Chapter II “Critical Criticism” As a ‘Mill-Owner’, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Jules Faucher

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Note from editor :

Marx here uses the world Mühleigner, a literal translation of the English mill-owner, to ridicule J. Faucher, of the editorial board of Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, who applied English methods of word formation in German.

After rendering most substantial services to self-consciousness by humiliating itself to the extent of nonsense in foreign languages, and thereby at the same time freeing the world from pauperism, Criticism still further humiliates itself to the extent of nonsense in practice and history. It masters "English questions of the day" and gives us a genuinely critical outline of the history of English industry.

Criticism, which is self-sufficient, and complete and perfect in itself, naturally cannot recognise history as it really took place, for that would mean recognising the base mass in all its mass-like mass nature, whereas the problem is precisely to redeem the mass from its mass nature. History is therefore freed from its mass nature, and Criticism, which has a free attitude to its object, calls to history: "You ought to have happened in such and such a way!" All the laws of Criticism have retrospective force: prior to the decrees of Criticism, history behaved quite differently from how it did after them. Hence mass-type history, so-called real history, deviates considerably from Critical history, as it takes place in Heft VII of the Literatur-Zeitung from page 4 onwards.

In mass-type history there were no factory towns before there were factories; but in Critical history, in which, as already in Hegel, the son begets his father, Manchester, Bolton and Preston were flourishing factory towns before factories were even thought of. In real history the cotton industry was founded mainly on Hargreaves' jenny and Arkwright's throstle, Crompton's mule being only an improvement of the spinning jenny according to the new principle discovered by Arkwright. But Critical history knows how to make distinctions: it scorns the one-sidedness of the jenny and the throstle, and gives the crown to the mule as the speculative identity of the extremes. In reality, the invention of the throstle and the mule immediately made possible the application of water-power to those machines, but Critical Criticism sorts out the principles lumped together by crude history and makes this application come only later, as something quite special. In reality the invention of the steam-engine preceded all the above-mentioned inventions; according to Criticism it is the crown of them all and the last.

In reality the business ties between Liverpool and Manchester in their present scope were the result of the export of English goods; according to Criticism they are the cause of the export and both are the result of the proximity of the two towns. In reality nearly all goods from Manchester go to the Continent via Hull,according to Criticism via Liverpool.

In reality all grades of wages exist in English factories, from Is 6d to 40s and more; but according to Criticism only one rate is paid — 11s. In reality the machine replaces manual labour; according to Criticism it replaces thought. In reality the association of workers for wage rises is allowed in England, but according to Criticism it is prohibited, for when the Mass wants to allow itself anything it must first ask Criticism. In reality factory labour is extremely tiring and gives rise to specific diseases — there are even special medical works on them; according to Criticism "excessive exertion cannot be a hindrance to work, for the power is provided by the machine". In reality the machine is a machine; according to Criticism it has a will, for as it does not rest, neither can the worker, and he is subordinated to an alien will.

But that is still nothing at all. Criticism cannot be content with the mass-type parties in England; it creates new ones, including a "factory party", for which history may be thankful to it. On the other hand, it lumps together the factory-owners and the factory workers in one massive heap — why bother about such trifles! — and decrees that the factory workers refused to contribute to the Anti-Corn-Law Leagues not out of ill-will or because of Chartism, as the stupid factory-owners maintain, but merely because they were poor. It further decrees that with the repeal of the English Corn Laws agricultural labourers will have to put up with a lowering of wages, in regard to which, however, we must most submissively remark that that destitute class cannot be deprived of another penny without being reduced to absolute starvation. It decrees that the working day in English factories is sixteen hours, although a silly un-Critical English law has fixed a maximum of twelve hours. It decrees that England is to become a huge workshop for the world, although the un-Critical mass of Americans, Germans and Belgians are ruining one market after another for the English by their competition. Lastly, it decrees that neither the propertied nor the non-propertied classes in England are aware of the centralisation of property and its consequences for the working classes, although the stupid Chartists think they are well aware of them; the Socialists maintain that they expounded those consequences in detail long ago, and even Tories and Whigs like Carlyle, Alison and Gaskell have proved their knowledge of them in their works.

Criticism decrees that Lord Ashley's Ten Hour Bill[1] is a half-hearted juste-milieu measure and Lord Ashley himself "a true illustration of constitutional action", while the factory-owners, the Chartists, the landowners — in short, all that makes up the mass nature of England — have so far considered this measure as an expression, the mildest possible one admittedly, of a downright radical principle, since it would lay the axe at the root of foreign trade and thereby at the root of the factory system — nay, not merely lay the axe to it, but cut deeply into it. Critical Criticism knows better. It knows that the ten hour question was discussed before a "commission" of the Lower House, although the un-Critical newspapers try to make us believe that this "commission" was the House itself, "a Committee of the Whole House" ; but Criticism must needs do away with that eccentricity of the English Constitution.

Critical Criticism, which itself begets its opposite, the stupidity of the Mass, also produces the stupidity of Sir James Graham: by a Critical understanding of the English language it puts things in his mouth which the un-Critical Home Secretary never said, just to allow Critical wisdom to shine brighter in comparison with his stupidity. Graham, according to Criticism, says that the machines in the factories wear out in about twelve years whether they work ten hours a day or twelve, and that therefore a Ten Hour Bill would make it impossible for the capitalists to reproduce in twelve years through the work of their machines the capital laid out on them. Criticism proves that it has thus put a false conclusion in the mouth of Sir James Graham, for a machine that works one-sixth of the time less every day will naturally remain usable longer.

However correct this observation of Critical Criticism against its own false conclusion, it must, on the other hand, be conceded that Sir James Graham said that under a Ten Hour Bill the machine would have to work quicker in the proportion that its working time was reduced (Criticism itself quotes this in [Heft] VIII, page 32) and that in that case the time when it would be worn out would be the same — twelve years. This must all the more be acknowledged as the acknowledgment contributes to the glory and exaltation of "Criticism"; for only Criticism both made the false conclusion and then refuted it. Criticism is just as magnanimous towards Lord John Russell, to whom it imputes the wish to change the political form of the state and the electoral system. From this we must conclude either that Criticism's urge to produce stupidities is uncommonly powerful or that Lord John Russell must have become a Critical Critic within the past week.

But Criticism only becomes truly magnificent in its fabrication of stupidities when it discovers that the English workers — who in April and May held meeting after meeting, drew up petition after petition, and all for the Ten Hour Bill, and displayed more agitation throughout the factory districts than at any time during the past two years — that those workers take only a "partial interest" in this question, although it is evident that "legislation limiting the working day has also occupied their attention" Criticism is truly magnificent when it finally makes the great, the glorious, the unheard-of discovery that

“the apparently more immediate help from the repeal of the Corn Laws absorbs most of the wishes of the workers and will do so until no longer doubtful realisation of those wishes practically proves the futility of the repeal" —

proves it to workers who drag Anti-Corn-Law agitators down from the platform at every public meeting, who have seen to it that the Anti-Corn-Law League no longer dares to hold a public meeting in any English industrial town, who consider the League to be their only enemy and who, during the debate of the Ten Hour Bill — as nearly always before in similar matters — had the support of the Tories. Criticism is superb, too, when it discovers that "the workers still let themselves be lured by the sweeping promises of the Chartist movement", which is nothing but the political expression of public opinion among the workers. Criticism is superb, too, when it realises, in the depths of its Absolute Spirit, that

“the two party groupings, the political one and that of the landowners and mill-owners, no longer wish to merge or coincide".

It was so far not known that the party grouping of the landowners and the mill-owners, because of the numerical smallness of either class of owners and the equal political rights of each (with the exception of the few peers), was so comprehensive that it was completely identical with the political party groupings, and not their most consistent expression, their peak. Criticism is splendid when it suggests that the Anti-Corn-Law Leaguers do not know that, ceteris paribus, a drop in the price of bread must be followed by a drop in wages, so that all would remain as it was; whereas these people expect that, granted there is a drop in wages and a consequent lowering of production costs, the result will be an expansion of the market. This, they expect, would lead to a reduction of competition among the workers, and consequently wages would still be kept a little higher in comparison with the price of bread than they are now.

Freely creating its opposite — nonsense — and moving in artistic rapture, Criticism, which only two years ago exclaimed "Criticism speaks German, theology speaks Latin!"[2], has now learnt English and calls the estate-owners "Landeigner" (landowners), the factoryowners "Mühleigner" (mill-owners) — in English a mill means any factory with machinery driven by steam or water-power — and the workers "Hände" (hands). Instead of "Einmischung" it says Interferenz (interference); and in its infinite mercy for the English language, the sinful mass nature of which is abundantly evident, it condescends to improve it by doing away with the pedantry with which the English place the title "Sir" before the Christian name of knights and baronets. Where the Mass says "Sir James Graham", it says "Sir Graham".

That Criticism reforms English history and the English language out of principle and not out of levity will presently be provided by the thoroughness with which it treats the history of Herr Nauwerck.

  1. The struggle for legislation limiting the working day to ten hours started in England as early as the end of the 18th century and spread by the 30s of the 19th century to the mass of the proletariat. As the landed aristocracy wanted to use this popular slogan in their fight against the industrial bourgeoisie they supported the Ten-Hour Bill in Parliament. The “Tory philanthropist” Lord Ashley headed the supporters of the bill in Parliament in 1833.
  2. These words are from Bruno Bauer’s book, Die gute Sache der Frefheit und meine eigene Angelegenheit (The Good Cause of Freedom and My Own Affair), Zurich and Winterthur, 1842.