Preface to Marx-Engels Collected Works Volume (4)
Works, 1844-1845[edit source]
The fourth volume of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels includes their works written from the time when their close friendship was first established (late August-early September 1844) to the autumn of 1845. Beginning with the present volume, works of both Marx and Engels will be published in this edition in the chronological order in which they were written.
The meeting of Marx and Engels in Paris in August 1844 inaugurated their lifelong partnership. Each of them had independently traversed a difficult path of intellectual development from idealism to materialism, from revolutionary democracy to communism. By the time they met in Paris each was a convinced revolutionary and Communist. With this shared standpoint, their work, while -preserving the- individual features of each, developed thereafter in a spirit of the unbreakable unity of two thinkers. At the same time, their creative co-operation opened up immediately a new stage in the development of their views. Not only did they go on to achieve, during the year that followed their meeting, greater concreteness in the dialectical and materialist principles both had advanced in their works of 1843 and 1844, but they broadened the whole range of their ideas and set themselves and tackled new problems of elaborating the theoretical foundations of the revolutionary world outlook of the proletariat.
Marx and Engels continued their study of existing philosophical, economic and socialist ideas, and their painstaking research into the actual social-economic reality and the working-class movement of the time. They maintained close contacts with democratic and socialist circles in Germany, France, Belgium and other countries, with representatives of the Chartist movement in England, and with members of the League of the Just. And all this increasingly convinced them that the practice of revolutionary struggle demanded profound and comprehensive theoretical work, the creation of an entirely new and self-consistent theory which would be of relevance in all the basic fields of human knowledge. It was to the fulfilment of this task that Marx and Engels together directed their efforts. They sought not only to establish the scientific basis for communism, but to spread communist ideas among the working class and revolutionary intellectuals of Europe. For them, the new revolutionary theory could be consolidated only in struggle against the various non-proletarian trends which had taken shape by that time, and by dissociating itself from them.
A primary task in the autumn of 1844 was to deal with the Young Hegelians, who had given up their former radical convictions and swung to the Right. Indeed, a campaign against socialism and communism was being mounted by the monthly Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, edited by the Bauer brothers.
What Marx had had to say in the Deutsch-Franösische Jahrbücher about the proletariat’s historical mission was declared “uncritical”, and working people written off as an inert and passive “mass”, a hindrance to social progress. The Bauer brothers and their fellow-thinkers announced that the sole active element in the world-historical process was their own theoretical activity, to which they gave the name of “Critical Criticism”.
Marx had first expressed his intention to come out against the philosophical views of the Young Hegelians in 1843, in his articles Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. Introduction and On the Jewish Question (see MECW, Vol. 3). And he returned to the idea in the summer of 1844, among other occasions in his conversations with Engels in Paris. The outcome was the decision by Marx and Engels to write a book together against the Young Hegelians. “A war has been declared,” Engels wrote sometime later, “against those of the German philosophers, who refuse to draw from their mere theories practical inferences, and who contend that man has nothing to do but to speculate upon metaphysical questions” (see p. 240 of this volume).
This fourth volume of the Collected Works begins with the first joint work of Marx and Engels, The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism. Against Bruno Bauer and Co. Its idea and general plan were agreed upon by the two friends, but the major part of the text was in fact written by Marx. This work, mainly philosophical in content, occupies an important place in the formation of Marx’s and Engels’ philosophical and social-political views. It attacks from a consistently materialist standpoint both the subjectivist views of the Young Hegelians and Hegel’s idealist philosophical system as a whole, on which they had based them. At the same time, it demonstrates in sharp polemic that the subjective idealism of the Young Hegelians was a step backward in comparison with Hegel’s philosophy.
Marx and Engels had already in previous works begun to work out the principles of the materialist conception of history. In The Holy Family these were further developed. A new step forward was made, particularly as compared with Marx’s “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”, in clarifying the decisive role of material production in social development. Marx now saw in it the bub of the whole of mankind’s historical progress. He wrote, in particular, that it was impossible to understand a single historical period “without knowing ... the industry of that period, the immediate mode of production of life itself” (see p. 150 of this volume).
Formulated in this work are very profound thoughts on the correspondence of the political system of a given society with the economic structure, their dialectical connection and mutual influence.
Closely connected with the exposition of the initial principles of the materialist conception of history is the clear statement in The Holy Family of the decisive role of the popular masses in historical development and the growth of this role as the development proceeds. Marx declared that mankind was facing the task of further profound transformations, in the course of which “together with the thoroughness of the historical action, the size of the mass whose action it is will therefore increase” (see p. 82 of this volume).
In developing the idea of the world-historical role of the proletariat as the force destined to carry out the future socialist revolution, Marx shows in The Holy Family that this historical destiny of the working class is the inevitable result of its position in capitalist society. “The conditions of life of the proletariat,” Marx writes “sum up all the conditions of life of society today in their inhuman form.” The proletariat, as a class, by virtue of its historical existence “can and must emancipate itself” (see pp. 36-37 of this volume). Marx also declared that the social emancipation of the proletariat would mean the emancipation of the whole of society from exploitation. He therefore stressed the universal human significance, the genuinely humanistic meaning of the proletariat’s class struggle. Thus the basic Marxist idea of the leading role of the proletariat in the anti-capitalist revolutionary and liberation movement was formulated for the first time in The Holy Family. Lenin later described it as a work containing “Marx’s view — already almost fully developed — concerning the revolutionary role of the proletariat” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 38, p. 26).
The Holy Family contains, moreover, Marx and Engels’ materialist interpretation of the role of ideas in history. Analysing more deeply the conception of the transformation of theory into a material force which he had put forward in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, Marx showed how ideas become an effective force of social development when they correspond to the requirements of real life by expressing the interests of progressive classes. He demonstrated this by taking as an example the history of philosophy from the seventeenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Analysing the struggle of the two basic trends, materialism and idealism, he reveals the significance of materialism as the progressive philosophy in social life, particularly in its having created the ideological prerequisites for the French bourgeois revolution at the end of the eighteenth century; he points out the organic link between the development of materialist ideas and the achievements of the natural sciences, and emphasises that further creative development of materialist philosophical thought must inevitably lead to communist conclusions.
While building on the progressive philosophical traditions of the past, Marx and Engels by no means intended to stop at the achievements of previous materialism. The Holy Family reflects the endeavour to develop and re-interpret in a materialist way the rational element in Hegel’s philosophy — its dialectics — and organically to unite dialectics which, on the whole, previous materialist philosophers lacked, with materialism. The creative development of dialectics, the dialectical approach to both social-economic and ideological phenomena, the study in social and intellectual processes of the operation of the basic objective laws of dialectics, especially the law of the unity and struggle of opposites — these run through the whole content of The Holy Family.
Although it marks so significant a stage accomplished in the creation of the theoretical foundation of the proletarian world outlook, The Holy Family nevertheless belongs to the period when Marxism was still in formation and when the basic principles of the materialist conception of history and of scientific communism had not yet been fully stated. Marx and Engels had not yet completely crossed the divide between themselves and their ideological predecessors. In particular, they had not yet entirely and in all respects overcome the influence of the weaker aspects of Feuerbach’s philosophy. It is true that in declaring themselves his followers, “real humanists”, supporters of Feuerbach’s “anthropological” materialism, Marx and Engels were actually coming out as revolutionary Communists and materialist dialecticians, and so filling his terminology with a new content. Their obvious dissatisfaction with the metaphysical character and inconsistency of all previous materialism soon developed, however, into an understanding of the fundamental difference between Feuerbach’s speculative philosophy and the proletarian outlook that was taking shape. That is why, in April 1845, in his “Theses on Feuerbach”, Marx came out so trenchantly against Feuerbachianism (these Theses, together with other works related to The German Ideology, will be included in the fifth volume of the present edition).
The fourth volume also contains Engels’ fundamental work, The Condition of the Working-Class in England. This was the fruit of his careful study of and theoretical generalisation from vast factual data drawn from official documents, from both bourgeois and working-class newspapers, and from special investigations made by economists, sociologists, historians, etc. But above all, the book reflects (and this lends it its particular authenticity) the results of Engels’ own observation of the working and living conditions of the workers during his almost two years’ stay in Manchester.
In substance, this work of Engels continues his previous articles devoted to studying capitalist development in England (see MECW, Vols. 2 and d 3). In the scale of the problems it deals with and the depth an. thoroughness with which they are clarified, it considerably surpasses, however, his previous writings. As regards the ideas informing it, this work is close to The Holy Family. It shows by the whole of its content that in working out their revolutionary theory the founders of Marxism based themselves on a scientific concrete sociological analysis of the existing reality.
The Condition of the Working-Class in England provides evidence that Engels arrived, at the same time as Marx, at an understanding of the role of the economic factor in social development, and that he made his own independent contribution to the materialist analysis of social phenomena. One of the central features of this work is his study of the social-economic consequences of the industrial revolution in England. Engels brought out the decisive influence of changes in social production on the condition of whole classes and the entire life of society. And he came to the all-important conclusion that the industrial revolution in England had resulted in the formation of a new revolutionary class — the proletariat. The position of this class in modern capitalist society “is the real basis and point of departure of all social movements of the present because it is the highest and most unconcealed pinnacle of the social misery existing in our day” (see p. 302 of this volume).
Engels was able to deduce from the example of England, the most advanced country in the capitalist world at the time, the characteristic features of the capitalist system as a whole. He demonstrated the typical features of capitalist industrialisation, and its inevitable consequences — the ruin, and in England the almost complete disappearance, of the artisans and working peasantry, the pauperisation of the former small proprietors and the proletarianisation of a considerable part of the population. In what must rank as a classical characterisation, Engels drew his picture of the big towns as the offspring of capitalist industry, a focus of social evils, and at the same time as centres of the proletarian masses’ resistance to oppression and exploitation. And he vividly depicted phenomena inherent in capitalism-the anarchy of production, the periodic crises, the deepening of class antagonisms, and the formation and growth of a reserve army of labour, or in other words, chronic unemployment. Engels’ book is no specialist theoretical economic study, and yet it defines with deadly accuracy many aspects of the economic structure of capitalist society and its inherent laws and tendencies. Not without reason did Marx write later in the first volume of Capital that the author of The Condition of the Working-Class in England “completely understood the nature of the capitalist mode of production”.
Engels’ masterly picture of the condition of the English proletariat is an unanswerable indictment of the capitalist system as it then existed. But this is not the distinguishing feature of his book, the one which sets it apart from all other socialist writings of the time. Many utopian Socialists or authors who merely sympathised with the working people had already vividly described their unfortunate condition. But they had shown the working class only as a suffering mass, not as a revolutionary force. The enduring significance of The Condition of the Working Class in England lies in the fact that, as Lenin noted, in it “Engels was the first to say that the proletariat is not only a suffering class; that it is, in fact, the disgraceful economic condition of the proletariat that drives it irresistibly forward and compels it to fight for its ultimate emancipation. And the fighting proletariat will help itself.” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 22).
As in Marx’s works of this time, the world-historical revolutionary role of the working class is deduced in Engels’ book from the social conditions in capitalist society and the proletarians’ position in it. There was evident, Engels concludes, an inexorable tendency towards the sharpening of the contradictions inherent in capitalism, towards polarisation of the class forces, and the transformation of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie into the principal factor in the life of society. The social revolution to overthrow the existing system had become historically inevitable. The proletariat, the class in which “reposes the strength and the capacity of development of the nation” (see p. 529 of this volume), precisely by virtue of its position in capitalist society, has the historic mission of destroying it and accomplishing the socialist revolution.
For the first time in socialist literature, Engels systematically analysed the development of the proletariat’s emancipation movement and showed the historical significance of this process, which, in the final account, will lead to the communist transformation of society. Engels demonstrated the regular and progressive character of the development of the working-class movement, the inevitability of the transition from primitive spontaneous forms of revolutionary protest to higher and more organised forms of struggle — from local and sporadic actions against individual employers to systematic resistance of the workers to the exploiters and to struggle against the capitalist system itself; from uniting the proletarian forces within the framework of separate trades to creating nationwide class organisations. He elucidated the role of strikes, and of the trade unions as schools of class struggle. At the same time, he stressed that only by taking the path of political struggle would the working class be able to deal the decisive blow against the rule of the capitalist class as a whole and achieve genuine emancipation. That was the reason he so much stressed and lavished such praise on the activity of the English Chartists, Who transferred the struggle against the bourgeoisie to political ground and began a mass proletarian political movement. Engels saw in Chartism the concentrated form of working-class opposition to the bourgeoisie.
Yet Engels discerned at the same time the crucial weakness of the Chartist movement in its inability to understand the socialist aim of the working-class revolutionary struggle, which was reflected in a certain ideological narrow-mindedness on the part of its leaders. The English working-class movement, he concluded, must find the way to acquire socialist consciousness. The need was to unite the Chartist movement with socialism — not with Robert Owen’s utopian socialism, divorced as it was from genuine class struggle, but with militant proletarian socialism.
The Condition of the Working-Class in England nevertheless reflects to a certain extent the fact that the scientific outlook of the proletariat had not yet been completely shaped. Engels himself later regarded this book as a stage in the “embryonic” development of scientific socialism, when there were still visible “traces” of its descent from German classical philosophy. As an example of such immaturity, reflecting the influence of the abstract humanism of Feuerbach and of utopian socialism, he pointed to the proposition that the bourgeoisie itself had an interest in the social advantages of the communist system. Such delusions, especially in respect of the German bourgeoisie, which was often alleged to be far more disinterested than the English, are also apparent in other works by Engels belonging to the same period (see p. 230 of this volume). And as he himself later admitted in the Preface to the second German edition (1892), his idea that England was not far from a socialist revolution was also much too optimistic.
Alongside the two big works of Marx and Engels already named, this volume includes a group of their journalistic works, with manuscript outlines, and so on. Nearly all these works were written by Marx in Brussels, after he had been obliged to move there early in February 1845, when the French authorities closed down the Paris newspaper Vorwärts! and deported a number of its contributors and editors. Until the beginning of the revolution in Europe in 1848, Marx pursued his theoretical and political work in the Belgian capital. Engels wrote some of his journalistic works at the same time as The Condition of the Working-Class in England — during his stay in Barmen from September 1844 to April 1845. He continued to contribute reports on the state of the revolutionary movement and of communist propaganda on the Continent from Barmen to the Owenites’ New Moral World. Another group of articles and reports by Engels, including his contributions to the Chartist newspaper The Northern Star, which he resumed in the autumn of 1845, were written in Brussels, where he stayed for a time from April 1845.
The content of the articles and reports written by Marx and Engels in this period corresponded to the tasks they set themselves in the two major works. They were all devoted to exposing the capitalist system, passionately defending the interests of the working class, spreading revolutionary communist ideas, and criticising ideological trends hostile to the communist movement.
The socialist journals Rheinische Jahrbücher zur gesellschaftlichen Reform, Deutsches Bürgerbuch, Gesellschaftsspiegel, and Das Westphälische Dampfboot, which were published in Germany at that time and for which Marx and Engels intended many of their articles, were all to a greater or lesser extent mouthpieces for the ideas of petty-bourgeois “true socialism”, alien to the revolutionary communist outlook. Attempts to influence the trend of some of these periodicals, in particular Engels’ efforts to impart a revolutionary critical character to the Gesellschaftsspiegel, did not succeed. The collaboration of Marx and Engels with these publications could only be incidental and of short duration. They soon broke entirely with some, and wrote elsewhere in opposition to them. Nevertheless, their contributions, even in these publications, played no small part in formulating and spreading communist views and in the birth of the revolutionary proletarian trend in the socialist movement of the time, drawing the line between revolutionary communism and other, non-proletarian trends. A group of their first adherents already began to unite around Marx and Engels in Brussels.
Marx’s article on the book Das nationals System der politischen Oekonomie, by the German economist Friedrich List, was intended for one of the above-named periodicals, but remained unpublished. The present volume includes a recently discovered draft of this article, which contains a trenchant criticism of the views held by List as an apologist of the German bourgeoisie, which was then seeking by protective tariffs to defend itself against competition from the more developed capitalist countries. Marx stresses that List’s views reflected the physiognomy of the German bourgeois: his desire to cover up his greedy exploitation and lust for profit with pompous talk about the national interest, coupled with his abject servility towards the aristocracy. But Marx did not confine himself to merely criticising List’s views. The draft published in this volume bears witness to his intense work in thinking over the theoretical problems, the materialist interpretation of basic economic and sociological categories such as “labour”, “worker”, “exchange value”, “productive forces”, and others. In the course of his analysis Marx reveals the difference in principle between the “human kernel” of factory and plant production which creates “the proletariat, and in the shape of the proletariat the power of a new world order”, and its capitalist “dirty outer shell” which has to be broken to free the productive forces of society from their fetters (see p. 282 of this volume). The thoughts set forth by Marx in this draft were developed in his subsequent philosophical and economic works.
The article “Peuchet: On Suicide” provides proof that in criticising bourgeois society Marx sought not only to lay bare its economic contradictions, but also to expose bourgeois morality, customs and way of living. Making use of material on suicides and their motives, which he obtained from the memoirs of the police archives custodian in Paris, Marx showed that the bourgeois world is ruled by egoism, violation of the human personality, trampling on natural feelings, monstrous family relations.
Engels’ articles published in this volume: “Continental Socialism”, “Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany”, “Speeches in Elberfeld”, and others, belong to the Barmen period of his work. They present a picture of the social discontent in Germany in the forties, the growth of opposition to the feudal and absolutist system, and the social dissatisfaction of the working people reflected in the wide propagation of communist and socialist ideas. These articles contain remarkable biographical material and illustrate the mercurial enthusiasm with which young Engels set about his organisational, agitational and journalistic activity in the Rhine Province of Prussia.
In the “Speeches in Elberfeld”, Engels pronounced a detailed condemnation of the capitalist system eroded by internal contradictions, and laid bare the economic roots of the class struggle, basing himself both on his experiences in England and a thorough study of conditions in Germany. He spoke of the “contradiction between a few rich people on the one hand, and many poor on the other”, and foretold that it would go on deepening “as long as the present basis of society is retained”. To the world of cruel exploitation, barbarous squandering of human resources, ruthless competition, war of all against all, Engels opposed a communist society, humanely and economically organised, in which “the interests of individuals are not opposed to one another but, on the contrary, are united” (see pp. 244, 246 of this volume). Engels likewise endeavoured to demonstrate the superiority of the communist system in the article “Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence”. He did not share the views of utopian Socialists who thought that the entire social system could be peacefully transformed by the diffusion of these experimental colonies; he saw their significance rather in their example, which proved that it was possible to organise social and economic relations more justly and rationally on a collective basis.
Among the works written by Engels in Brussels is his “A Fragment of Fourier’s on Trade”, which contains his translation of extracts from Fourier’s work Des trois unités externes accompanied by an introduction and a conclusion written by himself. It was no accident that Engels took the trouble to translate this outstanding representative of utopian socialism. He placed a high value on Fourier’s criticism of existing society, and intended. to include his works in the “Library of the Best Foreign Socialist Writers”, the publication of which he and Marx had planned (see p. 667 of this volume). The excerpts from Fourier’s writings which he selected expose the cupidity, money-grubbing and deceit reigning in the sphere of finance and trade. This work of Engels was also the first public attack against petty-bourgeois “true socialism”, which debased socialist teaching into something sentimental, eclectic, abstract and divorced from the requirements of revolutionary struggle.
Engels’ article on Fourier and his intention to publish the works of other Socialists show that Marx and himself held their ideological forerunners in high respect. Criticism of the weaknesses of utopian socialism did not prevent them from seeing in it the rational elements appreciation of which would contribute to the workers’ education and help them to acquire the revolutionary proletarian world outlook.
Close to the book The Condition of the Working-Class in England are Engels’ articles “An English Turnout” and “History of the English Corn Laws”. These articles throw additional light on the acute class struggle which had developed in England between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The second describes the workers’ demonstrations in August 1842, and the provocative role played in these events by the bourgeois adherents of free trade united in the Anti-Corn Law League.
This volume also contains several articles by Engels published in September and October 1845 in The Northern Star. Engels informed his English Chartist readers that, in comparison with the Middle-of-the-road and irresolute positions adopted by bourgeois bell circles in Germany, the German working class was distinguished by greater radicalism and receptivity to revolutionary views. One of the basic ideas expounded in these reports was the need for ideological and political independence for the working class, “who have a movement of their own — a knife-and-fork movement” (See p. 648 of this volume).
In the section of this volume “From the Preparatory Materials” are published draft plans revealing the broad scope of Marx’s intentions and the variety of fields which his searching mind explored (problems concerning the state, the history of the French Revolution, and so on). The Appendices include, besides other biographical documents, Marx’s contract with the Leske publishing house for the publication of his projected work in two volumes Kritik der Politik und Nationalökonomie. It was out of this plan, which was partially implemented in the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”, that the idea of Capital later crystallised.
Some of the works included in this volume have been translated into English for the first time. Among these are such writings by Marx as “Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s Book Das nationals System der politischen Oekonomie”, “Peuchet: On Suicide”, “Plan of the Library of the Best Foreign Socialist Writers”, and all the items contained in the Appendices.
Among the works of Engels the following articles have not been previously translated into English: “Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Stillin Existence”, “Speeches in Elberfeld”, “A Fragment of Fourier’s on Trade”, “History of the English Corn Laws”, and the prospectus of the Gesellschaftsspiegel (published as an Appendix, since it was written in co-authorship with Hess). Reprinted for the first time in the language of the original are Engels’ two articles from The Northern Star: “'Young Germany’ in Switzerland” and “Persecution and Expulsion of Communists”. Engels’ book The Condition of the Working-Class in England is published in the English translation by Florence Kelley-Wischnewetzky which Engels himself authorised in the 1880s. The most important differences between the original and the translation which affect the meaning are particularised in footnotes.
Those works which have previously been published in English are either rendered in new translations or previous translations have been checked with the original. The special features in the presentation of individual works, in particular manuscripts, are described in the Notes.
Most of the works published in this volume have been translated from the German. If the translation is from another language, or if the text was written by the authors in English, mention is made of this at the end of the particular work.
The volume was compiled and the preface and notes written by Tatyana Yeremeyeva and edited by Lev Golman (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC, CPSU). Valentina Kholopova (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC, CPSU) prepared the Name Index, the Index of Quoted and Mentioned Literature and the Index of Periodicals, and Yevgenia Zastenker the Subject Index.
The new translations are by Jack Cohen, Richard Dixon, Clemens Dutt, Barbara Ruhemann and Christopher Upward, and edited by Margaret Mynatt, Pat Sloan and Alick West (Lawrence & Wishart), Richard Dixon, Yelena Chistyakova and Victor Schnittke (progress Publishers) and Vladimir Mosolov, scientific editor (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC, CPSU).
The volume was prepared for the press by the editor Nadezhda Rudenko and the assistant-editor Tatyana Shimanovskaya, for Progress Publishers.