Commentary on the Manuscripts of 1844 (Bordiga, 1959)
“Commentarii dei manoscritti del 1844”: Il Programma comunista, Nr. 15-18, 1959.
Cornerstones of the communist programme
At the closing sessions of the meetings in Turin and Parma (including the corollarii in the report of the first meeting) we dealt with the basics of our party doctrine, which ties in with the negation of individualism and personality; something with which not only the propaganda of the Western capitalist countries, but also that of Moscow’s friends and followers, is rife with disgrace. The fact that we want to go back over this aspect of our doctrine is linked to the demonstration that all the innovations and reforms announced at the last Russian party congresses continue to drift diametrically in the opposite direction to Marxist communism, whether in the case of theoretical statements regarding the structural changes made in the organization of the Russian economy or those that are outraged by the “revisionism” of Yugoslavia and others. We have again and again opposed all this to the actual programme of scientific communism and the doctrine of historical materialism, thus defending the indispensable theses that are so often denigrated – even by those who do not take sides for the Russian policy. These theses culminate in the party’s role as the bearer of the revolutionary dictatorship and its actual function, which is not based on the opinions of the individual and the stupid vote counting at elections, but is founded on the classical international invariant doctrine spanning centuries.
All this wealth of our original and powerful doctrine and method was once again denied at the last Russian party congress and trampled underfoot when the successive surrenders to capitalism went so far as to acknowledge the incentive of personal interest in the functioning of today’s economy! This bravura piece among the anti-Marxist theses has been expressed most shallowly, how could it be different, in the KPI’s report on the 21st Congress (Unità of 17 March 1959): “In agriculture, the principle is being restored” (the same eloquent verb can be found in Khrushchev’s report), “that individual interest should continue to be the main driving force in the development of collective farm organization.” In the “guiding principles” of the congress, this demand is embellished somewhat more subtly with the assertion, that in the works of Lenin and the founders of scientific communism there is a statement of the incentive of material interest. Not a particularly clever trick: One is the material interest that the exploited, who have to overthrow the privatist society, have in common, the other is the personal interest, whose motivation is the incentive to fuck over the class brothers.
Now, here however, there is talk of the characteristics of a socialist and (after the recent distortions) even communist society. And just for this reason the thesis of personal incentive reverses revolutionary Marxism, which is why we must return to its original content. We readily admit that the restoration of that principle – of personal interest – is on the agenda in Russia; it is one of the innumerable steps being taken by the worst of all counterrevolutions.
Modern critical philosophy
According to a central idea of Marxism, the philosophy of modern times, which begins with Descartes, Bacon and Kant (even if it appears under the name of different schools), is a historical superstructure belonging to the capitalist mode of production and time. The ideologues of the bourgeois class clearly consider the victory of these modern schools over traditional Christian and scholastic philosophy to be a “definitive” achievement of human knowledge, which is why they believe that the representatives of proletarian socialism also have to pay homage to it and go under the same philosophical roof. In other words: one believes, and this is a commonplace, that the socialists have adopted the ideological victory of bourgeois critique over medieval fideism and that philosophy – and with it the various theories of society and history – which emerged from the old doctrines of faith – is also an indispensable foundation and a prerequisite for it.
This is a dangerous mistake, because even if the ideologues of the modern bourgeoisie dared to break openly with the principles of the Christian church (which was by no means always the case), we Marxists do not see atheism as an ideological platform shared by the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; vis-à-vis the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is the protagonist of future history, and that dispute of ideas was about the struggle between the emerging bourgeois classes on the one hand and the old landed nobility and its feudal constitution on the other. When that class struggle on the great historical stage came to an end with the victory of capitalism over the old order and another class struggle broke its course, the new protagonist, i. e. the proletariat, had its own theory, which has nothing at all in common with that which formed the framework of the bourgeois struggle against the Middle Ages, even if there had to be factual and armed alliances in real political struggle.
According to another commonplace, it is German critical philosophy (one of the most important fields of the modern movement, which found its highest expression in Hegel’s work), from which Marx and Engels would have developed their teachings. Historical truth, however, is that, together with their not insignificant group of scholars and agitators, with whom they worked out an open and clear criticism of the Hegelian system together, they immediately opposed Hegel’s students and treated them as bourgeois and petite bourgeois ideologists, who even then were not spared from ridicule when they had apparently not understood their master.
In the preface to the “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” of 1859, Marx says that Engels, Heß and he went to work out their views in contrast to the followers of Hegel and Hegel himself, whose great system they had thoroughly studied, but, he goes on to say, the material had not been written down for printing, because it had become clear that the course of studies led from the field of philosophy to that of economics, where it was a matter of subjecting the English bourgeois classics to criticism; or even more so from the field of studies to that of practical struggle, where it was a matter of continuing the work of the though crude French communists.
Although no considerations whatsoever had suggested that the ruthless scorchers of Stirner, Bauer, Strauss and Feuerbach should be kept under lock and key, there were on the other hand important reasons that prevented Marx from publishing the manuscript that tore apart the Hegelian system – although clear statements about it were made throughout his entire work. In the epilogue to the second edition of the first volume of “Capital” of 1873, he explains that when too many “arrogant” intellectuals in the “educated Germany” set out to treat Hegel as a “dead dog,” he did not like to tune into this lackey chorus; his reluctance thus had historical rather than theoretical reasons. Unlike in England and France, where the bourgeois revolution had long been victorious, it had failed in Germany in 1848, and for the Germans under Bismarck and the Hohenzollern, Hegel was still considered a revolutionary. Marx merely reminds us that his dialectical method is the opposite of Hegel’s and that he had criticized his mystifying, i. e. idealistic side 30 years earlier.
The large manuscript on “German ideology” and those pages called “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)” (political economy and philosophy) were published later on, although the mice had listened to the advice and gnawed at it extensively, so that there were many gaps and complete pages are missing. However, enough has been preserved to state that Hegel was a bourgeois ideologist and revolutionary Marxism has finally shattered every one of his constructions as well as every other theoretical apology of the capitalist form of society.
Bourgeois fantasies: the I and consciousness
In his criticism of Feuerbach, which he nevertheless considers to be the most serious of the “young Hegelians,” Marx notes that Feuerbach is the only one who actually manages to handle the master’s dialectics and his negation of negation; but he criticizes teacher and student alike, because their purely abstract studies are based only on the overcoming of religion through (speculative) philosophy, only to end up again with the sublation of philosophy and the restoration of religion and theology. Historically, this means that the atheism of the emerging bourgeois class concludes its parable with a new victory of the religious: in 1844 one called oneself an atheist without fear, today no author dares to do so any more.
Feuerbach here, as Marx explains, follows Hegel: The latter is therefore responsible for the infertility of the bourgeois-critical method. Marx says on this point, while setting up a scheme that unfortunately will soon be interrupted: “Let us take a look at Hegel’s system. We must begin with his Phenomenology, which is the true birthplace and secret of the Hegelian philosophy.” The scheme works like this: “Phenomenology. A. Self-consciousness 1. Consciousness. […] 2. Self-consciousness. The truth of certainty of oneself.” We do not need to repeat the schematic and hard-to-digest development here. It becomes clear: For Marx, Hegel’s mistake is to place his enormous speculative construction on a strictly formal, i. e. abstract basis, that of “consciousness.” And as Marx will say so many times, one must proceed from being, not from the consciousness that the I has of itself. From the very beginning, Hegel is in the cage of the hollow dialogue between subject and object. His subject is the I, understood in the absolute sense, and his object, the first object, is for him the “certainty of its self,” as it is also called in other places. “Hegel commits a double error,” which “appears most clearly in the Phenomenology, which is the birthplace of Hegelian philosophy.”
As can be seen from all the meaningful and dense passages, Hegel’s mistake is to start from the thinking subject, the mind that thinks. In the afterword mentioned above, Marx speaks of inverting the Hegelian dialectic, which is upside down. Finally, all bourgeois thinkers who put the historical act of the capitalist class into words succumb to the same mistake. Their I, their human being, their subject, in which they find one and the same absolute expressed, are only a fleeting peculiarity of the bourgeois human being.
We have known how to counteract Hegel’s fundamental error, which can be summed up as an individualistic superstition, since the time of the early writings of Marx and his companions. Indeed, at that time the communist program emerged, which means the scientifically anticipated recognition of the society following capitalism. In these early manuscripts, all the things are already expressed which could possibly not be included in the party disputes and treatises, but which met the necessity of determining the actual social conditions. Since then, it has been possible to read the first explanations and discuss the statements in the various countries.
The terziglia game
One of the tasks of our impersonal party work should be to “reassemble” the text of Marx’s 1844 studies, which we are dealing with here; the manuscript is compiled in all editions by little competent hand, so that there are strange jumps from one main theme to the next. The fact that it is still a commonplace to say that Marx had been Hegelian in his early writings, and only later on a historical materialist – and possibly still later a vulgar opportunist – is also confirmed by such intelligent editors as S. Landshut and J. P. Meyer (Berlin, 1931), who see these manuscripts as a philosophical preface to the enormous work of “Capital.” The task of the revolutionary Marxist school is to show all opponents (who are free to either accept or reject everything) the unity of the theory from its first appearance to Marx’s death, and even beyond (it is about the basic concept of invariance – in contrast to the thesis that party doctrine would be continually enriched).
If Marx had founded another philosophy, yes, he would have rewritten these pages and also the big book about “The German Ideology.” He didn’t do this because he didn’t just establish a philosophy, but rather put an end to any idealism with those pages, including its completed Hegelian form.
The manuscript, brought back into order without any readjustments, would make it clear why it did not need to be rewritten. Philosophical idealism was overcome by a “complete inversion” of the treated matter: Determination of the respective essence, theses, theorems and laws. This ingenious inversion, once and all at once in the history of people and their thinking, it is shown in the title: Transition from philosophy to political economy. From the allegedly two sides of Marx, this is all that remains: He did his doctorate in philosophy and commanded as a dictator (wrinkle your nose quietly about the word you hate) all of you, professors of business and economics of his time and ours, and the one still to come. You aptly called him Dr. Red Terror, and he didn’t mind; he was even happy about it.
The classical triad: thesis, antithesis, synthesis does not appear even once in the whole text. However, Marx implicitly retains this famous dialectical sequence as a negation of the first metaphysical and fideistic construct of ideas for mainly polemical purposes (in this text one sees, and this is one of the differences between Marx and Hegel, that for us all these thought creations have their historical meaning and are worth to be looked at more closely). The dialectic initially developed by the Eleates in Greece tore the magic of the dualistic antinomies between the principle of good and evil, from which one repeatedly bounced off like a rubber wall, because the negation of the negation only led back to the starting point. We have often talked about Zeno, who found a way out of the traditional formal thinking of the resting and flying arrow by revealing the instantaneous velocity of a moving body and thus laying the seed of the infinitesimal calculus. But the expressions “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” had already been coined by Fichte, from whom Hegel took over, and Marx used it when he criticized the young Hegelians, their language: We therefore have a first thesis or statement, which is generally referred to in our text as a position, or also as an assumption. In the terziglia game, the first negation now leads to the second turn, which we find here called estrangement or externalisation, externalise = to put oneself outside and opposing, to oppose. The third move, which would be the actual appropriation, the synthesis of Fichte, is called in this polemic sublation, sometimes overcoming; and if it remains unclear whether the first or second part, the “subject” or its “estrangement,” is to be overturned, Hegel is to blame. The Marxian edifice makes the whole thing lively and coherent, but for Hegel and especially the young Hegelians it was completely outside their imagination.
Marx’s revolutionary inversion
As we saw from the reference to the “phenomenology” (which for Marx and also the best historians and critics is the linchpin of the Hegelian system), the first object in Hegel is the human being, apparently conceived as an individual. If it’s not the I, like with Fichte, it’s the self. The next step is the estrangement of this ideal self. “Estrangement, which thus forms the proper interest of this externalisation and its sublation” (first and second dialectical transition) “is the opposition of in itself and for itself, of consciousness and self-consciousness, of object and subject.” This is how Marx describes Hegel’s vain dance steps, performed in triple meter. Many other passages of the text, which, as we have already said, would have to be brought back into their original order, show how the final “sublation” consists only again and again (without ever “actualising,” i. e. without ever having grasped actuality) of letting all self-consciousness return to the self from which it had laboriously “externalised” itself. The Hegelian system’s aspiration to capture the identity of the actual and rational has failed and falls back into the I again: the I of Fichte’s course of events: I – not myself – self. Far from being achievements of philosophical speculation, however, they are rather those of the historical and social milieu; in France, the “sublation” consists of egalité, in England of the material practical need, and, if we could whisper a word to Marx, in business.
Without mentioning any further quotes, we consider it to be proven that Marx rejects Hegel’s constructions (a proof reserved for a catechetical edition of the manuscripts to be tackled). If Hegel has not even been made comprehensible by Marx, it is a futile effort to torture our brains and those of the readers.
So, let us come to the completely different structure, that of Marxism. Instead of the I, we do not let the human being in and for itself, but the human being of our time, the wage proletarian, enter the scene. For Hegel, man as the result of his work was already the crowning glory of the double transition, ennobling him as a worthy member of civilized society and as a citizen of the state, which was regarded as the highest actualisation of the absolute idea. After Hegel had advanced to an apologist of the bourgeoisie and capital, Marx shows what he understands by estrangement and externalisation of the proletarian. With the externalisation of his labour in return for wages comes the loss of himself, he has turned into a material form, the commodity, (his labour-power is commodity and has exchange value). How does the third transition now take place, whereby the worker becomes man again, again himself (that would be the transition demanded by Hegel)? Possibly by exchanging his little paycheck for other commodities? Hardly. One immediately sees that he would only be left with the lot to “externalise” and lose himself again, returning not as a human being, but as a physical object.
The new transition, the actual sublation and overcoming is the return of the worker, not as an individual, but in a higher form as a social human being, as the first actual human being, an expression of communist society. The proletarian class overcomes the ruling capitalist class, private property in its last form is sublated and – this has to be noted and attested by an x-number of text passages – so are the workers, the proletariat, the classes, the exchange and the money.
The mysterious self, which suffered the loss of its own self, will therefore return and throw away the chains that annihilated and dehumanized it as a human being (an annihilation that was not yet absolute in the pre-bourgeois forms – this is only the case in capitalist society). However, this is not a return of man for himself as a lonely and single, individual human being, but – this is the promised victory – as a social human being belonging to the communist era.
Historical information on the transition
What is certain is that the estrangement of mankind was only completely set in the capitalist era, and the task of the communist struggle is to show that nothing has changed at all about this essential relationship through the current manifestations of the market economy – with all its prosperity or kolkhoz-behavior, which is popular over here and there. The Marxian text also gives us good guidance on the sequence of economic theories and philosophical and political ideologies in the social forms preceding the bourgeois revolution, from antiquity to feudalism, and then – through the physiocrats, mercantilists, pre-Ricardian and Ricardian economists, and finally (and to this day) the vulgar economists – to capitalism. The reordering of this section would be a great proof of the criterion of invariance, because the evaluation of the various economic forms and schools masterfully presented by the young Marx coincides entirely with what is being developed in the history of economic doctrines, a writing written by the author almost 20 years later and intended to be the fourth volume of “Capital.”
The teachings of the first communists and utopians are also found in this most important succession. With these first advances, soon the industrial work, soon the agricultural work, is considered to be the worst estranged existence. The earliest views of communism will then seek some form of dubious support, either in the lordship or in the bold pursuit of capitalist enterprises.
However, before he mentions the characteristics of the transition to complete communism and what gives the worker his actual human being, Marx deals with the analysis of the first “crude communism,” referring less to a theoretical author than to a movement, namely the “Conspiracy of the Equals” of the Jacobin revolutionary period, which all Marxists take their hats off to, even though their French character, with the courageous theses that preceded their time, met with little approval in the German educated circles – Marx’s enormous efforts are directed against them.
The highest result
Unfortunately, we also here cannot proceed according to a chapter-wise and chronological order. To begin with, we think it makes sense to come to the succinct description of the characteristics of future and complete communism, because our whole effort is intended to make it clear that this definitive description of the future is the indispensable basis for the communist party’s warfare, that organism which refers to all times and spaces and to a strict unity in the theoretical and practical direction of the struggle, a unity which was not broken by the storms of time.
“(3) Communism is the positive sublation of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the actual appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social – i.e., human – being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of previous periods of development.”
This description is the last point of three and contains no verb. Note that the junctures or intersections of terziglia in form are met. Private property has estranged people from themselves: first transition. By negating the negation, communism sublates private property completely. The result: man’s return to himself, but not to the point from which he had set off on his journey, to the beginning of his history, but now possessing all the wealth of a tremendous development – may it also be acquired in the form of successive techniques, customs, ideologies, religions, philosophies, whose useful sides, if you may say so, were still received within estrangement. But this human being, who can now make use of all possibilities, is no longer the individual and egoistic human being, but rather the social human being, i. e. the human being who has become the actual and first human person. And it is not human for the first time because it has risen from the vile matter into the high realms of mind, but because it has risen from individual to species, to kind, to humanity. On each of these pages Marx shows that Hegel and his followers do not understand man as a sensual, even more so, species-being; but as such man makes his way into life and into history, and not as an individual being of his kind, among the others and against the others. But let us continue to read the crucial passage.
“This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be the solution.”
This excerpt, which is as short as it is powerful, is not only astonishing because all the big questions (which one should take a closer look at one after the other) of early, then and later philosophy are summarized in one go; and not only because of the incredible courage to say, to be in possession of the solved mystery that had been searched for at all times and in all spaces (It is easy to find no less powerful passages in the text, which show that this is not the work of a thinking head, but rather the condensation of extremely lengthy time sequences and collaborative processes). The passage quoted is particularly striking because we have before us here the principle of invariance, which we have always defended passionately and even fiercely; we would be ashamed if the impression had arisen that we, today’s people, had introduced this principle into the theory.
But a bunch of goblins tell us that if you read Marx, Engels and Lenin correctly, you have to conclude that the paths to the future are unrecognizable and only revealed themselves peu à peu to the explorers who were palpating on all fours. For example, a Russian who wants to substantiate Stalin’s assertion of the validity of the law of value in a socialist society, is struggling with an Engels text and thinks he has to apologize for it, because it is difficult to ask the founders of the doctrine to waste time discovering all the peculiarities of the socialist economy!
What peculiarities – the point here is to carve the layouts of that transition from capitalism to socialism in granite, layouts that are completely determined and definable in our theory, because and since then the vileness (this word, as well as other even stronger ones can be found in the manuscripts) of capitalist civilization has erased the last traces of the human being from the proletarians.
It is precisely because revolutionary Marxism has achieved such a tremendous goal, not by climbing up the leaders of libraries, but by understanding the language of the results obtained from the depths of living history, that it knows the characteristics of society, the foundations of which will be laid by the communist revolution, and it has known them since the epoch whose historical material made it possible to achieve those great results.
Forty years ago, when we, the enemies of the capitalist milieu in the West, were faced with the task of travelling to Russia, which had achieved its first glorious victory, some naive people thought it was a matter of looking at how revolutions were made and how a society without private property was set in motion (to take the recipe home).
This trivial error was the basis of all subsequent outrageous ways. The first meetings of the communist world party should find their foundations and fundamentals in the common principles that were established and followed a long time ago, and no one should say that the important Russian Marxists had not worked with all rigour to achieve them in the first few years.
But among those who came together were too many who had no idea of the genuine communist programme. Had they known it, they would have shied back and thought about their exploration trip again. But the success, the victory, the worldwide sensation, made an impression on them; and so the slag mingled with the pure metal of communist doctrine, which knows the shining features of the only victory, and today so far past.
The Stalinist falsifications
Published in Leipzig in 1931 under the title “Political Economy and Philosophy,” Marx’s manuscript (in the compilation, which will be followed by the French translation of J. Molitor by Costes) was published in Italian (Publisher Einaudi, translator Noberto Bobbio) in 1949 on the basis of another edition of Landshut and Meyer, which is part of the historically critical Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe and that was published in Berlin in 1932.
In this Berlin edition, the pages are arranged differently than in the original manuscript and are called here: “Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)” – not particularly expressive in comparison to the title “Critique of Political Economy with a final chapter on Hegel’s philosophy.” In both editions, a text inserted by Marx in one of the pages of the last of the three manuscripts is printed as a short introduction.
The structure of the text sections (which unfortunately retains this fragmentary character) is more coherent in the Berlin/Einaudi edition, but nonetheless a better restoration of the manuscript, as we have already pointed out above, would be necessary.
In fact, the first manuscript deals, in parallel, in three columns, with the questions of political economy: wages, the profit of capital and rent of land, whereby the structure is almost the same as that of “Capital” written decades later. But the final part of the first manuscript on “Estranged Labour” is already part of the programmatic question.
The second manuscript is a short section entitled “The Relationship of Private Property.” The topic is a historical-social one and touches on the core of class struggle theory.
The first part of the third manuscript is clearly programmatic and formulates the characteristics of the communist society that will follow that of private property. Then comes another chapter on the critique of capitalist production: need, production, division of labor, and a wonderful section on “money,” the final part is described as “Critique of Hegel’s Dialectic and Philosophy in General.” But just as this critique was already well received and anticipated on the first few pages, the topics of political economy are also reflected on the last few pages. And then there are the gaps and missing pages, which would be very difficult to fill.
It is also noteworthy that the dissemination of these fundamental pages and the way in which they are portrayed contradict the mentality that inspires the issues of the Stalinist communists. A self-explanatory example illustrates how much they are driven by the inexorable contradiction between these “images” anticipating the future society and the characteristics of today’s Russian structure (the apology of which they can hardly do without). The Italian foreword says that Marx mentions Proudhon several times and explains and refutes his “Theory of the Equality of Wages.” This allusion seems to underpin the Russian declarations, which justify the great differences in pay between workers in the state industry and employees in the state service. But the deception is to give the impression that it is Proudhonism that all workers should receive equal pay regardless of the quality and productivity of their work, while Marxism has theorised unequal wages for socialist society!
Either wage labour or socialism
The Marxist position vis-à-vis Proudhon, which apart from many passages in the text of “Capital” is clearly set out in the specificially written text “The Poverty of Philosophy” of 1846/47, does not consist in refuting a “communism with equal wages” – the very equality that the Khrushchevs are so fond of, where they also plant wrong things on Lenin – but in refuting Proudhon’s hollowness, because he is thinking of a socialism in which wages continue to be paid, as is the case in Russia. Marx does not fight the theory of equality of wages, but the theory of wages! Wages, even if they were equal for all, always mean non-socialism. And if they are not leveled or equal, there can be no talk of socialism whatsoever.
Although the point we mention is purely economic in nature, it should be noted that we (first manuscript: “Estranged Labour”) are already in the field in which philosophical terminology is used, be it for polemical purposes. Since it comes from Hegel, at any rate, his system should have been dismantled in advance, and indeed we have already referred to it above.
Classical, i. e. bourgeois political economy could not avoid giving us the key to the movement of private property. And with the help of this key we have taken away its secret, namely that property is the product of externalized labour. In typical bourgeois society (and this is the synthesis of the Marxist political economy as a whole, as far as the description of capitalism is concerned) there are two forms of property: Capital, respectively movable property, that provides profit, and immovable property, that pays the rent of land. According to the political economy of our opponents, their value, one as well as the other, is measured by the amount of labour they contain. But those who work do not have any property – neither movable nor immovable – because the entirety of private property is externalized labour. The proletarian externalizes his labour and thus (philosophical part) himself.
This succinct wording should suffice to insert the passage on Proudhon:
“This development throws light upon a number of hitherto unresolved controversies.
(1) Political economy starts out from labour as the proper soul of production and yet gives nothing to labour and everything to private property.”
To say that capital pays the worker would be no answer. In simple terms, wages cannot become either movable or immovable property. Marx, who expresses this much better, explains that wages can never eliminate the estrangement of the proletarian from his human being that was in him. Let’s keep reading.
“Proudhon has dealt with this contradiction by deciding for labour and against private property” (he was the actual initiator of the still rampant immediateist illusion) “But we have seen that this apparent contradiction is the contradiction of estranged labour with itself and that political economy has merely formulated the laws of estranged labour.”
“It, therefore, follows for us that wages and private property are identical” (we read: A society based on monetary wages is not a communist society, but a society of private property, and we add as a corollary: even if there are no land and capital proprietors): “for there the product, the object of labour, pays for the labour itself, wages are only a necessary consequence of the estrangement of labour; similarly, where wages are concerned, labour appears not as an end in itself but as the servant of wages.” (estranged labour is the compulsion to sell oneself; labour will appear as an end in itself if it is not paid for, because the labour given to society will be a need and satisfying this need will be a great pleasure). “We intend to deal with this point in more detail later on” (in “Capital” the part of the exchange value of the produced commodity, i. e. the capital value called variable capital, corresponds to the wage that the worker receives) “for the present we shall merely draw a few conclusions.”
As before – against immediatism
For us, Marxists born and not yet born after the death of Marx, these few “consequences” have been drawn for centuries (apart from a detailed analysis of century-long vulgarities of the bourgeois social form). In the opportunistic waves, however, they have been denied by the revisionists.
“An enforced rise in wages (disregarding all other difficulties, including the fact that such an anomalous situation could only be prolonged by force) would therefore be nothing more than better pay for slaves” (emphasized by Marx) “and would not mean an increase in human significance or dignity for either the worker or the labour.
Even the equality of wages, which Proudhon demands, would merely transform the relation of the present-day worker to his labour into the relation of all men to labour. Society would then be conceived as an abstract capitalist” (emphasized by us).
“Wages are an immediate consequence of estranged labour, and estranged labour is the immediate cause of private property. If the one falls, then the other must fall too.”
We would like to express this last thesis in a different way, although, as always, it is simply about a different wording. In the forms of society in which there is a wage, there is also estranged labour and these forms are classified as private property. A society such as the Russian one, in which wage labour prevails (together with other forms of agriculture, which are also below the purely capitalist movable wealth), therefore has neither a communist nor a socialist structure, not even in the lower stage, but is rather a society of private property, and – as far as industry and the sovkhozes are concerned – a very capitalist society of private property.
It makes no sense to ask where the capitalists are. The answer was given in 1844: the society is an abstract capitalist. We could also say that we have state capitalism in front of us, but the state is something that is still beneath an abstract capitalist because it excludes certain strata from the capital relation, such as those of the kolkhozes, respectively the kolkhozniki, not to mention those of the small merchants and traders. Recent structural reforms, which we mentioned at the beginning of this work, pave the way for further elements of “abstract” capitalism in regions, provinces and enterprises. The society of private property is the result, not the starting point of the Russian way.
Proudhon’s error continues
Let us briefly continue with Proudhon’s error, which is certainly more tenacious than our centuries-old, unadulterated Marxism. Proudhon adopts the doctrine of classical political economy (dialectically we also do that) according to which labour is value, in order to conceive a merely quantitatively defined (non-revolutionary) programme, which envisages taking possession of profit or surplus value and adding it to wages. Since he mistakenly imagines that the average wage will rise very much in this way, he proposes to distribute this huge “annual income” evenly among all members of society, which now consists solely of wage earners.
The quantitative evidence that wages would rise so little with this alleged revolution that they would not even reach the “violent increase” in wages mentioned above, i. e. somewhat better wages, will be obvious; nevertheless, the basis of our party doctrine is the much more valid objection of a qualitative nature, namely that one does not to get out of the cage of private property. We reject deceptive equality not because our programme envisages inequality, but because your humans, who are equal in monetary value, are identical with today’s slaves, the proletarians – by no means human beings, in a society without classes, in which the impersonal forms of basic and industrial capital property will also have disappeared; where the word “impersonal” is synonymous with the expression “abstract” or “abstract capitalist” in Marx’s text.
After the naivety of Proudhon was already shown a century ago in the present text and in the polemics against Bakunin, in the Anti-Dühring, in the statements on Lassalle, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme (and later in the fight against the syndicalists, reformists and the Stalinist-Khrushchevian wave of revisionism), immediatists of the most recent era still imitate it: “Eliminate the exploiters and the exploitation ends. Yesterday there were only a handful of filthy rich men, whether in the country or in industry, today there is a social stratum of ‘highly paid’ people: Public officials, technicians, specialists etc. Let us put all monthly salaries in one pot and divide them equally among us.”
This kids’ stuff is even shallower 150 years after Marx’s criticism of Proudhon. At that time, those who confused us with the vulgar socialists accused us of generalising misery; today, Russia and America (whose ideologies are just getting married) show how wages have converged and Proudhon’s demands have been rendered obsolete. But what we demanded (at the turn of the 20th century and despising its insane and mad civilization) is something completely different and much more outrageous. All that remains to be said is that the member of today’s modern society – may its house, its cattle, its tools and its savings book also be “kolkhozised” – is equally estranged from actual humanity. Its estrangement manifests itself in the cyclical wars of extermination, in the crises of currency devaluation, in the recent incursion of consumer credit and instalment payments, in unemployment due to technical automation (this masturbation of science).
Dehumanized estrangement shows itself today, between the Second and Third World War, in yet another uncanny phantom: the peace between the wolf states, true monsters, whose two biggest ones we can rightly call enslavers, abstract estrangers. In any case, they are united in condemning the masses of humans to remain dehumanized.
Either money or socialism
Wages are not the only economic manifestation that allows us to positively explain that we are still before the downfall of the capitalist mode of production. We could express the same thing when we say that there is still no socialism, as long as labour has a value attached to it, which is the case as long as every product has an exchange value. It is always the same fruitless attempts of hollow immediatism when it is claimed that not commodities, but labour has value (in socialism), which is pure, more or less anarchized Proudhonism. The lashes of Marx’s whip against Proudhon consist in proving that if he praises the thesis of the value of labour, he actually praises modern capital and opposes it to landed property, denouncing it for the benefit of capital and believing that it is for the benefit of labour (see above: “Proudhon has dealt with this contradiction by deciding for labour and against private property,” and later: “Everything which Proudhon interprets as the growing power of labour as against capital” is simply “the victory of industrial capital.” Idem for the high Russian production indices!
The fact that there are many other forms of manifestation apart from money wages (such as in the Russian social fabric), that allow us to deny the existence of socialism, can also be seen from the following passage, which comes shortly after the one on the equality of wages:
“Just as we have arrived at the concept of private property through an analysis of the concept of estranged, externalised labour, so with the help of these two factors it is possible to evolve all economic categories, and in each of these categories – e.g., trade, competition, capital, money – we shall identify only a particular and developed expression of these basic constituents.”
This passage tells us clearly and unequivocally that where there is haggling, competition, capital, money, etc., there is talk of the bourgeois form of economy. On the basis of this compressed and even mutilated text, it is possible to list a few more categories: saving, the division of labour – but it is enough for us at the moment to stay with the most sensational: money.
A captivating section is dedicated to this infernal category. Marx cites two wonderful passages from world literature, the first from Goethe’s “Faust,” the second from Shakespeare’s “Timon of Athens,” which he then both comments on. Let’s start with the excerpt in which Mephisto wants to convince old Dr. Faust that the (in fact diabolical) power over money is synonymous with the gift of regaining youth:
“What, man! confound it, hands and feet
And head and backside, all are yours!
And what we take while life is sweet,
Is that to be declared not ours?
Six stallions, say, I can afford,
Is not their strength my property?
I tear along, a sporting lord,
As if their legs belonged to me.”
The metaphor is clear and unambiguous: The one who has the magic power to have unlimited credit at the Deutsche Bank will be promised to regain his lost youthfulness; it does not matter at all whether Voronoff, at the time of Goethe, Faust and Mephisto, was alive. But let’s leave it to the great Marx to comment on the passage; it won’t be necessary to tell you that it is quite natural for your thoughts to drift away to the “socialist” economy, which is one hundred percent calculated in roubles.
“That which exists for me through the medium of money, that which I can pay for, i.e., that which money can buy, that am I, the possessor of money. The stronger the power of my money, the stronger am I. The properties of money are my, the possessor’s, properties and essential powers. Therefore, what I am and what I can do is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy the most beautiful woman. Which means to say that I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness, its repelling power, is destroyed by money. As an individual, I am lame, but money procurs me 24 legs. Consequently, I am not lame. I am a wicked, dishonest, unscrupulous and stupid individual, but money is respected, and so also is its owner. Money is the highest good, and consequently its owner is also good. Moreover, money spares me the trouble of being dishonest, and I am therefore presumed to be honest. I am mindless, but if money is the actual mind of all things, how can its owner be mindless? What is more, he can buy clever people for himself, and is not he who has power over clever people cleverer than them?
[…] Can it not bind and loose all bonds? Is it therefore not the universal means of separation?”
In his explanation, Marx ties in with another, no less admirable excerpt from Shakespeare’s work.
Diatribe on the most vile of gods
“Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold! No, gods,
I am no idle votarist; roots, you clear heavens!
Thus much of this will make black, white; foul, fair;
Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant.
… Why, this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides;
Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads:
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions; bless th’accurst;
Make the hoar leprosy adored; place thieves,
And give them title, knee, and approbation,
With senators on the bench: this is it
That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;
She whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To th’April day again. Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that putt’st odds
Among the rout of nations”
A little further down, the abuse turns into cruel sarcasm:
“O thou sweet king-killer, and dear divorce
’twixt natural son and sire! Thou bright defiler
Of Hymen’s purest bed! Thou valiant Mars!
Thou ever young, fresh, loved and delicate wooer,
Whose blush doth thaw the consecrated snow
That lies on Dian’s lap! Thous visible god,
That solder’st close impossibilities,
And mak’st them kiss! That speak’st with every tongue,
To every purpose! O thou touch of hearts!
Think, thy slave man rebels; and by thy virtue
Set them into confounding odds, that beasts
May have in world empire!”
Marx underlined the highlighted words. After the great German poet, he continues to comment on the great English poet as follows:
“Shakespeare brings out two properties of money in particular:
(1) It is the visible divinity, the transformation of all human and natural qualities into their opposites, the universal confusion and inversion of things; it brings together impossibilities.
(2) It is the universal whore, the universal pimp of men and peoples.”
The text then continues with an explicit interpretation of the explosive antinomies from Shakespeare’s passage, which we here, as admirable as the passage is, do not quote in entirety.
For the programmatic conclusion that interests us here, we are quoting a number of crucial passages which show that in any economy not violated by private property, money as the “true binding agent,” as the “chemical force of society,” has no place.
Money is “the externalised wealth of humanity.” The societies in which money circulates, therefore, are societies where the estrangement of labour and mankind prevails, societies of private property which belong to the barbaric prehistory of the human species and to the historically underground world of socialism and communism.
Pre-socialist forms of society are characterized not only by money, but also by exchange, free exchange: “Money is not exchange for a particular quality, a particular thing, or for any particular one of the essential powers of man, but for the whole objective world of man and of nature.” (we read: for any part of it) “Seen from the standpoint of the person who possesses it, money exchanges every quality for every other quality and object, even if it is contradictory; it is the power which brings together impossibilities” and here Marx takes Shakespeare’s sentence, “forces contradictions to embrace.”
The Stalinist translation has distorted this passage, which reveals the inextricable contradiction between communism and the exchange of money, including money earned by the worker through labour. In the Berlin/Einaudi edition, the passage reads as follows: “Money exchanges every property for every – also contradicting – property and object.” A banal attempt at falsification, but in any case a falsification. Every time something is exchanged for money, the contradiction that we call the estrangement of the human being, which we call society of private proprietors, and in which we recognize the non-existence of socialist revolution, arises.
Characteristic and individuality
Our complete thesis shows the form of an inexorable contrast between individualism and socialism, if we follow the becoming of the social human being, the human person, in Marx’s economic as well as historical and “philosophical” presentation.
The reader who follows us through the “manuscripts” will certainly notice that in them, according to the letter, there is no explicit condemnation of personal individuality, but rather its defence in the face of the living person crushed by capital, the market, money. But the course of development must be grasped if we want to recognize our classical programmatic thesis, while, in the actual dialectical war against the bourgeois apologists (English, French or German economists, politicians or philosophers), we accompany the human being, trampled on as the individual by the villains of the bourgeoisie, on its return. It will not come upon itself again, lonely and egoistically, but its “return from estrangement” is the return for itself as a social human being, in which the individual and the individuals are united with the classless society, the communist humanity.
We will then have annihilated not the human person, but the animalism of the bourgeois privatist form of society. With the communist revolution, this person will not be given life as it once was, but it will have become a social person, a human being, with which the history of individuals and individual historiography will be closed and buried. For past history has not lifted the individual except on the ladder of lies, but rather it has progressed by going over mountains of individual bodies without hesitation.
The passage, the last one that curses money, must therefore be read in this sense before we come to the place that crowned the chapter and could easily be regarded as Marx’s lyricism, but which we note as a great conclusion.
“In this determination already,” (money as an external means of transforming ideas into actuality, when illegitimate goals and unnatural needs become true for those who have money, and to transform actuality into fantasies, when the need to satisfy hunger is not fulfilled for those who have no money) “money is the universal inversion of individualities, which it turns into their opposites and to whose qualities it attaches contradictory qualities.”
Since it is Marx himself who emphasizes the word “individualities,” the imprudent could identify individuality as an aim, as if this were part of the restoration of doctrine, which means the programme of communist revolution. But the demon of money, with its diabolical power to give to him that which was not given to him and to take away from him that which was given to him, transforms the characteristics of man by turning them into those of animals. The one who has to expose one’s labour to prostitution for pay is not a human being, but an animal, just as the one who charters foreign labour for money is not a human being but an animal. (“in France, the factory workers call the prostitution of their wives and daughters the nth working hour, which is literally true,” “Prostitution is only a particular expression of the universal prostitution of the worker, and since prostitution is a relationship which includes not only the prostituted but also the prostitutor – whose infamy is even greater – the capitalist is also included in this category.”) If we were to invert the inversion, i. e. give the animalized person the uniqueness that bourgeois society and its ideologies gave it, it would be a return to the animal. But communism will elevate man to human being, because it will make it conquer a new being, which will exist if every transfer and every acquisition through money is extinguished.
In this sense, Marx and the communists overcome individualism and sublate the estrangement of the human being from itself.
The Stalinists want to draw attention to yet another passage in the 1844 manuscripts, namely that in which the criticism of communism at the time of the great French Revolution is being developed. In this criticism, Marx merely denies that communism at this stage would have been able to actually overcome the bourgeois dehumanisation.
Afterwards, the stages preceding crude communism are examined and already in this publication, which we regard as the main basis of our historical doctrine, they have been explained and their useful functions pointed out.
The contradiction between private property and propertylessness dealt with in the chapter “Private Property and Communism” in the third manuscript already exists in the old societies, but the estrangement of slaves, object of property, does not yet come to the fore in the slave-owning society (a study to be carried out, based on the known writings on the typical “series” of modes of production). The demand to sublate the estrangement of the propertyless wage worker is only made after classical political economy had established that all property consists of labour. The first attempts to resolve the contradiction between proprietors and non-proprietors are historical embryonic attempts. With Proudhon, the French Socialists wanted to add all the landed property to capital, only to then distribute the entire rent to all members of capitalist society, i. e. to distribute it over the “whole surface of society” via equal wages (we already talked about it). Fourier sees the tyranny of industrial labour and joins the physiocrats when he sees agriculture as the proper labour. On the other hand, the other great utopian Saint-Simon, highly esteemed by Marx and Engels, glorifies industrial labour as the way to emancipate the workers.
When communism appeared, it did so as the “positive expression of sublated private property” and was therefore, in its first form, general private property.
Before continuing to follow this important passage, we should determine the terms according to their historical and economic aspects. The production by companies, which bring together a large number of workers both in industry and in manufacture, shows a first positive side, which is the higher productivity of labour in comparison to the fragmented artisanal and peasant labour. This explains why some systems, whose myth is the apology of industry, wanted to push this advantage to the limit. But industry is becoming powerful precisely because it is crushing countless craftsmen and farmers, who were proprietors, albeit of only small pieces of land and some production instruments, into miserable proletarians. This expropriation process, which will be set out in the doctrine of primitive accumulation in the first volume of “Capital,” is enough to curse the dawn of bourgeois and mechanical civilization, but for the time being it makes clear the estrangement from these peasant and artisanal forms still exhibiting human sides by defending the often-discussed medieval forms of society.
In this case, the externalization consists in the loss of a kind of inherited dignity of the independent and self-sufficient producer. It is understandable that the reversal of estrangement then appears as a recapture of the lost pieces of land, as a free parcel granted to each member of society.
This error of perspective owed to the circumstances of the time justifies crude communism. But the interpretation of the Russian ex-communists, who are trying to throw criticism of their tainted system with this naive and backward communism, is absurd. The shortcomings that scientific Marxism accuses this first crude communism of are the same ones that can be seen in today’s Russian society and that give us, as its critics, the right to denounce the assertion that in it, for the first time in history, socialism appeared, as a legend and to deny its shabby apologists to masquerade as defenders of the classical programme of revolutionary Marxism.
The Soviet crudeness
Let us only recall the ubiquitous debate on the character of kolkhoz property, which, unlike industrial property, is not state property but cooperative property, while the parcels belong to individual farmers. Of course, we are referring to the movable capitalist property of equipment, the peasant inventory, not to the land, even though we have proven in Marxist terms that the land declared to belong to the “nation” is in fact being cultivated as private property of the kolkhoz as far as the long stretches of land are concerned, or as far as the millions of small spots of land are concerned, of the kolkhoz peasants.
With regard to the debate on agrarian property, the Russians wondered whether it could not be like the industrial, “common people’s property.” Stalin rejected this harshly, saying that it was not acceptable under any circumstances to expropriate the kolkhoz, especially not the kolkhoz peasant. Now one disses Stalin for raising new masters on the shield; one chats of an alleged quantitative increase in agriculture, incidentally also of a further increase when there is a transition from socialism to communism (!!), whereas for the time being, the most recent Khrushchevian statement is affirmed, according to which the kolkhozes should dispose of their entire income, so that they can finance themselves. The regression expressed in this wording seeks to disguise the relationship of exploitation between the peasants and the proletarians, as the announcement of a reduction in government investment in kolkhozes is accompanied by the liberalisation of selling prices (even the “Pravda” begins to disapprove of the excesses of this unleashed “material interest” at the expense of the proletarians). According to Marxist political economy, the income of the kolkhoz, a true private stock corporation, consists of capital profit and the rent of land. If it finances itself through its accumulation, it shows that it is the proprietor of both land and industrial capital. It is therefore not heading in the direction of general people’s property (which is also declining at a great pace in industry), but one rather moves in the opposite direction, just more bluntly than Stalin. In any case, the formula of “common people’s property” belongs to “crude communism.”
The Marxian passage will show this, and it is also important to us because of the theoretical explanation of the concept of “personality.” When we mock the modern mythology of human personality, we follow Marx and show how he did it, that the apologists of this fetish are the same ones who crush the person with repulsive cynicism as you do with a handful of snails in a mortar. This will be the meaning of the super debate these days, a true kiss between impossibilities, dominated by the demon of gold and the market.
Marx and crude communism
After referring to the utopians and the “immediatist” (the word is, as we will see, no neologism of ours) Proudhon, Marx in this section on history presents the first movements that had written communism – not only in their writings, but in social struggle – on their banners.
The sketch of this section seems to be made of stone with a rough chisel, as if struck by heavy blows of clubs, and requires the utmost attention, also because of sections that are difficult to understand.
“Finally, communism [that is, crude or utopian communism, like Proudhon et al above] is the positive expression” (We think we have to translate Marx’s emphasis in this way: as a demand of human action not only the theoretical but also the practical expression) “of sublated private property, and, at first, appears as universal private property. In grasping this relation in its universality, communism is
(1) in its initial form only a generalization and completion of that relation (of private property).” (in a dialectical way: the attempt of sublation develops private property completely); “As such, it appears” (communism) “in a dual form: on the one hand, the domination of material property bulks so large that it threatens to destroy everything which is not capable of being possessed by everyone as private property; it wants to abstract from talent, etc., by force.” (i. e. it disdains thinking, mental labour or less noble, sitting labour) “Physical, immediate possession” (let us give up our restraint: In actual communism, the human being possesses all assets and all pleasures, not because they fall to it immediately as an individual, but indirectly because of the “leap” from the “private” person to communist humanity) “is the only purpose of life and existence as far as this communism is concerned; the category of worker” (manual worker) “is not sublated” (as it can only be in an association not based on wage labour) “but extended to all men”
Before we come with Marx to the second point attributed to the glorious “Equals,” i. e. to the gender question, the women’s community, let us add some explanations. The victory of communism is not possible without an arsenal of powerful theoretical weapons, which is a centuries-old cornerstone of our movement. We still need them before and together with the physical terror. In these “manuscripts,” the classical sections of the “Manifesto” are anticipated, and the communist world party, the historical party, is endowed with the theoretical weapons that throw the deceitful bourgeois hypocrisy into the fire.
Do we want only those who are capable of hard physical labour to exercise control over society and the scholars and poets to be driven out with foot kicks? It is your capitalist society that bases everything on money and therefore defiles everything: Physical labour, which would be a pleasant activity and give cause for rejoicing, would not be humiliated by wages, just as mental labour that you have made a mercantile article and slave to your supreme idol, money, continuously pushing it down into the brackish depths of your civilization, to which we in any case prefer the true beauty of the barbaric age.
Next: we would want (to mention the second point) to abolish your gender relation in the form of monogamous marriage (of course we want this – this will also be the answer in our scientific Marxist programme) in order to establish general prostitution? That’s what you bourgeois people did. You up there, you offer women to yourselves under a cunning smile like cigarettes, with every woman and every love affair being treated as cheaply as possible; socially conceived, half of humanity, which is of the female sex, is degraded to an “object.” The proprietor disgrace oppresses women both actively and passively. The society of private property implicitly contains the estrangement of human beings of both sexes, and the female is double estranged.
But our explanation referred to the first point, the question of manual and mental labour. If in our writing the word “violent” is emphasized in that phrase which reduces the “talent,” the spirit, this is because of a clear reference to a passage in Gracchus Babeuf’s programme, in which it says that violence can do more than reason. And it should also be emphasized that we do not base ourselves on our personal opinion, but on the whole of Marxist evaluations, that this statement of the Equals intuitively results from a class position. Which means that we are dealing with the negation of the ideology of the bourgeois revolution, which, in its futile attempt to emancipate man – starting from thinking and capable of refuting the authority of the ecclesial dogma – comes to erect altars for the goddess Reason. But this goddess was no more gracious to empty bellies than the old saints, and in a first revolt the call to take the bread by force instead of by reason or democratic conviction echoed.
Such a reaction coincides with Marx’s thinking and reminds us of “The German Ideology,” in which Marx haunts Max Stirner, Hegel’s disciple and later anarchist individualism’s idol, who, in his famous work “The Individual and his Property,” boasts the property relationship as a “continuation” of the person and goes on to play on words such as “My and Opinion” [German: Mein und Meinung], which Marx mocks properly.
It is unadulterated Marxism not to let the mental part and brain acrobatics precede the labour conditions based on material grounds; and that old defamatory speech stands in opposition to the opinion of reason, be it as an expression of simple intuition, in connection with the revolutionary concept that requires the communist party fighter to use physical force, which, as the great Marxist Lenin shows masterfully in “What Is To Be Done?,” comes before thinking and consciousness.
But this does not detract from the demonstration of complete communism, whose properties and characteristics we can see worked out on these pages of the manuscript; and with the condemnation of every division of labor (in the chapter “Need, Production and Division of Labor”), which also reminds us of the Engelsian passage about the indignation of the scholarly classes when they are told that an architect will also be a cart shifter, we have an important aspect of the truly great result that results from the solved riddle of history.
Class struggle and education
In the context of the general distortion of Marxism with its headquarters in Moscow, the aim is to create confusion between the Marxist thesis, which clearly distinguishes historically older crude communism from the theoretically and scientifically defined communism proclaimed by the “Manifesto,” and – thanks to a cultural task and “education of the people” – the alleged superiority of today’s Russian communism (!) over actual communism, whose banner us slandered and beat up Left picked up again and again.
The issue of people’s education fits perfectly with petite bourgeois democracy of the worst kind. Marxism is not about the people, but about the proletariat, and its spiritual exaltation will be a result of class dictatorship and the abolition of classes; it is not a prerequisite (that would be only a defeatist swindle) for its historical task of taking up and winning the class war.
For that first crude communism at the end of the 18th century, the contradiction that just the unknowing class of manual labourers became the bearer of the new theory and director of human science was not yet to be resolved dialectically. The key to this question lies in the party form, which unites the possession of the highest human knowledge with the struggle of the economically extradited class waged with the hardest bandages, which is not in a state of darkness due to inadequate education, but due to the bourgeois, brain-destroying education. Marx here talks about how in this first undirected advance mental activity is disqualified compared to the power resulting from manual labour; however, he does not therefore disdain this great effort of the crude communists, but records the courageous proclamation of our predecessors for history: If scholars are under sway of the money people, they said, the poor must launch the attack on the stupefying alliance of wealth and education, and if, in order to destroy wealth, it is necessary to combat education, there must be no hesitation.
This simple and magnanimous stage had to be passed through in order to reach the higher one, whose gigantic picture was painted half a century later by the proclamation: By wresting power and wealth from the bourgeoisie, a new and powerful image of the world and history will emerge on its ruins, just as the bourgeoisie had built its new class forms on the ruins of the old ones.
The Russian propagandists now want to trot out on us that Marx rehabilitates the “talent,” the “intelligentsia,” against which the heretical Babeuf had cast his crude proletarian curse; and they want to put the new and so much greater appropriation, which was stated with Marxism as the goal of the revolution, on a par with the (parroting any conformist propaganda) establishment of their schools, libraries and the countless dissemination mechanisms of pre-fabricated and pre-punched “proletarian” ideologies.
However, the theses disseminated by the Muscovite giant apparatus of this ideological corpus are fatal for the Marxist science and “philosophy” and they abound in those very errors which, when they were still meritorious at the end of the 18th century, have been nothing but shabby since the middle of the 20th century, in so far as all anti-Marx categories, i. e. all stupid and idiotic categories, have been idolized as ideological myths: exchange, money, wages, i. e. estrangement of labour and the worker; saving, i. e. accumulation of capital; the envious longing for the possession of a house, a patch of land, a small stock of tools and livestock, and a family dominated by the man.
It is by no means the demand for talent, but rather the brutish crudeness and prostitution of the goals of human knowledge, which Marx lets determine the party form within the class form.
And now that we have arrived at the defence of the family (which was justified for the pre-capitalist regimes) by the Russians, we want to see whether this further blasphemy of revolutionary and communist science can be based even halfway on Marx’s findings on the gender question and the so-called women’s community, who are accused of a communism that is not as refined and civilized as the one brought into circulation by the Kremlin.
The gender question
Let us go back to the passage on crude communism, where it says: “it wants to abstract from talent, etc., by force.” This “etc.” from Marx’s pen was what we allowed ourselves to show above.
“Physical, immediate possession is the only purpose of life and existence as far as this communism is concerned; the category of worker is not sublated” (sublating it: this is our demand) “but extended to all men; the relation of private property remains the relation of the community to the world of things;” Isn’t there the same world of things and the same crudeness in Muscovite “people’s property”? In order to establish this and to transfer to the topic of gender, we quote a passage shortly afterwards.
“(For crude communism) the community is simply a community of labour and equality of wages, which are paid out by the communal capital, the community as universal capitalist. Both sides of the relation are raised to an unimaginary universality – labour as the condition in which everyone is placed and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community.”
This is one of the places where it becomes more than clear that in communist society – in radical contrast to the Russian economic structure – no collective, national or people’s property will re-emerge, no more than any form of paid labour and no collective capital, etc. It is Marx himself who underlines the words wages, community, labor, capital. In the society described in our revolutionary programme, paid labour, property and capital are not socialised but abolished. Whoever does not understand this is a crude communist, or today someone who wants to turn the wheel back. We can now quote freely:
“ultimately, this movement” (we are still talking about crude communism) “to oppose universal private property to private property is expressed in bestial form – marriage (which is admittedly a form of exclusive private property) is counterposed to the community of women, where women become communal and common property. One might say that this idea of a community of women is the revealed secret of this as yet wholly crude and unthinking communism. Just as women are to go from marriage into general prostitution, so the whole world of wealth – i.e., the objective essence of man – is to make the transition from the relation of exclusive marriage with the private owner to the relation of universal prostitution with the community.”
That that would also be a thing, to create such a theoretical and programmatic confusion that Marx’s unequivocal criticism of the “women’s community” would be used as justification for the monogamous marriage and the institution of the family, and which should then serve (as it seems to be the intention of the philo-Russian publishers) to pass the Russian social structure off as communist, although there is marriage and inheritance of property.
As Marx has shown here, generalized private property is not something much different from exclusive (personal) property; but as the first negation of private property it is of historical importance: The negation of a historical form appears at first in the form of its generalization, which is basically a reassertion. But to say that certainly does not mean the reaffirmation of the exclusive private property that had been assumed. Of course, if the formula according to which women are collectively owned is rejected as inadequate, this does not mean that they should be reintroduced into the private property of men. Today, mature communism rejects more than ever the family and the monogamous marriage, which Marx calls “form of exclusive private property.”
Marx compares the relationship between the private man and his goods (part of wealth) with the relationship between husband and wife in marriage. The private proprietor, for example, has the same relationship to a piece of field as the “husband-man” to the “field-woman.” In the first case, property right means denying someone else sowing and harvesting, and in the second case, marriage means the right to deny someone else the right to “own” the same woman. One needs strong nerves in order to smuggle into this picture a justification for the marriage law well enshrined in the Russian law book (irrespective of the divorce known to the bourgeois and pre-bourgeois for centuries).
When Marx then wants to do away with the women’s community (which we don’t justify, as we did in the war against educated people), he makes a brilliant comparison and calls it “universal prostitution with the community” the form in which private property is not annihilated, but merely generalized, or more precisely, “property of the entire people,” as it is nowadays called in Russia (without them actually having made it that far!).
Degradation of man and woman
When we repeat the passages, we must sometimes use the word “human,” sometimes the word “man” We don’t need to use the hard-sounding word “woman” these days. When half a century ago a survey on feminism – the miserable consequence that the petite bourgeoisie draws from the gruesome subjugation of women in the proprietor society – was conducted the then still capable Marxist Filippo Turati replied with dry words: “The woman… is human.” He wanted to say that she will be in communism, but in bourgeois society she is an animal or an object.
“In the relationship” (of man) “with woman, as the prey and handmaid of communal lust,” (that of the man and her own) “is expressed the infinite degradation in which the human” (irrespective of gender) “exists for itself” (in today’s society) “ – for the secret of this relationship” (of the human being to the humans, i. e. to the bourgeois society) “has its unambiguous, decisive, open and revealed expression in the relationship of man to woman and in the manner in which the direct, natural species-relationship is conceived.” (in today’s public) “The immediate, natural, necessary relation of human being to human being is the relationship of man to woman. […] It follows from the character of this relationship” (in the different historical forms of society, the text wants to say) “of this relationship how far man as a species-being, as man, has become himself and grasped himself;” (again it is said that the human being can only justifiably call itself as such from the historical point in time, when it no longer lives as an individual and for itself as an individual, but as and for the species which encompasses all its peers)
Let us continue to read on in this text, which speaks for itself, with its omissions and perfectly meaningful repetitions. “the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being” (poisoned by individualism and less exact, one would say: from a human being to a human being) “It therefore demonstrates” (at all times), “the extent to which man’s natural behavior has become human or the extent to which his human essence” (the word is to be understood here as a verb rather than a noun) “has become a natural essence for him, the extent” (the same thesis is formulated the third time) “to which his human nature has become nature for him.”
As nominalised verbs, the terms nature, essence, existence, being in different languages can appear to be interchangeable and semantically synonymous. For this reason, the sections that are not explained in the context of an integral system of teachings that occurs over long periods of time and space zones may fatigue the reader – as if they were word wrangling, adding nothing new to the original theses.
Only for better understanding do we dare to add something of our own accord – the historical and narrative form might make it easier to understand. In the text, Marx says that it is possible to “judge [..] the entire level of development of mankind” from the gender relationship, the behavior of human beings towards each other. The Muscovites translate this with the level of “civilization,” a term from Latin that does not exist in the German… and Marxist language. And we rule out the fact that Marx would have used the weak equivalent of “culture,” which befits a Hitler; we will show this in due course.
Animals or angels?
In its historical forms of society, the human species – to be precise: from the animal state onward – follows a path that appears to be a steady and continuous ascent in the shallow views of the prevailing ideologies. Marxism does not share this view of the world and characterizes it rather as a series of alternating ascents and descents interrupted by violent crises. The bourgeois Enlightenment thinkers, with their view of gradual progress, naturally want to have overcome the fideism for which there was a historical moment, when we were redeemed by God’s grace and thus made the transition from an animal to a religious state (we do not, however, deal with this naive construction in the bourgeois’ arrogant tone). The construction of the progressives is not necessarily any less arbitrary and artificial, and even if they express an actually big step in our species not less comprehensible, there are still more mistakes and fairy tales in it than in the old mystical stories.
In the animal state, the species life is not sustained by production, but by the immediate behaviour towards nature, so that, for a moment, the individual appears who maintains itself without being in contact with its peers and finds in nature the possibility of satisfying its immediate and “natural” need alone and for itself. Bourgeois economic theory seems – after we robbed it of its ugly secret with Marx – to be a continuation of the beastly point of departure rather than a step towards the divine point of arrival to which we clung for thousands of years. After we have left the beastly state, which is natural and therefore not low, behind us, the level which we will reach does not need any idols, no angels and no spirits, it is simply human. We believe that the science of our species is capable of naming its characteristics before reaching this stage, at the level of visible and tangible reality and without the intercession of a miracle. As a result, we are demonstrating with it that in the existing society which emerged from the liberal revolution, we are still on the side of beastly nature rather than that of “human.”
Let us restrict our digression to the gender question. It could appear as if the animal’s need to satisfy its sex drive is located on the same soil as the need to satisfy its hunger: It meets the opposite sex in the nature surrounding it and mates. However, the relationship is already no longer to be grasped on an individual basis – without setting up purposive illusions here, the sex love of each animal is a determination that obeys the need to preserve and develop the species.
Let’s first take a closer look at whether we have left the animal kingdom or whether we yet are rather brutish! The animal finds in an immediate and natural way the food, not for money, and also for love it does not pay. The fact that in certain cases it fights against its fellow conspecifics for food and love does not change this conclusion. The human being on the other hand, whose nature, as Marx says, has not yet become human, finds food and love in exchange and for money, it feeds itself while another one is starving, it satisfies its lust, while others live in conditions unworthy of an animal. This is precisely the meaning of the human animal in the state of the property relationship whom we would like to call homo insipiens proprietarius for the moment.
If the animal referred to as “unreasonable” follows the sex drive, the individual desire is replaced with the higher purpose of its species. It is then said that its actions are guided by instinct, which belongs to its, and indeed to the, essential powers, and that the individual obeys this instinct as if it knew and thought, which it precisely cannot do. But the human being would not stand too high above the animal if, in order to behave as a species, respectively as a society, and in order to have – in contrast to the animal – a history, it would have to be endowed with an extra natural, supernatural breath. This was after all only a first and embryonic formulation of the mysterious path. In history, religion is a bridge that leads from the instinct of the animal to the knowledge of the laws of action of the species. But woe betide if this bridge with its mythic arches had never been struck!
The Marxian text lying in front of us features many pillars against the narrow horizon of bourgeois atheism; in essence, it shows what a questionable development it was that led from transcendental philosophy to immanence philosophy – another bridge that history could not avoid building.
The power of our materialism lies in the schematic determination of the human advance: It takes place without allowing the separation from nature, which on the contrary is re-appropriated, after it had been necessary to separate them from the human being for a while in order to solve the riddle and postulate a Prime Mover.
With its infinite range of relationships and conditions, the human species is part of nature; there is no sphere within these conditions that lies beyond the norms of nature, such as a sphere steered by a God, or by the spirit, the little idol, individually and on its own, therefore non-natural and non-human.
If, therefore, our ascent from an animal species to a rational species – in which science, rather than instinct, paved the way for us – holds a secret, then it is that the knowledge of nature determining us, of which mankind is neither a superordinate nor a subordinate part, is not reached by the thinking individual, nor by the fact that the torch of knowledge is passed from one to another. Rather, it is actualized in the revolutionary leap that leaves behind the history allegedly made by individuals and unites every human being with the human, future and certain community; in the dialectical sense, the Marxist party and its doctrine are a temporally anticipated projection of this community.
The love declared in Marx’s words, by a huge leap in knowledge, to the barometer of the human stage of development, will then turn out to be something that is no longer an indwelling urge of the animal to satisfy its own lust, but the proof of communally conquered knowledge and a joy fed by knowledge.
All are in need of love
We can now turn to another passage, while apologising in advance for our modest and amateurish interjections.
“This relationship” (the historical development of gender relationship) “also demonstrates the extent to which man’s needs” (and here it is necessary to think about the transition from the dynamics of the need for love, which has been chosen here as a touchstone, to the dynamics of all needs, which are called economic in the era of market-economy individualism and which we bind to the pillory, because their spectrum, due to the drugging a deceptively impressive spectrum, is ultimately reduced to the misery of a single petty and envious need for money) “have become human needs, hence the extent to which the other, as a human being, has become a need for him, the extent to which in his most individual existence” (physiological up to the turmoil of the endocrine glands, as we remark on the adjective individual in passing) “he is at the same time a communal being.”
The view that for the human being, who is not borrowed from an angel-populated garden of Eden, but who was born with the power of our doctrine of an extra-solar planet (as the science fiction authors would say) of an already recognizable future, that it will therefore be a joy and satisfaction for this human being to fulfill the need of the other person instead of being at its throat, is also developed in other passages of this text and can be found in the “Comments on James Mill, Éléments D’économie Politique’,” which we had available at the assembly in Parma.
The conclusion of this short passage from Marx will not be flattering for crude communism, so we would like to make a few comments on the issue of the women’s community. Without a doubt, we are dealing with a proprietor concept that sees in the woman the passive property of the man; in individualistic society, this view is even more extreme, without the man’s property in women, which is very similar to the property of the “whole people” in national goods, bringing with it satisfaction!
This property of all men in all women, which obviously only reproduces the relationship in which the woman was robbery and commodity for the individual man, thus clearly shows how inadequate the overcoming of the private property relationship is, as long as humans, of both genders, are wage workers of a capitalist power stunning the whole society.
Just as the one who works in Russian crude communism is estranged and “passive,” so the woman remains enslaved and passive according to this primitive formula of the women’s community as in the monogamous small family. The gender relationship in bourgeois society forces the woman from her passive position to make an economic calculation every time she gives herself up to love. The man does the same, but from an active position, i. e. a certain sum offsets a need to be satisfied. In bourgeois society, therefore, not only are all needs expressed in money – which also applies to the man’s need for love – but for women, the need for money kills the need for love. Taking the gender relationship as the key to assessing the wickedness of a historical form therefore proves to be coherent.
Civilized society has by no means freed itself from the attitude that love for women exists only as a passive relationship, just as it was when she was sacrificed to the jus primae noctis or abducted into chains in the “The Robbery of the Sabine Women.” But because sex love is the basis of the reproduction of the species, women are by their very nature in actuality the active gender, and the forms of money subjected to our analysis reveal themselves as being contrary to nature.
In communism liberated from money, sexual desire will have the same weight and meaning for both genders. And the social statement that the other person’s need is my human need becomes actuality in the sexual devotion insofar as the need of one gender is fulfilled in the other’s need. This cannot be determined as a mere moral relationship based on a determined kind of physical relationship, but goes beyond that, which has its source in the economic: The offspring and the resulting obligations do not concern the parents who marry, but society itself. However, where this question is resolved by means of the (fatherly or elderly) law of inheritance, the private property society reigns unconditionally.
The Marxian condemnation of doctrines and programmes that proclaim the women’s community in addition to wage labour and the market concerns statements that date back to the end of the 18th century. In some remarks, however, the text before us merges this object of criticism, i. e. the first crude communism opposed to the emerging capitalist form of society, with the age of primitive communism dating back thousands of years, a form that is repeatedly acknowledged in fundamental writings by Marx and Engels. The apology of this early sublime form can be found on many pages in “Capital” and in the “Origin of the Family…,” without denying the necessity that between this ancient communism and communism, for which the modern proletariat is fighting, there had to be precisely those forms that emerged with private property, that is, the class societies and their corresponding “cultures.”
The coherence of our doctrine allows us to examine this primitive form from the perspective of gender life. We then encounter the admirable matriarchy in which the woman, the “mater,” leads her men and descendants; it is the first major social form of a natural power in the actual sense of the word, in which the woman is not passive but active, not a slave, but a mistress. The tradition of this still lives on in the Roman family; the term family comes from “famulus,” i. e. slave, while wife [it. donna] comes from “domina,” i. e. mistress. In this primitive communism, which is crude but knows neither property nor money, love stands much higher than at the time of the legendary robberies. It is not the man who takes possession of the woman as an object, but the mater, who we do not want to call a woman, chooses her husband to carry out with him the task of spreading the species, a task incumbent upon her in a natural and human form.
Let us now quote the end of the section on the first type of communism, moving towards the understanding of complete communism.
“The first positive” (programmatic, combative we explain again) “abolition of private property – crude communism – is therefore only a manifestation of the vileness of private property trying to establish itself as the positive community.”
The first type of communism that appeared in history as a movement with its own programme, was only an attempt (“trying to establish itself”) to establish the programme of “positive community” [Gemeinwesen], i. e. the community to which it must “come” over time. Explaining and expounding these statements is fruitful, provided that the full contribution of the history of unadulterated Marxism is consulted; thus, those statements that are to be respected and honoured as they are, confirm at the same time to us, that there can be no revolutionary method, no theory of workers’ revolution, no Marxist doctrine, without the dawn of the era in which the description of the framework of communist society became possible. And this was the case in the explosive era, at the time when the “Manifesto” was also written – the subsequent efforts of revisionist improvements were nothing but humbug.
It was not only since this time, but already since Babeuf’s time that it was irrevocably clear how despicable the capitalist form of society is, for the indictment has already been submitted by crude communism, which already yielded the “form of appearance of the infamy of private property.” A colossal historical result.
However, the development of capitalism and the class reaction generated by it were not yet sufficient to establish the doctrine of the downfall of capitalism, the proletarian dictatorship and communist society. If, therefore, the attempt to outline the programme of the future society could only exist in the germ and in amorphous form, it still founded the first positive sublation of private property, as the wording engraved in the manuscript states. The crude communists were well aware of what they wanted to destroy, but the great palingenesis emanating from the rubble could not be seen by them, only we can do that.
The forms apologized in Russia today are not the ones that our theory promised and which we expect. They suffer from the shortcomings that crude communism formulated as a programme. But its task was only to sound the charge. The crude communists were in any case great precursors, while the Muscovite communists are just wretched cheaters.
Between both stands, untouchably, the doctrine of communism, which not only knows the immense vileness of the bourgeois world, but also the sublime characteristics of the communist world.
The couple at the summit
A proper application of Marx’s method with regard to the gender relationship is also a good way of explaining the current event around which a huge noise is made.
Not only in monarchy, but also in the most democratic republic, the bourgeois states let themselves be represented by the highest couple in major state acts, by King and Queen, President and First Lady, whose social task is merely to mate with him in the alcove (maybe). Theoretizable for the monarchies, extremely repulsive for the republics, which our writings rightly place on the same level. […]
And in communist society – will there be no couples? the newcomers ask. Surely, and if a woman and a man consent with each other, neither violence nor gold will dissolve their connection […].
Have idealists and poets, we ask, ever written so sublimely about love as in the passage to be grasped?
“If we assume man to be man, and his relation to the world to be a human one, then love can be exchanged only for love, trust for trust, and so on. […] If you love unrequitedly – i.e., if your love as love does not call forth love in return, if, through the vital expression of yourself as a loving person, you fail to become a loved person – then your love is impotent, it is a misfortune.”
The three phases of communism
Not only in this assembly (La Spezia) and in more detail in this report we have contributed to the correct understanding of the first and definitive stone tablets of theoretical Marxism. The position formulated in them is completely new and original compared to the traditional “cultures” and philosophy, but more than a century later people are still far from having appropriated them – however numerous those who invoke Marxism may be.
There will have to be further discussion of the counter-position to speculative philosophy, which is still haunting us. The philosophy that preceded this seven-mile step of mankind is, as has been explained in detail: 1. needed, 2. criticized, 3. sublated. To demonstrate this, the following section shall suffice, which in the highly condensed manuscript, which the author did not intend to publish and which therefore does not have the usual structure and tables of contents, follows briefly after the above:
“It can be seen how subjectiveness and objectivism, spiritualism and materialism, activity and passivity [Leiden], lose their antithetical character” (old opposites, between which the sober thinking thought to have to hang around forever) “, and hence their existence as such antithesis, only in the social condition;” (the communist society) “it can be seen” (for the first time in history) “how the resolution of the theoretical antitheses themselves is possible only in a practical way, only through the practical energy of man, and how their resolution is for that reason by no means only a problem of knowledge, but a actual problem of life, a problem which philosophy was unable to solve precisely because it treated it as a purely theoretical problem.”
The meaning of this passage, in which we pause for a moment, is that only a party struggling in society can solve the task which it inherited and which consists in the eternal conflict of ideologues and that at the same time only this revolutionary organ, as it prepares the assault on the old world, can have the highest and since the moment of lightning-like illumination in the mid-nineteenth century invariant insight regarding that knowledge which will belong to the future society, first in the sense of describing its characteristics, and then in the sense of its uniquely own ability to uncover the mystery that solved the millennial riddles with one blow and once and for all.
Communism is examined here in three phases of its historical appearance. No. 1 is the crude communism that we have studied in detail; we reserve the right to discuss No. 2, which we call utopian reformist communism; this one wants to conquer the state in order to fabricate with its help the order of society – as if it were a malleable mass. We will show how this very short section deals with the reactionary, democratic (and anarchist) forms of socialism which, altogether suffer from immediatism. We had already at the beginning mentioned No. 3, the complete communism, which finally and confidently solves the fetters of the bitter quarrel between nature and man, being and essence, object and subject, individual and species, freedom and necessity, and also between thinking and acting, spirit and matter. It is, we repeat this as if it were a creed, the solved riddle of history, and it knows itself to be this solution.
It is precisely on the basis of this writing that we proved that the core of 100-year-old revolutionary Marxism consists in our thesis of its “invariance,” which is diametrically opposed to revisionists and deceivers, as well as to the updaters, enrichers and illusion manufacturing disimprovers. The words following in the Stalinist edition underline this:
“The entire movement of history is therefore both the actual act of creation of communism – the birth of its empirical existence” (starting tomorrow) “ – and, for its thinking consciousness, the comprehended and known” (for the communism of today) “movement of its becoming;”
Who is the subject of this consciousness? The individual, as with the old (but necessary) brainchilds of philosophizing? The mass of people, as the hypocritical democratic-liberal deception and the even worse fiction of people’s socialism of Soviet origin suggest?
No, this consciousness is to be found in the class party, the political organ of the revolutionary world proletariat, constituted since the middle of the 19th century, determined to overcome all crises in which it is caught by the unlucky immediatists who confuse their physiognomy with old or even new, shameful forms of the proprietor society.
Envy and greed
When we dealt with No. 1, crude communism (who offered the Russian-friendly propagandists the opportunity to make a name for themselves as know-it-all by agreeing with Marx’s critique, which they did not even understand), we had to stick to our subject, in other words the analysis of the depraved Russian structure, found in the oral and written presentation. We reserve the right to deal with what has been put forward later, and we would now like to turn to another characteristic which Marx accuses crude communism of – and we would like to turn to today’s Russian directives, which we feel we are entitled to do in accordance with Marx’s teachings.
“Universal envy constituting itself as a power is the hidden form in which greed reasserts itself and satisfies itself, but in another way. The thoughts of every piece of private property as such are at least turned against richer private property in the form of envy and the desire to level everything down;” (between poverty and wealth) “hence these feelings in fact constitute the essence of competition.” (wherein the privatist society is founded) “The crude communist is merely the culmination of this envy and desire to level down on the basis of a preconceived minimum” (in the existing social distribution).
Here, Marx equates the attitude of the crude communist with that of a disinherited, who prefers to see all members of society through a general division of all wealth poor (as poor as he himself) rather than having to watch the rich indulge in pleasures. In fact, our text rejects the naïve image of an egalitarian society in which everyone is equally poorly fed, equally badly dressed and equally ignorant – as long as you don’t have to endure the sight of those who are in a good situation. Such a motive is, of course, far removed from that which represents the massive foundation of our communism, the third figure. We want that the pleasure of another human being who satisfies its need is not only our joy, but our need; and we prove that only if our programme is already now put on the agenda we will achieve the demise and destruction of the world of private property. But that first course of action led in the opposite direction, because as a condition for my own well-being, the other person should not feel good, but rather bad.
Our scripture therefore passionately denounces the first portrayals of a society in which equality is to be achieved by restricting everyone to a circle of crude needs. And in “the return to the unnatural simplicity of the poor, unrefined man who has no needs and who has not yet even reached the stage of private property, let along gone beyond it,” our text does not see the character of an actual appropriation of human life actualized. And since this passage accuses the first naïve doctrine of the “abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilization,” the modern hypocrites want to jump on the bandwagon of this invective to justify their totally exaggerated apology of so-called bourgeois civilization – a technical, scientific and hyper-productive civilization, creator of morbid needs. Rather than Babeuf, Marx here has Rousseau in mind, who wanted to end the tragedy of the disastrous social organization by returning to the state of nature, which is why many utopian communists saw him as their teacher. Now, even though Marx clearly distinguishes our teaching from theirs, he always speaks about them in words of praise, and if he rejects their teaching of asceticism, that does not of course mean speaking the word of the other side of the barricade, that of capitalist civilization. Rather, Marx was the first to expose their wickedness, even though he did not see the much greater wickedness that is reserved for our generation to experience.
But this theme of selfishness and wealth, as well as the social range of human achievements, has already been developed and will continue to be discussed. What matters here is that the condemnation of the naïve glorification of nature is directed against economic envy, this despicable impulse that fits in perfectly with the immediatists. Isn’t this drive of envy and self-interest about the same thing as the “material incentive” that the Russians introduced during their last party days as a production stimulus for the unfortunate Russian wage workers and happy small kolkhoz farmers?
Contest = competition = envy
The attitude of the revolutionary communist working class can be correctly expressed with the formula of class hatred hated by bourgeois legalism, which is also disapproved of by the Russian-friendly cronies today. There is no battle with weapons in hand without the fighters hating their opponents, and without it, capitalism will not fall. We don’t hate the ruling class because we see them as a bunch of people having fun (that would be actual crude communism), but rather people holding the world power in their hands, which blocks the way to the victory of the revolutionary party and thus the knowledge and joy of all humans in communist society. Those who have grasped the mighty historical-dialectic transition will not be embarrassed for a moment (unless he is a newcomer) in the face of the often-shown astonishment that hatred is the source of joy and the armed class war is the source of future cheerful peace. Marx says that he did not discover the already obvious class struggle, but rather its solution in the dictatorship of the class party, and this is precisely what characterizes his system.
What pushes the supporters of the revolutionary party to unite in it is ultimately also the longing expectation of the decisive battle and red terror; it would be deplorable, however, to confuse this urge with the attitude of the one who gets into anger, because not everyone wants to suffer as much as he does and take revenge for it by reversing the relationship. In today’s society, there is no need for a revolutionary diploma for someone who is beating around to take a few pennies from someone else. The poor guy who wants to become rich can rightly be regarded as a Biedermann, because he behaves like all bourgeois and is oriented towards the dynamics of the bourgeois economy as well as morality. In this passage, Marx says that envy and jealousy are just the competitive behaviour of one company or homo economicus against the other – competition is the practical and ideological impulse of the bourgeois economy.
From the very first writings of the workers’ movement, and even before it had seized its own political theory, the opposition was clear: On the one hand, the solidarity of the squeezed-out workers and, on the other hand, the ideology of competition, according to which the community can only move forward for the benefit of all through competition between individuals who beat each other out of the field. Competition among the workers – that was the ideal of the employers, who lured some with pay raises to get out of all a higher profit. The workers met the power of the ruling class, among whose members the rivalry rages, with the weapon of solidarity; they sought to move forward through a convention, through a fraternal alliance that refused to allow the economic struggle of one to be fought at the expense of the other. The socialist party doctrine takes the same line as these first associations, but on a much higher level. If socialism, and communism condemns the competitive thinking inherent in the bourgeois and petite bourgeois, the goal is not one’s own well-being but that of society: this is the foundation for the liberation of the dominated class.
If one now leaves the greed of the individual farmer (or craftsman, small trader etc.) in Russia free hand and praises the desire to increase one’s own income as a justified ambition, one bows to the thesis of cursed competition and makes it more than clear that the entire social structure is permeated by the shabby market and monetary economy. Which also reveals that what ultra-modern communism wants to be is completely tainted with the shortcomings that the first, crude and brute communism exhibited. The latter, however, with its naïve demand for all to be economically equal at a modest level, did not attack revolutionary solidarity as defeatist as the Russian campaign, which relies on egoism, personal well-being and the sense of family of the petite bourgeois, who is now tied up to house and home by the very latest infamy – the introduction of installment buying, excellent brand mark of today’s wage slaves. This principle, which inspires everyone to have more than the other and to appropriate the worst sides of incomplete and crude communism, reaches its peak when the euphemistic slogan of competition is used as a fig leaf for the obscenity of competition and applied to international development, where it has the sole meaning of levelling and equality between the different capitalist systems – just as two competing factory owners are both bourgeois villains.
Programmatic stone tablets of the party
Without binding its cycle of action passing centuries to clear programmatic writings, the proletarian party cannot conduct its historical struggle (just as little as the proletariat could, without organising itself into a political party, as the “Manifesto” of the communists in 1848 states once and for all) – this is our final thesis, which, in addition to its cognitive and theoretical significance, also has a completely practical and organisational significance. The programmatic writings can be considered to be a concise form of all that has emerged in party theory and practice since the time we have been dealing with here and in which the aim and content of the historical struggle of the working class against modern capitalism have clearly distinguished themselves.
The structure of these basic writings is largely set out in the “Manifesto” itself, which not only provides the theoretical and practical tools that transcend space and time, but above all precisely defines the guideline for the struggle of a certain epoch.
The fundamental programme of the whole movement must therefore be formed by linking the central theses publicly proclaimed in the mid-19th century by the “Manifesto” with those which are formulated in our classical texts as a general view of the past and future history of the human species, and indeed in all its appearances, thus also in that first solved riddle which is pronounced with incredible courage in these “manuscripts” (a courage that only someone who has dismissed the discoverer’s pose of an individual, be it an active or spiritual person, as completely hollow and irrelevant, can have). The core of the “manuscripts” is the programmatic description of the characteristics that belong to communist society – the object of our foresight and the ultimate goal of our struggle.
Through the work of many years, we have shown that this essential and rigorous description is the content of all the classical works of Marx and Engels and has always been considered by the Marxists, with Lenin at the head, as definitive and enduring. If it is the strength of our method to grasp the character of the society we are approaching, then this also includes the power to mark the clear path leading to it in untouchable lines of development.
The importance of such a “restoration of the tablets” is obvious. The history of the movement and its deviations, respectively crises must be used to show that the long errands (whose determining and sometimes unavoidable causes our criticism correctly recognizes and knows how to state) have always been about taking a different path from the one indicated in our theory. The reaction to these derailments was during Marx’s lifetime, and afterwards, always the determined return to the original guidelines. We have given a detailed account of all this in our work over the last 15 years. It is also well known that, at the time of the Russian Revolution, we always cited the battle that Leninist Bolshevism gave to the wicked betrayal of social patriots and social democrats as the supreme model for the complete restoration of Marxism. This highest result of the October victory remains, and even the third wave of opportunism could not destroy it, although the social result, i. e. the socialist Russian state, and the organizational result, i. e. the Communist International, have been washed away.
The tradition of the Leninist party and Bolshevik dictatorship of 1917 therefore remains, albeit only in the field of theory, the greatest victory of revolutionary communism as it emerged around 1850 as a glowing bloc from the forge of human history. Such a strong chain of tradition cannot be broken by anything and anyone; the names of the Stalins and Khrushchevs with their pale claqueurs merely prolong the wretched line of revisionists and Immediatists whose first corpses landed on Karl Marx’s dissection table.
Our work here is aimed at re-arranging the often-threatened original theses and integrating them into the overall picture, even if this third restoration in the present historical phase has not yet “found” the actual revolutionary insurgent movement that must accompany it in the future.
The easy-peasy ridicule
Well known is the way in which the lousy, petty-bourgeois mind presents the objections and carpings to our investigation, the subject of which is the original building of Marxism. In the words of those goblins, we see Marx’s writings as a revelation to which one owes blind faith, we would follow them as one follows a dogma that should not be discussed and should be accepted a priori. We reject the precious intellectual good of free criticism. We denied that the development going on for more than a century has been able to refute or at least modify those positions that have only been deduced from the historical data before 1850.
All right, you fools stemming from the rotten bourgeois culture, that is what we insist on! And we have the right to do so because our discovery, the first-time use of the great key that resolves the contradictions and riddles of humanity, has already contained the scientific and critical knowledge that reveals your teachings – especially with regard to the older positions of human thought that you bourgeois believe to have buried forever under the vanity of your enlightened rhetoric – as hollow and unfounded fairy tales. Since then, and through this sudden light, we know that the brain-masturbation of opinion is a way too yellow-livered way to penetrate to the core of the most credulous of all faiths, a faith proclaimed in brute words, but born from the living womb of history. From what in a certain sense was a revelation (no supernatural, but human, in the sense of the fertility of the social forms of consciousness that Marx speaks of), we learned that the progress of mankind and the knowledge of the tormented homo sapiens is not continuous, but progresses in leaps and bounds, interrupted by sinister and disastrous crashes in the form of decaying, even rotting societies. We use pages written down here around 1850 – not because this is what a God would have ordered, or because the hand that glided over the pages would have been that of a Superman, but because they were written in the fire of the turn of time that had reached the thermal “phase” of the theoretical revolution, that reverbation that not only accompanied the practical revolution, but also anticipated it at that particular moment – to reserve the fools’ diploma for those guys who 100 years later make such an abominable use of the repulsive adjective “progressive.”
Drawing on the same source, we revile every superstition today in the process of counting equal personal opinions, and call a charlatan who uses this process at the level of society, class and even party; for while such a miserable or deceiver speaks of the class and the party as forces that transform society, he can only imagine them as parodies of today’s democratic bourgeois society, from whose gloomy puddle one cannot escape.
If now our ordinary adversary[…] tells us at a certain point that we would only fabricate our own mysticism, whereas the poor guy thinks that he himself has overcome all fideisms and mysticisms and mocks that we could just as well bow to the biblical or Islamic, Protestant or catechetical stone tablets of Moses or the Talmud, then we reply that this does not at all lead us to assume the role of a accused who defends himself. Nor do we have – notwithstanding the fact that it is quite meaningful to annoy the Philistine, who appears again and again in the picture – any reason to take the statement as an insult, according to which mysticism, or if you prefer, a myth, is still present in our movement for as long as it has not won in reality (because its victory precedes any further appropriation of human knowledge).
The myth, which appeared in many different forms, was not a fantasy of spirits who closed their eyes to actuality (as with Marx: at the same time “naturalistic” and “humanistic”); rather, it was an irreplaceable step on the only way to the appropriation of knowledge which, in class societies, can break out of large and widely divergent revolutionary cracks and can only develop freely in a classless society.
On these long stretches of way, armies of advanced seers and prophets made their way in the darkness as they persistently fought their way up again after each setback; in their minds was not science, but a myth, and the impetus of their revolutionary will was not yet knowledge, but mysticism. Now, however, these myths and mysticisms were revolutions, and because it was fights that carried out the rare advances, separated from each other for centuries, which advanced society, our respect and admiration for these pioneers is not diminished by the fact that their words have become obsolete and those of our doctrine stand in a completely different context.
The political forms of faith
So why should our historical communist program not be systematized in permanent tablets, which must be adhered to throughout the entire battle cycle, which must redeem what theory anticipated in the great turn of time? The bourgeois themselves refer to principles that were inspired by revolutionary struggle a few centuries ago and are still evoked today – even though they are completely antiquated – in sacred and eternally named formulations: Principles laid down in the declarations of human rights, civil and international law, as well as in the various constitutions that have been enacted historically. We are even witnessing the shame of the present era, where alleged Marxists and the Stalinist riffraff who think they are beyond the stage of that obsolete liberal-democratic and patriotic superstition, precisely when they claim to up-date Marxism, chew nothing more than the humanitarian and pacifist principles that belong to bourgeois thought degenerated to phraseology.
When bourgeois ideology in the phase in which it possessed the greatest energy and momentum rejected with indignation the Christian-scholastic traditions of the old regimes founded on divine law, it seemed to have annihilated every religious spirit in its youthful vigour. But after having won all over the world, it showed more and more respect for old fideism and the biblical Tables of the Law again. What can you say? Nowadays, even the Marxists who wanted to go beyond Marx, together with the bourgeois have retreated reverently before the thousand years of piety and have renounced the communist dogma, to first kneel down before the dogma of the bourgeois Enlightenment and then to shamelessly mash it with the religious dogma of faith (or tolerance towards it – which yields the same result); and this not only in the state, but what Marx and Engels and Lenin castigated to the blood, even in the party.
This whole dialectical chain of successive historical epochs proves that the most stable and enduring forms of society owe their strength (that is, in all phases of different life energy – antiformist, respectively revolutionary, then reformist and finally conformist) to the binding of the original orientation carved in massive and handed-down stone tablets.
The power-securing force for the bourgeoisie that the panels of the Enlightenment ideology have had, is shown by the fact that our movement has gone into terrible traps and that the proletarians, as successors, respectively potential gravediggers of the bourgeoisie, have been driven into true historical tragedies.
As far as the previous medieval and feudal forms are concerned, their monumental ideology has passed its test; it resisted for almost 2000 years and proved its power through the (initially Catholic) Church, which, after so many storms, is still threatening to rise and block the path, and also rules those peoples in which the proletarian revolution, in addition to the bourgeois revolution, once succeeded in winning.
These movements and organizations were able to demonstrate their tremendous weight in society and in the ups and downs of their history because they held fast to their beliefs and the theoretical framework of their proclamation, agitation and organization.
With a completely different power, a completely different rhythm, this character of the great institutions of society and the general perceptions finds its echo in our form, whose fiery antiformism, for the first time in history (end of human prehistory), does not again entail the “conformist forms,” but ushers in the end of the class societies.
And this makes it even more important for our movement to stand on the floor of an untouchable corpus of theoretical and programmatic tablets; within the political class organisation, this corpus must demand a form of obedience and discipline which allows no exception, given the terrible demands of the protracted struggle.
But any organizational discipline would be sterile and formal if it did not have the strict theoretical framework of rules as a basis. The former runs the risk of simply being ridiculed as submission to a person whose fall after a short ascent will be all the greater; the latter, on the other hand, cannot be dismissed as hollow worship of a name or a person, but can only refer to a written text. Even if it has a more modest appearance than the monumental Tablets of the Law or the ancient scrolls, it is on a par with being an expression of a potential that does not belong to the individual but to the struggling community, the potential of a class army which, through our movement and for the first time in the course of the centuries – due to the very fact that the legacy of that faith is jealously guarded – recognizes within itself the actually enlightened knowledge of the species which will only be possible in a society that is not divided into classes.
In this sense, the unsolvable riddle of the contradiction between class determinism and our critique will be answered for every thinking being. As a slave of capital, property and money the human being cannot today freely enjoy a species knowledge that is open to all sides. The question of knowledge, which for many centuries plagued the ever-awakening thinking, has been solved for us in that the future universal science rests in the lap of a party that alone gives its name to the class which anticipates tomorrow. If the party is still halfway between the fiction of the individual and the great “human” appropriation of its universal development, then the theoretical binder that characterizes it is already beyond the old mistakes that brought in all those truths, because of which they flourished and then had to pass away; nevertheless, the party guides and leads by means of a system of principles that can be characterized as a mysticism, albeit the last one, for which so many more will fight and fall, not only because they will make the greatest sacrifice of all, that of their lives, but also the even greater gift – the joy of recognising and understanding everything before believing – that the last generation will have given to the surviving generation with the mission of the avenger, in the war of humans against humans, after victory.
Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, 1845
Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847
Karl Marx, Preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” 1859
Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, 1877
Karl Marx, Capital Volume I, 1867
Karl Marx, Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, March 1852
Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844
1. Corollari: here in the sense of “Supplements” to the Assembly in Turin, meant: “1958-06-01 – The revolutionary program of the communist society eliminates every form of property in soil, in the production facilities and in the work products”: Il programma comunista, No. 16 + 17,1958.
Meeting in Parma: “1958-09-10 – The original content of the communist program consists in the annulment of the individual as an economic subject, holder of titles and actor in the history of mankind”: Il programma comunista, No. 21 + 22,1958.
2. terziglia (also: calabresella): Italian card game, known for its unusual hierarchy of cards in which the threes have the highest score. In the absence of a linguistic equivalent, we retain the Italian expression; in terziglia there is the word “tre,” three, or “terzo,” that is to say, third.
3. The History of Economic Doctrines: “Theories of Surplus Value”
4. Immediatism (lat.): an English equivalent might be “present-day obsession,” but as a specifically political term we retain “immediatism” in the sense of immediacy thinking. The author uses this term to describe the political direction which only envisages the immediate solution of current issues of the day, without asking about their deeper indirect causes. By attempting to solve the immediate problems immediately, one remains trapped in the cage of capitalist contradictions. The actionism resulting from this view leads on the political level directly into opportunism, which, as Engels says in his criticism, “sacrifices the future of the party to a day’s success.”
5. The 1st opportunistic wave was the social democratic revisionism with its “bloodless path to socialism”; the 2nd wave of war opportunism of the Second International with the defence of the fatherland and the Burgfrieden policy. The third wave begins around 1924: the absence of the revolution in the West leads to a change of tactics according to the situation, which also, and above all, dissolves the connection to the theoretical principles.
6. “The determination of value by labor time – the formula M. Proudhon gives us as the regenerating formula of the future – is therefore merely the scientific expression of the economic relations of present-day society” – Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847
7. Voronoff, Serge (1866-1951): Russian-French physician, internationally recognized (especially in Russia) for his “rejuvenation” attempts, in which he transplanted thousands of monkey testicles until the 1930s. As the organism decayed twice as quickly after a short-term “rejuvenation,” the experiments were abandoned.
8. See Stalin: “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR,” 1952; the second “Reply to Comrades A.V. Sanina and V.G. Venzher.”
9. Super debate: refers to the 21st CPSU Party Congress, which was held in January 1959 and was mentioned at the beginning.
10. “It is true that, to the mode of thought of the educated classes which Herr Dühring has inherited, it must seem monstrous that in time to come there will no longer be any professional porters or architects, and that the man who for half an hour gives instructions as an architect will also act as a porter for a period, until his activity as an architect is once again required.” – Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, 1877
11. In Italian,”uomo” means both human and man, which explains the distinction highlighted here.
12. Bordiga references Marx using the German word “Weib” here, for which there is no adequate English equivalent. While the word was used commonly to refer to women in Marx’s time, it is used almost exclusively in a pejorative sense today.
13. In English, the Italian verb “essere” corresponds to the verb “to be”; through the preposition of the article essere is nominalised, so that it means being, existence, life, and also essence in the sense of being human.
14. homo insipiens (lat.): the stupid uneducated human, who has yet to become homo sapiens; proprietarius (lat.): proprietor.
15. While transcendental philosophy asks for the subject’s a priori (transcendental) cognitive capacity and proceeds from the object-oriented contemplation to the analysis of relationships (of the subject to the object), immanence philosophy limits itself to the experiencable and the given, whereby reality and the content of consciousness are identical, so that all being is already immanent to consciousness. Certain limits of consciousness are implicit in transcendental philosophy, while in the case of immanence philosophy, the “absolute coherence of consciousness and the outside world” (Wilhelm Schuppe) is returned to a divine origin.
16. See the chapter “Rough outlines of future society” in “1958-09-10 – The original content of the communist program consists in the annulment of the individual as an economic subject, holder of titles and actor in human history”: Il programma comunista, No. 21 + 22, 1958.
17. jus primae noctis (lat.): “Right of the first night.” This is the right of the feudal lords in the Middle Ages to spend the first night with the bride during the marriage of people who are under their rule.
18. Again referencing the German word “Weib.”
19. German: someone who is simple-minded, good, often overly decent and loyal, stuffy, a name for a person who sees himself as a lot, but basically does not satisfy these demands, someone who lives a double standard.