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Paul Lafargue (1841-1911)

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For the end of the social revolution is to work as little as possible, and to enjoy as much as possible.”

Paul Lafargue (1841-1911), Karl Marx’s son-in-law, was a leading member of the French socialist movement and played an important rôle in the development of the Spanish socialist movement. A close friend of Friedrich Engels in his later years, he wrote and spoke from a fairly orthodox Marxist perspective on a wide-range of topics including women’s rights, anthropology, ethnology, reformism, Millerandism, and economics.

Biography
Bibliography

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Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany (Engels, 1851)

by Friedrich Engels (1851-52)

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Marx was asked in the summer of 1851 by Charles Anderson Dana, managing editor of the New York Tribune, to write a series of articles on the German Revolution. Founded in 1842 by Horace Greeley, the Tribune was the most influential paper in the United States at the time. These articles were written by Engels at the request of Marx, who was then busy with his economic studies and felt, besides, that he had not yet attained fluency in English. Engels wrote the articles in Manchester, where he was employed, and sent them on to Marx in London to be edited and dispatched to New York. Thus, although Engels must be rightly considered their author, Marx took a big part in the preparation, for in their almost daily correspondence the chief points were discussed thoroughly between them. The articles appeared under Marx’s name, and it was not until much later, when the correspondence between the two life-long collaborators became available, that the true circumstances were revealed. The contributions to the Tribune thus begun continued until 1862, and though Marx himself wrote most of the articles after 1852, Engels continued to help his friend by writing for him important articles on political and military affairs. When Marx’s daughter, Eleanor, wrote the preface to the 1896 edition she was still under the impression that Marx had written the series. [Publisher’s Note to the 1969 edition published in London by Lawrence & Wishart]

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The History of the Rifle (Engels, 1860)

Written between the end of October 1860 and the first half of January 1861. First published in The Volunteer Journal, for Lancashire and Cheshire, Nos. 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, November 3 and 17, December 8, 15 and 29, 1860, January 5, 12 and 19, 1861; reprinted in the collection Essays Addressed to Volunteers, London-Manchester, 1861. MECW 18: 433-459.

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The rifle is a German invention, dating as far back as the close of the fifteenth century. The first rifles were made with apparently no other object than to facilitate the loading of the arm with an almost tight-fitting bullet. To this end, the grooves were made straight, without any spiral turning, and merely served to diminish the friction of the bullet in the bore. The bullet itself was surrounded by a piece of greased woollen or linen cloth (the plaster), and was thus hammered down without too much difficulty. These rifles, primitive as they were, must have given far better results than the smooth-bore small arms of the period, with their bullets of considerably smaller diameter than the bore. Later on, the character of the arm was totally altered by the spiral turn given to the grooves, which transformed the bore of the barrel into a sort of female screw; the bullet, by the tight-fitting plaster, being made to follow the grooves, took the spiral turn as well, and thus retained a spiral rotation round its line of flight. It was soon found that this mode of fixing the rotation of the bullet vastly increased both the range and accuracy of the arm, and thus the spiral grooves very soon superseded the straight ones. This, then, was the kind of rifle which remained in general use for more than two hundred years. If we except hair-triggers and more carefully worked sights, it scarcely underwent any improvement up to 1828.

The Principles of Communism (Engels, 1847)

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by Friedrich Engels

Written: October-November 1847;
First Published: 1914, Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democratic Party’s Vorwärts!
Translated: Paul Sweezy
MECW 6: 341-357

— 1 —
What is Communism?

Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.

— 2 —
What is the proletariat?

The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.[1]

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The Dialectic of Sex (Shulamith Firestone, 1970)

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Shulamith Firestone  – The Dialectic of Sex (1970)

In the following chapters we shall assume this definition of historical materialism, examining the cultural institutions that maintain and reinforce the biological family (especially its present manifestation, the nuclear family) and its result, the psychology of power, and aggressive chauvinism now developed enough to destroy us. We shall integrate this with a feminist analysis of Freudianism: for Freud’s cultural bias, like that of Marx and Engels, does not invalidate his perception entirely. In fact, Freud had insights of even greater value than those of the socialist theorists for the building of a new dialectical materialism based on sex. We shall attempt, then, to correlate the best of Engels and Marx (the historical materialist approach) with the best of Freud (the understanding of inner man and women and what shapes them) to arrive at a solution both political and personal yet grounded in real conditions. We shall see that Freud observed the dynamics of psychology correctly in its immediate social context, but because the fundamental structure of that social context was basic to all humanity – to different degrees – it appeared to be nothing less than an absolute existential condition which it would be insane to question – forcing Freud and many of his followers to postulate a priori constructs like the Death Wish to explain the origins of these universal psychological drives. This in turn made the sicknesses of humanity irreducible and incurable – which is why his pro posed solution (psychoanalytic therapy), a contradiction in terms, was so weak compared to the rest of his work, and such a resounding failure in practice – causing those of social/political sensibility to reject not only his therapeutic solution, but his most profound discoveries as well. . . [PDF]

See also: Further Adventures of the Dialectic of Sex: Critical Essays on Shulamith Firestone

 

The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation (1969)

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by Margaret Benston (Monthly Review, 1969)

The “woman question” is generally ignored in analyses of the class structure of society. This is so because, on the one hand, classes are generally defined by their relation to the means of production and, on the other hand, women are not supposed to have any unique relation to the means of production. The category seems instead to cut across all classes; one speaks of working-class women, middle-class women, etc. The status of women is clearly inferior to that of men, but analysis of this condition usually falls into discussing socialization, psychology, interpersonal relations, or the role of marriage as a social institution. Are these, however, the primary factors? In arguing that the roots of the secondary status of women are in fact economic, it can be shown that women as a group do indeed have a definite relation to the means of production and that this is different from that of men. The personal and psychological factors then follow from this special relation to production, and a change  in the latter will be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for changing the former. If this special relation of women to production is accepted, the analysis of the situation of women fits naturally into a class analysis of society . . . [READ PDF]

The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man (Engels, 1876)

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by Frederick Engels (1876)


This article was intended to introduce a larger work which Engels planned to call Die drei Grundformen der Knechtschaft – Outline of the General Plan. Engels never finished it, nor even this intro, which breaks off at the end. It would be included in Dialectics of Nature.


I

Labour is the source of all wealth, the political economists assert. And it really is the source – next to nature, which supplies it with the material that it converts into wealth. But it is even infinitely more than this. It is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself.

Many hundreds of thousands of years ago, during an epoch, not yet definitely determinable, of that period of the earth’s history known to geologists as the Tertiary period, most likely towards the end of it, a particularly highly-developed race of anthropoid apes lived somewhere in the tropical zone – probably on a great continent that has now sunk to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. [1] Darwin has given us an approximate description of these ancestors of ours. They were completely covered with hair, they had beards and pointed ears, and they lived in bands in the trees.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Karl Marx

Sherlock Holmes has had many strange requests, but none are so strange as the request from a certain Mr Karl Marx to help him find his stolen revolutionary tract `Das Kapital’.

A Capital Case – Karl Marx Meets Sherlock Holmes is a radio play by David Zane Mairowitz. It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 16 February 2001, as an installment of the Friday Play.

  • Robert Bathurst – Sherlock Holmes
  • David de Keyser – Karl Marx
  • Jasmine Hyde – Eleanor Marx
  • Thomas Arnold – Dr. John Watson

Directed by Peter Kavanagh


Sherlock Holmes und der Fall Marx

von David Zane Mairowitz
Regie: Dieter Carls
Produktion: WDR/SFB 2001London im 19. Jahrhundert: Sherlock Holmes sitzt in seiner Wohnung und macht sich, inspiriert durch Opiumgenuss, Gedanken über die Philosophie Schopenhauers, als ihn ein neuer Klient aus seinen Gedanken reißt: Karl Marx steht vor der Tür. Marx konsultiert Holmes, weil sein “Sprössling” entführt wurde – und der Sprössling ist kein anderer als das Manuskript “Das Kapital”.

Sherlock Holmes, Held dieser schillernden Kriminalkomödie, übernimmt den Fall eher halbherzig, da er in politischen Dingen nicht sonderlich versiert ist – als aber schließlich nicht nur das “Kapital”, sondern auch Marx selbst verschwunden ist, beginnt Holmes, mit altbewährter Scharfsinnigkeit, fieberhaft zu ermitteln.

 

Condition of the Working Class

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1845, Engels

The war of the poor against the rich will be the bloodiest ever waged. Even the union of a part of the bourgeoisie with the proletariat, even a general reform of the bourgeoisie, would not help matters. Besides, the change of heart of the bourgeoisie could only go as far as a lukewarm juste-milieu; the more determined, uniting with the workers, would only form a new Gironde, and succumb in the course of the mighty development. The prejudices of a whole class cannot be laid aside like an old coat: least of all, those of the stable, narrow, selfish English American bourgeoisie.

These are all inferences which may be drawn with the greatest certainty: conclusions, the premises for which are undeniable facts, partly of historical development, partly facts inherent in human nature. Prophecy is nowhere so easy as in England America, where all the component elements of society are clearly defined and sharply separated. The revolution must come; it is already too late to bring about a peaceful solution; but it can be made more gently than that prophesied in the foregoing pages. This depends, however, more upon the development of the proletariat than upon that of the bourgeoisie. In proportion, as the proletariat absorbs socialistic and communistic elements, will the revolution diminish in bloodshed, revenge, and savagery.

Communism stands, in principle, above the breach between bourgeoisie and proletariat, recognises only its historic significance for the present, but not its justification for the future: wishes, indeed, to bridge over this chasm, to do away with all class antagonisms. Hence it recognises as justified, so long as the struggle exists, the exasperation of the proletariat towards its oppressors as a necessity, as the most important lever for a labour movement just beginning; but it goes beyond this exasperation, because Communism is a question of humanity and not of the workers alone. Besides, it does not occur to any Communist to wish to revenge himself upon individuals, or to believe that, in general, the single bourgeois can act otherwise, under existing circumstances, than he does act.

English American Socialism, i.e., Communism, rests directly upon the irresponsibility of the individual. Thus the more the English American workers absorb communistic ideas, the more superfluous becomes their present bitterness, which, should it continue so violent as at present, could accomplish nothing; and the more their action against the bourgeoisie will lose its savage cruelty. If, indeed, it were possible to make the whole proletariat communistic before the war breaks out, the end would be very peaceful; but that is no longer possible, the time has gone by. Meanwhile, I think that before the outbreak of open, declared war of the poor against the rich, there will be enough intelligent comprehension of the social question among the proletariat, to enable the communistic party, with the help of events, to conquer the brutal element of the revolution and prevent a “Ninth Thermidor.”

Carbuncles

Karl Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann, 18 May 1874


Dear Kugelmann

I have received everything: your letters (including some friendly notes from your dear wife and Fränzchen), the ‘Meyer’ [1] (police-socialist, faiseur, [2] literary scribbler), the cuttings from the Frankfurter, etc, and finally a letter from Madame Tenge.

I am very grateful for your, your family’s and Madame Tenge’s friendly interest in my progress. But you do me an injustice if you ascribe my failure to write to any other cause than an uncertain state of health, which continually interrupts my work, then goads me on to make up for the time lost by neglecting all other duties (letters included), and finally puts a man out of humour and makes him disinclined for activity.

After my return from Harrogate I had an attack of carbuncles, then my headaches returned, insomnia, etc, so that I had to spend from the middle of April to 5 May at Ramsgate (seaside). Since then I have been feeling much better, but am far from being quite well. My specialist (Dr Gumpert [3] of Manchester) insists upon my going to Karlsbad and would like to make me travel there as soon as possible, but I must finally complete the French translation which has come to a full stop, and, apart from that, I should much prefer it if I could meet you there.

In the meantime, while I was unable to write, I worked through a lot of important new material for the second volume. But I cannot start on its final working out until the French edition is completed and my health fully restored.

So I have by no means yet decided how I shall spend the summer.

The progress of the German labour movement (ditto in Austria) is wholly satisfactory. In France the absence of a theoretical foundation and of practical common sense is very evident. In England at the moment only the rural labour movement shows any advance; the industrial workers have first of all to get rid of their present leaders. When I denounced them at the Hague Congress I knew that I was letting myself in for unpopularity, slander, etc, but such consequences have always been a matter of indifference to me. Here and there people are beginning to see that in making that denunciation I was only doing my duty.

In the United States our Party has to fight against great difficulties, partly economic, partly political, but it is making headway. The greatest obstacle there is the professional politicians, who immediately try to falsify every new movement and change it into a new ‘company-promoting business’.

Notwithstanding all diplomatic moves, a new war is inevitable au peu plus tôt, au peu plus tard, [4] and before the ending of this there will hardly be violent popular movements anywhere, or, at the most, they will remain local and unimportant.

The visit of the Russian emperor is giving the London police a great deal to do and the government here will be glad to get rid of the man as soon as possible. As a precautionary measure they requisitioned forty police (mouchards), with the notorious police commissioner Plocke at their head (Ali Baba and the forty thieves), from the French government, to watch the Poles and Russians here (during the tsar’s stay). The so-called amnesty petition of the London Poles is the work of the Russian embassy; in answer to it the Poles here issued an appeal, written and signed by Wróblewski, [5] which is addressed to the English and which has been distributed in large numbers at the Sunday meetings in Hyde Park. The English press (with very few exceptions) is obsequious – the tsar is after all ‘our guest’ – but for all that the real feeling against Russia is incomparably more hostile than it has been since the Crimean War, and the entry of a Russian princess into the royal family [6] has aroused rather than disarmed suspicion. The facts – the arbitrary abrogation of the decisions concerning the Black Sea in the Paris Treaty, the conquests and trickeries in Central Asia, etc, irritate John Bull, and Disraeli has no chance of remaining at the helm for any length of time if he continues Gladstone’s unctuous foreign policy.

With my warmest greetings to your dear family and Madame Tenge.

Yours
KM

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