and Weitling, firmer theoretical foundations for the League were needed. On 20 January 1847, the London Correspondence Committee decided to send Moll (whose views were noticeably closer to Marx's than were Schapper's) to Brussels to solicit the help of Marx and invite him to join the League. Marx wrote later: 'Whatever objections we had against this proposal were met by Moll's statement that the Central Committee planned to call together a Congress of the League in London. There, the critical position we had taken would be adopted in a public manifesto as the doctrine of the League. Antiquated and dissident views could only be counteracted by our personal collaboration, but this was only possible if we joined the League.' Another condition that Marx laid down before joining was 'that everything that encouraged a supersititious attitude to authority be banished from the Statutes of the League'. Several other Brussels communists joined the League at the same time, as did Engels, whom Moll went on to visit in Paris. The London Central Committee demonstrated its willingness to change its ideas by issuing an Address to members of the League in which they now called for a stricter definition of aims, rejected socialism based on pure sentiment and condemned conspiratorial approaches to revolution.

The promised congress, which had in fact been summoned by the London Central Committee as early as November 1846 along extremely democratic lines, assembled in London from 2 to 9 June 1847. Marx did not attend, pleading lack of money, so Wolff went as a delegate of the Brussels communists, and Engels represented the Parisians. It was decided to reorganise the democratic basis of the League, to change the name of the League to 'The Communist League', to emphasise the inappropriate-ness of the conspiratorial approach, and to issue a periodical. The first and last issue of this periodical, written mainly by Schapper and entitled Kommunistische Zeitung,  appeared in September. In the new statutes, the previous slogan 'All Men are Brothers' was replaced by 'Proletarians of all Countries - Unite'. (Marx was said to have declared that there were many men whose brother he wished on no account to be.) Yet the statutes as a whole still represented a compromise between Marx's views and those of the London communists; their first article read: 'The League aims at the abolition of man's enslavement by propagating the theory of the community of goods and by its implementation as soon as possible.' A three-tiered structure was now proposed for the League: the Commune, the Circle Committee (comprising the chairman and treasurers of the relevant communes) and the Central Committee, together with an annual congress, all officials being elected for one year and subject to instant recall. A draft 'Confession of Faith', drawn up by Engels, was circulated to the branches to be discussed at a second Congress in the following November.

The success of the June Congress inspired Marx in early August formally to turn the Brussels Correspondence Committee into a branch of the Communist League with himself as President. It was the general practice of the League (which was a secret society) to set up non-clandestine 'Workers' Associations'. In late August a German Workers'

Association was formed in Brussels with Karl Wallau (a typesetter) as President and Moses Hess as Vice-President. It had thirty-seven members to begin with and increased rapidly.117 In addition to many social activities, there were lectures on Wednesdays - sometimes given by Marx - and a review of the week's politics on Sundays by Wilhelm Wolff. Marx was pleased with its 'quite parliamentary discussions' and found the public activity that it afforded him 'infinitely refreshing'.

At the same time Marx managed to secure ready access to a newspaper as a vehicle for his views. The  Deutsche Briisseler Zeitung was published twice weekly from the beginning of 1847 by Adelbert von Bornstedt, who had previously edited  Vorwiirts in Paris. Bornstedt had been a spy for both the Prussians and the Austrians in the 1830s and early 1840s, and many in Brussels suspected that he was continuing those activities. However, the paper took on an increasingly radical and anti-Prussian tone. In April 1847 Wilhelm Wolff started contributing, and in September Marx began to write frequently - having come to an arrangement with Bornstedt that the paper would accept all contributions by himself and Engels. He complained bitterly to Herwegh of criticism of this step from Germans who 'always have a thousand words of wisdom up their sleeves to prove why they should once again let an opportunity slip by. An opportunity for doing something is nothing but a source of embarrassment for them.'

Marx contributed two important essays to the  Deutsche Briisseler Zeitung.  One was a reply to an unsigned article in the  Rheinischer Beobachter whose author - Hermann Wagener, later the close associate of Bismarck had tried to give the impression that the Prussian Government was in favour of 'socialist' and even 'communist' measures, citing its recent proposals to shift the main tax burden from foodstuffs to incomes. Marx rejected the idea that the communists had anything to gain from supporting the Government against the bourgeoisie. And in so far as Wagener appealed to the social principles of Christianity, Marx claimed that they merely transferred to heaven the task of reparing all infamies and that this justified their continuation on earth The social principles of Christianity preach cowardice, self-abasement, resignation, submission and humility in short, all the characteristics of the  canaille-,  but the proletariat is not prepared to let itself be treated as  canaille,  and it needs its courage, confidence, pride and independence even more than it needs its daily bread. The social principles of Christianity are sneaking and hypocritical whilst the proletariat is revolutionary.

In Germany, the proletariat had to ally itself with the bourgeoisie for 'the aristocracy can only be overthrown by an alliance of the bourgeoisie and the people'. Wagener was quite mistaken in arguing that the proletariat would be well advised to ally itself with the royal Government which was in reality its most dangerous rival. 'The real people, the proletarians, the small peasants and the rabble are, as Hobbes said,  puer robustus sed mali-tiosus and are not taken in by kings, whether they be fat or thin. This people would above all extract from His Majesty a constitution with universal suffrage, freedom of association, freedom of the press and other unpleasant things.'

The second of Marx's articles was a polemic against Heinzen, who commented later that Marx was the sort of man who brought up heavy artillery in order to smash a window-pane. Heinzen had written for the Rheinische Zeitung in 1842 and spent much time in Marx's company in 1845, but he attacked not only communism but also 'true' socialism on his emigration to Switzerland, where he had become friendly with Ruge.

Heinzen was a thoroughgoing republican who saw the monarchy as the foundation of all social evil to which the proclamation of a republic would put an end. In his reply to Heinzen Marx stated that 'the political relationships of men . . . are also social relationships',123 and analysed the role played by the monarchy as a transitional institution between the old feudal classes and the nascent bourgeoisie. But the bourgeoisie was growing ever more powerful and already found itself in opposition to the proletariat. The solemn idea of 'humanity' would never, as Heinzen hoped, cause classes to melt away. The task of the proletariat was 'to overthrow the political power that the bourgeoisie already has in its hands. They must themselves become a power, and first of all a revolutionary power.'

From 16 to 18 September 1847 a congress of professional economists

- in effect, a pressure group for free trade - was held in Brussels. Marx attended by invitation. Georg Weerth was a dissident voice in declaring it a scandal that in all the eulogies they made of free trade there was no mention of the misery inflicted on the working class. Marx intended to deliver a speech in support of Weerth, but the list of speakers was closed to prevent his intervention. Marx at once circulated his speech to several newspapers in Belgium and abroad, but only the small Brussels  Atelier Democratique would publish it. After analysing the disastrous effect of free trade on the working class Marx declared himself nevertheless in favour of it 'because by Free Trade all economical laws, with their most astonishing contradictions, will act upon a larger scale, upon a greater extent of territory, upon the territory of the whole earth; and because from the unity of these contradictions into a single group, where they stand face to face, will result the struggle which will itself eventuate in the emancipation of the proletariat'.

On 29 September a dinner was held in order to inaugurate in Brussels what was to become the International Democratic Association, a body modelled on the Fraternal Democrats in London. (At this time many political meetings were held under the guise of dinners as they were more difficult for the police to control.) The dinner had been arranged on the initiative of Bornstedt. Marx had briefly gone to Maastricht to see his brother-in-law on family business. Although Engels regarded the holding of the dinner as an anti-communist move, he managed to be chosen as one of its vice-presidents and also a member of the committee that was to establish the Association. Engels promptly delegated his place to Marx and left for Paris where he renewed his contacts with French socialists and republican leaders; and Marx was duly chosen as Vice-President of the Association. The Association held meetings, established a number of branches in Belgium, and issued addresses on such subjects as the threat to freedom in Switzerland and the anniversary of the Polish revolution.

But Marx had other and more pressing business to attend to: at the end of October he received a letter from the Central Committee of the Communist League in London telling him that the congress had been put off until the end of November and urging him to attend in person.

On 27 November Marx left Brussels in the company of Weerth and Victor Tedesco; he met Engels at Ostend on the twenty-eighth and, with Tedesco, they crossed the Channel on the twenty-ninth. Ostensibly Marx went as a delegate of the Democratic Association to attend a meeting of the Fraternal Democrats in celebration of the Polish uprising of 1830.

The evening after his arrival in London Marx duly delivered an 'energetic' speech to the Fraternal Democrats, meeting in the headquarters of the German Workers' Educational Association at 20 Great Windmill Street, near Piccadilly. The downfall of the established order, he told them, 'is no loss for those who have nothing to lose in the old society and this is the case in all countries for the great majority. They have, rather, everything to gain from the collapse of the old society which is the condition for the building of a new society no longer based on class opposition.' Marx concluded by proposing Brussels as the venue for the following year's meeting, but this proposal was overtaken by events.

The next day, in the same building, the second congress of the Communist League began. According to Engels, ' M a r x . . . defended the new theory during fairly lengthy debates. All opposition and doubt was at last overcome and the new principles were unanimously accepted.'130 The debates lasted a full ten days, during which new statutes were drawn up making it quite clear that the Communist League (although necessarily operating largely in secret) was to have a democratic structure ultimately dependent on an annual congress and have as its principal purpose the propagation of publicly declared doctrines. The statutes adopted in June with their somewhat Utopian notions of 'community of goods' were set aside and the aims of the League were proclaimed as 'the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the domination of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms, and the establishment of a new society without classes and without private property'. At the end of the congress Marx and Engels were given the task of writing a Manifesto to publicise the doctrines of the League. There are no surviving records of these discussions, but the following vivid description of the impression made by Marx at that time was written much later by Frederick Lessner:

Marx was then still a young man, about 28 years old, but he greatly impressed us all. He was of medium height, broad-shouldered, powerful in build, and vigorous in his movements. His forehead was high and finely shaped, his hair thick and pitch-black, his gaze piercing. His mouth already had the sarcastic curl that his opponents feared so much.

Marx was a born leader of the people. His speech was brief, convincing and compelling in its logic. He never said a superfluous word; every sentence contained an idea and every idea was an essential link in the chain of his argument. Marx had nothing of the dreamer about him.

The more I realized the difference between the communism of Weitling's time and that of the  Communist Manifesto,  the more clearly I saw that Marx represented the manhood of socialist thought.

On his return to Brussels Marx had little time to compose his Manifesto. He immediately began to give a course of lectures on wages to the German Workers' Educational Association. Here Marx was chiefly concerned to go beyond the idea of capital as simply composed of raw materials, instruments of production, and so forth. He insisted that it was only in given social conditions that such things constituted capital.

Capital, also, is a social relation of production. It is a bourgeois production relation, a production relation of bourgeois society. Are not the means of subsistence, the instrument of labour, the raw materials of which capital consists, produced and accumulated under given social conditions, in definite social relations? Are they not utilised for new production under given social conditions, in definite social relations?

And is it not just this definite social character which turns the products necessary to new production into capital?

In order for capital to exist there had to be 'a class which possesses nothing but its capacity for labour'. Capital and wage-labour were complementary in function and entirely opposed in interest. Although for a time working conditions might improve this only meant that the working class could consider itself 'content with forging for itself the golden chains by which the bourgeoisie drags it in its wake'. And Marx went on to issue a categorical statement - to be revised in his later works - that with the increase in productive capacity and machinery wages would fall. In February Marx started writing up these lectures for publication, but was to be interrupted by his expulsion from Belgium.

Marx was also active in the Democratic Association to which, on his return to Brussels, he read the reply from the Fraternal Democrats that declared: 'Your representative, our friend and brother Marx, will tell you with what enthusiasm we welcomed his appearance and the reading of your address. All eyes shone with joy, all voices shouted a welcome and all hands stretched out fraternally to your representative.... We accept with the liveliest feelings of satisfaction the alliance you have offered us.' Marx helped to found a new branch in Ghent and was prominent in the meeting to celebrate the New Year where Jenny was complimented on her social capacity. It was on one of these occasions, too, that Jenny Marx refused categorically to be introduced to Mary Burns, Engels's mistress, whom Engels had had the temerity to bring with him. Stefan Born recalled that 'in matters of honour and purity of morals the noble lady was intransigent'. He also introduced Bakunin and d'Ester into the Democratic Association. Bakunin, however, would have nothing to do with the League or even with the Workers' Association. In his view Marx was 'spoiling the workers by making logic-choppers of them' and it was 'impossible to breathe freely" in the company of Marx and Engels.

Nevertheless, Marx managed to get his ideas across to the Democratic Association in a speech on Free Trade he delivered on 9 January (it was along the same lines as one that he would have delivered at the September economic Congress, had he been allowed to speak). He summed up his thesis as follows: 'At the present time the system of protection is conservative, whereas the system of free trade is destructive: it dissolves old nationalities and pushes to the extreme the antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat. In a word, the system of commercial freedom hastens the social revolution."'

Meanwhile Marx had been working on the Manifesto. The London communists had supplied him with a sheaf of material that included at least three separate tentative drafts for the Manifesto. Engels had composed a draft incorporating the views of the first League Congress in June 1847 and this draft was discussed in the various groups in late summer and autumn. Moses Hess had proposed an alternative version which Engels ironically described as 'divinely improved'. Hess's version does not survive but two 'confessions of faith' that he composed around this time show differences from Marx and Engels both in ideas (in that Hess believed in appealing to eternal principles to justify his policies) and in tactics (in that Hess considered that the next revolution should be a proletarian one). On behalf of the League's Paris branch Engels produced a third draft of which he wrote to Marx just before they left for London:

Think over the confession of faith a bit. I think it would be better to drop the catechistic form and call the thing a communist manifesto. As a certain amount of history will have to be brought in, I think the present form is unsuitable. I am bringing along what I have done here.

It is in simple narrative form, but miserably edited and done in a terrible hurry.

This draft, entitled 'Principles of Communism', a catechism of twenty-five questions and answers, was drawn on quite extensively by Marx. In places, however, there is a noticeable difference between the optimistic, determinist approach of Engels which stemmed from the Enlightenment and his experiences in industrial England, and the greater emphasis given by Marx to politics in the light of experiences of the French working class. Engels said later that it was 'essentially Marx's work" and that 'the basic thought... belongs solely and exclusively to Marx'. Notwithstanding the appearance of their two names on the title page and the persistent assumption about joint authorship, the actual writing of the Communist Manifesto was done exclusively by Marx.

The  Communist Manifesto has four sections. The first section gives a history of society as class society since the Middle Ages and ends with a prophecy of the victory of the proletariat over the present ruling class, the bourgeoisie. The second section describes the position of communists within the proletarian class, rejects bourgeois objections to communism and then characterises the communist revolution, the measures to be taken by the victorious proletariat and the nature of the future communist society. The third section contains an extended criticism of other types of socialism - reactionary, bourgeois and Utopian. The final section contains a short description of communist tactics towards other opposition parties and finishes with an appeal for proletarian unity.

The opening words typify Marx's approach to history: The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

' T h e present age' he continued, in a passage that summarised conclusions reached in the first part of  The German Ideology,  was unique in that class antagonisms had been so simplified that there were now two hostile camps facing each other: bourgeoisie and proletariat. T h e bourgeoisie, from its origins in feudal society, helped by the discovery of America, the development of a world market and modern industry, had everywhere imposed the domination of its class and its ideas. In a well-known phrase that fitted contemporary France more than any other country, Marx described the modern state as merely 'a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie'.Historically, the bourgeoisie had been a most revolutionary class: 'it has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades'. But this progress had to continue: the bourgeoisie could not exist without constantly revolutionising the means of production. And just as the bourgeoisie had caused the downfall of feudal society, so now they were preparing their own downfall 'like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells'. For the bourgeoisie had not only forged the weapons of their destruction: they had also created in the proletariat the men who were to wield those weapons.

Marx then described the revolutionary nature of the proletariat.

Workers had become mere appendages of machines. To the extent that the use of machinery and division of labour increased, so the wages of the workers got less in spite of the longer hours they worked. T h e lower-middle class was forced down into the proletariat: The lower strata of the middle-class - the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants - all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, pardy because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.

T h e proletariat itself went through several stages: at first their principal aim had been to restore to the working man the status he had lost since the Middle Ages; with increase of numbers they began to form trade unions; finally the class struggle became a political struggle. As the struggle neared its decisive hour, a process of dissolution set in within the ruling class, and a small section (of bourgeois ideologists in particular) went over to the proletariat. No other class in society could fulfill the revolutionary role of the proletariat: the lower-middle class were in fact reactionary in that they tried to roll back the wheel of history; and the 'dangerous class, the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lower layers of society',153 was ripe for bribery by reactionary intrigue. Marx summed up this section with the words: The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products.

What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

Obviously Marx was here projecting into the future tendencies he saw at work in the present. In Germany at that time the proletariat in fact comprised less than 5 per cent of the population, and even in England the rule of the bourgeoisie was far from being 'universal'.

In the second section Marx raised the question of the relationship of the communists to the proletariat as a whole. T h e communists were not opposed to other working-class parties; their interests were those of the proletariat as a whole. Two factors distinguished them from other working-class groups: they were international, and they understood the significance of the proletarian movement. Communist ideas were not invented or discovered: they merely expressed actual relations springing from an existing class struggle and could be summed up in a single sentence: abolition of private property.

Marx then dealt with objections.

T h e first objection was that communists desired to abolish 'the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man's own labour'.

His reply was that the property of the petty artisan and small farmer was being abolished anyway by the power of capital; the proletariat did not have any property; and capital, being a collective product and the result of the united action of all members of society, should be owned collectively. Private property was bourgeois property and all arguments against its abolition were bourgeois arguments.

Similarly, in reply to a second criticism he argued that the abolition of the family meant the abolition of the bourgeois family - whose counterpart was the practical absence of family life among proletarians, and public prostitution.

To meet a third objection Marx maintained that the real point about the so-called 'community of women' was to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production; the present system was merely public and private prostitution.

It was also said that communists wished to abolish countries and nationality. But working men had no country. Modern industry was abolishing national differences and, with the disappearance of class antagonisms, hostility between nations would also end.

Sweeping value-laden condemnation of communism was not worthy, in Marx's view, of serious consideration. In a passage which minimized to the point of caricature the role of ideas in society Marx asked: Does it require intuition to comprehend that man's ideas, views and conceptions, in one word, man's consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?

What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.'

Having dealt with these objections, Marx outlined the measures that would be taken by the proletariat once it had become the ruling class: The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e. of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.

In a section that was very largely inspired by Engels' draft, there followed a programme which included the abolition of landed property and inheritance, the imposition of income tax, the centralisation of credit and communications, state ownership of factories, and free education. He concluded:

When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and as such, sweeps away by force the old condition of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.'

The third section of the Communist Manifesto contained criticism of three types of socialism - reactionary, bourgeois and Utopian. The first was a feudal socialism preached by the aristocracy to revenge themselves on the bourgeoisie who had supplanted them as the ruling class. Hand-in-hand with feudal socialism went Christian socialism which Marx simply dismissed as 'the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat'. The second type - petty-bourgeois socialism  was chiefly represented by the French economist Sismondi. This school had well analysed the contradictions inherent in modern methods of production; but in its positive proposals it was reactionary, wishing to restore corporate guilds in manufacture and patriarchal relations in agriculture. The third party, labelled by Marx reactionary socialists, were the 'true' socialists. These were the German philosophers (mainly the followers of Feuerbach) who had emasculated French socialism by turning it into a metaphysical system. This was inevitable in an economically backward country like Germany where ideas tended not to reflect the struggle of one class with another. These philosophers thus claimed to represent ' . . . not true requirements, but the requirements of Truth; not the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of Human Nature, of Man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philosophical fantasy.'

In the  Manifesto's review of socialist and communist literature the second section - devoted to bourgeois socialism - was short. Proudhon was the main representative of this tendency and Marx had already devoted considerable space to examining his theories. Here he confined himself to observing that 'the Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and distintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat.' Thus the reforms advocated by these socialists in no respect affected the relations between capital and labour, but they did at least lessen the cost and simplify the administrative work of bourgeois government.

The final school discussed was the 'critical-Utopian' school represented by such writers as Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen. It originated during the early, inchoate period of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. These writers had perceived class antagonisms; but in their time the proletariat was still insufficiently developed to be a credible force for social change. Hence they wished to attain their ends by peaceful  means and small-scale experiments, rejecting political - and in particular revolutionary - action. Their Utopias, envisaged at a time when the proletariat was still underdeveloped, 'correspond with the first instinctive yearnings of that class for a general reconstruction of society'.162 But at the same time these Utopian writings also contained critical elements: since they attacked every principle of existing society, they were full of insights valuable to the enlightenment of the working class. But as the modern class-struggle gathered strength, these Utopian solutions lost all practical value or theoretical justification. Thus 'although the originators of these systems were, in many respects, revolutionary, their disciples have, in every case, formed mere reactionary sects'.

The fourth and concluding section of the Manifesto dealt with the attitude of communists to various opposition parties: in France they supported the social democrats, in Switzerland the radicals, in Poland the peasant revolutionaries, in Germany the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless in Germany they never ceased to instil into the working class the clearest possible recognition of the inherent antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat. The communists directed their attention chiefly to Germany, which they believed to be on the eve of a bourgeois revolution. The Manifesto ended:

The Communists disdain concealing their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The Proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!

In a sense, of course, virtually all the ideas contained in the  Communist Manifesto had been enunciated before - particularly among French socialists in whose tradition the  Manifesto is firmly situated. Babeuf’s ideas on revolution, Saint-Simon's periodisation of history and emphasis on industry, Consider ant’s  Manifeste,  all inspired aspects of Marx's work. And lie himself was the first to admit that the concept he began with - that of class - was used long before by French bourgeois historians. But the powerful, all-embracing synthesis and the consistently materialist approach were quite new.

The Manifesto was a propaganda document hurriedly issued on the eve of a revolution. Marx and Engels considered in 1872 that 'the general principles expounded in the document are on the whole as correct today as ever' though they would doubtless have modified radically some of its ideas - particularly (in the light of the Paris Commune) those relating to the proletariat's taking over of the state apparatus and the rather simplistic statements on pauperization and class polarisation. For all the clarity and force that later made it a classic, the publication of the  Manifesto went virtually unnoticed. Before it was off the presses, the 1848 revolutions had already begun.